Category: Awards

Bellotti Wins Ignition Award For an Effective New Approach to Photon Detection

April 23rd, 2015 in Awards, ECE, Faculty, Graduate Students, Recognition, Research

The work promises to modernize a range of industries & common commercial products

By Gabriella McNevin

Adam Wichman (left), Professor Enrico Bellotti (middle), and Ben Pinkie (right)

Adam Wichman (left), Professor Enrico Bellotti (middle), and Ben Pinkie (right)

Professor Enrico Bellotti (ECE) and his PhD students Adam Wichman and Ben Pinkie won the Ignition Award for research in High sensitivity optical detectors in light starved applications.” The Boston University Office of Technology Development sponsors the Ignition Award to help launch promising new technologies into the marketplace.

Recipients of the Ignition Award are entered into a program, which supports further research and enables investigators to develop technology that will be well received in the consumer marketplace. “Ignition Awards help bring new technologies to a mature enough state” states the Boston University Technology Develop office, “where they can be licensed, spun off as a new venture, or create a new, non-profit social enterprise.”

The Ignition Award will help develop Bellotti’s infrared detector prototype. The technology is based on a novel architecture, originally invented by Adam Wichman, that overcomes the deficiencies of existing technologies. Dr. Bellotti has been interested in infrared detectors for several years, dating back to his investigations into the physics of avalanche photon detectors, for which he won an NSF Early Career Award in 2005.

Benjamin Pinkie and Adam Wichman joined Bellotti in 2012, and have been the driving forces in executing a fresh approach to image detection.

The team’s invention will lead to more sensitive infrared detectors that can operate using less power and at higher temperatures. As a result, they will not require the same cooling devices that are needed for the current generation of infrared cameras. This feature may enable novel applications especially for portable devices where weight and power consumption are at a premium.

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Robotic Guitar Player Wins College’s Fourth Imagineering Competition

April 23rd, 2015 in Awards, ECE, Recognition

By Mark Dwortzan

Evan Lowell and Mehmet Akbulut (both ME'16) demonstrating their robotic guitar player

Evan Lowell and Mehmet Akbulut (both ME’16) demonstrating their robotic guitar player

Close-up of guitar-playing robot system

Close-up of guitar-playing robot system


Osi Van Dessel (ME’17) with Scanner Probe robot prototype

Cithara — a robotic device that plays a guitar as well as, or better than, some humans — won the $3,000 first prize at the College of Engineering’s third annual Imagineering Competition.

Held April 17 at Ingalls Engineering Resource Center, the competition drew entries from seven undergraduate engineering students or student teams that applied creativity and entrepreneurial skills to advance technologies aimed at improving quality of life. Developed in the Singh Imagineering Lab and other on-campus facilities, this year’s projects were designed to do everything from untying your shoelaces to delivering timely information to your bathroom mirror.

Competitors presented their work before a panel of five judges—Associate Dean for Administration Richard Lally, Associate Professor Daniel Cole (ME), Assistant Professor Douglas Densmore (ECE, BME, Bioinformatics), Coulter Program Director Greg Martin (BME) and Ali Shajii, president and CEO of Emphysys, a science and engineering consulting firm. The judges assessed each project for originality, ingenuity and creativity; quality of design and prototype; functionality; and potential to positively impact society.


Striking the Right Chord

To emulate how a human plays guitar, Cithara combines an off-the-shelf guitar (acoustic or electric) with two components powered by Arduino microcontrollers: a slider mechanism that presses frets at designated locations and a robotic arm that strums or plucks selected strings. Named for the Latin word for “guitar,” Cithara converts musical notes—input as tablature, which represents the precise fingering of the instrument within a specified timeframe—into machine instructions that encode the exact coordinates where the slider and arm should be positioned.

The two mechanical engineering juniors who designed the system, Mehmet Akbulut and Evan Lowell, obtained about 80 percent of their materials from the Imagineering Lab (where Akbulut works as a manager), and engineered some parts using a 3-D printer. Though neither plays the guitar, they came up with the idea when Akbulut received a guitar as a gift and sought to make good use of it.

