The Art of Research (AoR)

 

The Art of Research (AoR)


Volume 6 Issue 12 News & Resources | December 2013

 

(1)

2013 has been an interesting year for our research group. We have been very busy managing a number of research grants with quite dissimilar focus, albeit within the ambit of underwater or marine research topics. Most of the research grants have entered their 2nd or final year of project completion, with some grants already permitted extension into the early parts of 2014. And yes, the research money is dwindling very fast, and the finances are juggled among the grants to ensure all projects will survive (read: complete successfully). As a research group, we are in constant need for new research funding. Putting the finances aside, our research activities are significantly lower key this year compared to what we have gone through before. I guess this is a just a natural cycle for any research endeavor. There is a time for everything. One “day” you’re up there. The next “day” probably you’ll be just lumbering somewhere at the bottom. But no worries, we are not disheartened. Our research efforts have always been objective-oriented and, at the research group level, are not so much affected by temporal constraints and challenges. Alhamdulillah, we are continuously moving forward, with or without the money.

(2)

Our graduate student’s population has been dwindling also, but for good reasons. A number of them have completed their post-graduate studies, and are moving forward in their careers. Some have managed to become engineer, research scientist, lecturer and even Met-Ocean engineer, among others. Of course, some have decided to stop along the way and chart their own paths. There are regrets here and there. But, this is quite normal for any research group in its growing phase. At the research group level, the maturity is nearly there. We have moved away from being too university-centric to a more open and inclusive attitude towards others. The research efforts into underwater technology and associated applications must now be more inclusive of not just the other universities, but to all the stakeholders. This is done not much for the survival of the research group per say, but more towards ensuring the agenda for ocean-related technology-based research in the country will be sustained at a higher level. Our graduates have also started their own research circle, quite related to URRG, in their own university. They are sharing the knowledge, training and experiences throughout all those years in USM. For this, I am very grateful. All the pains endured are not in vain. Thank God.

(3)

It has been more than a decade since theURRG research group was established.Due to some new developments and to make the research group more encompassing, we have now slightly altered the group name to UCRG which stands for “Underwater, Control and Robotics Group”. The research group main thrust will still be robotics and control research for ocean or underwater applications. This is a niche field that has been developed for quite some time in USM, and it would be a serious lost if suddenly a new focus area is chosen. From all those years, there are abundances of research-related lessons (read: tales and stories) that can be shared with other budding researchers and research groups. To a certain extent, doing research is not so much different to the work of art. There is the so-called “Art of Research (AoR)” that one should and must appreciate before embarking on any research related efforts.The complexity of the current researchendeavor requires a researcher to be more resourceful and open to new ideas and approaches. Nowadays, dogmatic steps and fixed-rules of conducting one’s research efforts will no longer suffice. Current constraints and limitations when one is engaging in research and development will immediately bring everything to a halt, if not for those innovative approaches in problem-solving. Can the skill of AoR be acquired independently? Yes, albeit with many research years and lots of money spent along the way. The shorter path to acquire the AoR is to engage and work closely with other more established researchers, and not put one’s ego in the path of learning and nurturing. At the end of the day, AoR will always be evolving, and ones will never reach the end-point. The most important thing is to get our hands dirty and actually does the research work. Practice makes perfect!

(4)

A number of activities are being planned for 2014. These are in conjunction with AOR implementation in the group. Our trademarkUSYS conference will be organized once again, tentatively, in collaboration with one of the public Technical University in the south. An open category Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) competition is already being planned as the 2nd competition-based event after the SAUVC’2014 competition to be organized in Singapore. UCRG will be sending a student’s team to SAUVC’2014.Hopefully, the team will make an impact, and impress the audience over in Singapore. ANational Technical Seminar on Underwater System Technology (NUSYS) is also slated sometime in June or July 2014. A number of short-courses are also scheduled next year. Since most of the research grants would also be completed in mid-2014, the group is expecting a number of high-quality publications and possible industry-based collaboration for products commercialization. Some new patent applications are also anticipated to be submitted. All in all, 2014 should be another interesting and, hopefully, a more productive year for UCRG, albeit with the hope new high-quality PG students joining the team. Recently, we had some new academic staffs (read: researchers)with new capabilities and potential joining UCRG. This is very promising. As they say – the more the merrier.

