Advancing the Science of Guidance, Navigation, and Control

During the Age of Exploration in the 15th through 17th centuries, navigation was the greatest scientific challenge. Today, knowledge about guidance, navigation, and control (GNC) systems has never been more important. The GNC system is the technological brain that safely controls everything from satellites and rockets to robots and autonomous land, sea, and air vehicles.

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To promote proficiency in these evolving technologies, Cal State Fullerton’s College of Engineering & Computer Science is establishing a new Center for Navigation to focus on education, research, and industry partnership.

Decorative stock image of a map screen on a smart phone“Everything we do here will be targeted to stay in front of industry’s technological needs for advanced GNC systems.”

Jidong Huang | Professor of Electrical Engineering

“Everything we do here will be targeted to stay in front of industry’s technological needs for advanced GNC systems,” says Jidong Huang, professor of electrical engineering and one of the faculty sponsors for the Center.

Ultimately, the goal of the Center will be not only to transform ECS into a national leader for research and innovation in areas related to navigation, but also to serve as a hub for providing instructional support, professional engagement, and outreach activities for the field. To get there, the Center will adopt a multipronged strategy geared toward maximizing the benefit for students, faculty, industry partners, and the broader community.

Encouraged by Industry Partners

CSUF, in partnership with industry, has a long history of advancing GNC research activities. Input from those partners was the impetus for Huang and Mohinder Grewal, professor emeritus of electrical engineering, to write the proposal to establish the Center.

“Companies lack qualified candidates for important jobs in navigation engineering,” says Huang. “We know that if we were going to prepare our students appropriately for these jobs, we would need a dedicated center where we can not only establish a targeted curriculum but also provide research opportunities that will meet the needs of our industry partners.”

The Center will allow ECS to consolidate all of its navigation-related instructional and research activities under one umbrella. This hub will make it easier for faculty and students to collaborate and partner with industry on interdisciplinary applied research projects and engage in curricular leadership in the area of GNC.

Raytheon, one of ECS’s industry partners, is an early supporter.

“Navigation technology is ubiquitous across a wide range of industries. With a global presence in satellite navigation, Raytheon values engineers with knowledge and experience in navigation, guidance, and control applications,” explains Laura Cheung, Raytheon Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) integration and test director. “Our company has therefore provided seed money to form the new Center for Navigation to support student research and design projects, as well as curriculum development and scholarship. Ultimately, we hope the Center will become a national leader in navigation research and innovation.”

Focused on a Collaborative Curriculum

The Center for Navigation will take a collaborative approach to curriculum development, working closely with industry partners and faculty from the different departments and colleges at CSUF.

“We want to listen to industry and also want to incorporate high-impact hands-on active learning to support students,” says Huang. “By working with faculty from across our college and campus, we intend to be collaborative and efficient in developing a meaningful curriculum.”

Curriculum development will include new courses and enhancements to existing courses to reflect the technological developments in the field. Ultimately, Huang would like to see a new GNC concentration for the bachelor’s and master’s electrical engineering programs. “This will provide students with more choices in course enrollment and support timely graduation,” he says.

GNC education involves much more than electrical engineering. It requires knowledge in mechanical engineering, computer engineering, computer science, mathematics, and more.

Therefore, the Center will focus on collaborative, project-based learning, which has been a foundational element in the ECS curriculum.

“It’s our intent that students with different backgrounds and levels will be able to work together at the Center, which will foster active learning, peer mentoring, and opportunities for interdisciplinary study,” says Huang. “By engaging in project-based learning and research, our students will gain career-readiness skills like idea generation, project design and management, prototyping, and engineering implementation.”

Students’ participation in research enhances their learning experiences and is one of the best predictors of their success beyond graduation, data show. That’s why the Center will be a point of contact for faculty to recruit students for projects, and for students to seek collaborative research opportunities. “The Center will provide students opportunities to interact with faculty outside of classroom instruction and develop important skills like critical thinking and communication,” explains Huang.

A Hub for New Tech Development

Partnership between academia and industry is natural when it comes to collaborative research and development of new technology. The Center will be geared to carry on the legacy research ECS already engages in with industry. In addition, it will establish a community of faculty and student scholars that works together on applied research, resulting in peer-reviewed publications and grant proposals.

“Our goal is that research activities at the Center will result in the creation of new technology and engineering approaches and solutions, such as improved navigation algorithms and methods that can be quickly adopted by the industry to increase or improve their product lines,” explains Huang.

The Center will seek to expand its engagement with local industry through informal consultations and eventually the establishment of an advisory board. To sustain its research activities, the Center will help faculty develop grant proposals and industry support.

“CSUF is strategically located in a business district where major industry players, including Raytheon, Boeing, Garmin, Northrop Grumman, John Deere, Trimble, and many other GNC-relevant companies have a strong presence,” says Huang. “The Center will help us collaborate with industry on a deeper level in order to develop additional partnerships that will support long-term, sustained GNC research projects.”

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