Tim Arnett Brings Clarity to Fuzzy Logic

By: Natalie Bullock

Timothy Arnett has been nationally recognized as a recipient of the 2015-2016 AFRL/DAGSI award for his work on Fuzzy Logic.

Timothy Arnett

Timothy Arnett

Each year, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and the Dayton Area Graduate Studies Institute (DAGSI) award a certain number of graduate science and engineering students and faculty who conduct research in areas targeted by the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base.  This year, Timothy Arnett, a graduate student in the UC College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS) aerospace engineering program, received the prestigious AFRL/DAGSI award for his research on Verification and Validation of Fuzzy Logic.

Fuzzy Logic is an area of science that allows for more than just absolute values to be applied in certain situations. Arnett says, “Instead of saying tap water is only hot or cold you can classify it as any value in between. This is very useful for controlling systems when you don't have a good mathematical model of the system and only know, in general terms, what it should do in particular situations.”

Historically, traditional logic has only allowed for a true or false outcome. This binary means of assessing situations and systems is limited, however, and is where fuzzy logic steps in to offer a more realistic means of representing possible outcomes.

Arnett’s award-winning work hones in on ways to ensure that safety critical systems, such as nuclear power station controls, always behave the way you need them to and nothing else. Currently, traditional control methods take care of this, but what Arnett hopes to show is that Fuzzy Logic could potentially offer even better control, thus improving safety across many industries. Specifically, Arnett is studying the applications of fuzzy logic within the realm of aerospace engineering.

Control surface output for a fuzzy controller for the inverted pendulum

Control surface output for a fuzzy controller for the inverted pendulum

At UC, as both an undergraduate and graduate student, he has worked closely with Kelly Cohen, PhD and Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics professor, who has advised him as he pursues the study of dynamics and controls in applications such as aircraft autopilot algorithms.

Arnett explains, “Verification and validation of algorithms is necessary to make sure they're safe.” If Arnett can continue to provide evidence that fuzzy logic is a reliable method for ensuring the best control in these situations, the applications would be relevant in a variety of safety critical systems to improve the way we live. Arnett enjoys this work and says, “Ways to make machines perform tasks automatically is incredibly interesting and useful, not to mention fun.”

Controls and aerospace systems have fascinated Arnett since childhood when he had books that were basically just pictures of jet aircrafts punctuated with interesting facts about them. From picture books to creating complex digital pictures of his own that illustrate fuzzy logic, Arnett has moved into the forefront of research on dynamics and controls in aerospace engineering.

CEAS has done quite a bit to continue to foster Arnett’s interest in aerospace systems. He was initially drawn to UC CEAS for the strength of its engineering programs as well as the placement rates for graduates. Looking back he specifically attributes his success to his co-op experiences and the opportunities to complete research projects for professors, such as Cohen who has been incredibly helpful to him. Additionally, he has recently worked as a teaching assistant and has enjoyed getting to build into younger students and help relay important concepts to them.

When asked what advice he would give to students just starting out in this field, he says “get involved and form a good group of friends to study/work with.” Arnett and a friend of his restarted the UC Rocketry Club and “learned a lot along the way that made certain classes much easier.” They also formed a study group together that helped keep him disciplined as well as ensured that those who understood the material well could help others who may have been less confident.

In the future, Arnett will likely continue his studies in the form of a PhD and then move on to doing research in intelligent systems where he will be able to work on specific applications with fuzzy logic that he can patent. In the meantime, he enjoys building and flying high power rockets! If you would like to congratulate him or have further questions for him, he would take you up on a game of tennis on the UC courts.