REU in Applied Computational Robotics


The University of South Carolina REU in applied computational robotics is centered around the observation that "robots change everything." That is, every aspect of a computer system, from the design and engineering of its software, to its interactions with humans, to its core functions of perception and movement, is deeply impacted by the way robots must interact with the physical world. In this 10 week summer program, students will engage in active research rooted in areas such as software engineering, security, and automated reasoning that are often overlooked by the contemporary robotics community, but crucially important for the deployment of reliable, trustworthy robotic systems.

What is an REU?

An REU is a summer opportunity for undergraduate students to learn about the research process in their field and to conduct their own original research. Students work closely with faculty mentors, graduate students, and other REU participants on cutting edge problems. It's an opportunity for students to apply their knowledge gained inside the classroom to real-world, unanswered problems, and is an opportunity for students to explore research as a future career. In addition to conducting research, REU participants have the opportunity to receive professional development training that will assist them both in their current research and in their future careers, as well as the opportunity to network with other like-minded undergraduates.

Important Dates

Deadline to Apply: March 1, 2018
Decision Notifications: March 15, 2018
Program Dates: TBA


This program is open to all U.S. citizens or permanent residents who are enrolled in an undergraduate degree program. Due to NSF requirements, no exceptions can be made. We strongly encourage students from traditionally underrepresented groups to apply.

Program Benefits

  • A stipend of $500 per week.
  • On campus housing in apartment-style dormitories.
  • A meal allowance of $1200.
  • Travel expenses up to $600.
  • Professional development and training workshops.
  • Coordinated social events.

Program Expectations

  • Students will conduct research in their labs for 30 hours per week.
  • Participate in all professional development workshops.
  • Presenting a poster at the summer-end Research Symposium.
  • Write a final paper summarizing their findings.
  • Adhere to all University standards, including the Carolina Creed.


The Department of Computer Science and Engineering’s Center for Computational Robotics is home to three labs: the Assistive Robotics and Technology (ART) Lab, the South Carolina Autonomous Robots Research (SCARR) Lab, and the Autonomous Field Robotics Laboratory (AFRL). Beyond robotics, the department is home to many other research labs across a wide range of areas. More information about departmental research can be found here.

South Carolina Autonomous Robots Research Lab

The broad goal of our research is to design algorithms that enable robots and robot teams to operate autonomously, robustly, and inexpensively in unstructured and inhospitable environments. Because sensing and uncertainty are central issues in robotics, it is essential to understand how to solve robotics problems when sensing is limited and uncertainty abounds. Our work spans sensor-based algorithmic robotics and related areas, including planning under uncertainty, artificial intelligence, computational geometry, sensor networks, and motion planning. More information about the Center for Computational Robotics can be found here.

Autonomous Field Robotics Laboratory

The goal of the AFRL is to research mobile robotics and in particular cooperating intelligent agents with application to multi-robot cooperative localization, mapping, exploration and coverage. Most robotic platforms, after successful development and testing in a laboratory setting, are deployed in the real world. It is at that moment where reality interferes with theory and several assumptions are proven wrong. AFRL studies the interaction of robots with the real world, modeling uncertainty, and deriving efficient strategies to move, sense, and interact with the environment. Coastal marine environments and underwater caves are the primary focus of our research utilized a wide range of vehicles and sensors. More information about ARFL can be found here.

Professional Development

REU trainees will have an abundance of professional development opportunities. The USC Office of Undergraduate Research will provide professional development on the following topics: research and ethics, preparing for graduate school, funding graduate school, resumes and cover letters, applying to graduate school, and creating effective poster presentations.

