Major Qualifying Project Center A Term 2010–2011



MIT Lincoln Laboratory continues a collaboration with Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) to have a number of WPI undergraduate seniors perform their Major Qualifying Projects (MQPs) at the Laboratory in Lexington, Massachusetts. MQPs are available for students studying aerospace engineering, computer science, electrical and computer engineering, mathematics, mechanical engineering, physics, or robotics. Contact the IGSD or Professor Ted Clancy in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at WPI for details on how to apply.

Important Dates
    • September 15, 2009
      IGSD Global Fair
      4:00 to 6:00 p.m. (Campus Center, Odeum)
    • October 29, 2009, 5:00 p.m.
      Information Session
           IGSD Information Session for MQP Centers, including Lincoln Laboratory
           Salisbury Labs 305
      immediately followed by…
          Lincoln Laboratory–hosted Q&A with pizza
          Salisbury Labs 115
    • November 4, 2009 by 1:00 p.m. – Applications are due to WPI IGSD

    Descriptions of Fall 2010 Projects

    Recommended for Computer Science Majors
      Recommended for Electrical and Computer Engineering Majors
      Recommended for Mathematics Majors
      Recommended for Mechanical or Aerospace Engineering Majors
      Recommended for Physics Majors
        Recommended for Robotics Majors

        Modeling Multi-Target Track Association and Sensor Fusion
        Group 31 – Systems and Architectures (2–3 students)
        Dr. Stephen D. Weiner

        Recommended WPI major(s): ECE, mathematics, physics

        The Systems and Architectures Group is concerned with modeling the performance of ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems comprising networks of sophisticated radar and optical sensors connected by an overall battle management control structure. In such BMD systems, information collected by several sensors on a number of targets must be combined and used to make decisions regarding which targets should be intercepted and which targets should be rejected. For this process to be successful, it is necessary that the data from "sensor 1" on "target A" be associated with data from "sensor 2" on "target A" and not with data from "sensor 2" on "target B." To date, most of the analyses of this problem have involved elaborate Monte Carlo simulations, which provide high-fidelity modeling of the target motion, target signatures, and sensor measurement capability but provide limited flexibility to consider target and sensor variations. They also provide limited insight into those threat and defense parameters, which have the greatest influence on overall performance.

        The students will specify, design, and develop simple modular parametric models of the association and fusion process to permit rapid evaluation of the overall defense performance as a function of number of targets, density of targets, velocity spread of targets, defense sensor resolution and accuracy in range and angle, any sensor measurement biases, and the relative geometry of the different sensors. Major modules will include association of crossing targets for a single sensor, handover of single targets from one sensor to another, sensor bias estimation and removal, and association of objects in a target complex seen by one sensor with these objects seen by a second sensor. For each module, the output will be the probability of success and the probabilities of different failure modes as a function of the input parameters. These individual modules will be combined into an overall functional model whose output will be the probability of correctly selecting the object to be intercepted (the warhead) as a function of all the input parameters. This overall model will be used in higher-level simulations of total BMD system performance. It would be nice if versions of the model could be developed as an Excel spreadsheet(s) or a MATLAB script(s).  The output of these simple models will be compared with the output from more elaborate Monte Carlo simulations.

        Students for this project could be a combination of physics, mathematics, and/or electrical and computer engineering majors. The skills needed for this project include a background in probability and error analysis (MA 2621 or MA 2631), understanding of coordinate systems and simple target motion (PH 1110 or PH 1111; PH 2201 or ES 2503 would be helpful), and understanding of the capabilities and limitations of computers to model these processes. Knowledge of MATLAB is also required.

        The most important skill is good judgment, to model all the important factors in the problem and ignore all the unimportant factors. There are a number of people in Group 31 who can assist in acquiring the background and developing the judgment needed to address this problem.


        Real-Time Computing in an Open System Sensor Architecture
        Group 33 – Ranges and Test Beds (2–3 students)
        D. Seth Hunter

        Recommended WPI major: CS

        The Ranges and Test Beds Group is developing the ballistic missile defense sensor infrastructure for the Pan-Pacific Range, associated mobile range assets, and field test beds. So-called "open" architectures play an important role in the design of sensor systems by allowing them to be decomposed into hardware and software subsystems that can be independently developed, tested, and upgraded. A Lincoln Laboratory–developed system, the Radar Open Systems Architecture (ROSA), currently operates roughly 15 multimission radar sensors located in the Marshall Islands, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Florida, California, and the Caribbean.

