Artificial intelligence center for engineered systems launched

The Center for Artificial Intelligence Foundations and Engineered Systems (CAFE) at Penn State University is designed to further foundational and applied artificial intelligence (AI).

By Sarah Small April 28, 2021

An interdisciplinary research center established to further foundational and applied artificial intelligence (AI) in engineered systems will bring together expertise from 75 researchers representing 24 academic units across Penn State University.

The center, funded and supported by the University and housed in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS), is part of Penn State’s AI Hub to facilitate internal collaborations, technology transition and external engagement. Vijaykrishnan Narayanan, A. Robert Noll Chair of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and Engineering in the School of EECS, will serve as the founding director of the Center for Artificial Intelligence Foundations and Engineered Systems (CAFE).

“CAFE converges multiple foundational efforts to engineer specific applications,” said Justin Schwartz, Harold and Inge Marcus Dean in the College of Engineering. “Dr. Narayanan, an innovative inventor recognized internationally for his ability to translate ideas into practice, is ideally positioned to lead this center.”

According to Narayanan, the center will focus on AI as it pertains to engineered systems, which are relevant in almost every area of life, from daily tasks to national security.

“AI has the potential for transformative impact on a wide variety of engineered systems including energy efficient buildings; smart prosthetic and assistive devices; new meta-materials; robust manufacturing pipelines; and next-generation autonomous underwater vehicles,” he said. “Our center will focus on the notion of integrating artificial intelligence into an entire system, small or large, allowing synergistic interaction between the development of AI foundations and the design of future engineered systems. A key aspect will be providing artificial intelligence that is able to cope with challenges of operating in real-world conditions.”

Five associate directors representing the College of Engineering, College of Information Sciences and Technology, Eberly College of Science and the Applied Research Laboratory (ARL) will help guide the research, industry engagement, defense, education and outreach activities of the center.

“AI is critical to our nation’s future security and prosperity,” said Allan Sonsteby, executive director of ARL. “Penn State is proud to play a prominent role in providing AI expertise to the U.S. government and industry. CAFE will further enhance Penn State’s position by addressing foundational issues in AI as well as the application of AI to problems of national importance. The Applied Research Laboratory looks forward to working with the new center.”

The researchers also plan to work with industry as well, with the goal of applying the research quickly to relevant real-world problems.

“Artificial intelligence is paving the way for future developments in all aspects of society,” said Shalini Govil-Pai, Penn State computer science and engineering alumna and vice president of television at Google. “Because of this, I am very excited to see CAFE bring together interdisciplinary expertise for designing the next generation of intelligent engineered systems.”

Narayanan said that in addition to looking forward to the possibilities for advances in AI through collaboration across disciplines, he also is excited about having a center that will allow for researchers at all stages of their career to contribute.

“What CAFE would like to accomplish is equity of opportunity to succeed at all levels, not just the established professor, but the new graduate student or the undergraduate researcher who is just beginning their career,” he said. “CAFE’s goal will be to provide a platform for all our researchers to quickly transform ideas to practice.”

– Edited by Chris Vavra, web content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology,

Author Bio: Sarah Small, Penn State University