(5)

For 2014and onwards,the group will strive to ensure that the AoR acquired from all previous R&D experiences will not be wasted. The AoR is not just a term. It is a way of doing things the right way – first time around. All of these planned activities do not, in any way, negate the achievements and outcome gathered for the year 2013. In fact, December 2013 will witness the publication of the special issue for USYS’12 in the Indian Journal of Geo-Marine Sciences (IJMS), an ISI-index scientific journal and some more PG students completing their studies. The most important narrative here is to be forward-thinking and optimistic of the group’s direction and overall mission. This mental frame-work is applicable to us and others. We have come so far and there is no way of changing tunes.

(6)

AoR is about the approach to explore science and technology in order to challenge and create new frontiers in knowledge. History has shown that scientific discoveries and breakthroughs have always been propelled by imaginative individuals and innovative mode of thinking. UCRG intends to do this in 2014. May we succeed!

“I not use all the brains that I have, but all that I can borrow” Woodrow Wilson


Written by :
Assc. Prof. Dr. Mohd Rizal Arshad
School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Growth must not be anti-life!

 

Growth must not be anti-life!


Volume 6 Issue 10 News & Resources | October 2013

 

(1)
The whole basis of growth is to enhance life and its quality. Literally, the meaning of growth, normally, implies positive development, and how it inherently provides new meaning to life. In every aspect of human endeavors we yearn for growth which carries with it the unwritten despise for dormant and static environment. In the free market climate, growth can mean so many things. The implications can also be varied and unexpected. The old assumptions and expectations must also be reviewed and measured against the changing backdrop and life needs. Growth can be now anti-life, i.e. with growth the normal cycle of life is threatened and life faced visible destruction. This paradox is not obvious until it is too late. Life can now be at risks with growth. In most sectors of human civilization, growth must be checked against the overall goals of sustaining life on earth. This is not a plea, but a glaring fact of life in the modern era.

(2)
A large patch of forested areas in the outer ring of a big city may, sometimes, be seen as a waste of resources. Instinctly, it feels better to “develop” the land and make some profit or money out of it. The benefits will be felt by many in the surrounding areas. New businesses and, even factories, will provide new jobs and source of income for the needy. An underdeveloped green patch of land is not growth, but the clearing of it is the right way forward for real and tangible growth. In this example, exterminating life is assumed better than to keep it. Growth is now anti-life. What then is the option left for us? How can we develop further without destroying whatever we have? How do we achieve balance between moving forward and keeping life as it is? How we make growth that rejuvenates life and enhancing it? There are many questions than answers. Growth must now be made to enhance the quality of life, and not used as a smokescreen for uncontrollable exploitation of the natural resources.

(3)
The same rules apply when we conduct any research work. The initial aim for contributing to growth should be regularly checked against real data or performance. For example, one might asked: How can the collateral effects from the new technologies be managed and properly anticipated? Most likely, those scientists who came together and developed the atomic bomb may not have expected the disastrous use of it. The results of the bombs are real and visible. Towards the end of 2nd world war, 40,000 souls were taken in a single bombardment on city populated by about 200,000. New technology or new growth became a cause for unimaginable destruction via a single person flicking the switch to drop the bomb. Human being, on the pretext of moving forward, will not hesitate to sacrifice others in ensuring their desires are fulfilled. This is a unique specie-related behavior. And this one behavior must be kept in-check, especially for scientists and researchers aiming to contribute to the larger body of knowledge.

