Category: Senior Design
Each year, the ECE Department requests projects from industry, the government, non-profits, small businesses, and individuals to present to students as part of a year-long, team-based course. Students create a plan for solving the problem, design a solution, test a product, and present a prototype at the end of the spring semester.
Senior design projects give students a chance to work on a task that expands upon traditional classroom assignments and prepares them for future employment and real-world challenges.
Last May, seniors presented their work to ECE professors, alumni, and industry engineers. The top prize was awarded to the team, “Calibration Device for Microarray Slides,” whose members worked with Professor Selim Ünlü (ECE, BME) to develop a system for detection for microarray slides using an Interferometric Reflectance Imaging Sensor. The design has the potential to speed up disease detection in the future.
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer customer, have any questions about the project, or would like to discuss potential ideas, please email Associate Professor of the Practice Alan Pisano (ECE) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Customers are not required to provide financial support but many have chosen to donate equipment or other resources. Project descriptions will be given to students at the beginning of September.
-Rachel Harrington (email@example.com)
ENG Alums’ iPad App Helps Speech-Challenged Communicate
Every year, more than seven million people are affected by conditions that prevent them from speaking or understanding language. The disability may mean that stroke victims can’t tell a nurse that they need to use the bathroom, can’t share with their spouse that they are hungry, or can’t simply ask to please change the channel because they are about to watch a fourth straight episode of Law & Order.
To the rescue comes an iPad app designed by College of Engineering alumni Nick Dougherty, Eric Hsiao, and Gregory Zoeller (all CE ’12). Their creation, called Verbal Care, helps nonverbal patients communicate a desire for things like food, medicine, and pain relief by touching one of the large picture-based icons. After creating a few iterations of the software over the course of a year and testing in beta, the last stage of testing for a computer product, the trio will make the latest version of the app available in the iTunes store August 12.
“Our goal is to bridge the communication gap between patients and caregivers,” says Dougherty, CEO of Verbal Applications, the alums’ new company. “Patients will receive custom care faster, and hospitals will get money back in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements because of higher patient satisfaction scores.”
Verbal Care must be downloaded from the iTunes store and loaded onto an iPad. Once opened, the user is asked, “What would you like to say?” as nine icons pop up on the screen, among them “pain scale,” “food,” “bathroom,” and “entertainment.” Each category is subdivided into requests for certain types of food, for example, or a specific television station. Caregivers, who can receive the request on an iPad, can confirm requests with a “yes or no” module, and the app can also act as a rudimentary translation tool. Based on the needs of the patient, caregivers can add their own text, voice recordings, and images (“If the patient’s favorite food is Oreos, they can add that personal icon,” Zoeller says).
In addition to helping people who have trouble speaking, Verbal Care could one day make a difference for those with aphasia, a complex communication disorder caused most often by stroke. “Aphasia patients often mix up signals,” Hsiao says, “So our app has three different inputs, where they can see the pictures and icons, read the text, and hear audio feedback.”
After being challenged senior year to create a communications device by Theodore Morse, an ENG professor emeritus of electrical engineering, Dougherty, Hsiao, and Zoeller designed the Verbal Care app as part of ENG’s electrical and computer engineering (ECE) department senior design project. The three, along with former teammates Kenneth Zhong (ENG ’12) and Kholood Al Tabash (ENG ’12), won the ECE department’s Entrepreneurial Award and second place at the ENG Societal Impact Capstone Project Awards last year.
After graduating, Dougherty, Hsiao, and Zoeller formed their own business venture. Their research, shadowing nurses and speech pathologists at Massachusetts General Hospital, revealed some similar devices targeted specifically for aphasia patients, ALS patients, and stroke victims, but with price tags upwards of $7,500. Verbal Care was designed as a far more affordable app for all types of communications disorders. Currently the app is free, but Dougherty says it may be priced at around $10 a month, or $99 a year. The three alums also learned the importance of user-friendly design, which they achieved by using hard contrast, brighter colors, and very simple icons for patients with lower visibility, Hsiao says.
CEO Dougherty continues to meet with speech language pathologists, nurses, and patients to better understand what they need from the product. He also develops relationships with potential investors and hunts for grants. Zoeller, the COO, deals with pricing and projects how much money they will need from investors to become profitable and in what areas they should spend their money. Chief technology officer Hsiao oversees the product’s infrastructure and technology.
