Igor Labutov, a 2010 Grove School graduate in computer engineering, is an innovative thinker whose tireless pursuit of his research goals has taken him to the intersection of robotics and neuroscience.En route, he has developed an empirical understanding of the challenges inherent in today’s increasingly multidisciplinary research.
Igor’s work ranges from a man-machine interface for a robotic hand to a vision sensor and software for an autonomous aerial vehicle.Next, he plans to develop a wearable camera system for the blind.The quality and vision of his research have earned him an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, putting him in the company of numerous Nobel Prize winners
, U.S. Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu
, and Google founder, Sergey Brin
.According to the NSF, “Fellows are anticipated to become knowledge experts who can contribute significantly to research, teaching, and innovations in science and engineering. These individuals are crucial to maintaining and advancing the nation's technological infrastructure and national security as well as contributing to the economic well-being of society at large.”Igor will receive a three-year annual stipend of $30,000 along with a $10,500 cost of education allowance and a one-time $1,000 international travel allowance.
At CCNY, Igor has been supported by a group of mentors who reflect his multidisciplinary interests. They are Dr. Jizhong Xiao, director of the CCNY Robotics and Intelligent Systems Lab, Dr. Norman Scheinberg an expert on electronics in the Grove School’s electrical engineering department, and Dr. Theodore Raphan, a neuroscientist and electrical engineer at the Institute of Neural and Intelligent Systems at Brooklyn College.
Igor calls the Grove School’s Robotics Club his “first harbor.”That is where he developed a wearable sensor glove for remotely operating a robotic hand.This entailed perfecting an inexpensive finger bend sensor, which used a unique combination of hardware and software filters to optimize its performance, surpassing commercial sensors in stability, effective range of motion and frequency response.
Igor’s next goal was to integrate real biological models into the design of robotic systems, specifically to model the human vestibular and visual systems in a small bipedal robot. “My research,” he says, “became a constant struggle in merging the two, very different fields – biology and robotics.” Igor found inspiration across the Atlantic in the work of the Swiss scientist, Dr. Auke Ijspeert, who was successfully establishing a bridge between biological and classical models in bio-inspired robots.This example allowed Igor to apply Dr. Raphan’s models in a humanoid robot, leading to three successful conference papers and the opportunity to spend the summer of 2010 working with Dr. Ijspeert in Switzerland on bio-inspired locomotion models.
Concurrently, under two Research Experience for Undergraduates grants, Igor has been conducting mobile robotics research at the Grove School, with the goal of developing a vision system for navigation and mapping in a ground vehicle.The SLAM algorithms he developed were adapted by the City College team he led in the 2009 International Ground Vehicle Competition. Igor expanded the team to include students from several departments, mirroring the multidisciplinary nature of robotics.Becoming a mentor himself, he integrated principles of Peer Led Team Learning into the way the group worked.The result was a 4th place finish, up from 22nd the previous year.
Under his second REU, Igor worked on a novel stereo omni-directional vision sensor for navigation and mapping, and developed a unique ray-tracer tool for simulating vision and laser sensors for robotics.This tool is being used in the City College Robotics Lab and has been made publicly available.The project yielded a mini-paper and poster which have earned Igor first prize at the 2010 Junior Scientist Conference at Vienna University of Technology.
As an NSF graduate fellow, Igor looks forward to doing research which will expand the frontiers of knowledge and benefit society and to mentoring undergraduates as he did at City. For his doctoral studies, he is bound for the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Cornell.