Monday, October 1, 2018

OSCAR Student Michael-Andrew Keays Aims to Develop a Platform for Autonomous Vehicle Research

I am a part of a multifaceted research project with the aim of developing a platform for autonomous vehicle research at George Mason University. This is a Summer Impact project comprised of six undergraduates, our group consisted of computer science and psychology majors. Our summer project focused on tackling the fundamentals of autonomous vehicle research, namely doing research into machine learning, and the current state of the art technology in existing autonomous vehicle technology. One of the reasons I chose to pursue this project was to have the chance on impacting the development of society on a large scale. Many of the technological developments that we use and take advantage of in recent years on a daily basis were developed through research. Some of those technological developments have completely altered status quo and created a world where people can’t imagine how life could exist without those advances. This is the kind of impact I ultimately want to help make.

Our project was not commissioned with an explicit goal, and as a result the direction of our week by week activities have been defined by the progress made iteratively. As a result, the work I do on a weekly basis has changed heavily throughout the course of my project. The multidisciplinary nature of our group was a had a very large effect on the direction of our work. Each week was focused on achieving a different goal, which many times involved working with completely different tools, frameworks and environments. For the bulk of the project my time was spent writing code and analyzing recent deep learning research. I spent time reading and modifying code written by other researchers as well as working with my group in order to help create new software was well.

Over the course of this project I feel like the most important thing I’ve gained is a confidence in my ability to participate in doing research and provide scientific knowledge. Coming into this project I initially was somewhat intimidated by my own perceptions of the scientific community. I was in the mindset that producing actual research was something that would be out of my scope, requiring tons of background knowledge and experience that I did not, and would not have. But over the course of the summer, I have learned that by breaking down our research goals and tasks we were able to be at the author’s end of what had perceived as too much to accomplish.