This summer, the three quit their jobs as web developers and software engineers to focus full-time on their business. They had plenty of encouragement – Verbal Care was selected both for the School of Management’s 2013 ITEC New Venture Competition, taking the People’s Choice Award, and the MassChallenge, an annual $1 million global accelerator program, two start-up camps where they could get excellent advice from experienced mentors. And while that advice is certainly helpful, Dougherty says, one of the most important lessons was learned while he was still a student.
“You have to be able to totally burn what you have and start over,” says Dougherty, who also founded the popular campus nonprofit Project Mailbox. “We’ve done Verbal over maybe four times. Every time it’s like a phoenix, where it crumbles to ashes and then rises out of the flames. I think there’s a lot to learn from that, and that’s the benefit of being a younger entrepreneur.”
The latest version of Verbal Care will be launched in the iTunes store on August 12. Users can e-mail the company for more information.
-Amy Laskowski, BU Today
San Francisco, CA – After advancing to the US Finals in the Imagine Cup, Boston University students, Brad Berk, Nick Lippis, Patrick Maruska, and Robins Patel (all ECE ’13), won the SkyDrive Boost Award for their innovative software system.
The students make up the team, Pitch, and are aiming to make sharing files easier and more applicable to daily situations. Their product uses Windows 8 and a Windows Azure backend server in order to create a secure account that makes accessing any type of document manageable.
Team Pitch has been formulating this idea over the last year as part of their senior design project, a requirement for Electrical & Computer Engineering seniors. On May 6, the students presented their software system at ECE Day and were awarded with the Entrepreneurial Award.
The SkyDrive Boost Award
The SkyDrive Boost Award was given on May 13, 2013, at the U.S. Finals. Pitch was one of the ten teams that won $1,000. The team members will use the money to help launch their start-up. The award was given to United States finalists who utilized the SkyDrive API in a meaningful way into their projects. The SkyDrive API’s common tasks include viewing, editing, creating, and sharing photo albums.
About Imagine Cup
Since 2003, the Microsoft Imagine Cup has challenged students from more than 190 countries to submit ideas that solve the tough societal problems we face today. Each step of the way, students have the opportunity to make friends and win cash, grants, and prizes.
-Chelsea Hermond (SMG ’15)
Recently in the Photonics Center, passersby were met with a curious sight on the ninth floor. In a small setup resembling a couple of grocery store shelves, a robot, aptly named ShopBot, was picking out items from a grocery list.
Designed by seniors Jeffrey Chang, John-Nicholas Furst, Ngozi Nwogwugwu, Gurwinder Singh, and Hei Po Yiu, the Grocery Shopping Robot was one of 17 senior design projects on display as part of Boston University’s Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering’s annual ECE Day.
“We wanted to come up with a cheap, automated way to find groceries in a store,” said Singh during their presentation. Their robot uses a pathfinding algorithm to take the shortest path possible and scans barcodes to find its items.
Singh was one of 74 students showing the results of two semesters of work to faculty, friends, parents, and guests on May 6. Additionally, three seniors opted to write an honors thesis and presented their posters during the event.
The projects, one of the last requirements for seniors before they earn their undergraduate degree, allow students to design a prototype, electronic device or software system. Teams work with real world customers that include BU professors and companies like Microsoft and Bell Labs – Alcatel-Lucent.
“This year’s senior design class has been one of the very best,” said Associate Professor of the Practice Alan Pisano (ECE), the senior design advisor. “I have enjoyed working with such a talented and dedicated group.”
This year’s projects ranged from a deshredder, designed to test if shredding is secure with today’s computing techniques, to an application that would allow professors to more easily track how a student is performing using BU’s education software, Blackboard.
Six alumni who previously completed senior design projects, David Lancia (ECE ’02, MS ’04), Craig LaBoda (ECE ’11), David Mabius (ECE ’07, MS ’09), Mike Kasparian (ECE ’12), Aaron Ganick (ECE ’10), and Bradley Rufleth (ECE ’04), returned to their alma mater in the roles of judges.
Said Pisano: “The ECE Day judges told me that the job of selecting the winners was most difficult this year because of all of the excellent projects, and they wished we had more awards to give.”
After much deliberation, the judges awarded Calibration Device for Microarray Slides the top prize, the P. T. Hsu Memorial Award for Outstanding Senior Design Project. Sasha Gazman, Ryan Lagoy, Allison Marn, and Jyotsna Singh worked with Professor Selim Ünlü (ECE, BME) to develop a system for detecting target proteins, allergens, and diseases on microarray slides.
