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Take 5 with KaC Cheok

Friday, August 24, 2012
Take 5 with KaC Cheok
By Katie Land, news editor

Composed of a diverse array of faculty, staff and administrators, the Oakland University community is unique, creative, and dedicated. As part of a continuing effort to explore the various roles and lives of our Golden Grizzlies, the News @ OU website presents a special interview series. We invite you to share these stories and “Take 5” with OU.

“Take 5 with KaC Cheok”

KaC Cheok is a professor of engineering in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. He attended Oakland University as a student, earning his master’s of science degree in 1979 and doctorate in Systems Engineering in 1982. KaC joined the faculty in 1984, and spent the past 28 years teaching and researching at the university. He teaches courses and conducts research in the areas of systems and control engineering, including theory and applications, systems integration and mechatronics, robotics and unmanned vehicle systems, adaptive and smart system behavior. KaC lives on Sylvan-Otter Lake in Waterford with his wife Keim. They have two grown children and two grandchildren.

1) What are your main subjects and areas of expertise?

I have been fortunate to enjoy my work, and receive support and research funding over the years. I enjoy working with systems theory, technologies and applications, and seeing them utilized for useful applications. The challenge is to seek the optimum approach for systems integration, experiments, testing, evaluation and management, and to find the best performance, materials and costs for the end results. The research and development projects I am involved with include a robotics system that could navigate itself to a destination, a mine detection robot that helps a human de-miner detect antipersonnel mines, a robotics thermograph examiner that detect cancer-related anomalies in a person, a computer vision-based system that improves vehicular safety, and a mechatronics continuous variable transmission. 
2) Do you have any hobbies?

I played guitar on stage when I was younger. I still play quite a lot at home and with friends. I like to play blues mostly, for the improvisation. Santana and Deep Purple were a big influence for me. I played Metallica, so I can jam with my son Nicholas, who also plays the guitar. I have written about 20 songs myself as well. I could sit and play my guitar or piano for hours and not notice that the time has gone by. It keeps my mind sharp!

3) What do you like best about working at Oakland?

Oakland offers me the freedom to work on the subjects that I like. Gratification comes from interacting with students and seeing them develop through the program and become successful. I work hard to maintain a strong current education and research component in my classroom. On the Research & Development side, I am working on useful technologies with collaborators on such robotics systems that could be useful for the society. As long as you are able to explore and contribute to topics you like, you’ll be busy. Oh, you may have heard this. There are four good reasons to be a professor: May, June, July and August! Ha ha!

4) How did you become involved with the Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition (IGVC)?

In the 1990s I was working in robotics, along with U.S. Army engineers Jerry Lane and Paul Lescoe. At that time, personnel computers and mobile robotics technologies were still in their infancy. Cameras and PCs were big, expensive, clumsy and slow. We envisioned growth in these fields, and wanted to promote these emerging technologies to engineering students by challenging them to build autonomous mobile robots. Thus, the IGVC was born in 1993. The annual competition is now a national and international recognized program. A lot has changed, but the competition challenges and objectives remain true. Students must apply design principles, pioneer new technologies and integrate them efficiently to build a self-navigating vehicle. It is very important for an engineer to develop this kind of skill set. Each year, the IGVC influences the training of a few hundred students around the world. The experience introduces students to what it takes to have a career in robotics and engineering. Our Oakland students have done very well in this year’s events. 

5) Do you enjoy travelling?

I have also been fortunate to have been many places, to many different countries, and have flown round the world a few times. My wife and I just returned from the Greek Islands this summer. It was a great trip. I attended a conference for work for a few days and then we were able to sightsee and visit the ruins and the Acropolis. It was very hot, but the beaches were beautiful. Crete was very nice, and the food was great. A few years ago, we went to Turkey, to the ancient region of Cappadocia. We went up in a hot air balloon to see the unique mountain range with all vertical formations. It was most memorable. I would like to learn to fly a plane one day and travel that way.