Published: July 11, 2022
Ofer Dagan

Name: Ofer Dagan
Advisor: Nisar Ahmed
Lab: Cooperative Human-Robot Intelligence lab (COHRINT)
Year of Study: 4th Year PhD Student

I grew up in southern Israel, on a Kibbutz, a small social community, where I spent my childhood, before moving to Arad, a small desert town close to the Dead Sea. After high school I served in the Israeli army, where I was an officer during my mandatory and reserve services.

Today, I live in Louisville, CO, with my partner and our 6- and 3-year-old daughters, where we enjoy hiking, camping and skiing together. I am currently a 4th year PhD student in the Aerospace Engineering Sciences department at CU Boulder.  

From a young age I loved solving problems: first simple math, and later, in high school, physics and chemistry.

After the army, when I had to choose a field of study, I knew I wanted to be an engineer and I loved airplanes and UAVs, so aerospace engineering at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, was a natural choice.

After receiving my BS in 2010, I worked in an aerospace R&D company for about 10 years, where I ultimately led a team of 10 research engineers in the aerodynamics department.

During that time, I also completed my MS, with a thesis in mechanical engineering at the Technion. My MS experience helped me realize 2 things: that I enjoy doing fundamental research, and that for my PhD I wanted to be a full-time student.

At that point, I had to decide how and in what direction to advance my career. I wanted an aerospace field that would be multidisciplinary, on the cutting edge of technology, with a systems perspective, and that would give me opportunities in both aerospace and non-aerospace companies.

For me, that meant autonomous systems.

My goal is to develop methods that allow teams of heterogeneous robots to autonomously decide what information to communicate and whether the information they received is reliable or should be ignored.

In my research I develop theory and algorithms to enable efficient collaboration in teams of autonomous agents, or robots.

The idea of a robotic team cooperating on a joint task can be allegorized to a team of people working together. Many times, people have different capabilities, different knowledge, and may view the world differently. However, when asked to share information in order to help each other, they naturally know how to summarize only the relevant information to achieve a joint task.

For a team of robots that needs to work together, this human capability is not trivial.

Their ability to make sense of a constantly changing and possibly extreme environment, such as in space or underwater, by collecting large amounts of data from sensors like cameras or lasers, is much less effective than what the human brain does.

The number one factor that brought me to CU Boulder and specifically to Prof. Nisar Ahmed’s COHRINT (Cooperative Human-Robot Intelligence) lab was the people.

The sense of partnership and collaborative atmosphere, from the professors to the potential lab mates I met with during my visit, made me feel welcomed. When I added that to the amazing surroundings and opportunities that Boulder has to offer, the choice was easy. With the perspective of my 4 years here, I can say that it was the best decision for me and my family.