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WVU engineering student awarded Honor Society Phi Kappa Phi Grant to support planetary rover research

A portrait of Cagri Kilic

A West Virginia University student has been awarded the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi grant to assist their research in providing computationally efficient, cost-effective and reliable localization solutions for planetary rovers.

Story by Adrianne Uphold, Graduate Assistant 
Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources

Cagri Kilic, a Ph.D. candidate in the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, first joined Phi Kappa Phi in 2018. The $1,500 grant will help Kilic publish additional scholarly articles about planetary rovers, along with assisting Kilic’s research group, the mechanical and aerospace engineering department and the WVU Robotics team.

“Accurate localization is a critical component of any mobile platform, especially for the rovers in planetary missions such as the Mars and moon rovers,” Kilic said. “These missions are often constrained by limited energy sources and slow spacecraft computers. Besides, the situational awareness of a robot should be achieved with limited computing resources on extraterrestrial terrains.”

Kilic explained that because of these constraints, increasing the self-sufficiency and autonomy of the robots can significantly expand the opportunities of getting the maximum scientific value of space missions. Kilic focuses on two objectives within this research.

“First, improving the dead reckoning localization performance without any major rover operations changes,” Kilic said. “Second, enabling adaptive traversability rate based on the wheel-terrain interactions while keeping the localization reliable.”

This method can also be used for subterranean environments such as mines, caves and tunnels. Since the algorithm is based on proprioception, it is not affected by the low visibility problems such as feature-poor environments, foggy and dusty areas, extremely low or bright light conditions where visual sensors suffer.

“The overall goal is implementing a proprioceptive localization system that can make the planetary rovers drive faster, be more reliable, cost-effective and computationally efficient,” Kilic said.

After graduation, Kilic plans to continue his studies with pursuing a postgraduate degree.

“I am humbled to be named one of the Graduate Research Grant recipients by The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi,” Kilic said. “I want to thank my adviser Jason Gross, WVU Robotics, and the Statler College mechanical and aerospace engineering department, for providing me a great research opportunity in the space robotics field. In addition to this distinguished award, I also would like to acknowledge the Fulbright Ph.D. Scholarship and Statler Graduate Fellowship for supporting me throughout my Ph.D. studies.”

The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi is offered to the top 7.5% of second semester juniors and top 10% of seniors and graduate students. Since its founding in 1897, Phi Kappa Phi has initiated more than 1.5 million members including public servants and leaders, Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winners and NASA astronauts.



Contact: Paige Nesbit
Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
304.293.4135, Paige Nesbit

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