COLLEGE PARK — The University System of Maryland (USM) and the U.S. Army Research Lab (ARL) launched a new research and education partnership on July 2.
“The partnership is at an early stage, and the recent announcement reflects at its core a philosophy of seeking opportunities to work together more closely in the years ahead,” said USM Media Relations and Web Manager Mike Lurie.
The Master Educational Partnership Agreement (EPA) was created to increase research and educational collaborations between the two institutions and members of their respective communities. With these institutions being leaders in innovation, they aim to grow their opportunities together.
“ARL will gain access to top-notch faculty and students to collaborate and identify solutions to Army challenges at ARL or USM universities,” said ARL Chief of Technology Transfer and Outreach Thomas Mulkern. “The EPA also offers the opportunity for USM Universities to develop and teach courses for specialized Army research needs.”
The 12 institutions of the USM are leaders in research such as cancer and technology in addition to educating future leaders. Since 2012, these institutions have launched more than 500 companies, executed more than 320 technology licenses and have more than 460 patents while attracting $1.2 billion in external research funding last year.
Meanwhile, the ARL has about 3,000 researchers and staff at Maryland’s Aberdeen Proving Ground and Adelphi Laboratory Center. With its vision to discover, innovate and transition science and technology to ensure dominant strategic land power, the ARL’s scientists and engineers work to encourage groundbreaking advances in basic and applied research in the Army.
“We hope the it will be a benefit by broadening the relationship between the USM and the Army Research Labs and will also help catalyze the potential for new links to public and private industry, everywhere from Prince George’s to Harford Counties, creating educational, research and business opportunities for USM students and faculty and bolstering economic growth statewide,” Lurie said.
Although the ARL is just now partnering with the USM, they have been in a partnership with University of Maryland College Park (UMD) and University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) for quite some time.
As part of their partnership with UMD, the ARL launched their Open Campus initiative to encourage and enable on-site collaboration in many research areas, including access to ARL facilities, internships and post-doc opportunities.
“Deepening our partnership with the U.S. Army Research Lab allows us to continue building on our parallel expertise and shared goals in research innovation and discovery,” said University of Maryland Vice President for Research Laurie E. Locascio.
Over the past few years, the ARL has worked on several projects with UMD’s A. James Clark School of Engineering. One of them is their research in extreme batteries to create a higher-energy, safer and longer-lasting zinc battery. Out of the partnership, in 2014 they created the Center for Research on Extreme Batteries to promote access to facilities and collaborative research in advanced battery materials, technologies and characterization techniques.
The ARL sought out UMD to work with them on creating an efficient design for small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) for U.S. Army reconnaissance use. In collaboration with UMD’s All-Terrain Cyclocopter research team, they have been working toward the ARL’s goal of an autonomous UAV small enough to fit in a soldier’s hand but able to maintain stability in wind turbulence and move through crowded environments.
“We have a long-lasting, working relationship with the ARL. In the past 4-5 years, it has grown, and we’ve expanded our collaboration,” said UMBC Vice President for Research Dr. Karl Steiner. “The faculty and students worked with them on individual projects, but we realized that there was more there.”
UMBC has also done substantial work with the ARL. Through their Educational Research Agreement, the school has grown their partnership with the ARL to collaborate on various engineering and physics projects, and students greatly benefit by being recruited for jobs after graduation.
Currently, UMBC’s Mobile Pervasive and Sensor Systems Laboratory is working on a couple of collaborative studies with the ARL. For the first project, they are looking at how to improve soldiers’ performance under high-stress situations by putting them in a virtual reality simulator then testing how well they can regulate their brain waves while focusing on a task. In their other project, they are collecting longitudinal data on sleep patterns and daily activities and seeing if there is a correlation between that data and the subjects in a group setting.
“Both are under the umbrella of the Human Variability Project,” said Associate Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering Nilanjan Banerjee. “The broader thing is that they’re looking at how humans differ from each other.”
By working with the ARL, they have found that the partnership allows them to work with different minds and come up with more solutions to their studies.
“The ARL has neuroscientists and experts in physiology,” Banerjee said. “It’s a great knowledge transfer, and it has helped us a lot with our lab and data collection.”
By partnering with the USM, the ARL can not only continue to expand their programs with these two schools but have a larger team of innovators with all USM institutions. This will allow for joint research projects between all scientists, engineers and students among them in the areas of computing, artificial intelligence, and machine learning and robotics.
“The University System of Maryland sees the potential to expand existing relationships to enable joint research projects and exchanges between and among USM and ARL scientists, engineers and students,” Lurie said.
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