Ohio State wins Secure America grant funding to explore greater digital trust in manufacturing


The Ohio State University just earned a $250,000 Secure America Institute grant to help ensure greater digital trust within the national manufacturing industry.

According to the winning proposal, Ohio and Texas are two of the three states with the largest manufacturing output in the United States, trailing only California. In this realm, both The Ohio State University and Texas A&M have established research centers and institutes to advance manufacturing and robotics: Ohio State’s Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence (CDME), as well as Texas A&M’s Institute for Manufacturing Systems and Center for Advanced Robotics. The two centers will share funding and divide management of the grant.

The winning Secure America Institute proposal is titled, “Methodology for Predicting and Validating the Trustworthiness of Robots,” which is led by Ohio State Associate Professor Theodore Allen, from the Integrated Systems Engineering and Computer Science and Engineering programs.

Theodore Allen

As the manufacturing industry moves toward automating processes with robots and to deploying sensor networks to upgrade/direct/and maintain robots, having the ability to identify and predict uncharacteristic behavior to either take the machine off line or determine untrustworthiness is a critical need for both the industrial and defense industries.

“The goal of the proposed work is to develop a set of methods and associated technical tools to help industry determine if the behavior of the robotic system is due to normal/expected operation or if the system outputs are perturbed due to the system being compromised by external cyber intrusions,” the proposal states.

Allen serves as the project leader of analytics and related education efforts. Vimal Buck, Senior Researcher/Lead Electrical Engineer at CDME will serve as the general project manager on the Ohio State team. He will be the primary person related to integrating the robotic system into the cybersecurity testbed platform and for sharing data.


For this collaboration to work, numerous research and industry partners have pooled their resources and funding via the Third Frontier Research the Institute for Cybersecurity and Digital Trust launched the Ohio Cybersecurity Initiative in Mobility and Manufacturing (OCIMM).

The CDME Artificially Intelligent Manufacturing Systems (AIMS) Laboratory launched in September 2019 with funding and support from multiple sources, including the College of Engineering, the state of Ohio’s Advanced Manufacturing Program (AMP), robot manufacturer Yaskawa and welding equipment manufacturer Lincoln Electric.

CDME is building cybersecurity testbeds to enable research across the state. Some of the funds to build the testbed are coming from the RAPIDS grant from ODHE.

“For this project, we are outfitting our AIMS labs with additional sensors and plan to leverage the infrastructure, faculty and staff  working on OCIMM to solve cybersecurity related problems in the area of robot trust verification,” said Buck.

The AIMS Lab is co-managed by Ohio State Professor Mike Groeber from the Department of Integrated Systems Engineering and Senior Researcher Walt Hansen, and is supported by numerous undergraduate and graduate research assistants with backgrounds in systems engineering, electrical engineering, computer science and mechanical engineering.

Developed with input from industry, national defense and energy laboratories and university experts, the AIMS Lab is a test site for industry and academia to study and develop manufacturing systems that work with, and are controlled by, different types of artificial intelligence.

The new lab fits into CDME’s core mission of working with industry partners in applied research and supporting undergraduate student development during that research. The center helps industry partners work with university labs and equipment, in turn helping students become familiar with their products.

Story by Ryan Horns, Ohio State Communications Specialist | Horns.1@osu.edu