Enrichment Highlight: Ali Albazroun at Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute

Ali Albazroun, a KGSP rising junior majoring in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, was recently chosen to participate in the Robotics Institute Summer Scholar Program (RISS) at the prestigious Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh, PA. 

With the encouragement of his KGSP Advisor Emily Hagemeister (whose student Nadia Almutlak, a rising senior at Columbia University, participated in the RISS program last year), Ali utilized resources provided by the KGSP Enrichment Team to learn more about applying for the CMU RISS program, and was later thrilled to be selected to work alongside CMU Professor William “Red” Whittaker.  Ali’s RISS project examines image segmentation through the use of super pixels which will help in trying to locate rocks and their boundaries in images to be used for navigation and mapping in lunar robotics missions. The project is part of a larger research initiative at CMU’s Robotics Institute, funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which aims to develop robot technology that can explore sinkholes on the moon.

In addition to his research, Ali is acquiring valuable pre-professional and academic skills from the program’s workshop series, including developing research presentation skills, conducting literature reviews, and navigating the library system.  “It’s exciting to be part of world-class research within human-robot interactions, aerial robotics, biologically inspired robots and more, and to benefit from RISS’ professors and state-of-the-art facilities,” says Ali.  He also is learning technical navigation and mapping programming skills like SLAM (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping) and SfM (Structure from Motion) algorithms.   As Ali intends to continue his work in robotics as a Mechanical Engineering graduate student at KAUST, his experience both complements prior academic preparation, and significantly develops knowledge of the field at a level few undergraduate students possess.

The talent of KGSP students is evident to hosting partner institutions.  "The issues the world is facing today are global, complex, and interconnected,” said Rachel Burcin, the RISS co-Director and Global Programs Manager.  “The KGSP scholars bring unique perspectives and make significant contributions to the learning community and research discussions."  Dr. John M. Dolan, Director of the RISS and Principal Systems Scientist, further agreed: “I'm extremely pleased to have KAUST and IIE as partners. They extend the international reach and impact of the RISS program."  

By supporting such rich research opportunities, the KGSP provides its students with many intensive and meaningful engagement opportunities throughout the school year. 


KGSP students interested to learn more about the RISS program should contact their advisor.  Others interested may contact Rachel Burcin (rachel@cmu.edu).