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From Hill to Hill: Faculty Enjoy Experience of UT Day in Nashville

A Mind Controlled Drone is Demonstrated on UT President Randy Boyd

Photo by University of Tennessee System

Members of the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering were among those who got a chance to meet with Tennessee’s elected officials during the annual “UT Day on the Hill” event in Nashville.

Professor Xiaopeng Zhao demonstrated his brain-controlled drone, which is part of his research into combatting Alzheimer’s and related diseases.

By training the brain to guide the device, Zhao and his team gain a critical understanding about brain waves. Their amount of knowledge grows with every use of the drone, as every new user means a new calibration of brain waves.

“It was a great opportunity to inform the legislators about the impact of Alzheimer’s disease on the nation and to the state,” Zhao said. “I explained how research on brain-computer interface can help patients of Alzheimer’s disease as well as their family and caregivers.”

Associate Professor Subhadeep Chakraborty also made the trip, where he talked about his ASTERS project, which should help improve outcomes in school shooting situations.

That project uses cameras and other technology to help first responders know where potential suspects are and help school officials track where students, faculty, and staff are and inform them of their best course of action.

If, for example, an area only had partitioned walls, the system might help guide people to a more protected area, whereas a class with solid walls might simply be told to secure the door and shelter in place.

“The opportunity to meet with our elected leaders actually meant a lot to me, since the nature of the project makes it really important to combine technical expertise with human factors and policy making,” Chakraborty said. “It not only gave us a platform to showcase the exciting research we are doing, but also gave me an opportunity to get some insight into the legislature’s viewpoint about the practical and legal constraints in implementing the ASTERS system at large scale.”

Members of the Volkswagen Innovation Hub speak with UT President Randy Boyd

Photo by University of Tennessee System

UT-Oak Ridge National Laboratory Governor’s Chair for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Uday Vaidya also spoke highly of the event and the chance to speak to officials.

“It was an excellent forum for our researchers and students to interact with Tennessee’s legislators and share the excellent research and development work they are engaged in,” Vaidya said. “The UT composites team presented its work related to the Volkswagen composite lift gate project. The various stages of the materials development, design, characterization and manufacturing of the product were highlighted.”

Vaidya also said that they highlighted the strength and spirit of collaboration between UT, IACMI—The Composites Institute, ORNL, and industry partners.