Coordinated Sciences Lab reaches 60-year mark

The Coordinated Sciences Laboratory, or CSL, believed to be the oldest multidisciplinary research laboratory at the University of Illinois, is celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2011.

“(CSL) really established the need and the possibility of multidisciplinary research,” said Kim Gudeman, associate director of communicaitons.

A year of anniversary activities will culminate with a public lecture on robotics at the Spurlock Museum on Thursday and an anniversary symposium, with keynote speaker E. William Colglazier, science and technology adviser to the Secretary of State at the Coordinated Science Laboratory on Friday.

Gudeman said the lecture is geared toward people who are not engineers but still might be interested in robotics.

“(The symposium) will have reflections on our historical accomplishments and also a discussion on how we can meet the future and continue innovating,” she said.

Established in 1951 as the Control Systems Laboratory, CSL’s focus has been on the intersection of basic science and real-world applications. It was created by a group of physicists, led by then-department head F. Wheeler Loomis, to address urgent military needs during the Korean War. From those efforts sprung the electrostatic vacuum gyroscope – which allowed nuclear submarines to navigate while submerged for months at a time – advances in airborne and ground-based radar and the foundation for synthetic aperture radar.

The Laboratory was declassified in 1959 and renamed the Coordinated Science Laboratory to reflect its new vision. Researchers began applying control problems to manufacturing, aeronautics, economics and robotics, among other areas.

CSL also started exploring computing, focusing on reliability and on architectures that advanced computing power and speed. PLATO, the first computer-assisted educational platform, was developed. The platform’s technology requirements led to the development of the plasma display, the first online social community, blogging, online multiplayer gaming, e-newsletters and many other technologies.

Researchers also helped develop the infrastructure for today’s wireless networks and created the ability to estimate 3D motion from 2D images, a technique that has been incorporated into the Moving Picture Experts Group’s international standards for video transmission.

Today, CSL researchers in engineering, computer science, mathematics, the social sciences, law and economics are working on technologies such as Green GPS, which projects the most fuel-efficient route; MRIs that can process images in real-time; and security for the nation’s power grid.