“Our system improves upon the accuracy of fluorescence based testing and is compact, portable, and user-friendly,” Singh said during her team’s presentation.
“Overall, we’re increasing the accuracy of diagnostics,” added Lagoy, who also was awarded the Michael F. Ruane Award for Excellence in Senior Capstone Design.
In a show of solidarity, the graduate students in Ünlü’s Optical Characterization and Nanophotonics Laboratory turned out to support the undergraduates during their team presentation.
The day centered around the seniors’ accomplishments, but two teachers were awarded as well. David Castañón, ECE professor and department chair, presented Ari Trachtenberg with the ECE Award for Excellence in Teaching and Molly Crane was named the GTF of the Year.
Other awards at this year’s ECE Day included:
Center for Space Physics Undergraduate Research Award
Senior Honors Thesis Award
Beat Wave Generation and Interactions with Space Plasmas at Gakona, Alaska: Lisa A. Rooker
Pitch: Brad Berk, Nick Lippis, Patrick Maruska, and Robins Patel
Design Excellence Awards
Choreographed LED Artwork: Chris Davis, Mike Gurr, Chris Hall, Matt Lee, and Kevin Meyer
Automated DNA Assembly Platform for Bioengineering: Alejandro Pelaez Lechuga and Janoo Fernandes
-Rachel Harrington (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Microsoft today announced the 13 teams who are advancing to the 11th annual Imagine Cup U.S. Finals, the world’s premier student technology competition, honoring student technology innovations that address the world’s toughest problems. The U.S. Finals Demo Day will take place on May 13 in Silicon Valley and will be streamed live on the U.S. Imagine Cup Facebook page.
The list of finalists include:
Lost Spectrum, University of Houston/ University of Texas
Chroma Tales: The team developed a fast-paced 2D action game on Windows Phone 8 where each level lasts approximately five seconds. Each player’s mission is to restore color to the world.
Kinect PT, University of Virginia
Vitrunetics: The team built an application that allows doctors to administer and receive real-time feedback on physical therapy exercises that are performed by patients at home using Microsoft’s Xbox with Kinect.
CitySafe, DePauw University
WeAssist: The team developed a Windows Phone 8 app that allows a user to share their location and share a message in an emergency. WeAssist also has an optional location tracking service called WeFind, which runs in the background and uploads the user’s location history to the cloud.
Team Defenstrate, California State University – Los Angeles
Slash Admin: The team developed an Internet themed RTS game, where some of the key features include being able to play a consistent game save across multiple platforms including smartphones, tablets, and PCs.
Team SwagFace, Rice University
FaceFun: The team developed an innovative facial recognition game for Windows Phone 8, where players mimic amusing, famous and funny faces using their smartphone and win points.
Team Poli`ahu, University of Hawaii at Hilo
Help Me Help: The team developed an application that aides the community in times of need by utilizing the smartphone’s camera and location capabilities to get images and locations of hazards as they are introduced.
iFall, Florida State University
Ryder Fall Response: The team developed an application for Windows Phone 8 that monitors if someone has fallen and notifies a pre-identified contact in the event of an emergency.
The Miracle Workers, Harvard University/ Winona State University
Cloud Monitor: The team developed a baby monitor app for Windows Phone 8 that tracks respiration, heartbeat and body movement of an infant. In case of an emergency, the application sends an alert to parents on their smartphone. Parents are also able to check the live streaming of baby’s vital signs on their phone.
Pitch, Boston University
Pitch: Using Windows 8 and a Windows Azure backend server, the team created an account-less yet secure system for creating meetings, in which documents of any file type can be quickly and easily shared with all meeting members.
Gigaloth, University of Colorado
Produce Wars: The team developed an “Angry Birds” style physics game evolved with dynamic platform and puzzle elements for young children.
Project SAM, University of Chicago
Project SAM: The team developed a mobile application that streamlines a health clinic’s inventory and provides real-time updates to suppliers via text.
Verbatim Signers, University of Arkansas
Word of Hand Project: The team developed a project using Kinect to interpret American Sign Language. The user simply signs in front of the Kinect, and the application translates it into both written and spoken text, thus bridging the gap between the hearing and the deaf.
