A new lab at Clemson University will help industrial engineers expand their research into some of the nation’s most urgent topics. They will focus on network defense and operations, with application to monitoring unmanned aerial vehicles, energy grid operations, and beyond.

J. Cole Smith, chair of the Department of Industrial Engineering, said the new MADS lab will go in the newly renovated Freeman Hall.

J. Cole Smith, chair of the Department of Industrial Engineering, said the new MADS lab will go in the newly renovated Freeman Hall.

J. Cole Smith, chair of the Department of Industrial Engineering, has received word that the Air Force Office of Scientific Research will provide $157,654 to establish the Multi-Agent Defense Science (MADS) laboratory. The grant is part of the office’s Defense University Research Instrumentation Program.

The lab will be in room 128 of the newly renovated Freeman Hall and will be used for research and education. It will be stocked with new tablets, and input/output devices that will connect to three new Dell PowerEdge R730 rack servers, enabling the development of research that employs cloud and parallel computing.

“These facilities will enable us to do top-notch research in accordance with Clemson’s goal to be a preeminent research university,” Smith said. “We will use the lab to help undergraduates get excited about industrial engineering, showing them that we’re solving next-generation problems.

“It makes the idea of innovation more tangible than complex equations written on a board would.”

Investigators on the grant were Drs. Sandra D. Eksioglu, Scott Mason, Sara L. Riggs, and Smith.

The lab will help researchers study a variety of questions. It could, for example, help them develop new computer interfaces that allow a single pilot to simultaneously control more than 10 unmanned aerial vehicles.

“We want to look at how people make decisions and improve interfaces to allow them to be more effective,” Smith said. “This will be especially helpful for any autonomous equipment.”

With the lab, researchers will also be able to delve deeper into questions about managing electrical grids that draw energy from renewable sources, such as solar and wind power. The research could help grid operators make quick decisions as shifting weather patterns and other factors raise questions about how to keep the power flowing to their communities.

The lab could also help researchers develop new ways of protecting against natural disasters and terrorist attacks in systems as varied as computer networks and production schedules.

“We need new algorithms and new science so we can solve optimization problems in several areas, including defense, energy and health care,” Smith said.

The lab will be used in undergraduate and graduate classes and to encourage students to consider research careers after graduation. The plan is to keep it open so that students can sample experiments between classes.

The lab will also be used as a recruiting tool to attract top-notch students.

Smith said he hopes to have the lab equipment installed by the end of the calendar year.