        Real-time computing plays a critical role in the success of these systems, as performance and safety requirements depend heavily on the sensor's ability to respond to events and execute signal processing routines on a tightly bound, deterministic schedule. An upgrade to ROSA, focused on the use of object-oriented programming on modern operating systems and server hardware platforms, is currently under way at the Laboratory. As part of this effort, students participating in this project will research recent methods for achieving hard real-time performance under the Linux operating system running on standard Intel/AMD-based enterprise servers. They will then use this background to evaluate current real-time performance of the upgraded architecture and prototype a new real-time support and validation layer for it.

        This project requires tow to three students majoring in computer science, with strengths in the areas of operating systems, computer networks, distributed systems, and software engineering. The technologies most likely to be used during the prototyping phase of the project include Linux, C/C++, and DDS publish-subscribe middleware. The desire and ability to work as an intern at Lincoln Laboratory on preparatory research during the summer prior to the MQP is advantageous.


        Multi-Source Correlation and Tracking
        Group 42 – Systems and Architectures (2–3 students)
        Louis M. Hebert

        Recommended WPI major(s): ECE, mathematics, physics

        The Surveillance Systems Group has several efforts focused on the aggregation of radar and optical measurement data for the purpose of creating a precise track of air vehicles. The measurement data sources provide one-, two-, and three-dimensional measurements, delivered via commercial networks to a central data fusion center. A key technical challenge is the fusion of this data into a three-dimensional track state when the data sources are transient in time and position, when there are variations in the latency of the measurements, and when the data normally needed to associate, track, and correlate the measurements are not complete across the sensor set. The characteristics of the air vehicles to be tracked will also impact track performance and will include variations in radar and optical signature and speed. Other environmental parameters will affect performance, including sensor line-of-sight and weather.

        For this project, the students will develop a real-time tracking system with consideration to the factors stated above. It is expected that the students will first gather information about the sensors, the air traffic, and the environment in a particular geographic region, using a combination of recorded and live data. The accumulated information will then be used to develop the tools to predict the measurement performance for an arbitrary configuration of given sensors and aircraft trajectories in that region. This will be the basis for selecting an appropriate set of sensors and, more importantly, the best techniques to be used in producing tracks. The students will implement the correlator-tracker system to process the incoming measurement data and deliver track state information (position and velocity) with minimal latency. Simulated sensor data will be used to benchmark performance of specific aircraft trajectory scenarios. Finally, the track results will be analyzed and compared with the predicted performance, with consideration given to track accuracy, latency, completeness (missing tracks), and spuriousness (false tracks). The results of this project will have direct applications for both commercial and military aviation, as well as multiple domain situational awareness for ground, maritime, air, and space.

        The students working on this project may be a mix of physics, mathematics, and computer engineering majors. The skills needed for this project are basic understanding of linear dynamic systems, statistical analysis of measurement data and data modeling, and the implementation and testing of real-time data processing systems. An interest in learning more about the candidate sensor systems and the limitations of measurements imposed by the real world will be an important part of the student's experience of this project.


        Arrival/Departure Management Tool
        Group 43 — Weather Sensing (2–3 students)
        Dr. Richard Jordan

        Recommended WPI major(s): CS, mathematics

        The Weather Sensing Group develops sensors, automated forecasting systems, and decision-support tools to reduce the impact of adverse weather on commercial aviation. To accomplish this, the group combines Lincoln Laboratory expertise in innovative signal, image, and sensor data-fusion processing and human-systems integration with physical insights furnished by staff meteorologists. Key accomplishments have included the development of the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Terminal Doppler Weather Radar, ASR-9 Weather Systems Processor, Integrated Terminal Weather Systems, Corridor Integrated Weather System, and Route Availability Planning Tool.

        Lincoln Laboratory is developing an Arrival/Departure Management Tool (ADMT) to increase the capacity and efficiency of commercial aircraft operations at high-density U.S. airports. ADMT will integrate flight-planning information, surface and airspace surveillance data, constraint information—for example, arrival or departure route blockage associated with weather—and will use this information to develop an integrated trajectory plan for all aircraft utilizing the airport. The system will be tested at Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport in 2010–2011.

