In addition to writing software, one Kansas State University researcher has also written his way into the state’s scientific history.
David Gustafson, a professor of computing and information sciences, was named by the Ad Astra Kansas Initiative as one of the top 150 scientists ever to work in Kansas throughout its 150 years of statehood.
Gustafson researches and develops software, largely focused on advancing artificial intelligence for robots. His goal is improve robots’ uses for military and search and rescue operations, as well as for home assistance to elderly or physically impaired individuals.
Gustafson also advises the university’s student robotics team. Together they programmed the robot Slick Willie — named after Willie the Wildcat. It can fetch coffee cups, pill bottles, fruits and vegetables, and can even crack a joke.
“I first started working with robots because it was exciting to get a robot to accomplish difficult tasks,” Gustafson said. “However, I continued with trying to improve robotic capabilities, including vision processing because robots will be used for many essential tasks that can not always be done by humans.”
Gustafson is a member of a national team of computing science experts who are working with industry and the Kansas State University Institute for Commercialization to develop new cybersecurity software.
He also led a student team that created more intuitive software for the Master Gardeners program. It catalogs general information about plants, like what week and month a plant blooms, and is meant to replace the record keeping traditionally done by hand or through complex database management software.
Throughout 2011, Ad Astra spotlighted 150 Kansas researchers, scientists, inventors and engineers from the past to the present who have advanced the scientific field in Kansas’ 150 years of statehood. The initiative’s project, “Science in Kansas: 150 Years and Counting,” celebrated the state’s sesquicentennial and emphasized the importance of science and the career possibilities in research and innovation to K-12 students.
Gustafson is the one of the 21 active faculty researchers at K-State to be named among Kansas’ top 150 scientists. He joins other historically noted state researchers on the list like George Washington Carver, Charles H. Sternberg, Clyde Cessna and Hall Livingstone Hibbard.