Georgia Southern Student Spends Summer at the Controls of a Driverless Car

Every Fall, students return to class with stories to tell about what they did over summer break. But how many can say they spent the summer at the controls of a driverless car? Georgia Southern University student Sterling Holcomb can.  

Thanks to a University of Arizona College of Engineering 10-week summer research program focused on driverless car technology, Holcomb and 11 other college students helped to advance the UA CAT vehicle, or cognitive and autonomous test vehicle. Holcomb worked to improve vehicle-to-vehicle communications while reducing power consumption of communications systems.

Holcomb came into the program having only taken a few cognitive radio courses in the past, but he walked away with an increased knowledge in autonomous vehicles and communications, as well as an interest in pursuing graduate education. The NSF program, Research Experiences for Undergraduates, or REU, provides opportunities for undergraduates to work with faculty mentors and graduate students on exciting research projects at universities throughout the United States and Puerto Rico.

“In addition to the technical knowledge gained through this REU, I have learned how graduate education is structured, how the graduate application process works, and how to properly prepare for the GRE,” Holcomb said. University of Arizona electrical and computer engineering professor Jonathan Sprinkle, an NSF CAREER Award winner who led the 2015 University of Arizona REU program, said the program was a good way to introduce students to research and graduate school.

“Before participating in this REU program, I knew I wanted to go to graduate school, but this helped me decide to pursue a PhD immediately after graduation rather than after several years in industry,” Holcomb said. 

For more on the UA CAT vehicle program, visit, and to learn about the NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates program, visit