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Nikolaus Correll


Nikolaus Correll has been an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at the University of Colorado at Boulder since 2009 with joint appointments in Aerospace, Electrical and Materials engineering. He obtained his PhD from EPFL in 2007 and did a post-doc at MIT CSAIL where he developed the “Distributed Robot Garden”. Nikolaus is the recipient of a 2012 NSF CAREER award and a 2012 NASA Early Career Faculty Fellowship on “Autonomous Food Production” and advises two NASA Space Technology Research Fellows on assembly of structures in space and human-factors of in-space horticulture.

University students experiment with human-robot interaction and autonomous manipulation, two elements of manufacturing’s future. Nikolaus Correll, CC BY-ND

America’s manufacturing heyday is gone, and so are millions of jobs, lost to modernization. Despite what Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin might think, the National Bureau of Economic Research and Silicon Valley executives, among many others, know it’s already happening. And a new report from PwC estimates that 38 percent of American jobs are at “high risk” of being replaced by technology within the next 15 years. The ConversationBut how soon automation will replace workers is not the real problem. The real threat to American jobs will come if China does it first.

The Droplets are a new low-cost, opensource swarm robotics platform for studying swarm behavior and for use as a teaching aid. The Correll Lab at the University of Boulder gives some tech background in this post, and hopes to produce 1,000 of these – you can help support the project by donating to their <a href=


University of Colorado’s robotic plant growth is demonstrated at the Kennedy Space Center. Source: NASA.

Targeting a sustainable presence of humans in outer space will require solving air, water, energy, and food supplies within a few thousand cubic feet surrounded by vacuum. What seems at first sight to be a problem of an apocalyptic, remote future reveals itself as the grand challenges of our civilization in a nutshell. This article argues that space exploration can be one of the main drivers to revolutionize sustainable agriculture on earth.