UI awarded grant to train ROTC students in cyber, electronic warfare

3/17/2021 3:18:45 PM

Kimberly Belser

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Grainger College of Engineering was awarded a  one-year grant by the United States Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR) for the Accelerated  Learning and Engineering Research Training (ALERT) Program in Cyber and Electronic  Warfare for Undergraduate Midshipmen and Cadets. The $314,104 grant will support training  10 to 14 Illinois undergraduate ROTC midshipmen and cadets in cyber and electronic warfare related research. 

The ALERT program is a collaboration between the Grainger Engineering Illinois Scholars  Undergraduate Research (ISUR), Illinois ROTC units, Grainger Engineering Office of Research,  and Grainger Engineering faculty. It leverages the ISUR program's infrastructure for  administration and programmatic activities such as team building, research seminars,  professional development, workshops, and research presentations.  

Natasha Mamaril, program Principal Investigator (PI) and ISUR program director, shared that  the program's goal is to expand and develop ROTC students' technical and research skills by  actively participating in research relevant to understanding the technology needed to protect  and defend against cyber and electronic warfare threats. The ultimate goal is to provide skilled  and trained engineers and scientists to the national workforce that defends against these  threats. Captain Anthony Corapi, program co-PI and Navy ROTC Commanding Officer, is  leading the recruitment of rising juniors and seniors in the ROTC Navy, Army, and Air Force  units for the ALERT program. Assistance with identifying faculty project PIs was provided by  Don Takehara, program co-PI and Associate Director for Research.  

Six Project PIs, who are Grainger Engineering faculty, are providing multidisciplinary/ interdisciplinary projects for students to work on. The project PIs are Jennifer Bernhard,  Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) and Director of the Illinois Applied  Research Institute; SungWoo Nam, Associate Professor in Mechanical Science and  Engineering; Can Bayram, ECE Associate Professor; Bo Li, Assistant Professor in Computer  Science (CS); Sibin Mohan, CS Research Assistant Professor; and Huy T. Tran, Research  Assistant Professor in Aerospace Engineering.  
The seven projects focus on the following areas: design, build, and test of 1) reconfigurable antenna to block GPS spoofing and 2) small phased arrays in unmanned aerial vehicle  platforms; design, fabrication, and characterization of 3) next generation semiconductors for  quantum cryptography, and 4) next generation power electronics for radar systems or satellite  communications; 5) understanding and evaluation of adversarial machine learning; machine  learning anomaly detection for 6) assured command and control, and 7) autonomous unmanned  underwater vehicle swarms. 

Students in the ALERT program will learn about basic and applied research through learning by-apprenticeship. As apprentices in a research lab, undergraduate students learn in contexts  similar to the situations they seek for further activity or employment. These authentic research  experiences will help them gain knowledge in their fields and an understanding of their  disciplines. 

Participants will be assigned to projects based on their research interests. They are expected to  conduct research in the fall, spring, and summer semesters. Students will learn research methods,  build background knowledge, develop technical and science communication skills, and receive career  guidance. They will present their research in the spring ISUR Research Expo. Together with the project  PIs, graduate student mentors will provide guidance and supervision to the undergraduate researchers  on their respective projects. The ALERT program begins in fall 2021. 


Learn more about applying to and participating this program.