“They’re good engineers, so what do they do?” said Shajii. “They build a robot around the guitar.” But Akbulut and Lowell envision Cithara as more than just a whimsical outlet for their engineering savvy.

“In the future we hope that instead of having to pay for a live artist, you could purchase this instrument and it would provide long-term, low-cost music,” said Lowell. “It’s also a great educational tool; we hope someone could use it to teach themselves guitar.”

The panel was particularly impressed by Akbulut and Lowell’s concept, approach, integrated hardware/software design, demo and PowerPoint presentation.

“This project combined mechanical, electrical, and computer engineering expertise with real-time control and precise timing requirements into one system,” said Densmore. “It was inherently demonstrable and fun, and poses numerous additional research questions.”


Probing, Augmenting and Controlling Our Surroundings

The second prize winner, Osi Van Dessel (ME’17), received $1,500 for his project, “Scanner Probe,” a tele-operated mobile robot that maps its surroundings using LIDAR, a technology that bounces pulsed laser light off of targeted objects to determine how far away they are. The Scanner Probe consists of a robot base, turret and two LIDAR sensor units that swivel back and forth to collect data and wirelessly transmit it to a computer, where a software program converts the data into a map in real time.

LIDAR is typically used in large-scale research and industrial applications from self-driving cars to satellite systems that can cost thousands to millions of dollars, but Van Dessel aims to make the technology cheaper and more accessible for home-based robotic applications.

“To have robots prevalent throughout society would require a big step in reducing the cost but still keeping the fidelity that a laser range-scanning unit can give you,” said Van Dessel. “Typically a laser range-finding unit is $10,000 per unit plus another $10,000 for the robot, or $20,000 for one complete system. Mine costs $350, and that was achievable through a few reductions in the requirements for my LIDAR system.”

Two teams tied for third prize, each receiving $1,000 for their efforts.

Benjamin Rawstron (CE/EE’18) was recognized for his project, a concept for a user-friendly, home automation network that enables users to monitor and control multiple household devices. With an overarching goal of configuring the network’s hardware so it can be updated anytime via the Internet, Rawstron designed a garage monitoring station that checks for safety and security threats such as high carbon monoxide levels and break-ins.

Timothy Geraghty (ME’16), Chris Ingalls (CAS/CS’15), Vani Patel (SMG/Marketing’16), Peter Tranoris (ME’16) and Anthony Tran (ME’16) were recognized for their project, Sensa X, a concept for a highly interactive, smart bathroom mirror that displays the weather, traffic, news, date/time, daily calendar entry and other information that’s useful to know during one’s morning wakeup routine. They plan to enable the info to be accessed by voice command and personalized in the presence of a user’s smartphone.

Other entries included a smartcard that provides secure access to a patient’s medical and health insurance records; an automated system for tying and untying shoelaces; and a crowdsourcing platform to help college students pay for their education.

Sponsored by John Maccarone (ENG’66), the competition was designed to reinforce the ideal of creating the Societal Engineer by spotlighting student efforts to design, build and test new technologies that promise to positively impact society.

Imagineering Lab programming is supported by the Kern Family Foundation and alumni contributions to the ENG Annual Fund.

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Two ECE Senior Design Teams in Intel-Cornell Cup Finals

February 18th, 2015 in Awards, Courses, ECE, Events, News-CE, News-EP, Recognition, Senior Design, Students, Undergraduate Programs, Undergraduate Student Opportunities, Undergraduate Students

Projects Address Everyday Problems with Embedded Technology

By Mark Dwortzan 


Omar Rana (CE), Luke Poitras (EE), Caroline Wu (EE), Jason Tow (CE, Jeremy Bensabat (CE). Photo by Gabriella McNevin

Two Electrical & Computer Engineering senior design teams have been named finalists in the Intel-Cornell Cup 2015 competition, which challenges science and engineering college students to conceive of, design and demonstrate the next great embedded technology application. One team’s project, C.A.R.R. System (Cyclist Alert Real-time Response), notifies drivers of potential collisions with approaching cyclists. The other, GrowBox, is an automated hydroponic device that enables users to grow an edible plant, virtually carefree.

