NASA Exceptional Service Medal winner Kanna Rajan visits BITS Pilani Rajasthan
Kanna chose from his hectic schedule, March 5, 2008 to visit his alma mater BITS Pilani Rajasthan where he was a student during 1980-1985 and obtained his M.Sc. (Hons) Chemistry and MSc (Tech) Computer Science under the unique dual degree flexibility which allows meritorious motivated and committed science students to work for two degrees simultaneously.
Going round the Institute Kanna was impressed by the new Library building, Lecture Theatre Complex, Students Activity Centre etc. He had extensive interactions with the faculty and students at the Centre for Robotics and Intelligent Systems (CRIS) and appreciated the work done on Humanoid robot by the Fab 4 current BITSians Samay Kohli, Arpit Mohan, Harsh Sinha and Prayag Mukherjee who will be participating in the Robo Games the biggest Robot competition in the world at San Francisco later this year.
In his lecture on Mars or Bust, Kanna talked about the Remote Agent Experiment (RAX) which was co-winner of NASA’s 1999 Software of the year and pointed out that a successful innovator must possess Information Skills, Problem Solving Skills, Decision Making Skills and Communication Skills apart from Ability for Time, Stress and Project Management. He thanked the broad based integrated and interdisciplinary approach of education at Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS), Pilani Rajasthan undoubtedly a top ranking university in India yesterday and India today which gave him ample opportunities from admissions to graduations for developing such skills and acquiring such ability to ensure that winning in tough situations became his way of life.
Kanna went on to describe the AI based MAPGEN (Mixed initiative Activity Planning GENerator) the ground-based decision support system which enabled human-in-the-loop oversight of plan development for Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission operations involving the twin robot geologists Spirit and Opportunity which landed on the red planet in January 2004 to probe the history of water.
MAPGEN received NASA's 2004 Turning Goals into Reality award under the Administrators Award category, a NASA Space Act Award, a NASA Group Achievement Award and a NASA Ames Honor Award. Kanna the principal investigator for MAPGEN got the 2002 NASA Public Service Medal and also the First NASA Ames Information Directorate Infusion Award. In Oct 2004, Kanna was awarded the NASA Exceptional Service Medal for his role on MER at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) the lead US center for robotic exploration of the solar system.
With his current research focus on unmanned Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV’s), Kanna has no doubts in stating that Autonomous robots that can "think for themselves" will soon be exploring and monitoring the dark depths of the ocean as well as the frontiers of outer space.
This proud to be a BITSian Kanna Rajan firmly believes that when you take up a mission with passion, there are no dreams too large.
BITS Alumni Association (BITSAA)
Dr BR Natarajan
Vice President BITSAA
Pilani (Rajasthan) 333031 India
Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS), Pilani Rajasthan which has set a bench mark in industry university collaboration is one among the top ranking universities in India today offering degrees in various disciplines presently at Pilani, Dubai, Goa campuses and in the near future at Hyderabad campus apart from an array of work integrated learning programmes for HRD of a vast spectrum of Indian corporates. BITS Pilani alumni are spread across the globe from Australia to America.
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