Tuskegee University’s Computer Science Department has been awarded a two-year grant entitled “”Indoor Moving Object Trajectory Generation and Query Evaluation” from the National Science Foundation to strengthen STEM undergraduate education and research at HBCUs.
The grant is awarded through NSF’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities Undergraduate Program (HBCU-UP) which assists HBCUs in their effort to meet the nation's accelerating demands for STEM talent in underrepresented minority populations. HBCU-UP was designed to enhance the quality of both undergraduate STEM education and research at HBCUs as a means to broaden participation in the nation's STEM workforce.
To improve the performance of the number of indoor location-based applications along with addressing diversity challenges in the current computer science workforce, a group of Tuskegee students – under the direction of Dr. Asif Baba, an assistant professor in the Brimmer College of Business and Information Science’s Department of Computer Science, who will serve as the grant’s principal investigator – will lead efforts to improve indoor informatics and give rise new indoor applications.
Computer scientists and engineers have recognized the importance of indoor informatics systems, which have not received the similar attention compared to outdoor informatics systems. A possible reason that the existing spatial and temporal query evaluation techniques are not applicable in indoor informatics is that these techniques assume that user location can be acquired from GPS signals and cellular positioning. Moreover, the indoor and outdoor spaces are different and are modeled differently than outdoor spaces. The spaces are constrained by the different entities and topologies such as doors, walls, hallways, etc. However, with the emergence of technologies such as ubiquitous computing and location-based application, a stronger motivation now exists to develop indoor space applications.
Researchers have said a large portion of a person’s life — as much as 87% of is spent in indoor spaces such as offices, schools, subway stations, shopping malls, airports and hospitals. Such spaces are becoming increasingly large and complex; therefore, there will be a growing demand for indoor informatics systems that include location-based services for finding point of interests (POIs), objects, family, friends, and the like. Indoor informatics is required now than ever before, especially if there is ever a time of chaos in those spaces.
According to Baba, the research team will consider these indoor tracking and monitoring technologies — in particular, RFID, or radio frequency identification — to monitor and track moving objects in indoor spaces.
“The biggest challenge in indoor spaces is positioning, since GPS cannot be used in indoors spaces without some enhancement,” Baba said. “As such, technologies like RFID, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are used indoors.”
“Recently, RFID has become an increasingly popular identification technology in indoor spaces due to the long durability of the passive RFID tags and their low cost,” he continued. “Due to RFID tags’ flexibility and small size, a vast number of applications already use RFID-based technology in the health care, transportation, logistics, and retail industries. An extensive research study will investigate different data management challenges in indoor spaces.”
As part of his team’s efforts, Baba anticipates that this project will improve research experiences for minority undergraduates while also increasing the percentage of underrepresented minority students — particularly females — considering research-focused careers.
“Our goal is to strengthen the curriculum by introducing new data science tools and techniques, as well as increase enrollment in research-based graduate programs,” noted Baba. “A strong computer science program will potentially attract minority STEM students to the computer science field, which is currently marginalized by racial and ethnic diversity.”
Ultimately, Baba says he hopes that these initial experiences at the undergraduate level in computer science education and research will serve as a catalyst to motivate HBCU-UP participants to pursue graduate studies in computer science or directly join the computer science workforce, thus gradually increasing the representation of African Americans in the field.