Skyline Studios, University of Houston
Zipline Hero: The team developed a puzzle-action platform game where the player uses the touch screen input to rescue animals.
To advance, students ages 16 and older competed in three major competition categories, including:
- Games – Using Microsoft’s gaming platforms such as Windows PC (PC or touchscreen), Windows Phone, Xbox, Indie Games, or Kinect SDK students are tasked with creating a new game, changing a current genre or developing a new visual style of game.
- Innovation – Reinvent social networks, transform online shopping, experience music in a new way or do something amazing with GPS. In this category, students are tasked with using their skills and creativity to design a totally new app experience.
- World Citizenship – Students have the opportunity to create an app that will help solve global challenges, such as reducing world hunger, providing better treatment for diseases, raising awareness of environmental issues or providing better access to education.
A top team will be selected to represent the U.S. at the Worldwide finals in St. Petersburg, Russia July 8-11, 2013.
As a key program of Microsoft YouthSpark, Imagine Cup inspires students to tackle software development projects using Microsoft’s tools and platforms from the initial brainstorming phase through final release and beyond, transforming them from passive consumers of technology to skilled creators. Imagine Cup uses the thrill of competition to drive students to develop new skills, test themselves in new ways, lead multidisciplinary teams and take command of their future careers.
The future is now, which makes for the perfect time for students to start turning their dreams into realities. Please visit Microsoft’s Imagine Cup website for more information on the competition.
Keep up with live updates from the Imagine Cup 2013 U.S. Finals!
Imagine Cup will be providing live coverage from the U.S. Finals Demo Day on May 13 in Silicon Valley, Calif., through its social channels! Keep up on Twitter @MsTechStudent and Facebook for live updates and watch the official hashtag #ICUSFinals for additional coverage.
Article courtesy of Imagine Cup
Fenway Park is one of New England’s most popular destinations, especially in the summer. Unfortunately, many ticketholders that drive into Boston to see their beloved Red Sox have to contend with traffic and finding a place to park.
These aggravations are just some of the annoyances fans put up with to see baseball in Beantown, but there’s a company that can help with at least one of those problems.
ParkWhiz, founded by Aashish Dalal and Jon Thornton (ECE ’06) as a result of their own ballpark experiences, allows users to find available parking and reserve a space before they reach their destination. The technology even allows drivers to compare prices, location and amenities of the spaces.
“It’s incredibly gratifying to work on something that hundreds of thousands of people use to make their lives easier,” said Thornton. “Trying to build software that makes all of our customers happy can be a challenge, but it’s never boring, and that’s the best part about my job.”
In a way, ParkWhiz actually stemmed from Thornton’s senior design project at Boston University. He and his research team worked with Professor Thomas Little (ECE) who had written a research paper about designing a parking system based on sensor networks. The students’ job was to implement a design that would allow drivers to locate a parking space in a garage or at a meter and make a reservation.
“Jon had a key role in developing software to essentially move sensor data into the cloud by enabling parking spot vacancy sensors to communicate occupancy data to wireless gateways that collected information on parking availability,” Little recalled.
In the meantime, Dalal, who had been working on a business plan for a parking technology company, had come across Little’s research paper. Dalal reached out to the professor who then introduced Thornton to his future business partner. Thornton was prepared to start at New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program in Fall 2006 but decided to work on ParkWhiz over the summer.
“Once NYU sent the first tuition bill in September, I decided I could get a much cheaper education by seeing where ParkWhiz went,” said Thornton.
The company grew slowly at first. For the first five years, the company was just Dalal and Thornton, who both took other jobs to support themselves. By their third year working on ParkWhiz, they were able to pay themselves a small salary and by the fourth year, the company really took off, and Dalal and Thornton were able to hire their first employee.
“Since then, we’ve hired 16 more in a little over a year,” said Thornton.
Today ParkWhiz, which is based in Chicago, can support parking requests near Madison Square Garden, Wrigley Field, and LAX Airport, to name a few. They have been the catalyst behind more than $10 million in parking revenue, have access to over three million parking spaces, and secured partnerships with StubHub, the Indianapolis Colts, and US Airways Center. The company also recently received $2 million in funding from Hyde Park Venture Partners, which will allow it to expand its team and accelerate its growth.
“This financing allows us to realize our next stage of growth, beginning with the hiring of 20 additional employees,” Dalal said in a press release.
