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Seeing the bigger picture with micro-scale robotics
Over the past four years, Ken Ho ’21 worked with Professors Alyssa Apsel and Christopher Batten as an undergraduate researcher in Cornell ECE. His research has been focused on the development of systems that leverage techniques in digital and analog integrated circuit design to explore novel applications such as ultralow power radio and micron-scale robotics.
That work has now earned him a fellowship from the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program for his proposal, “Development of an Autonomous, μm-Scale Robotic System Using PCO Synchronization.”
“My proposal was focused on tackling the issue of creating autonomous, micron-scale robotic systems,” Ho said. “While autonomous macro-scale systems (e.g., self-driving cars) have become increasingly well understood, achieving similar behavior in the micro-scale under ultralow-power budgets (<1 microwatt) presents a unique set of challenges to be investigated.”
Having worked previously on synchronization schemes for distributed radio systems, Ho proposed to apply these synchronization concepts from wireless system design in order to realize emergent behavior such as autonomous motion in microrobots. “The goal is to eventually be able to use these robots in a variety of multifunctional applications, including microsurgery and micro assembly,” he said.
Funding from the GRFP will allow Ho to further his research in wireless systems as a graduate student. He will be joining the Berkeley Wireless Research Center (BWRC) this fall, where he hopes to broadly investigate current challenges in wireless communications and applications.
Ho credits support from Professors Apsel and Batten for helping him achieve this goal. “Since I first started doing ECE-focused research in my sophomore year, I have received invaluable technical advice and research perspective under their guidance,” he said. “One of the most important things I learned from them is how to apply findings from within my area of expertise to potentially create new avenues of multidisciplinary research. Seeing the bigger picture is indeed important.”
The NSF GRFP recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees at accredited US institutions. The five-year fellowship includes three years of financial support including an annual stipend of $34,000 and a cost of education allowance of $12,000 to the institution.