Computing Community Consortium Blog

The goal of the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) is to catalyze the computing research community to debate longer range, more audacious research challenges; to build consensus around research visions; to evolve the most promising visions toward clearly defined initiatives; and to work with the funding organizations to move challenges and visions toward funding initiatives. The purpose of this blog is to provide a more immediate, online mechanism for dissemination of visioning concepts and community discussion/debate about them.

NSF Announces New Expeditions in Computing Awards

April 3rd, 2012 / in big science, research horizons, Research News / by Erwin Gianchandani

A robotic gripper printed and designed through the new process that aims to revolutionize the way robots are created. The gripper could be used by people with limited mobility [image courtesy Jason Dorfman, MIT, via NSF].The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) today announced four new Expeditions in Computing awards, providing each selected project team up to $10 million in funding over five years to pursue “ambitious fundamental research” that will shape “the future of computing and information technologies for decades to come.” Established in 2008, Expeditions from “the centerpiece of the directorate’s award portfolio”; they represent the single largest investments made by the directorate in basic computing research.

The four awards announced today “contribute to the program’s rich intellectual portfolio,” according to NSF, “by adding two projects in robotics and smart systems, one project focused on new techniques and tools for Big Data, and one on augmenting program design and verification.”

Specifically, this year’s Expeditions projects are (following the link):

Printable Robots: An Expedition in Computing for Compiling Functional Physical Machines
Lead PI: Daniela Rus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Collaborators: University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University


This project envisions a future where 3-D robotic systems can be produced and designed using 2-D desktop technology fabrication methods. If this feat is achieved, it would be possible for the average person to design, customize and print a specialized robot in a matter of hours. Currently, it takes years and many resources to produce, program and design a functioning robot. This new project would completely automate the process, from sketches on-demand, anywhere, and with the skill of a team of professional engineers, leading to potential transformations in advanced manufacturing…


Making Sense at Scale with Algorithms, Machines and People (AMP)
Lead PI: Michael Franklin, University of California (UC) Berkeley


AMP will tackle the challenge known as the Big Data problem, in which current data analytics fall short in making sense of the volume, diversity and complexity of data being generated by computers, sensors and scientific instruments; media such as images and video; and free-form tweets, text messages, blogs and documents. AMP seeks to turn this knowledge into insight, to uncover the keys to solving huge societal problems, from improving productivity and efficiency and creating new economic opportunities, to unlocking discoveries in medicine, science and the humanities. The team will focus on key societal applications, including: cancer genomics and personalized medicine; large-scale sensing for traffic prediction, environmental monitoring, and urban planning; and network security. The AMP team is working together to create a new data analytics paradigm…


ExCAPE: Expeditions in Computer Augmented Program Engineering
Lead PI: Rajeev Alur, University of Pennsylvania
Collaborators: Cornell, MIT, University of California Los Angeles, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Maryland, University of Michigan, UC Berkeley, Rice University


ExCAPE aims to change computer programming from the tedious, error-prone, purely manual task it has always been to one in which a programmer and an “automated program synthesis tool” collaborate to generate software that meets its specifications. Computers have revolutionized daily life, and yet the way computers are programmed has changed little in the last several decades. The ExCAPE team brings together expertise in theoretical foundations (computer-aided verification, control theory, program analysis), design methodology (human-computer interaction, model-based design, programming environments), and applications (concurrent programming, network protocols, robotics, system architecture) to pursue research focused on developing new computational engines for transformation and integration of synthesis artifacts, and effective methods for programmer interaction and feedback…


Making Socially Assistive Robots
Lead PI: Brian Scassellati, Yale University
Collaborators: MIT, University of Southern California, Stanford University


This Expedition will develop the fundamental computational techniques that will enable the design, implementation and evaluation of robots that encourage social, emotional and cognitive growth in children. Critical societal problems require sustained, personalized support that supplements the efforts of educators, parents and clinicians. For example, clinicians and families struggle to provide individualized educational services to children with social and cognitive deficits, whose numbers have quadrupled in the U.S. in the last decade alone. In many schools, educators struggle to provide language instruction for children raised in homes where a language other than English is spoken, the fastest-growing segment of the school-age population. This Expedition aims to support the individual needs of these children with socially assistive robots that help to guide the children toward long-term behavioral goals that are customized to the particular needs of each child and that develop and change as the child does…

In making today’s announcement, NSF Director Subra Suresh said:

“Computer science research drives advances in science, engineering and education with significant positive impact on the economy, the achievement of national priorities and improvements in quality of life. The U.S. government has an essential role to play in ensuring that investments in this field are sustained over the long-term. With these Expeditions awards, NSF continues its tradition of investing in ambitious, bold ideas. Our economic future and competitiveness depend on them.”

Added CISE Assistant Director Farnam Jahanian:

“These Expeditions awards promise to catalyze far-reaching research explorations motivated by deep scientific questions. The creativity and imagination that our community brings to this program is truly remarkable. We look forward to many exciting discoveries and innovations, stimulating technological progress for years to come.”

To learn more, check out NSF’s press release.

And see past Expeditions awards announced in 20102009, and 2008, and the video below illustrating some of the research being carried out by the prior-year awardees.

(Contributed by Erwin Gianchandani, CCC Director)

NSF Announces New Expeditions in Computing Awards

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