(4) 
Growth must NOT be anti-life. It must be pro-life, i.e. new innovations must contribute in sustaining life in general. The exploration of the oceans and marine resources is one important case study. The number of R&D efforts for marine-related exploitations have been growing in the last few decades. The push-factor was the significant growth of the oil and gas sectors due to the exponential hunger of the world for new energy resources. New field explorations are heading away from the shore into the deeper oceans. The active subsea explorations have brought significant technology integration and fusion. In the meantime, the hazardous and corrosive ocean environment posed interesting challenge and problem to the technology developers and end-users. In this climate, the main worry is the lack of sustainable technology development consideration among the scientists and technology developers. Any short-term thinking and pure profit-oriented actions will bring unrecoverable destruction to the deep-sea resources. And, this is bad – for everyone. Only when real growth becomes a tool and not goal of any explorations, then this doomed scenario can be avoided. Scientists and researchers must make a conscious decision to ensure the inclusion of sustainability consideration in all their R&D efforts. This action will ensure growth that support life, and not against it.

(5) 
The aim of this short article is simple. Researchers must always aim for growth that is positive to life. The uncontrolled desire for growth per say must be stopped. Although one can never fully anticipate the real and actual impact of any technology developed, steps must be taken to reduce the possibilities of abuse and damaging risks. One should move forward with harmony and with a clear conscience. In essence, we are not doing this for our life, but to ensure that future generations will not suffer due to us.

Growth must be PRO-life!


Written by : 
Assc. Prof. Dr. Mohd Rizal Arshad 
School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering 
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

D2IY – A Potential Campaign Tagline!

 

D2IY – A Potential Campaign Tagline!


Volume 6 Issue 11 News & Resources | November 2013

 

(1)
The development of enabling technologies or tools will always be important to so many end-users, who are facing real-world problems. The technology developers may not be the one actually using the technology in some real applications, although he is the most informed of the operational/technical aspect of the technology. On the other hand, the end-users would be the one who is very “distant” (read: unaware) of the novel technology being used, and yet the most experienced with the tools’ behaviors in the field. Ideally, the system’s end-users should be the one who develops the novel technology for those specific applications. But this task will require tremendous amount of time, focus and efforts, both technically and practically. And, honestly, this expectation is impractical for so many people, barring a few. The idea of a user developing his own needed technology is interesting, but it would need a stronger culture of “Design/Develop-It-Yourself @ D2IY” (as opposed to Do-It-Yourself @ DIY) in the society at large. The availability of off-the-shelf standard sub-system modules, the likes of “Plug-n-Play” products, will certainly make the move towards a more tech-savvy society promising.

(2)
Wouldn’t it be interesting to see the seemingly high-tech platforms, currently being utilized in R&D labs at top universities around the world, being handled by laymen? The thoughts of haptic input devices, intelligent artificial skin module and holographic 3D display being casually developed by the girl next door are certainly exciting. Things will be no longer so mysterious because one would only need to follow the instructions on the box (or in the accompanying mini-CD) and just “Plug-n-Play” the accompanying modules. Once they are assembled and functioning, one can then explore other ways of using the modules and probably create a totally new use for them. This is an interesting future scenario for high-tech gadgets. The general public would no longer be afraid of those bundles of technologies and would be more than ready to explore them. During those technology-aware renaissances, the top brains in the R&D labs should focus on more complex and demanding problems, and not being distracted too much by the need to develop tools or platforms to evaluate new ideas. Yes, now “Everyone-can-be-a-Techy”.

(3)
One major risk of cultivating the D2IY campaign is the total dependency of the end-users to off-the-shelf modules. The know-how of exactly how things operate may no longer be important, what more with all the governing mathematical equations and theories. Those fundamental elements are now becoming insignificant. The most important thing is for the purchased modules to function as claimed on the box or in the user manual. The task of understanding the fundamental concepts and techniques are left to the product manufacturers, odd techies and possibly, out of work professors. The task of developing high-tech system is at risk becoming alienated and downright unpopular. The LEGO-like approach to technology may looks interesting at first, but will be devastating in the long run. Well of course, if the trend is not balanced by detail appreciation of technology development and proper acculturation of our youth to knowledge and the importance of technical know-how – then we are in a big and serious trouble. D2IY is an interesting concept because it pushes the boundary of high-tech research to the individual level and would, inadvertently, dispel the assumed need for a team for viable high-tech research goals. D2IY is a campaign for technology empowerment. High tech research should no longer be the birth-right of those expensive and out-of-reach research labs, but will fast becoming an open-source kind of R&D movement, where the regular players share and collaborate on a deliberate and significant scale. Yes, let it be so common and open to all.

