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February 27, 2007


NEW YORK, February 27, 2007 – Jizhong Xiao, Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering at The Grove School of Engineering at The City College of New York (CCNY), has been awarded a five-year, $400,000 CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation to support his ongoing research into developing mobile robots capable of climbing walls and running along ceilings. CAREER grants are NSF’s most prestigious award for early-career faculty. 

Professor Xiao intends to use the grant proceeds to develop a general framework and theoretical foundation to address planning, control and coordination issues pertaining to robots that can operate in the three-dimensional environment. His investigation will focus on getting multiple mobile units to operate in concert with one another, especially in constrained, urban environments.

“Most of the existing planning and control methods for multi-robot systems are no longer valid,” he explains. “A new framework is needed to deal with the hard, yet previously unexplored, research domain involving wall-climbing robots. If we are successful in developing this, these machines will be useful in applications ranging from surveillance to counter terrorism to automated building inspections.”

Professor Xiao, who began investigating wall-climbing robots as a Ph.D. student at Michigan State University, developed a new generation of single-module wall-climbing robot, the City Climber, at CCNY, where he has taught since 2002. The device relies on a vacuum chamber that produces just enough suction to keep the device clinging to the wall yet still able to maneuver freely. Sensors attached to the module help it remain attached to vertical surfaces, and video cameras aid in navigation.

In the next phase of research, Professor Xiao intends to deploy a two-module mobile robot that could move from floor to wall to ceiling. He will use this machine to study the challenges relating to coordination of multiple robot systems involving ground vehicle robots and City Climber robots in urban environments.

NSF provides CAREER grants “in support of the early career-development activities of those teacher-scholars who most effectively integrate research and education within the context of the mission of their organization.” Currently, 13 CCNY faculty members have active CAREER awards.

Because the grant supports education initiatives as well as research, it will enable Professor Xiao to integrate his research activities into City College’s engineering curriculum. He intends to use the funds to create mentored research experiences for students, robotics extension programs targeted for K-12 education and other education and outreach activities to improve the pipeline of students with interest in robotics.

About The City College of New York

For 160 years, The City College of New York has provided low-cost, high-quality education for New Yorkers in a wide variety of disciplines. Over 13,000 students pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in the College of Liberal Arts and Science, the School of Architecture, the School of Education, the Grove School of Engineering, the Center for Worker Education and the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education.

Note to Editors and Reporters:

Seeing is believing! A video of the City Climber in action is available on Professor Xiao’s website,