Hacking to Innovate
By Gabriella McNevin
The Oxford Dictionary defines hackathon as an event “in which a large number of people meet to engage in collaborative computer programming.”
During an interview with Connor McEwen, a key organizer of a Boston University hackathon, McEwen mused on the evolution of the word hack and hackathon. He noted that, “hackers are makers, developers, and innovators.” The hackathon is a period of time in which people can tinker with existing technologies to improve or to invent something new.
“Wait,” I piped in, “I thought that hackers broke into secure software systems and stole information.” McEwen smiled in response. He suggested that the term accrued a negative reputation in the 1970s as result of pop culture references. Today, that reputation is fading.
McEwen attended his first hackathon at UCLA and wanted to bring the idea back to Boston. He worked with five other students to plan Boston University’s first overnight hackathon.
On March 21-22, more than 120 students came together for the 24-hour affair. The event included informational lectures, free food and mentoring from industry experts. Ultimately, 17 projects were submitted and five awards were offered.
The hackathon planning team, known as Make_BU, host smaller weekly hackathons. Going forward, the group plans to work with the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering to host their second University-wide hackathon in Fall 2014. Make_BU hopes to host a city-wide hackathon in Spring 2015. University clubs BUILDS, Digital Media Club, and Open Web were also involved in event planning.
Some Award Winners Include:
Mobile Award Winner
“Buzy” – An application that monitors the busyness of a location. Kanav Dhir (ENG ’15), Alex Wong (ENG ’15), Deven Dayal (ENG ’15) and Clement Su (ENG ’15).
Web Award Winner
“Duster” – A service that determines which Facebook friends an individual interacts with least, and suggests those friends are deleted. Carter Wheatley (ENG ‘15) and Adlai Gordon (CAS ’16). Visit www.dusterapp.com to learn more.
Newbie Award Winner
“Feel Good BU” – a mobile application for the BU chapter of FeelGood, an organization which raises money to end world hunger by selling custom-made grilled cheese sandwiches. Chris Yip (SAR ’17), Kyle Mann(CAS ’17), and Joe Cho (CAS ’17)
- To learn more, or register: http://make.bu.edu.
- To view the project submission gallery: http://makebu.challengepost.com/submissions.
- Make_BU Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/makebu.
Projects Automates Pothole Detection and Management
By Mark Dwortzan
The impact of a long and stormy winter continues to be felt on the roads. According to the Boston Globe, this year the City of Boston has already filled more than 8,800 potholes, primarily reported by drivers, including one in Cleveland Circle that sent a man to the hospital. Taking a more proactive approach could prevent vehicular damage, injuries and claims against the city while saving time and money for all concerned.
Now a vehicle mounted pothole detection system developed by Electrical Engineering seniors as part of their senior design project aims to do just that. Instead of relying on citizens to report potholes or paying crews to look for them, the system, known as AutoScan, could enable city vehicles to detect them automatically as they go about their daily routes. Coupled with tracking and scheduling software and incorporating a low-cost, embedded technology development platform called a Gizmo board, the system could provide a comprehensive and economical road repair solution.
“The low cost, achieved through the extensive use of open source solutions, made it compelling to the Gizmo community,” said Scott Hoot, president of GizmoSphere. “But the idea of how seamlessly this idea fit into the Internet of Things, made the BU project a winner. Clearly this is a project that takes close to real-time measurements in the physical world, and utilizes those measurements through the open standards available in the Internet.”
The AutoScan senior design team consists of Austen Schmidt (systems integration), Vinny DeGenova (image processing), Nandheesh Prasad (power engineering), Charlie Vincent (networking and GPS) and Stuart Minshull (Web application). The EE seniors developed their prototype under the supervision of ECE Adjunct Professor Babak Kia, who often assumed the role of prospective customer.
While there are several solutions available that can quickly measure potholes on a mobile platform, ranging from lasers to accelerometers, the EE team focused on a “time-of-flight” infrared camera that determines distance between the camera and various points in its field of view.
“Our system is basically an onboard computer that mounts to the bottom of a city vehicle, such as a bus,” said Schmidt. “As the bus goes along, it uses the infrared camera to scan the road for potholes and computes their depth, and sends the data collected on each pothole—volume, GPS coordinates, time and date—over a cellular network to a database hosted by a website. The website interprets data coming in from multiple scanners, displays it on a Google map and updates a Web-accessible road repair schedule.”
