Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Written by: Margot Dick

Congratulations are in order for IIHR’s Calvin Kielas-Jensen, a PhD candidate in mechanical engineering, as he was awarded the Department of Defense (DoD) Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation Scholarship (SMART) Scholarship for his work in autonomous mobile robots.

The scholarship is presented by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), a DoD center of excellence in Huntsville, Ala.

Kielas-Jensen will complete the final year of his PhD under Assistant Professor of mechanical engineering Venanzio Cichella before leaving for the DIA facility in Huntsville. The DoD will cover tuition costs for his final year of school, and then Kielas-Jensen will work full time for the agency for one year after graduation. During his year of full-time employment, he will also have the unique opportunity to work with a mentor with extensive experience in his field.

Kielas-Jensen’s research focuses on autonomous mobile robots and determining the optimal ways to accomplish set goals. He works in motion planning, coordinating multiple autonomous agents — including drones, submarines, and robots — to hone in on a specific location for rescue or surveillance missions. His team is currently working on a project to coordinate search and rescue equipment to find and rescue a victim in a marine environment.

Optimization is the main goal of Kielas-Jensen’s research, so he uses motion capture technology — similar to that used in high-tech movies —which collects data in a three-dimensional space instead of the commonly-used two-dimensional, adding an entirely new dimension of accuracy.

As his work will be with the Department of Defense, Kielas-Jensen does not have much information about what he will be doing next year, but he is excited to put his background in polynomial-based optimal control and motion planning to work in the intelligence community.

The DoD is committed to the continuing education of students involved in science, technology, engineering, and math for the betterment of the civilian workforce and development of new technology. Learn more about the SMART Scholarship and how to apply at