Universiti Brunei Darussalam and Virginia Tech (VT, formally the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University) have recently initiated collaborative research to leverage on biodiversity resources by transforming them into bioinspired engineering in digital technologies. The event was held at UBD on 29 June 2022 to mark the official opening of this international research collaboration. In attendance were UBD senior management, staff, and students from UBD and VT as well as representatives from the industry sector. The event was also graced by the Vice Chancellor of Universiti Brunei Darussalam, Yang Mulia Dr Hazri bin Haji Kifle and Mr Jeff Barrus, Acting Deputy Chief of Mission and Public Affairs Officer of Embassy of the United States of America.
The Assistant Vice Chancellor of Global Affairs, Universiti Brunei Darussalam, Dr Joyce Teo Siew Yean welcomed all and officially inaugurated the UBD-VT international collaboration. In her welcoming remarks, she highlighted that Brunei Darussalam has one of the richest rainforest biodiversities in the world. The country is home to at least 6,000 species of vascular plants and accounted for 644 amphibians, birds, and reptile species. She stressed on the importance of sustainable development and the role of bioinspiration and biomimicry which use technological-oriented approach to develop innovative ways in preserving diverse biological habitats. The collaboration will not only lead to innovative research outcomes, but also to develop local capacity building in this field.
In their video messages, the Vice President of VT, Dr Guru Ghosh and the Dean of Engineering at VT, Dr Julia Ross, both thanked UBD for providing a platform for this ground-breaking research. The combination of engineering and appreciation of biodiversity offers a prime opportunity to bring next-generation bioinspired engineering solutions to key locations within the ASEAN region and which will result in better documentation and hence lasting preservation of the biodiversity of the whole region. They stressed the importance of international collaborations and celebrated the achievement of combining the outstanding biodiversity of Brunei and the pertinent scientific expertise at UBD with VT's 150-year-long tradition in cutting-edge engineering.
In his presentation, Dr Rolf Muller, Professor Department of Mechanical Engineering & Director BIST Center, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) said, "Autonomous systems have always been a challenge for engineers and autonomy in complex natural environments has been an elusive goal for decades. I hope that by drawing from more than 100 million years of evolution in the rainforests of Brunei, the research team will finally be able to come up with solutions to bring the full force of autonomy to bear on all our pressing problems that are associated with natural environments."
The event concluded with a technical exhibition and a lab tour to the UBD-VT Science and Technology Research Laboratory. The research laboratory is equipped with powerful and unique hardware such as 50-camera high-speed video array and biomimetic 3D printed robots. These instruments are complemented by custom deep-learning techniques that can make sense of the large volumes of complex data that these devices produce which will tremendously help in realizing the design of bio-robots and related technologies.
UBD and VT signed an MOU in 2019 and have since been working on several academic and research collaborative areas. As part of the current research collaboration, UBD is currently hosting a Fulbright Professor, Professor Dr. Rolf Mueller from VT, as well as 14 students from various American universities such as VT, Brown University, University of Maryland, Duke University, Texas A&M University and University of Buffalo, who are conducting their research internship in UBD now. There are 8 UBD students who are currently involved in bioinspiration research work, participating actively in the design, erection and functioning of the research infrastructure.
UBD is at the forefront of technological innovation, empowered by world-class links and expertise. The research collaboration has positioned UBD to complement the country's digital economy initiatives to protect and preserve the region's biodiversity using the forefront technology of engineering.
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