A high-level illustration of the C.A.R.R. team's prototype. The system uses two cameras (one mounted on each side-view mirror) that feed a detection algorithm housed within an alert hub mounted on the dashboard. The alert hub processes live video of the road, determines if a cyclist is present and delivers feedback to the driver.

A high-level illustration of the C.A.R.R. team’s prototype. The system uses two cameras (one mounted on each side-view mirror) that feed a detection algorithm housed within an alert hub mounted on the dashboard. The alert hub processes live video of the road, determines if a cyclist is present and delivers feedback to the driver.

The C.A.R.R. System and GrowBox teams will attend talks, network with leading engineering firms and showcase their work along with 20 other finalists from across the country on May 1-2 at NASA Kennedy Space Center. They’ll vie for the competition’s grand prize, $10,000 or one of up

to seven $2,500 awards, all of which include an invitation to exhibit in Intel’s booth at the Maker Fair in New York City or San Mateo, California.

Having survived an hour-long, online semifinal round in February to make it to the finals, both teams subsequently received

$1,500, Intel Atom boards and other equipment, and access to technical experts at Intel and other sponsoring companies to develop their systems.

“Both teams are passionate about their projects and are dedicated to using their engineering skills for the betterment of society,” said Associate Professor of the Practice Alan Pisano(ECE), the lead faculty member for the ECE Senior Design Project course. “They are continually seeking ways to improve their designs, and it’s rare not to see them in the lab working on aspects of their projects.”

Concerned about the rising number of annual bicycle accidents in Boston and other metropolitan areas, the C.A.R.R. System team aims to equip motorists with a bike detection system that consists of cameras attached to both side-view mirrors and a real-time image-processing algorithm. When the system pinpoints a potential or impending collision through the algorithm, it displays and announces a warning on an alerting device that’s easily mountable on the dashboard. Issued within about 200 milliseconds from the moment of detection, the warning indicates which side of the vehicle is on a collision course with an approaching cyclist. In a recent test producing one hour of sample footage, the system successfully identified 92.55 percent of cyclists present, with an overall accuracy of 83.65 percent.


Alexandru Rosca (CE), Patrick Crawford (CE), Mark Barrasso (CE), Ahmed Alfuwaires (EE), Jesse Fordyce (EE). Photo by Gabriella McNevin

Testing out several designs and detection algorithms, the team settled on a dual camera system with a single, centralized alert hub, and an algorithm that provided the most accuracy and fastest response time.

“After living in Boston for four years, we are very aware of the dangers that exist on the road for drivers and cyclists alike,” said C.A.R.R. team member Omar Rana (CE). “We wanted to create a product that could fit both old and new vehicles, be easy to install and remove, and theoretically reach the market at an affordable price.”

Conceptual model of GrowBox prototype

Conceptual model of GrowBox prototype

Seeking to help would-be vegetable gardeners who lack the space, time or requisite green thumb to grow their own food, the GrowBox team has designed an automated system that can see to a plant’s needs and report on its status through a combination of sensors, actuators and image processing software. If human intervention is required, an iOS app will notify the user with instructions. GrowBox consists of a hydroponic subsystem that periodically floods the plant with water and nutrients; red, white and blue LEDs tuned to provide optimal lighting conditions for the plant; a backend subsystem that controls all sensors, actuators and lights; and a cloud-based database that backs up all sensor and image data. GrowBoxes are designed to be stackable so a user could grow a column of vegetables in a compact space.

The team’s biggest challenge has been to create and maintain the water/nutrient solution that’s needed to sustain the plant. To solve the problem, they found a nutrient mixture that keeps pH, electrical conductivity and other essential GrowBox parameters constant.

“Together, we developed ideas for the GrowBox and the reduction of the user’s role in the growth of a plant,” said Sasha Rosca (CE), who came up with the idea for the project. “Once the automation technology is developed, it can be implemented in large grow houses around the world to provide people with food year-round.”

