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Research Spending & Results

Award Detail

Doing Business As Name:University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • Mehmet C Vuran
  • (402) 472-1825
  • Tami M Brown-Brandl
  • Eylem Ekici
  • Joseph D Camp
  • Santosh Pitla
Award Date:07/28/2021
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 100,000
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 100,000
  • FY 2021=$100,000
Start Date:09/01/2021
End Date:08/31/2022
Transaction Type:Grant
Awarding Agency Code:4900
Funding Agency Code:4900
CFDA Number:47.041
Primary Program Source:040100 NSF RESEARCH & RELATED ACTIVIT
Award Title or Description:Planning Grant: Engineering Research Center for Agricultural and Rural Connectivity (ARC)
Federal Award ID Number:2124376
DUNS ID:555456995
Parent DUNS ID:068662618
Program:ERC-Eng Research Centers
Program Officer:
  • Deborah Jackson
  • (703) 292-7499

Awardee Location

Street:151 Prem S. Paul Research Center
Awardee Cong. District:01

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Cong. District:01

Abstract at Time of Award

The Planning Grants for Engineering Research Centers competition was run as a pilot solicitation within the ERC program. Planning grants are not required as part of the full ERC competition, but intended to build capacity among teams to plan for convergent, center-scale engineering research. Eighty percent of the 24 million Americans without high-speed Internet live in rural areas. This lack of broadband access severely limits the quality of life for rural residents and is a major source for potential global conflict over agricultural resources in the face of climate change and a growing population. The urban-rural digital divide is generally attributed to a lack of economic incentives resulting from low population density. As the population density in rural communities decreases, the density of connected devices in agricultural fields steadily increases. As a result, we are likely witnessing the evolution of a new digital gap between farm fields and rural towns exacerbated by outdated policy that prevents the realization of novel network architectures. As such, existing agricultural practices are limited (and therefore defined) by previous connectivity technologies, which were not designed for the unique characteristics of agricultural fields. The Engineering Research Center for Agricultural and Rural Connectivity (ARC) will unite engineers, computer scientists, agronomists and animal scientists, social scientists, education/outreach specialists, industry, municipalities, government agencies, and community stakeholders to bridge the urban/rural digital divide. ARC will engineer novel rural connectivity architectures and solutions, enhance rural communities' digital literacy to expand and utilize connectivity solutions, broaden participation of underserved and underrepresented rural communities in engineering research and development, and leverage a blossoming Silicon Prairie ecosystem to connect research solutions with commercial enterprises. ARC will advance fundamental research, provide workforce training, and foster the innovation ecosystem required to answer the connectivity challenges of rural communities. Its diverse team will identify economic drivers and policy constraints for rural connectivity (society), associated rural use cases (scientific community), and corresponding connectivity requirements (engineering community) – all toward solving critical real-world problems. ARC recognizes that no single existing wireless technology can solve rural broadband connectivity issues. Therefore, this planning grant brings together diverse expertise in agricultural Internet of Things, vehicular networking, UAV communications, agricultural robotics, and precision livestock management to focus on five primary convergent research directions: 1) Farm as an Anchor Institution architectures that combine expertise in wireless technologies, economics, telecom law, and agricultural sciences to enable breakthroughs in rural agriculture, health, education, and infrastructure. 2) Agile technology transfer for continuous integration of new communication solutions in parallel with research and development. 3) Agricultural robotics to replace high-horse-power tractors and boost productivity while reducing negative impacts on the environment. 4) Mobile connectivity architectures for extensive high-speed coverage. 5) Precision animal management to aid animal caretaking with the timing of animal marketing and improve detection of animal health and well-being concerns. By bridging the digital divide, these convergent research directions will stimulate rural prosperity and improve food security by connecting rural towns, schools, hospitals, farm fields, ranches, roads, and bridges. The ARC team will use the ERC planning grant to complete a series of activities designed to enhance partnerships with native-serving institutions and rural community colleges (DCI), develop a comprehensive engineering workforce development program (EWD), maintain and expand the existing stakeholder community toward a diverse and inclusive vision (DCI/IE/EWD), crystallize convergent research directions (CR), and enhance the ARC leadership and core team (CR/DCI/EWD/IE). To this end, a series of retreats will bring together a diverse stakeholder community from public, private, and academic sectors, along with an engineering student body, all of whom will be integrated into the center's activities. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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