Faculty members in the Math Modeling program regularly receive grants and awards for their innovative research. One current project, led by Mathematics Prof. Rob Van Kirk, will develop water management solutions in the rapidly growing West. It was awarded a $620,000 federal grant and will allow HSU graduate students Brian Apple, Lora Liegel and Kimberly Peterson to work on hydrologic models and sociological methods to bolster water conservation and management. Says Van Kirk, "I anticipate that this work will provide thesis projects and experience for many HSU students far into the future." Since 1998, he has received $1.2 million in external grants and contracts.
Van Kirk was also named the R.L. Wallace Native Fish Conservationist of the Year in 2008. This award recognized his research and management work on conservation of native cutthroat trout in the Snake River basin. It is given annually by the Idaho Chapter of the American Fisheries Society and is named for the late R.L. Wallace, well-known and influential fisheries biologist who had a long career at the University of Idaho.
Another project that received significant acclaim was "A Statistical Model of the Area Cleared by a Landmine Removal Vehicle Using Real-Time Kinematic Differential GPS and Inertial Sensing Technologies." This project, a collaboration between graduate student Paul Burgess and faculty advisor Ken Owens, included developing software to guide landmine-clearing robots and to map the ground cleared of landmines. The main mathematical result was using conditioning to compute the probable location of the landmine-clearing device. That project received the 2004 Intel Environment Award, which came with a $50,000 prize. Burgess and Prof. Owens have since co-founded Cognisense Labs in an effort to continue their successful partnership.
In 2009, Prof. Owens was also awarded $175,000 by the National ScienceFoundation for a University/Business partnership to develop automation technology. The project will research and design a robotic planting machine for the floriculture industry. This initial success has laid the groundwork for students' hands-on learning opportunities in both advanced robotics and small business development.