        This student project will develop tools and algorithms for decision support and benefits analysis. An example is the development, analysis, and simulation of mathematical and statistical models of airport arrival and departure operations. The project will focus, in particular, on the benefits associated with monitoring and controlling the sequences of departing and arriving aircraft to decrease delays, surface congestion, and fuel burn. This involves interfacing with and processing live, recorded, and simulated aircraft position and flight plan data.

        We are looking for students with strong software and analysis skills with interests in decision-support systems and air traffic control. Familiarity with analysis tools such as MATLAB is highly desired. Suggested background includes probability and statistics (MA 2621, MA 2611, or equivalent) and/or experience with relational databases (CS 3431 or equivalent).


        Evaluation of Holographic Optical Beam-Steering System
        Group 66 – Advanced Lasercom Systems and Operations (2–3 students)
        Dr. Jeffrey Roth

        Recommended WPI major(s): CS, ECE, ME

        The Advanced Lasercom Systems and Operations Group is currently working on free-space laser communications to support high-data-rate, air-to-space and air-to-ground links. Lincoln Laboratory is evaluating a beam-director approach using holographic optical gratings to provide wide-angle beam-steering for multiple wavelengths over a large, 50 mm diameter. The goal of this project is to build and test a working hardware system. As such, this project involves "hands-on" experimental laboratory work, as well as analysis and design.

        This project will focus on building, controlling, and evaluating the holographic beam-director.  Tasks will include the following:

        1. Assembling and aligning the optomechanical hardware needed
        2. Fine optical alignment of beams and optical fibers
        3. Performing infrared camera measurements of beam positions
        4. Real-time software control of rotary positioning stages
        5. Developing a control algorithm for beam-steering unit using look-up table
        6. Evaluation of the unit's beam-pointing fidelity (repeatability, accuracy, resolution, speed, etc.)
        7. Measurement of optical characteristics such as wave-front error, transmission, and polarization effects
        For this project, we desire physics, optics, electrical engineering and/or mechanical engineering students. Experience with some or all of the following areas is desirable: MATLAB, physical optics (PH 2301, PH 3504, PH 2601), calculus (MA 1024), digital signal processing (ECE 2312, ECE 4703), computer programming experience (CS 2301), digital design (ECE 3801), FPGA knowledge (ECE 3810), and communication systems (ECE 3311).


        Indoor Marsupial UAV
        Group 76 – Control Systems Engineering (2–3 students)
        Michael Boulet and Byron Stanley

        Recommended WPI major(s): robotics, electrical and computer engineering

        Navigating unstructured indoor environments can be difficult for ground vehicles. In particular, the military may need to map out buildings with rubble, debris, or other obstacles that make the ground difficult for ground vehicles to move over or survey. Autonomous air vehicles can provide surveillance information while avoiding the difficulties posed by indoor terrain. One of the primary limitations, however, for small air vehicles, is the time of flight. As such, a combined ground and air platform system could provide a significant advantage over one or the other alone.

        Students on this project will automate and demonstrate an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) system that is capable of launching off of a packbot and avoiding obstacles within a room. In particular, the focus will involve developing and successfully implementing robust algorithms and sensors so as to enable the UAV to autonomously land and take off from the packbot, avoid walls and obstacles, and provide feedback camera video to a ground station. While the vehicle may be teleoperated for exploration, a secondary objective is to successfully autonomously explore a room. A beacon and landing mount may be implemented on the packbot to assist with locating and landing. A quad-rotor or other unmanned vehicle will be provided for use with this project. The final demo scenario will include one or more of the three objectives: launch and land; obstacle avoidance; and/or room exploration. 

        For this project, we desire robotics majors, perhaps complemented with ECE majors.  Robotics majors should have completed the Unified Robotics sequence through RBE 3002 (or RBE 400X, if possible). It would be helpful for one or more members of the team to have experience in wireless networking (CS 3516 or ECE 3308), control engineering (ES 3011), and/or digital signal processing (ECE 2321).

        (Note: One robotics team will be created to work on one of the two projects listed: "Indoor Marsupial UAV" or "Realistic Outdoor Sensing."  Project depends on funding priorities as well as the interests and skills of student applicants.)