Exploiting the Gizmo board and open source software, the team has advanced a prototype of a system that promises to cost a few thousand dollars, far cheaper than alternatives that can range from $10,000 to $100,000. The only sacrifice is a bit of accuracy.
“Our system is a little less accurate than our competitors, because they focus on applications where you really need high-fidelity detection, such as airport tarmacs or bridges,” said Minshull. “We wanted a cheaper way for potholes to be detected without having to worry about tracking millimeter-line cracks in the road.”
To put AutoScan to the test, the team used cardboard boxes to create an elevated road surface with cutouts of different volumes representing potholes. Tests showed that the system accurately measured the volume of each cutout and successfully relayed collected data to the website. Next steps include conducting high-speed tests beyond the lab environment, and finding a way to protect the unit against vibration and adverse weather conditions.
As a Senior Member, Klamkin has the ability to hold executive IEEE positions and serve as a reference for other applicants for senior membership. In order to eligible to be nominated or apply one must have shown significant performance in at least five years in professional practice.
Klamkin’s research is focused on integrated photonic technologies for optical communications, microwave photonics, and sensing. “The photonic devices and integrated circuits that we develop in the Integrated Photonics Group increase the capacity of fiber-optic networks, enable more efficient communication between and inside data centers, and could revolutionize space communications.”
He felt honored to be recognized as Senior Member of the IEEE. “The IEEE is one of the most recognized professional associations and produces publications and technology standards that strongly influence the field in which I am active.”
Since March 2013, Klamkin has been an Assistant Professor at Boston University. He then received Boston University College of Engineering Dean’s Catalyst Award. Some of his research interests include: integrated photonics, compound semiconductors, and microwave photonics.
- Chelsea Hermond (SMG ’15)
The Rafik B. Hariri Institute for Computing and Computational Science & Engineering is now accepting nominations for the 2014/2015 class of Junior Faculty Fellows (see the 2011/2012 cohort, the 2012/2013 cohort, and the 2013/2014 cohort).
The Hariri Institute Junior Faculty Fellows program was established both to recognize outstanding junior faculty at Boston University working in diverse areas of the computational sciences, as well as to provide focal points for supporting broader collaborative research in these areas at BU and beyond. Junior Fellows are selected by the Hariri Institute Executive Steering Committee based on nominations received each spring and are appointed for a two-year term.
Who May Submit Nominations: Nominations may be submitted by any BU faculty member.
Eligibility: Tenure-track assistant professors in their second or third year at BU are eligible.
Deadline: The nomination deadline is Friday, April 4, 2014.
Nomination Materials: The nomination form requires the following information (check the nomination form for details):
- Contact information for the faculty member making the nomination and for the nominee.
- Nomination letter submitted as a single PDF file that highlights how the candidate might contribute to and benefit from participation in the HIC Junior Faculty Fellows Program.
- Full curriculum vitae for the nominee, summarizing academic preparation and appointments, honors and awards, and at most 10 most relevant publications.
- (Optionally) Any supporting materials that may be relevant the evaluation of the nominee, submitted as a single PDF file.
- Selecting an Institute lab and cluster of interest to the nominee.
Additional Information: If you have any questions about the program or the nomination process, please contact Linda Grosser, Director of Program & Project Development at the Hariri Institute, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In pursuit of the Hariri Institute’s mission to catalyze and propel collaborative, interdisciplinary research through the use of computational and data-driven approaches, the Institute supports a portfolio of ambitious computational research projects, as well as forward-looking educational and outreach initiatives at Boston University.
In line with this mission, we are pleased to announce the Call for selecting and funding 2014 Institute portfolio projects. The process is designed to be fairly lightweight, imposing minimal overhead on proposing investigators, while ensuring that the process itself acts as a catalyst for the exchange and development of research ideas among Institute affiliates.
The process for exploring and developing projects to be sponsored by the Institute encourages principal investigators to involve the Institute in shaping and refining their research ideas, suggesting potential collaborations, identifying additional or alternative sources of funding, and finding other creative ways to help support the project.