(4)
A more wide-spread understanding of high-tech products and the know-how to assemble such system will be good for the society at large, especially the younger generations. The wide-spread use of high-tech modules will “force” the masses to learn and try to appreciate the complexity of those systems. The pervasive use of high tech products will also assist in breaking down the psychological barriers, i.e. high tech stuffs are only for nerds and geniuses, in learning and utilizing them. Education through practical use is the best. The future of human civilization will rest upon the readiness of the masses to embrace new technologies and make them realisable for daily applications. When technologies become common commodities, the ability of man will be greatly enhanced and certainly not hindered by the stigma of the haves or have-nots. We should push this agenda further and hope one day it will become a reality.

(5)
In all these excitement of seeing the communities-at-large embracing state-of-the-art technologies in their daily lives and to be comfortable in addressing any problems arising, appropriate attention must be given on the issue of safety. When one has limited knowledge on the actual backbone technology in any device, and hence, limited appreciation of the danger that comes with it, one is actually threading on a very dangerous path. The issue of safety and risk handling should not be underestimated. As the D2IY bandwagon grows in number and strength, the awareness on safety and how to handle various technology modules must grow together. In an environment of highly-charged gasses, one only needs tiny spark to trigger a catastrophe. This is worst-case-scenario thinking, where one will always look for the extreme negative potential of any new proposal. The D2IY campaign is certainly apt for the 21st century societies. With the spread of knowledge resources and, relatively, easy access to most of them, the post-modern societies should be more than ready to embrace the D2IY movement.

(6)
The bottom line is that all individual should be encouraged to exploit all available technologies for a much better living. In the research domain, researchers should now be more open to conduct problem-based research with cross-discipline requirements and multi-domain technology support. If the general public is now very tech-savvy, researchers in the labs must go a notch or two higher. This is a logical progression. Hence, researchers have no option but to buck-up and move-up. The D2IY campaign will be beneficial to all of us. Whether we embrace it or not, it is certainly coming our way.


Written by :
Assc. Prof. Dr. Mohd Rizal Arshad
School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Research seminar series: Sharing more than a knowledge

 

Research seminar series: Sharing more than a knowledge


Volume 6 Issue 9 News & Resources | September 2013

 

Starting from mid year of 2013, the School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering has taken another step in promoting the research environment in the school, that is, by having research seminar series every fortnightly. The effort was inspired with aims to provide a proper platform for academic staff, research students and others to present his/her research work, to sharing of knowledge, and perhaps to also seek further opinion, comment and suggestion towards the improvement of the conducted research. The seminar also meant for postgraduate research students who are preparing his/her research presentation prior to the real presentation during the viva-voce. To start with, each research groups in the school has to nominate two or more staff/students to give a talk and the process will continue in cycle basis.

As we see from most of the universities abroad, the environment of having research seminar is always appreciated by most of the researchers and it is not only limited to people within similar research background. The activity is taken with spirit of not only to share and seek of knowledge, but also to get to know what other colleagues are doing and find opportunity of any kind of collaboration and connection between similar and different researches done by others. Though sometimes being held just during the lunch break where everybody is bringing their lunch box with them, the practice usually obtained positive response from all members of many areas.

However, this environment is not practically seen in our school. Researchers seem do not interested to take part. Some with reason that the research area being discussed is nothing related with what they are currently do. Others will say no point of attending it if we know nothing about what the speaker is presented. And the rest may be just busy attending other matters. As time goes by, this phenomenon will lead to less and less attendance until one day the only left in the seminar room is the speaker himself/herself waiting for the audience to come and listen to his/her talk. The consequence of this phenomenon sooner or later will create isolated research culture in the school research environment. Researchers only active and proactive within their own research territorial, less sense of sharing and less awareness in knowing what other people under the same roof are doing.

