Graduate Student Wins Scholarship for Undersea Technology Research

Computer science PhD student Dinithi Silva-Sassaman is one of 10 undergraduate and graduate students to be awarded a $5000 scholarship by the Undersea Technology Innovation Consortium.

Launched in 2023, UTIC's scholarship program is part of an ongoing effort by the organization to promote workforce development and education in undersea technology and defense.

Silva-Sassaman works with robot systems, devising ways to improve data communication in unstructured areas.

In areas such as deep underground, underwater, or in signal-restricted areas, traditional communication methods like wi-fi and radio signals don't work. Silva-Sassaman's research uses light and audio communication methods to perform asynchronous data communication on land and underwater.

For example, she has developed a tag-based system where robots can explore new places, and then leave messages about what they have discovered in centralized data collection nodes accessible to other robots. This allows swarms of robots to asynchronously collaborate to explore larger areas than they could on their own, as well as providing a guaranteed way to send this data back to researchers at home base.

In addition to working with physical robots, Silva-Sassaman use 3D interactive rendering software like Unity3D to make physically accurate simulators. Working with real hardware is expensive and time consuming, but simulators allow researchers to make predictive tests about how their robots will work in real environments at a fraction of the cost. The simulators have been made available to researchers through an open-source license.