Campus: CSU, Northridge -- April 30, 2001

Software Gift Provides CSUN Students With Tool to Explore Unmanned Flight

FA $60,000 gift by a Thousand Oaks-based software company is making it possible for Cal State Northridge students to work closely with engineers at Lockheed Martin on the design of an unmanned aircraft that can respond to emergency situations on its own.

Engineers at Lockheed Martin have been working with Northridge electrical and computer engineering students and faculty to create the plane for the military for possible surveillance use. To assist in their efforts, Sight, Sound and Motion, a division of Systemware Inc., has given CSUN $60,000 in software.

"The software allows us to see all the actions we are simulating - taxiing, take-offs and other situations a plane might encounter while in flight," said Ramin Roosta, a CSUN electrical and computer engineering professor.

Roosta said that information is vital as the faculty and graduate students work with their professional counterparts in designing an automated "mission manager" that will replace the need for a pilot to take control of a plane during unexpected events.

"Basically we are designing a replacement for a pilot. Sort of a mission manager for a pilotless plane," Roosta said. "It would do everything a pilot would do during take off, taxiing and landing of a plane. It would also be able to assess changes in the aircraft's gauges and react to unexpected situations, even, in case of capture by the enemy, blowing itself up."

He said working on the project has been a wonderful opportunity for the 15 CSUN students, many of whom were undergraduates when they started. Twelve have landed jobs as a result of their work. There are two graduate students currently working on the project, which began more than two years ago.

"The skills they are learning are making them very marketable," Roosta said. "You can just imagine the interviewer's reaction when they ask one of the students 'What did you do while you were at CSUN?'"

California State University, Northridge has more than 29,000 full- and part-time students and offers 58 bachelor's and 50 master's degrees. Founded in 1958, it is the only four-year university in the San Fernando Valley.

CSUN's College of Engineering and Computer Science is nationally recognized. A recent National Science Foundation survey of 529 universities ranked CSUN among the top 12 in the number of graduates who go on to earn doctorates in the computer sciences and engineering. It is also ranked 14th in the nation in the number of bachelor's degrees awarded to Hispanic students, qualifying the campus to be recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a Hispanic Serving Institution.

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