Horenstein Invited to Speak as a Principal International Electrostatic Expert

February 17th, 2015 in Awards, ECE, Faculty, Recognition

By Gabriella McNevin

Electrical Engineering Professor Mark Horenstein

Electrical Engineering Professor Mark Horenstein

Boston University Electrical Engineering Professor Mark Horenstein was invited to deliver the Bill Bright Memorial Lecture Electrostatics 2015, sponsored by the Institute of Physics. Horenstein has accepted the honor, and will join other world-leading experts in electrostatics in England in April 2015.

The Institute of Physics Electrostatics Group (IOP) organizes this conference every four years to provide the opportunity to unite academic and industry electrostatics experts. Horenstein’s research in electrostatics is well known, and he is regarded as one of the leading experts in the field in both academia and industry.

Horenstein will discuss “The Contribution of Surface Potential to Diverse Problems in Electrostatics.” The lecture will focus on the role that the simple concept of surface potential plays across numerous applications of electrostatics. Surface potential is the driving factor, for example, in the propagating brush discharge, a dangerous explosion hazard in industrial environments. Surface potential is also key to such seeming obscure topics as the electrostatics of parachutes and the backflow of charge on moving webs (large, industrial sized sheets of polymer or textile used in roll-to-roll industrial processes).

In 2013, Horenstein was an invited speaker at the Electrostatics 2013 International Conference on Electrostaics held by the Static Electricity in Industry group of the European Federation of Chemical Engineers. At the conference, he was bestowed the honor of being named International Fellow.

Currently, Horenstein serves as the Editor-in-Chief for the Journal of Electrostatics and is an honorary life member of the Electrostatics Society of America (ESA). In 2012, he was named Outstanding Professor of the Year by the College of Engineering at Boston University. Horenstein is a named inventor on five patents. He received his Ph.D. degree in Electrical Engineering from MIT in 1978, and his M.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of California at Berkeley in 1975.

In addition to Horenstein’s expertise in electrostatics, he is known for his textbooks on microelectronics and engineering design. He currently works on technology for self-cleaning photovoltaic solar panels and concentrating solar mirrors.

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Goyal Wins IEEE International Conference on Image Processing, 2014 Best Paper Award

December 22nd, 2014 in Awards, ECE, Faculty, News-IDS, Research-IDS, Uncategorized

By Gabriella McNevin and Donald Rock (COM ’17)


Co-auther Dongeek Shin receives the Best Paper Award certificate from Conference Chair Marco Cagnazzo of Télécom ParisTech. Photography by Camille Moissinac.

2,820 papers were submitted to the 2014 IEEE International Conference on Image Processing. 1,219 were accepted. 9 were honored as finalists; and two received top accolades. Boston University Professor Vivek Goyal (ECE) and the co-authors of “Computational 3D and Reflectivity Imaging with High Photon Efficiency” received the Best Paper Award.

The conference was held October 27-30 in Paris, and annually draws the world’s leading image and video processing engineers and scientists. It is sponsored by IEEE Signal Processing Society to be a premier forum for new technologies and research in theoretical, experimental, and applied image and video processing.

Assistant Professor Goyal co-authored the paper with his Ph.D. students Dongeek Shin (MIT) and Ahmed Kirmani (MIT), along with MIT Professor Jeffrey H. Shapiro. The paper proposed the field’s most efficient imaging methodology in terms of the number of detected photons, besting the efficiency of “first-photon imaging” research, which was also published by Goyal’s team, in early 2014.
The primary difference between these leading photon-efficient schemes relates to the pixel acquisition time. The new model simplifies the signal collecting process by applying similar theory and algorithms, but with deterministic acquisition durations.

The research team applied the discovery by forming images computationally from very little detected light—about 1 photon per pixel. Modeling and algorithms were implemented to form grayscale photographs of scenes and measurements of 3D structures simultaneously.

