About EPSCoR

The Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) was established by the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 1979. The program goal: to strengthen U.S. research and education in science and engineering.

In 1991-92, other federal agencies formed similar EPSCoR programs. States qualifying for NSF EPSCoR funds are then eligible to apply for EPSCoR funds from other federal agencies.

In 2004, the National Science Foundation designated New Hampshire an EPSCoR state. That designation qualified N.H. researchers to apply for other federal agency EPSCoR funds.

New Hampshire's NASA EPSCoR is administerd throught the N.H. Space Grant at the University of New Hampshire.

Seven federal agencies now have EPSCoR programs: the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Dept. of Defense, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Dept. of Energy, and Environmental Protection Agency.

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New Hampshire NASA EPSCoR

Current Project

Responsive Autonomous Rovers to Enable Polar Science

The proposed research builds on Dartmouth’s success in developing autonomous robots to expand ground-based remote sensing in Polar regions. We specifically seek to develop protocols and conduct autonomous studies using ground-penetrating radar (GPR) and robotic-mounted albedo sensors to provide data that link to firn compaction and surface mass balance of the Greenland ice sheet and associated climate models. Autonomous positioning and operation of ground instruments using robots expands opportunities for terrestrial scientific discovery through remote sensing. Robotic surveys can provide high-resolution spatiotemporal data to improve ice sheet mass-balance models, provide ground truth for aerial and satellite data, and more broadly provide paradigms for extra-planetary ground-based science.

We have demonstrated the value of autonomous robots through Antarctic and Greenland field deployments totaling over 1000 km of autonomous operation. Through these deployments, we have gathered data via GPS-guided grid surveys conducted with Dartmouth’s two polar robots – Yeti and Cool Robot – towing instruments. Dartmouth has collaborated with scientists at the Universities of Maine and New Hampshire, and the U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) on these projects. This collaborative NASA EPSCoR project between Dartmouth College, Univ. of New Hampshire, CRREL, and NASA Goddard scientists now extends the science impact of autonomous robots as roving science platforms and develops new capabilities within New Hampshire to compete for non-EPSCoR funding. We propose robotic operation of instruments to support science objectives described above: 1) repetitive GPR surveys of a specified region over a full summer season in the vicinity of Summit Camp, Greenland to provide accumulation data and measure firn compaction rates in a dry-snow zone and to develop techniques for robotic acquisition of such data; and 2) development of instrumentation, infrastructure, and measurement protocols to map albedo, specific surface area, and snow temperature using robot-towed instruments. These objectives require a new robotic capability to measure and respond autonomously to the data collected in order to adjust robot trajectory on-the-fly. This capability will enable closed-loop mapping of snow and firn characteristics and thus will enable efficient use of field time and limited energy resources compared with broader grid surveys.

Dartmouth’s Polar robots will be used for these tasks. On-board data processing and response algorithms to be developed in this project will allow the robots to position scientific instruments dynamically based on preliminary data or to respond to specific events or measurements. Data from these autonomous robotic surveys provide measurements for identifying parameters as inputs to numerical models of mass balance, accumulation and ablation, and also can provide ground truth for NASA IceBridge measurements and MODIS radiographic measurements.

The proposed research builds infrastructure and capacity for Dartmouth College and University of New Hampshire students in Polar science and engineering that is linked to NASA’s remote sensing products and for extending collaborations to include scientists in other states. Dartmouth was recently awarded an NSF grant for the Joint Science and Engineering Program (JSEP), a federal education and outreach program between the U.S., Greenland, and Denmark that inspires high school students through science and engineering by travelling to Greenland to explore international polar research. This EPSCoR project will leverage this outreach grant and provide opportunities for many students to work with faculty on robotic-based remote sensing.

Darmouth College Engineering Professor Laura Ray is leading this study in partnership with co-investigators from Dartmouth College, University of New Hampshire, the U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL), and collaborators from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, City College of New York, and the University of Kansas.