Additionally, each trainee will be closely mentored by a faculty member while contributing to active research. Trainees will be supported with research skills and training specific to computing disciplines. Each week a working lunch will be hosted to discuss one of the following topics:

  1. Introduction to Research in Computing and Robotics — What is research? What do researchers in computing do? Where does computing fit within robotics? What role does research play in the bigger picture? How does research differ from software development in industry? How is it similar?
  2. Reading Technical Papers — What types of technical material are relevant? What are the mechanics of reading a paper (skimming, markup, in-depth reading)? How should a paper be critically evaluated as it is read? What kinds of subtle errors may be encountered?
  3. Building a Network of Research Contacts — What is networking and why is it important in research development? What is an “elevator speech”? How and why should I contact other researchers? What should I do at a conference?
  4. Conducting a Literature Review —How to find, organize, and cite peer-reviewed literature?
  5. Writing Technical Papers — How are technical papers in computing disciplines structured? What level of detail is expected? How does a paper evolve through the writing process?
  6. Presenting Technical Talks — What do effective slides look like? How should a technical talk be structured? How do researchers prepare and practice for their talks? How should questions from an audience be handled?
  7. Publishing — Why is publishing important? What kinds of venues are available in computing disciplines? What is the typical reviewing process? What should I do if my paper is rejected?


A complete application will include the following components:

  1. Basic information entered into our online application.

    Link to Application Form

  2. Tell us about yourself. We would like to see:
    • A current resume or CV.
    • Transcripts (unofficial is OK) of your college-level coursework.
    • An essay response to the following question:
    • "Describe a problem in computing that you encountered and how you solved it. Your statement may address any of the following: why the problem was interesting, what your specific contribution to the solution was, what challenges you encountered, and what skills (technical or otherwise) you learned."
    Submit these as PDF email attachments to
  3. Two letters of recommendation.

    Link to Recommendation Form

A Note about Home Mentors
We recommend that each applicant identify a "home mentor," who will write one letter of recommendation. A home mentor is a faculty member at the applicant's home institution who will commit to playing a role in the participant's continued research and/or professional development. Trainees are invited to continue working on their research after the REU program ends, and to ensure the trainee's continued success, a home mentor will act as a local research advisor (in conjunction with the participant's remote USC faculty advisor) and assist trainees in research activities such as writing a final paper. Regardless of a participant's decision to continue research beyond the REU program, the home mentor will assist the trainee in exploring careers beyond graduation, summer opportunities, coursework and other professional development activities. Home mentors will be kept in the loop about the trainee's progress and development throughout the program and, if local, home mentors will be invited to attend their trainee's poster presentation at the end of the summer.


What is there to do in Columbia?

  • Feed giraffes at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden.
  • Hike in Congaree National Park, home to some of the tallest trees in Eastern North America.
  • Visit the newly refurbished South Carolina State Museum, complete with a 4D Theater, planetarium, and observatory.
  • Grab a bite to eat in the Vista.
  • Experience Columbia’s “famously hot” 4th of July.
  • Centered in the middle of the state, Columbia is an hour and a half drive to both the beach and the mountains!

How can I get around the city?

Because the University of South Carolina is in the heart of downtown Columbia, biking or walking is a popular option for students. Many students also bring cars to the university or mopeds. The city also offers public transportation and taxis/lyft/uber exist here as well. The university also provides shuttles to various parts of campus and complimentary transportation services after dark.

What cities are close by?

Columbia is close to many great cities in the United States:
Charleston- 114 miles (approx. 1 hr 30 mins)
Charlotte- 93 miles (approx. 1 hr 30 mins)
Myrtle Beach- 152 miles (approx. 2 hrs 30 mins)
Raleigh- 227 miles (approx. 3 hr 20 mins)
Hilton Head- 164 miles (approx. 2 hr 30 mins)
Atlanta- 215 miles (approx. 3 hrs)
Savannah- 162 miles (approx. 2 hours 20 minutes)
Nashville- 442 miles (approx. 6 hrs 20 mins)
Washington, D.C.- 479 miles (approx. 6 hrs 45 mins)
Tampa- 490 miles (approx. 7 hrs)
Orlando- 435 miles (approx. 6 hrs)