In an email correspondence with Goyal, he remarked on the research team’s problem solving efforts. “We applied a rather simple and systematic approach to improve upon the state of the art.” He continued, “I hope that the award encourages others to adopt [our] integrated approach rather than to work on one aspect in isolation.”

Goyal also confided that he was notified of the win by a text message sent by Dr. Philip Chou of Microsoft Research. Chou sent a photo of a co-author holding the prize certificate. “It was a fun way to get the good news.”

The full list of Best Paper Award and Best Student Paper Award Winners Paper

Boston is Becoming a “Smart City” with ENG Support

December 18th, 2014 in Awards, ECE, Faculty, Graduate Programs, Graduate Student Opportunities, News-EP, Research-EP, Students, Uncategorized

IBM & IEEE recognize ECE & SE research contributions that are expected to improve urban life in Boston.

By Gabriella McNevin

Screenshots of the "Street Bump" application.

Screenshots of the “Street Bump” application.

Ushered in with the 21st century, are challenges that require real technological innovations. The global population is growing and, like magnets, people are moving to cities. According to the UN, by 2030, 60% of the population will live in a city, and by 2050, 70% (source). City officials are taking measures to adapt to the steadily increasing population. Today, Boston is zeroing in on population sustainability issues that threaten driver safety and drain energy: Inadequate road infrastructure and an antiquated repair system.

As part of a multifaceted collaboration to create technology to solve urban problems, the City of Boston and a Boston University-led team of researchers have developed equipment to improve the local thoroughfare, called “Street Bump.”

IBM and IEEE has recognized “Street Bump” as a significant contribution to Boston, and have presented the developers the second place prize in “IBM Students for a Smarter Planet/IEEE Smarter Planet Challenge: Student Projects Changing the World.” The team’s project, entitled, “Street Bumps and Big Data Analytics: Crowdsourcing Our Way to Better Roads,” demonstrates engineering expertise and a commitment to improving the world.

The team of researchers includes graduate students Theodora Brisimi (ECE), Yue Zhang (SE), Wuyang Dai (ECE), Setareh Ariafar (SE) and Nicholas Baladis (MIT). Professor Christos Cassandras (ECE, SE) and Professor Ioannis Paschalidis (ECE, SE, BME) are team advisors. All BU researchers are affiliated with the Center for Information and Systems Engineering.

The project focuses on an iPhone app – “Street Bump” – developed by the City of Boston to collect data on road conditions. The app is used by city employees and many citizens and was designed to facilitate crowdsourcing in collecting relevant road condition data. It uses the iPhone’s accelerometer to detect “bumps” sensed during a trip. The app then transmits the data to the City of Boston. The information can be used to alert repair crews of road damage. The algorithms developed by the BU-led team analyze the data received by the City and classifies the detected bumps into  “actionable” and “non-actionable.” Severe bumps like potholes are actionable and can be prioritized in scheduling repairs.

In this work, the team collaborated with The City of Boston’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, which provided actual data from the City’s servers. Office Co-Chair Nigel Jacob and Chris Osgood have echoed the Office’s website saying, “there is a revolution going on in how cities are designed & built. This new focus on technology infrastructure and sustainable design links how a city is built with how it is managed and experienced.”

“Street Bump” is the second smart city application Professor Casssandras has advised that received national attention. The first app, Smart Parking, also won 2nd place in the “IBM Students for a Smarter Planet/IEEE Smarter Planet Challenge: Student Projects Changing the World” competition in 2011.



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Brown Named Academy of Inventors Fellow

December 18th, 2014 in Awards, ECE, Recognition, Uncategorized

Selected for “creating or facilitating” inventions that have helped society

By Susan Seligson, BU Today

BU President Robert A. Brown, a chemical engineer, has been named a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

BU President Robert A. Brown, a chemical engineer, has been named a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

Boston University President Robert A. Brown, who came to BU following a career as a prominent chemical engineer, has been named a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI), the academy announced today.

