New Nasa-Funded Convergence Research Center Leverages Cross Discipline Expertise to Develop Autonomous Systems and Study Societal Impact




The Autonomy Research Center for STEAHM (ARCS) at CSUN is forging research collaborations in current and emerging challenges of increasingly autonomous (IA) systems. With a vision to be a global leader in education, research and commercialization of IA systems, ARCS is activating a convergence research model—one of the National Science Foundation’s 10 Big Ideas—to train 21st century leaders to solve our most pressing technological and social challenges. 

STEAHM is an expansion of the traditional STEM fields, in a growing recognition of the deep interdisciplinary expertise needed to solve challenges that are simultaneously technological, social, ethical and more. STEAHM represents S: physical, social, and behavioral science; T: technology and engineering; E: entrepreneurship and business; A: arts, media and communication; H: humanities; and M: mathematics. 

Currently, participating professors represent six of nine CSUN colleges: College of Engineering and Computer Science; College of Social and Behavioral Sciences; College of Science and Mathematics; Mike Curb College of Arts, Media and Communication; David Nazarian College of Business and Economics; and College of Humanities. 

Launched with support from a $3 million grant from NASA’s MIRO program, ARCS’s first cohort of student fellows will tackle 12 projects that fall into three synergistic thrusts: 

  • Developing assured and trusted IA systems. 
  • Human autonomy ​teaming with explainable AI. 
  • Societal and organizational impact, barriers and acceptance of IA systems. 

These thrusts are being explored in partnership with NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center (AFRC) and Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in the context of two NASA concepts of operations: Urban Air Mobility and space construction. At NASA, ARCS’ efforts will help assure real-time trustworthiness of IA systems, produce methods and technologies that support human-IA teaming and develop models and guidelines for sociocultural factors on public acceptance of IA systems. 

At CSUN, the launch of ARCS substantially expands institutional research capacity, creating innovative pathways toward developing a workforce of 21st century leaders. With 12 professors committed to intellectually diverse teams that will guide these student-led projects, ARCS increases CSUN’s historic faculty engagement with NASA sixfold and aims to engage 150-plus undergraduate/graduate students per year in NASA research, a 750 percent jump from CSUN’s historic student engagement. 

To support these goals and the convergence research model, ARCS is also launching the following initiatives and innovations: 

  • Establish a one-of-a-kind integrated research space to support live and virtual IA unmanned vehicle operations and a cloud-based virtual research collaboration environment that can connect with and be replicated at other universities and NASA. 
  • Partner with the CSUN Innovation Incubator and NSF-funded I-Corps program to connect research products to markets and explore commercial viability. 
  • Nurture a thriving ecosystem of multicollaborator strategic partnerships, including NASA, DoD labs, industry partners, research universities, community colleges and the CSU system. 
  • Execute a sustainability plan that will launch ARCS into national leadership in autonomy research. 

ARCS welcomes all who are interested in creating a new trajectory for engaging students, faculty and other pioneers in IA research. For latest updates and to learn more, visit ARCS at​.​