Lee Rutledge: Mapping the world

Lee Rutledge, CSE graduate student, is working at U-M’s autonomous robotics lab this fall to help AI agents map and navigate their surroundings on the fly.

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Portrait of Lee Rutledge.

Status: Master’s Student

Hometown: Somerset, New Jersey

Department: Computer Science and Engineering

Lee Rutledge is out to map the world – literally. In the spring of 2017 he earned a computer science degree from University of Michigan. Lee will be working with Professor Chad Jenkins at U-M’s autonomous robotics lab this fall to help AI agents map and navigate their surroundings on the fly. It’s called simultaneous localization and mapping, pronounced “SLAM.” Lee has always had a general interest in AI, but when a graduate student instructor showed him a video of Chad Jenkins speaking in one of his undergrad classes, Lee was fascinated. He quickly emailed Jenkins and took his course the following semester.

It isn’t just within the classroom that Lee pursues his passion. He has done research or an internship during every summer of his undergraduate career, applying what he was learning in classes directly to real life projects. “I love to watch algorithms come to life,” Lee says, “writing down every single line of how [the project] is actually working.” Some of the projects Lee has worked on include an education-based startup in Detroit to make learning more fun for younger students. He is also organizing a group of underrepresented students to attend research conferences together like the Grace Hopper conference for women. Most recently, in the summer of 2016, he worked at a biomedical research lab. This last endeavor was the most challenging, as Lee had to learn a lot on the job as he worked with biosignals.

It’s hard work, but Lee is a firm believer that “this isn’t a one man job.” He attributes his success thus far with the opportunity to bounce his ideas off of other people, honing his reflective processes and making each idea his own. And, in the end, the pursuit is worth it as long as it remains a challenge. Lee doesn’t know where he’ll end up—but whether he pursues a PhD or works at a startup, he knows he’ll be somewhere where his skills will be challenged and where his creativity can grow. Plus, the fields he’s entering will be helpful to a lot of people, so that’s a “SLAM dunk” for everybody.

Graduate students; Student News