Brown, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, is one of 170 new fellows in NAI and one of the total of 414 fellows currently representing more than 150 research universities and governmental and nonprofit research institutions. “Fellow status is a high professional distinction accorded to academic inventors who have demonstrated a prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development, and the welfare of society,” NAI said in its press release.

“It is an honor to be counted among so many amazingly innovative people,” says Brown. “In my role as NAI Fellow, I look forward to supporting the efforts of NAI to promote academic technology and innovation—especially the applied use of inventions to improve quality of life and spur the economy.”

Election as a NAI Fellow is the latest in a long string of honors and distinguished appointments for Brown, who is also a member of National Academy of Engineering, which awarded him the 2013 Simon Ramo Founders Award. Brown is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences. He chairs the Academic Research Council of the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Singapore and is a member of Singapore’s Research Innovation and Enterprise Council. Brown is a director of both the DuPont Company and the American Council on Education, and a trustee of the Universities Research Association. He served on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology for President George W. Bush.

Brown, a former dean of the MIT School of Engineering and head of MIT’s department of chemical engineering, has published more than 250 papers in areas related to mathematical modeling of transport phenomena in materials. Executive editor of the Journal of Chemical Engineering Science from 1991 to 2004, he was honored as one of the top 100 Chemical Engineers of the Modern Era by theAmerican Institute of Chemical Engineers.

Brown earned a BS and MS in chemical engineering at the University of Texas at Austin and a PhD in chemical engineering from the University of Minnesota.

Included among all of the NAI Fellows are 61 presidents and senior leaders of research universities and nonprofit research institutes, 208 members of the other national academies, 16 recipients of the US National Medal of Technology and Innovation, 10 recipients of the US National Medal of Science, and 21 Nobel Laureates.

The NAI Fellows will be inducted by the Deputy US Commissioner for Patent Operations, from the United States Patent and Trademark Office, during the 4th Annual Conference of the National Academy of Inventors, on March 20, 2015, at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

ENG Grad Students Win Awards at Premier Materials Research Conference

December 11th, 2014 in Awards, ECE, Graduate Student Opportunities, Graduate Students, Recognition, Research

By Mark Dwortzan

Second-place poster author Steven Scherr (ME, PhD'16) (second from left) with 2014 MRS Fall Meeting Chairs

Second-place poster author Steven Scherr (ME, PhD’16) (second from left) with 2014 MRS Fall Meeting Chairs

Vying with nearly 3,000 entries in the Poster Session competition at the 2014 Materials Research Society (MRS) Fall Meeting and Exhibit on December 3, a Boston University College of Engineering entry won second place honors. In addition, another ENG poster received the award for the MRS University Chapters Program’s “Sustainability @ My School” competition highlighting leading-edge sustainability research.

Attended by up to 6,000 materials researchers from around the world, the MRS Fall Meeting is the preeminent annual event for those in the field.

Former LEAP student Steven Scherr’s (ME, PhD’16) second-place-winning poster, “Real-Time Digital Virus Detection for Diagnosis of Ebola Virus Disease,” describes an optical detection system he developed for real-time, highly sensitive, label-free virus detection. The system, which combines an optical interference reflectance imaging biosensor(SP-IRIS) with a microfluidics cartridge, could be used for early detection of the Ebola virus at the point of care.

Working with a sample of bovine blood serum, Scherr recently used the system to digitally detect individual 100 nanometer-diameter vesicular stomatitis viruses—safe-for-human models of Ebola—as they adhered to an antibody microarray. Completed within 10 minutes, this lab test demonstrates the potential of SP-IRIS as the core technology for field-ready, point-of-care viral diagnostic tests that’s fast, sensitive, cheap and easy to implement, and requires minimal sample preparation.

Funded by the National Institutes of Health, the research was a collaboration between Scherr, who designed the microfluidics components, and ECE postdoc George Daaboul (BME, PhD’13), Professor Bennett Goldberg (Physics, ECE, BME, MSE), Professor John H. Connor (MED) and Professor Selim Ünlü (ECE, BME, MSE, Physics), who developed SP-IRIS.