Eligibility: Faculty affiliates of the Hariri Institute are eligible to submit proposals for support from the Institute for research and other activities by completing the Research Funding Application.
Process: For details, please check the project proposal development, submission, and evaluation process and complete the Research Funding Application.
Deadline: April 4, 2014 is the deadline for Summer/Fall start dates. There will be a November 2014 deadline for Spring 2015 start date projects.
For more information: please contact Linda Grosser, Director, Program & Project Development, of the Hariri Institute, by email at email@example.com.
Many engineers have great ideas for products, but unfortunately, they don’t often have a background in business that will allow them to bring their designs to market.
To help with this problem, two Boston University research teams recently participated in the National Science Foundation (NSF) Innovation Corps (I-Corps), a program that encourages scientists and engineers to broaden their focus beyond lab work through entrepreneurship training.
“We had been trying to bring some of our ideas to a commercial state when we heard about the program,” said David Freedman, a BU research associate in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering. “It seemed like a great fit for us.”
Freedman and postdoctoral associate, George Daaboul, had been working closely with Professor Selim Ünlü’s (ECE, BME, MSE) research group trying to determine how their technology, IRIS, used to detect viruses and pathogens, might be applied in doctors’ offices, hospitals, and emergency care centers. They soon decided that forming an I-Corps team would allow them to evaluate the commercial potential.
Teams receive $50K in grant money and consist of an Entrepreneurial Lead (Daaboul), a Principal Investigator (Freedman), and a business mentor. The researchers asked BU lecturer and entrepreneur, Rana Gupta (SMG), to take on the latter role.
Also participating from BU were Assistant Professor Douglas Densmore (ECE) and Research Assistant Professor Swapnil Bhatia (ECE). They pitched Lattice Automation, technology that will allow technology by the Cross-disciplinary Integration of Design Automation Research (CIDAR) group to transition into commercial products. Ultimately, they hope to create software that will help synthetic biologists work more efficiently.
“Our technology is building upon state-of-the-art techniques in computer science, electrical engineering, and bioengineering,” explained Densmore.
Over eight weeks in the fall, participants attended workshops in Atlanta, Ga., met with researchers from the 21 teams, followed an online curriculum, and spoke with up to 100 different potential consumers of their technology – a process known as “customer discovery.”
Through this experience, Freedman and Daaboul quickly learned that introducing a new technology to customers might not be the right approach for their research.
“We decided instead to focus on the pains customers had with existing technologies and hone in on how we could alleviate those,” said Freedman.
Added Daaboul: “Finding out what people really needed before developing a technology really allowed for a much different perspective than what I’m used to.”
Much of the knowledge gained through I-Corps will be used to advance science and engineering research. Some products tested during the workshops even show immediate market potential by the conclusion of the curriculum.
“I would recommend this program to anyone working in science or industry,” said Freedman. “Not only did this change how we think about our research, we also learned how to better tell our narrative.”
-Rachel Harrington (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Recognizing senior and junior faculty for major contributions to their fields and to society at large, the College of Engineering has bestowed its annual Distinguished Scholar Award on Professor Christos Cassandras (ECE, SE), and its annual Early Career Excellence Award on Assistant Professor Xue Han (BME).
The Distinguished Scholar Award honors senior faculty members who have helped move their field and society forward through outstanding, high-impact research, and provides the recipient with a public forum to discuss his or her work before the Boston University academic community. The Early Career Research Excellence Award celebrates the significant, recent, high-impact research achievements of exemplary tenure-track faculty who are within 10 years of receiving their PhD.
In conjunction with his award, Cassandras will deliver a public lecture, “Complexity Made Simple (at a Small Price),” on March 19 at 4 p.m. in the Photonics Center Auditorium (room 206). Cassandras plans to highlight methods he’s developed to solve difficult problems by exploiting their specific structure, asking the “right” questions and challenging some conventional engineering approaches — and show how these methods have resulted in energy savings, enhanced security and other benefits.
Distinguished Scholar Award
The Distinguished Scholar Award recognizes Cassandras as “one of the pioneers of an emerging field, discrete event dynamical systems, that is used extensively in the modeling, analysis and design of dynamical systems in diverse applications such as manufacturing systems, communications, transportation networks and cyber-physical systems,” said Electrical and Computer Engineering Chair and Professor David Castañón.
