Alice Kim: Safe maneuvers for High School Experiments

Rice University Student Spends Summer at the Controls of a Driverless Car

College students across the country have rounded the halfway point of the fall 2014 semester and settled in for the push to the finish. Thanks to a UA College of Engineering summer research program focused on driverless car technology, Rice University junior Alice Kim had a head start this semester expanding her skill set. And the experience piqued her interest in pursuing a graduate degree. 

As part of a National Science Foundation program, Kim and seven other college students, working in teams of two or three, spent 10 weeks helping advance the University of Arizona’s CAT vehicle, or cognitive and autonomous test vehicle. 

The NSF program, Research Experiences for Undergraduates, or REU, provides opportunities for undergraduates to work on exciting research projects with faculty mentors and graduate students at universities throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. It also gives undergraduates a look at life in graduate school. 

“Before I wasn’t sure about graduate school, but after REU I am seriously considering graduate school,” Kim said. “I encourage anyone who wants to study an area in depth and improve their professional image to consider an REU.” 
Kim, who is majoring in computer science, came into the 2014 University of Arizona REU with little experience in autonomous vehicle technology. 

She returned to Rice University having developed a framework for high school students to conduct experiments using the CAT vehicle. High school students will be involved in the next phase of research as part of the project’s outreach component. The framework will give the students the ability to safely apply computer code they write themselves for the CAT vehicle to navigate a designated obstacle course. 

Including high school students in the research will give them experience in addressing global engineering challenges, said the project’s lead investigator, Jonathan Sprinkle, an NSF Career Award winner and associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.

Alice Kim, Rice University