Shizhao Su and Yihong Jiang (both MSE, PhD'15) with their first place award in the "Sustainability @ My School" poster contest

Shizhao Su and Yihong Jiang (both MSE, PhD’15) with their first place award in the “Sustainability @ My School” poster contest

“I think we have the potential to make a big impact in the world of diagnostics and controlling future outbreaks like the current Ebola epidemic in West Africa,” said Scherr, who is continuing to develop the microfluidic cartridge.

Shizhao Su and Yihong Jiang’s (both MSE, PhD’15) winning entry in the MRS university chapter’s “Sustainability @ My School” contest, “Carbon-free Solid Oxide Membrane (SOM) Based Electrolysis for Metals Production and Sustainable Energy Applications,” showcases SOM electrolysis, an environmentally friendly, low-cost metals production technology.  Developed by Professor Uday Pal (ME, MSE) over the past 15 years, it requires far less energy than existing methods to extract pure magnesium, silicon, aluminum and other metals from their oxides. Poster co-author Abhishek Patnaik, who is also an MSE doctoral candidate, is exploring adapting SOM electrolysis for waste-to-energy conversion.

Conducted with guidance from Pal, Professor Soumendra Basu (ME, MSE) and Assistant Professor Jillian Goldfarb (ME, MSE), the research was funded by the National Science Foundation and US Department of Energy.

“I was delighted when Boston University was announced as the first place winner,” said Su. “It was an honor to present our work in front of peers in the MRS community, including some of the world’s leading experts in sustainable research and development. I was glad to see our lab’s many years of hard work recognized and appreciated by the community.”

The Materials Research Society comprises more than 16,000 researchers from academia, industry and government in more than 80 countries, and is a recognized leader in the advancement of interdisciplinary materials research.

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Downtyme Wins Beantown Throwdown Business Competition

November 24th, 2014 in Awards, ECE, Recognition, Students

Startup Founded by CE Juniors Wows Innovation District Audience 

By Mark Dwortzan


Downtyme team members Barron Roth (ENG’16), Luke Sorenson (ENG’16), John Moore (ENG’15), Nick Sorensen (SMG’14), Darryl Johnson (ENG’17), Ben Pusey (CAS’16) and Tufts University senior Nikki Dahan placed first in the Beantown Throwdown. The team’s trophy will be etched with their names and passed on to winners of future competitions. (Photo by Sonia Su COM’15)

Downtyme, a startup co-founded by Barron Roth and Luke Sorenson (both CE ’16) based on their final project in ENG EC 327, Introduction to Software Engineering, won the second annual Beantown Throwdown entrepreneurial business pitch competition. Held on November 18 at Boston’s District Hall before a sellout audience of more than 200 and organized by the MIT Enterprise Forum, the competition featured three-minute pitches from local college student entrepreneurs. Edging out teams from Harvard, MIT, Northeastern and five other Boston-area colleges and universities vying for votes from a sellout audience of more than 400 students, sponsors and investors, Downtyme received more than $20,000 in in-kind legal and marketing services, mentoring and office space.

Roth gave the pitch for Downtyme, representing a cross-functional team that includes Sorenson, John Moore (CE ’15), Nick Sorensen (SMG ’14), Darryl Johnson (CE ’17), Ben Pusey (CAS ’16) and Tufts University senior Nikki Dahan. The Downtyme app enables users to meet up with other users who are available and nearby. Users identify their friends by linking the app to their Facebook account and indicate their availability by entering or importing their calendars. To bring up a list of nearby Facebook friends, they may either press “Now” or “Later,” depending on when they want to get together. Launched in beta mode last March, a full version of the app will be released in January.

After a panel discussion on entrepreneurship moderated by Boston Globe Innovation Economy columnist Scott Kirsner, representatives from each team were given three minutes to pitch their startups and one minute to field questions from the panelists. Afterwards, audience members received $3 million in fake cash to “invest” in one or more of the startups. After all pitches were completed, attendees were invited to “invest” in their top three picks with the $3 million in play money they received upon arrival. Downtyme emerged with $68 million, $2.5 million more than the closest competitor.