“I am honored to be selected as the 2014 College of Engineering Distinguished Lecturer,” said Cassandras, who also specializes in hybrid systems, stochastic optimization and computer simulation. “I have always enjoyed research which involves new, relatively unexplored areas and unusual ways to tackle ‘real world’ problems, from contributing to the establishment of the field of discrete event dynamic systems to envisioning new ways to design and manage complex systems such as ‘smart cities.’”
A member of the BU faculty since 1996, head of the College’s Division of Systems Engineering and cofounder of BU’s Center for Information and Systems Engineering (CISE), Cassandras has published five books and more than 300 refereed papers. He was editor-in-chief of the IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control from 1998 through 2009, and the 2012 president of the IEEE Control Systems Society (CSS). He has chaired several technical conferences and served as plenary speaker at various international conferences, including the American Control Conference in 2001 and the IEEE Conference on Decision and Control in 2002, and Distinguished Lecturer for the CSS.
Cassandras’s numerous awards include a 2012 Kern Fellowship, a 2011 prize for the IBM/IEEE Smarter Planet Challenge competition, the 2011 IEEE Control Systems Technology Award, the Distinguished Member Award of the IEEE Control Systems Society (2006), the 1999 Harold Chestnut Prize (International Federation of Automatic Control (IFAC) Best Control Engineering Textbook) for Discrete Event Systems: Modeling and Performance Analysis, and a 1991 Lilly Fellowship. He is also a Fellow of the IEEE and IFAC.
Early Career Research Excellence Award
A member of the BU faculty since 2010, Han develops and applies high-precision genetic, molecular, optical and electrical tools and other nanotechnologies to study neural circuits in the brain. By using these novel neurotechnologies to control and monitor a selected population of brain cells, she and her research team seek to identify connections between neural circuit dynamics and behavioral pathologies. Establishing such connections could improve our understanding of neurological and psychiatric diseases, and lead to new treatments.
In recognition of her innovative research on developing novel neurotechnologies using light sensitive nanoparticles to sense neurons’ cellular environment and to deliver drugs directly to the brain, Han was named by President Obama in January as one of 102 recipients of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the US government on science and engineering researchers in the early stages of their careers. Han has also received a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director’s New Innovator Award and recognition as a Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences, Sloan Research Fellow and Peter Paul Fellow.
“We are delighted that the College of Engineering has chosen to celebrate Xue’s remarkable achievements with this award, and I can think of no one more deserving,” said Professor Sol Eisenberg, who heads the BME Department.
After the Boston Marathon bombings last year, it took authorities just three days to sift through an abundance of footage and find their suspects – light speed compared to the weeks it took to find those responsible for the London bombings in 2005.
Still, can this happen faster? Professor Venkatesh Saligrama (ECE, SE) thinks so, and he’s working to making that vision a reality.
The Office of Naval Research awarded him $900K for his project, Video Search and Retrieval, which will focus on developing a visual search system. Think Google but for security videos.
“Our initial idea was to develop a system that could annotate web videos,” said Saligrama, who collaborated with Pierre-Marc Jodoin at the University of Sherbrooke on early stages of this research. “That project turned out to be extremely challenging so we started to focus on surveillance videos, where the footage is obtained in a controlled environment.”
Manually searching large archives of footage can be both time-consuming and monotonous. Saligrama and Ph.D. students, Greg Castanon (ECE) and Yuting Chen (SE), are now working closely with the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory to help change this.
Chen said she is looking forward to working on this project with Saligrama, who she first encountered while conducting her own research.
“I spent almost a year and a half working on an idea that employs correlating motion clues to calibrating camera networks,” she said. “When I came to BU Systems Engineering and browsed the research papers, I found the exact idea implemented by Venkatesh’s group. I was surprised and just a little bit bitter.”
From there, she knew that she wanted to study with Saligrama.
“He is an experienced researcher and just as passionate and curious as a young freshman,” she said. “I find that one sentence from him can help me through a problem that’s been troubling me for weeks.”
Chen, Castanon and Saligrama hope that together, they can make the process of searching through security footage more automated and responsive to user query video searches.