        Realistic Outdoor Sensing
        Group 76 – Control Systems Engineering (2–3 students)
        Michael Boulet and Byron Stanley

        Recommended WPI major(s): robotics, mechanical engineering

        The output quality of sensors frequently used on outdoor mobile robotic systems degrades with time because of the accumulation of dust/dirt/mud on the sensor aperture and/or moving parts. Additionally, many of the sensors were designed for indoor, controlled-climate use and were repurposed for outdoor environments.  Realistically fielding autonomous robotics will require sensors that can reliably operate outdoors for extended periods of time without human maintenance (e.g., lens wiping).

        Students on this project will create a design that modifies a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) sensor to operate outdoors for extended periods of time without significant performance degradation. In particular, the design must be robust and generally applicable to any sensor with a viewing window or lens. At least one of the sensors must provide planar range data (LIDAR) and at least one sensor must provide 2D images (camera).  The testing area, lidar, and camera would be provided ahead of time by Lincoln Laboratory. It is important that the solution be generalized to most visual sensors, as a single custom solution is of limited value.

        For a final demonstration, the newly modified sensor(s) will be mounted to a mobile platform (does not need to be unmanned or autonomous) alongside conventional/unimproved sensors. The sensor set is powered on and set to collect data during an extended drive (8 hours) through conditions simulating environments in which a robot might operate. These conditions will include dust and mud splash.  Sensor output will be analyzed to assess the improvement relative to the standard robot sensors.

        For this project, we desire robotics majors, perhaps complemented with ME majors.  Robotics majors should have completed the Unified Robotics sequence through RBE 3002 (or RBE 400X, if possible). It would be helpful for one or more members of the team to have experience in mechanical mechanisms (ME 3310) and/or control engineering (ES 3011).

        (Note: One robotics team will be created to work on one of the two projects listed: "Indoor Marsupial UAV" or "Realistic Outdoor Sensing."  Project depends on funding priorities as well as the interests and skills of student applicants.)


        Multi-User Scheduling Algorithm for Sensors
        Space Control Systems, Group 91
        Dr. Zoran Spasojević

        Recommended WPI major(s): mathematics, CS

        The Space Control Systems Group develops technologies to detect and track satellites and other objects in space by using optical sensors. The Optical Processing at Lincoln (OPAL) software package is a key part of this effort. Mission planning for such sensors is an essential part of successful data collection. Mission planning algorithms are an integral part of the OPAL package.

        Frequently, multiple sensors are employed to obtain desired information about satellites. Satellites are scheduled at different times for observations in order to utilize the best conditions for data collection. With multiple satellites being observed, scheduling conflicts may occur. Best observation times for two different satellites may coincide, while a sensor can only devote its resources to one satellite. Efficient scheduling algorithms are being developed and employed to avoid such conflicts and to produce effective assignments of multiple satellites to multiple sensors.

        Often, multiple users have similar observation requirements for multiple sensors and multiple objects. Different users among the same user group will have different priorities. The tasks they submit to different sensors may also be ranked according to their importance. In this project, we would like to develop algorithms for effective scheduling of multiple users and their submitted tasks to multiple sensors, taking into account user and task priorities and sensor properties.

        Students will work on developing and implementing multi-user scheduling algorithms. Students will also work on formulating the means to evaluate the effectiveness of such algorithms. This is usually done by defining an objective function that assigns numeric value to each scheduling opportunity. Students will have an opportunity to develop their own algorithm evaluation criteria.

        Requirements for this project are two students that can complement each other with strong backgrounds in mathematics and computer science. Mathematics is needed for developing theoretical aspects of the algorithm, while computer science is needed for developing strategies for efficient implementation of the algorithms in Java programming language. Familiarity with solving assignment problems and linear programming techniques is a plus. For successful completion of the project, it will be highly advantageous to students to start the internship in June of 2010.


        The work described in this web page was and will be performed at Lincoln Laboratory, a center for research and development operated by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The opinions, interpretations, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this web page are those of the authors and not necessarily endorsed by MIT, the U.S. Air Force, or the United States Government.

        Employment at MIT Lincoln Laboratory and/or participation in these projects is restricted to U.S. citizens.

        The work described in this web page is sponsored by the Department of the Air Force under Air Force Contract FA8721-05-C-0002.


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