Award Date

August 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Computer Science

First Committee Member

Evangelos Yfantis

Second Committee Member

Hal Berghel

Third Committee Member

Laxmi Gewali

Fourth Committee Member

Andreas Stefik

Fifth Committee Member

Sarah Harris

Number of Pages



Artificial Intelligence is a big part of automation and with today's technological advances, artificial intelligence has taken great strides towards positioning itself as the technology of the future to control, enhance and perfect automation. Computer vision includes pattern recognition and classification and machine learning. Computer vision is at the core of decision making and it is a vast and fruitful branch of artificial intelligence. In this work, we expose novel algorithms and techniques built upon existing technologies to improve pattern recognition and neural network training, initially motivated by a multidisciplinary effort to build a robot that helps maintain and optimize solar panel energy production.

Our contributions detail an improved non-linear pre-processing technique to enhance poorly illuminated images based on modifications to the standard histogram equalization for an image. While the original motivation was to improve nocturnal navigation, the results have applications in surveillance, search and rescue, medical imaging enhancing, and many others.

We created a vision system for precise camera distance positioning motivated to correctly locate the robot for capture of solar panel images for classification. The classification algorithm marks solar panels as clean or dirty for later processing. Our algorithm extends past image classification and, based on historical and experimental data, it identifies the optimal moment in which to perform maintenance on marked solar panels as to minimize the energy and profit loss.

In order to improve upon the classification algorithm, we delved into feedforward neural networks because of their recent advancements, proven universal approximation and classification capabilities, and excellent recognition rates. We explore state-of-the-art neural network training techniques offering pointers and insights, culminating on the implementation of a complete library with support for modern deep learning architectures, multilayer percepterons and convolutional neural networks.

Our research with neural networks has encountered a great deal of difficulties regarding hyperparameter estimation for good training convergence rate and accuracy. Most hyperparameters, including architecture, learning rate, regularization, trainable parameters (or weights) initialization, and so on, are chosen via a trial and error process with some educated guesses. However, we developed the first quantitative method to compare weight initialization strategies, a critical hyperparameter choice during training, to estimate among a group of candidate strategies which would make the network converge to the highest classification accuracy faster with high probability. Our method provides a quick, objective measure to compare initialization strategies to select the best possible among them beforehand without having to complete multiple training sessions for each candidate strategy to compare final results.


Artificial Intelligence and Robotics | Computer Engineering

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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