“Currently, for many YouTube videos, there are textual meta-tags that are used in the search process,” Saligrama explained. “For surveillance videos, we do not often have this so our searches need to be based purely on visual features and patterns.”
One of the challenges in video search is that activity patterns can be highly inconsistent and can occur for unpredictable amounts of time.
“Unlike image search though, videos have some temporal patterns we can exploit,” said Saligrama.
In the future, Saligrama hopes that the research will not only improve security but improve medical database searches as well.
For more information about the project, visit our Research Spotlight page.
-Rachel Harrington (email@example.com)
Boston University students have big ideas – whether they’re aiming to prevent cyber attacks or using GPS data to improve cattle herding. As good as their work is though, they don’t always know the best way to present their research.
Ph.D. students, Yasaman Khazaeni, Greg Castanon, and Jing Wang, initially came up with the idea for the event last semester and hoped it would give their classmates a chance to practice speaking in front of a large audience.
“One of the main issues we have as students becomes clear at conferences,” said Khazaeni. “We’ve done great research but don’t present it well.”
Often times, she added, engineering students come from international backgrounds and don’t have enough confidence to present in English.
“By speaking in front of a friendly audience, as opposed to a conference where you’d know few people in the audience, your classmates and professors can offer feedback and really help you smooth out your final presentation,” said Khazaeni.
Khazaeni, who helped choose 14 students to present out of a pool of 23 applicants, said that the event also allowed CISE students to learn from classmates and discover more about the projects they’ve been working on.
Among those she learned from were Ph.D. students, Morteza Hashemi and Delaram Motamedvaziri, who took home the Best CISE Presenter awards.
Hashemi, who is advised by Professor Ari Trachtenberg (ECE, SE), spoke about his project, Coded Data Sharing in Intra-Car Wireless Sensor Networks. He has been working with Trachtenberg, Professor David Starobinski (ECE, SE), Ph.D. student, Wei Si, and General Motors Research to determine if using wireless sensor networks (WSN) might allow for a greener way to construct tomorrow’s vehicles. The work previously won the Center for Reliable Information Systems and Cybersecurity Award as well as the Provost’s Award at Scholars Day last year.
Advised by Professor Venkatesh Saligrama (ECE, SE), Motamedvaziri spoke about her work, “Poisson Statistics and the Future of Internet Marketing.”
“The effectiveness of search engine marketing is dropping while the power of social media marketing is rising,” she explained. “Mathematics would suggest that social media is now the better advertising strategy.”
She said that though her research focused on total hits advertisements received, she’d like to expand her work in the future by looking at data concerning how long a person stayed on a website.
“Ultimately, we’re more interested in seeing transactions occur as opposed to clicks,” said Motamedvaziri.
Also honored at a reception at the BU Castle following the presentations were Setareh Ariafar, the Most Attentive CISE Student, and Professor David Castañón (ECE, SE), awarded for his contributions to CISE. Because 20 students attended all fourteen presentations, the most attentive of them was chosen by raffle.
In case any students left the workshop having doubts about their speaking skills, Professor Christos Cassandras (ECE, SE) closed the day by offering some advice, including “never overestimate the intelligence of your audience” and “the maximum pieces of information that should appear on a slide is two.”
“Giving a good talk is a difficult thing,” he said. “It’s as much of an art as a science.”
-Rachel Harrington (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Karl, Moustakas and Paschalidis Recognized for Outstanding Achievements
Professors W. Clem Karl (ECE, BME, SE), Theodore Moustakas (ECE, MSE) and Yannis Paschalidis (ECE, SE) have been named as 2014 IEEE Fellows, the highest grade of membership in the world’s leading professional association for advancing technology for the benefit of society.
The IEEE confers the grade of Fellow upon individuals with outstanding records of accomplishment in any of the organization’s fields of interest, which range from aerospace systems, computers and telecommunications to biomedical engineering, electric power and consumer electronics. Less than 0.1 percent of voting members — the IEEE currently has 400,000 members in 160 countries — are selected annually for this member grade elevation, considered a major career achievement and prestigious honor across the technical community.
W. Clem Karl
Karl was recognized for his contributions to “statistical signal processing and image reconstruction.” He has developed several statistical models for the extraction of information from diverse data sources in the presence of uncertainty, and applied them in projects that include automatic target detection and recognition for synthetic aperture radar; locating oil deposits and analyzing the earth’s atmosphere; and monitoring medical conditions using tomography and MRI.