In my opinion, this way of thought needs to be changed. It is a time now we should not only champion and success in our own discipline. If we are already at the peak of the successful point, we should help others who still do not, by attending the seminar that he/she presented and see what we can offer as successful seniors. If we just getting started, by attending the seminar, we able to grab ideas and opportunity in improving or generate collaboration on our own research with others. The sharing and seeking of knowledge is not only limited to what we are comfortable with, but also to venture other new area that previously not in our scope. For a very minimal reason, to at least give a support to our own colleagues by making the seminar merrier with our attendance and possible Q&A where necessary.

Lastly, to all colleagues and respective researchers, let us blow the whistle, to me, to you and to them, to enlighten the spirit, to have a paradigm shift, to let this research activity grown healthily within our school environment. We lead and we lead by example.


Written by : 
Dr. Rosmiwati Mohd Mokhtar 
School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering 
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Acting Editor’s Job

 

Acting Editor’s Job


Volume 6 Issue 8 News & Resources | August 2013

 

When the first time being asked to write something on Editor’s Note on behalf of Assoc. Prof. Dr Mohd Rizal Arshad (the true editor), I smiled to myself. The assigned job looks simple but not easy to carry out. While scratching the ‘non-itchy’ head, question ponder...what I want to write? Then, also another acting task for me to prepare the group research strength to be proposed as one of the School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering, USM niche area. Within a week, with a concept of killing two birds with one stone, here the resolution for the case.

Proposal for research niche area: Underwater Robotics

Underwater Robotics Research Group (URRG) from USM is pioneering in underwater robotics research and development efforts in Malaysia.

VISION

A sustainable world class R&D organization as a center for underwater system technology development, integration and sharing of resources towards product commercialization.

MISSIONS

- To provide infrastructure for the goal of doing R&D and further development such as tools, equipments, environment and information. 
- To create platform to leverage from the available pool of academicians, scientist and engineers. 
- To be a hub for Underwater Research Network globally. 
- To develop and produce high quality products to be delivered and commercialized globally.

Since the establishment in 2001, numbers of research projects and grants, hundreds of scientific journal and conference proceedings and a few innovative products have successfully achieved and developed. In building the capacity, the underwater robotics research area has obtained quality researchers from academia to postgraduate students. The sustainability of the research area is maintained by continuously having cohort ranging from junior staff to senior one. Currently, there are 8 active researchers with sound background working within the area. The research leader, AP Dr Mohd Rizal Arshad has good research track record with strong leadership, providing continuity of support and mentorship to the other researchers within the group. As to enlarge the access to knowledge, various networking/collaboration channels have been established.

1. Established its own website: Http://urrg.eng.usm.my 
2. Established National Underwater Robotics Network (NURN) with members from all over Malaysia. 
3. Deliberately organized International Conference on Underwater System Technology: Theory & Applications once in two years (2006, 2008, 2010, 2012) 
4. Deliberately organized National Technical Seminar on Underwater System Technology annually (The 6th National Technical Seminar in 2013) 
5. Conducted workshop on underwater robotics, technology and applications as annually event. 
6. Produced monthly bulletin on underwater system & technology. 
7. Having strong support from the National Oceanography Directorate (NOD), MOSTI. 
8. Strong networking nationally with researchers of the same area from different universities e.g. UTeM, UTM, UMP, UMT etc. 
9. Strong networking internationally with researchers of the same area from other countries i.e. Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, India, Korea, Japan, UK and USA. 
10. Have linkages also with government bodies and private sectors e.g. NOD, Royal Malaysian Navy, National Hydrographic Centre, PETRONAS, Subsea etc.

In assuring that the researchers of the area sustain a level of professionalism, involvement with professional bodies like IEM, IMarEST, IEEE, IET, SUT and others are also cultivated. Since 2013, as to provide broader multidisciplinary community of researchers, the group is renamed to Underwater Control Robotics Research Group (UCRG). As a result, an underwater robotics research is also esteemed with researches such as control systems and technology, bio-inspired systems and technology, sensors and instrumentation, imaging and vision technology.

Out of 24 criteria in determining the research strength, the group has fulfilled 20 criteria for the underwater robotics. This has signified the ability of the research area to develop and extend itself towards global scope, just as what the vision and missions of the research group that we are aimed on.


Written by : 
Dr. Rosmiwati Mohd Mokhtar 
School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering 
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 
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