“My competitors encompassed such a wide variety of industries, from biotech to advertising startups. It was really a tossup as to who would walk away with the trophy,” said Roth, who was subsequently featured in Foley Hoag’s 2014 MVPs of Boston Tech event, a panel discussion among finalists from Boston-area business competitions. “We’re confident this win is more validation that our product is something people want, even beyond the student spectrum. Many attendees came up to me after the pitch requesting an enterprise version, and it’s certainly something my team is considering.”

The second place winner, Nonspec, is a University of Massachusetts-Lowell startup seeking to produce low-cost, long-lasting prosthetic devices for resource-limited countries. Placing third was Gentoo Inc., a Wentworth Institute of Technology startup that’s developed a vest to simplify outpatient treatment involving intravenous medicines.

“Downtyme’s presentation was engaging and compelling, addressing a problem that many of the students and young professionals in the audience recognized,” said Ian Mashiter, Boston University director of Entrepreneurship Activities and lecturer in the School of Management. “Downtyme is the first app that uses mobile devices as a way of facilitating face to face interaction rather than substituting for it.”

Downtyme earned its opportunity to enter the competition by placing first in an earlier competition for Boston University startups hosted by the BUzz Lab, BU’s new student center for entrepreneurship that Mashiter runs.

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Electrical Engineering Student Marissa Petersile Wins IEEE Power & Energy Society Scholarship

November 18th, 2014 in Awards, ECE, Recognition, Students, Undergraduate Programs, Undergraduate Student Opportunities, Undergraduate Students

By Donald Rock (COM 17)

Marissa Petersile (EE '15)

Marissa Petersile (EE ’15)

Marissa Petersile (EE ’15) is among a small percentage of students to be recognized by the IEEE Power and Energy Society (PES) Scholarship Plus Initiative™. PES is the world’s largest forum for technological developments in the electric power industry.

The scholarship program recognizes undergraduate electrical engineering students. To receive the award, applicants must demonstrate high academic achievement, strong GPAs, distinctive accomplishments in extracurricular activities, and commitment to exploring the power and energy field. The scholarship is listed at $2,000 and recipients are able to receive funding for up to 3 years.

“I was motivated to apply when I recognized that many of the goals described for IEEE PES scholars aligned with my own,” Petersile elaborated. “I am interested in a career in the power and energy field, and I am hoping to make a positive impact on the role of clean energy sources on the grid.”

Petersile spent the past year conducting research in the Applied Electromagnetics Lab at BU. She worked on a team that addressed the buildup of dust and sand on large-scale solar panel arrays in arid, desert regions. Although there is ample sunlight in those regions, the collection of dust on the solar panels can trigger major efficiency losses. Petersile worked on a custom power system for self-cleaning electrodynamic screens that induce electrical waves across the surface of solar panels, cleaning them off in a fast, lower-power way. This research received international press coverage and was featured in esteemed publications like The New York Times.

Currently, Petersile is working on her team Senior Design Project entitled, “Smart Grid Test Facility.” She is designing an educational tool for undergraduate students that research power electronics and grid networks. The grid test she is developing would allow students to connect designed loads and generators to a small-scale grid to examine how the grid reacts to their designs.

Petersile’s resume boasts well-rounded experiences from around the university. She serves as a Dean’s Host for BU’s College of Arts and Sciences where she welcomes high school students to Boston University at Open House events, meets with distinguished alumni of the university, and conducts information sessions for prospective students at the undergraduate admissions office. Additionally, she serves as a tutor at the engineering tutoring center. She also runs half marathons and triathlons in her free time.

“I truly appreciate this scholarship award, not just because it will financially assist my college tuition, but because it makes me feel supported by IEEE PES—a group of motivated, distinguished, and hardworking engineers and scientists,” Marissa explained. “This support encourages me to continue my efforts in clean energy technologies and power grid improvements. I am so thrilled to be a member of this inspiring group, and I’m proud to say that this scholarship will not only help me financially, but also academically, career-wise, and beyond.”

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