“This is a great honor, and I’m humbled that my peers would confer it on me,” said Karl.
A member of the BU faculty since 1995, Karl has assumed many leadership roles for the IEEE. Currently editor-in-chief of IEEE Transactions on Image Processing, he is a member of the Board of Governors and Conference Board of the Signal Processing Society; the Transactions on Medical Imaging Steering Committee; the Biomedical Image and Signal Processing Technical Committee; and the Technical Committee Review Board. He has co-organized IEEE workshops on statistical signal processing and bioinformatics, and was general chair of the 2009 IEEE International Symposium on Biomedical Imaging.
Among other things, Karl is developing methods to improve the detection of explosives in luggage. The technology could increase passenger safety while reducing delays and other inconveniences for air travelers, such as having to remove laptops and other electronic devices from bags.
Moustakas was recognized for his contributions to “the epitaxial growth of nitride semiconductors.” He is a trailblazer in molecular beam epitaxy, a versatile and advanced thin-film growth technique used to make high-precision, nitride (nitrogen compound-based) semiconductor materials used in fiber-optic, cellular, satellite and other applications.
His most notable achievements include pioneering the nucleation steps for the growth of gallium nitride on sapphire and other substrates, an essential process for the manufacture of blue LEDs, which are widely used in solid state lighting applications; and developing highly-efficient, deep ultraviolet (UV) LEDs, which are expected to provide environmentally friendly water and air purification.
“I am delighted to receive this prestigious award and I am very grateful to many of my collaborators at BU and other institutions, as well the outstanding past and current students that I have had the fortune of mentoring,” said Moustakas.
A member of the ENG faculty for more than 30 years and ENG Distinguished Scholar who helped shape the Materials Science & Engineering Division, Moustakas has had a broad impact on his field, through 25 patents, hundreds of invited talks and journal papers and 10,000 citations in research literature. Recently selected as the recipient of the Molecular Beam Epitaxy (MBE) Innovator Award, he is also a Fellow of the American Physical Society and Electrochemical Society, and Charter Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors. In 2013 he was named the Boston University Innovator of the Year.
Moustakas is currently working to create visible and UV LEDs and lasers for solid-state white lighting, water and air sterilization, and identification of biological and chemical agents; investigating indium gallium nitride “quantum dots” that boost solar cell efficiency; and, in collaboration with Associate Professor Roberto Paiella (ECE, MSE), studying the use of nitride semiconductor structures for green LED applications and for emitters and detectors operating in the far infrared.
Paschalidis was recognized for his contributions to “the control and optimization of communication and sensor networks, manufacturing systems and biological systems.” Since joining the College of Engineering faculty in 1996, he has developed sophisticated algorithms for everything from a homeland security early warning sensor network to a next-generation electronic healthcare management system.
“I am elated to have been named an IEEE Fellow,” said Paschalidis. “Much credit is due to all my students and postdoctoral associates, past and present, who have contributed to the work being recognized, and all my collaborators, many of them here at Boston University.”
Co-director of the College’s Center for Information and Systems Engineering (CISE), an ENG Distinguished Faculty Fellow and affiliate of the BioMolecular Engineering Research Center, Paschalidis has a diverse research portfolio that spans the fields of systems and control, networking, applied probability, optimization, operations research, computational biology and bioinformatics. His work has resulted in new applications in communication and sensor networks, protein docking, logistics, cyber-security, robotics, the smart grid and finance.
Paschalidis has received several honors, including a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation, an invitation to participate in the National Academy of Engineering Frontiers of Engineering Symposium, two best paper awards, and best performance at a computational biology competition. He is the editor-in-chief of the IEEE Transactions on Control of Network Systems and a member of the Board of Governors of the IEEE Control Systems Society.
Visiting Professor Vivek Goyal (ECE), who will be an assistant professor in the ECE Department starting in January, was also named an IEEE Fellow.
Dedicated to the advancement of technology, the IEEE publishes 30 percent of the world’s literature in the electrical and electronics engineering and computer science fields, and has developed more than 900 active industry standards. The association also sponsors or co-sponsors nearly 400 international technical conferences each year.