$334,000 Research Grant Seeks Technology on Identifying Hidden Enemy Intent in Military Warfare

NASHVILLE (TSU News Service) – A major problem U.S. military counter-insurgency operations face is the ability to easily identify hostile enemy group intent and hidden dangers in obstructed environments.

Such group activities are generally embedded in clutters in urban locations, involving well-trained individuals who blend in with the general population to carry out their mission. The results usually are surprise attacks and high civilian casualties.

A Tennessee State University mechanical engineering professor thinks he has the answer.  As a result of a proposal to the U.S. Army Research Office, he has won a $334,000 defense grant to investigate the possibility of developing an advanced technology that improves the capability of automated surveillance systems.

Dr. Amir Shirkhodaie, professor in the College of Engineering and director of the Center of Excellence for Battlefield Sensor Fusion, said his research will develop a new capability for behavioral pattern learning of partially obscure group activities that take place in confined, obstructed spaces.

“The ultimate goal of this project is to develop a robust information-theoretic framework with supportive techniques that can detect obscure group activities in areas such as inside a vehicle, boat, airplanes or corner alleys of urban areas,” said Dr. Shirkhodaie.

He said this could greatly reduce the false alarm rates in surveillance operations that frequently occur as a result of miscalculation of enemy intent, and help shift the “balance of power” in peacekeeping operations.

“If we can deliver this kind of technology to the battlefield, this is a game-changer,” said Maj. Jay Deason, an aviator with the Tennessee Army National Guard, who has served two tours in Iraq, flying Black Hawk Helicopters.

He said while this technology would have limited application for air reconnaissance operations, it would be greatly useful to ground forces and civil affairs specialists, who identify critical requirements needed by local citizens in combat or crisis situations.

Civilians would also greatly benefit from this technology in homeland security, crowd control, and anti-drug and anti-crime operations, Dr. Shirkhodaie said.

Maj. Deason, who has also served one tour along the southwest U.S. border flying UH-72 helicopters, said this technology will greatly help the civilian population and in border patrol operations.

“This is very exciting. This technology has the capability to save lives,” Deason added.

The main objective of Dr. Shirkhodaie’s proposal, “Detection of Partially Observable Group Activities (POGA) in Confined Obstructed Spaces,” is to develop context-based taxonomy and ontology schema for coherent analysis and inferences of POGA.

The investigation will take place in three phases, including the development of a robust Adaptive Image Processing technique for detecting and tracking of behavior pattern of POGA; a Computational Intelligence technique based on a hybrid neuro-fuzzy system architecture; and a Multi-Layer Hidden Markov Model technique for probabilistic spatiotemporal state transition modeling that leads to context-aware discovery on anomalous group activity.

In student learning, Dr. Shirkhodaie said the project would greatly enhance research opportunities for TSU students in this area, as well as offer scholarly training opportunities for underrepresented minority students in the STEM disciplines.

The Dean of the College of Engineering, Dr. S. Keith Hargrove who also announced three new research projects with Boeing for more than $500,000, congratulated Dr. Shirkhodaie on his award, adding that the grants represent the dedication and commitment of faculty to research and attracting students to the College of Engineering.

“The opportunity for academia and industry to collaborate to solve industry problems makes the company more competitive, and enhances the quality of our engineering programs for students and faculty,” said Dr. Hargrove.

The three Boeing projects include using artificial intelligence for the development of aircraft propulsion controls; the development of resilient control mechanisms to mitigate cyber attack in engineering embedded systems; and the development of mathematical models for energy harvesting and storage.

The faculty members involved in these projects are Drs. Sachin Shetty, Mohammed Saleh Zein-Sabatto, both professors of Eleectrical Engineering; and Dr. Landon Onyebueke, professor of Mechanical Engineering.

TSU Students’ Spring Break Projects Help Provide Comfort for Three Florida Families

NASHVILLE (TSU News Service) – Spring break is the time when college students usually flock to the beaches, hang out at parties or just lay back and forget about school for a while.

But for a group of Tennessee State University students, spring break was a time to get their hands dirty to make life better for some less fortunate members of society. As a result of their hard work, three lucky families in Daytona, Fla., now have homes they can be proud of.

As part of a Student Activities “alternative spring break” program, and in partnership with Habitat for Humanity, about 45 students helped to rebuild and remodel homes in three economically hard-hit communities in Daytona.

Although this was an entirely Student Activities initiative, it was made so much easier with the encouragement, and personal financial and material support of TSU President Glenda Glover, who contributed $3,000 cash, and paid for gasoline to fuel the busses that transported the students to Florida.

“This clearly showed leadership and eagerness for the success of her students,” said Zachariah Williams, an Aeronautical and Industrial Technology major from New Orleans, about Dr. Glover’s contribution. “With our experience in the past, I was surprise that she did not only donate gas for the shuttles, but actually made a personal cash donation to make it easy for students to experience such a life-changing event.”

Referring to the students as “great ambassadors” of the University’s “Think, Work, Serve” motto, Dr. Glover said community service is an integral part of college life that students are introduced to as soon as they arrive on campus.

“As a University president, it is a moment of pride when students want to go above and beyond to help others,” she said. “It literally warmed my heart to know that these students would spend a part of their spring break volunteering with Habitat for Humanity.”

Last year, Tennessee State University students provided more than 20,000 hours of service to the Nashville community, with an estimated value of nearly $400,000. While this year’s numbers are still being calculated, TSU students continue to participate in a number of community service activities.

The SGA’s “Mr. TSU,” Sidney Johnson, a founding member of the I AM project, one of the organizers of the Daytona trip, said the idea of the rebuilding and remodeling plan was based on one of his organization’s core values of targeting freshman students to help them “foster the qualities that the ideal TSU man/woman possesses.”

“The idea of an alternative spring break was introduced at TSU to give students a sense of community while gaining meaningful experiences for their resumes or portfolios as they prepare to enter the real world,” said Johnson, a senior Supply Chain major from Memphis, Tenn. “This is not new; other universities offer the choice of an alternative spring break to engage students in meaningful hands-on activities, and the Daytona projects were good examples.”

Dr. Clarence Ball, Professor of Communications, who accompanied the students, said he was impressed by their (students) commitment and dedication to the projects.

“They show a high level of leadership and commitment that made the work so much easier and helped us to complete the projects in a very short time,” said Dr. Ball. “I was really surprised at how much the students liked and enjoyed helping those families.”

Also helping on the projects were members of the TSU Pep Club. Together, the students did landscaping, painting, refinishing, as well as some carpentry and masonry work.

To be sure, the trip was not all work and no play. They had fun visiting Universal Studios in nearby Orlando, took in the beaches, and visited Bethune Cookman University campus, also in Daytona.

The students were so impacted by their Florida experience, especially in helping to make life more comfortable for the three families in Daytona. Participants were all, “Yes,” and “Of course,” when asked if they would participate in another Alternative Spring Break. They left Daytona with a sense of achievement knowing that through their effort, three families now have a safe and sturdy place to sleep.

Submitted by:
Courtney Mickens, Sophomore Communications major