As Parkwhiz continues to grow, Thornton continues to be grateful for his alma mater, not just because BU was where he met his cofounder but also because of the education he received. Professors Little and Min-Chang Lee were among those who pushed him to become a better student and excel in more difficult subjects, like Introduction to Electronics and Electrodynamics.
“What impressed me was not only his intelligence and diligence but also his attitude toward his studies,” said Lee. “He was very enthusiastic about learning these courses.”
Thornton said that his education at BU prepared him for both the research and business sides of his work.
“BU gave me exposure to people who were studying all sorts of different things – not just engineering,” said Thornton. “This helped prepare me for the business world where things don’t fit into neat buckets and gave me a large network to call on when I needed help.”
It’s safe to say that Thornton will continue to apply both his education and business know-how as ParkWhiz continues to grow in the years to come.
-Rachel Harrington (email@example.com)
In 2008, Professor Emeritus Theodore Morse (ECE), who was then the Director of Boston University’s Laboratory for Lightwave Technology, suffered a heart attack followed shortly by a stroke.
The experience was scary enough but then it was followed by some alarming side effects Morse wasn’t prepared for.
“I couldn’t speak a word nor was I able to write, and yet, my perceptions of the world were intact,” he said.
While Morse was in the hospital, he couldn’t convey even the simplest requests like needing food or worse – that he was in pain.
A new application made to work on iPads may change the experience for patients like Morse in the future. And the best part? It was created by his own students.
Designed by Nick Dougherty (ECE ’12), Eric Hsiao (ECE ’12), and Gregory Zoeller (ECE ’12), the app, Verbal, was Morse’s idea for a senior design project in 2011-12. Final research projects are an annual tradition in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE). The experience allows undergraduates to design and prototype a product, electronic device, or software system and present it in front of faculty, staff, students, and engineering professionals at the end of the spring semester.
Morse asked Dougherty, Hsiao, and Zoeller, along with their senior design teammates, Kenneth Zhong (ECE ’12) and Kholood Al Tabash (ECE ’12), to come up with a design that would allow patients, caregivers, and nurses to communicate with each other even if there are speech or language barriers.
The team took initiative by shadowing nurses at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), speaking with information services and technology professionals, and meeting with stakeholders within the hospital. From their research, they released their first design: iMedix.
The app allowed patients who spoke different languages or suffered from speech disabilities to use features such as picture-based icons to better communicate their needs to nurses. With the click of a button, patients could let their nurses know that they needed water, wanted to use the bathroom or a number of other options.
“We knew from the first semester that we’d eventually want to turn [the iMedix project] into a business,” said Dougherty. “We thought of the project outside the context of senior design and treated it in a professional way.”
A panel of ECE alumni judges saw the potential of their work and awarded Team iMedix the Entrepreneurial Award. The students went on to take second place in the College of Engineering Societal Impact Capstone Project Awards, given to projects that are likely to have the biggest impact on society.
Dougherty, Hsiao, and Zoeller saw the potential of continuing their work, as did Zoeller’s mother, a nurse who said they’d be crazy not to keep pursuing the product. Now under the name Red Electric Consulting, they are working with Morse to bring their platform to market.
The task is not easy. By day, Dougherty and Zoeller work as web developers at Homesite, and Hsiao is a software engineer at Hubspot. If that isn’t enough, Dougherty also heads the non-profit, Project Mailbox. At night and on weekends though, their focus turns to Verbal.
“It helps that we’re all in Boston and have each other to bounce ideas off of,” said Hsiao.
“That was something that stemmed from senior design,” added Zoeller. “We definitely had late nights in college where we were collaborating and doing just that.”
In the meantime, familiar faces in ECE like senior design project advisor, Associate Professor of the Practice Alan Pisano (ECE), and Morse have offered their help and guidance.
Currently, Morse is assisting in the grant application process which could help make Verbal a commercially viable product. He will serve as Principal Investigator on Red Electric’s National Institute of Health Small Business Innovative Research grant, slated to begin in August if awarded, that includes the Massachusetts General Hospital as a partner. Morse and Red Electric have even obtained a letter of support for the grant and product from Massachusetts Senator John Kerry. With the Senator’s support, the Verbal team is working toward a partnership with the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs to establish communications solutions for veterans suffering from brain injuries or speech impediments.
Along with Dougherty, Morse also plans to present the project to Lifespan, a healthcare company in Rhode Island, later this year.
“Professor Morse has been such a strong supporter of this project,” said Dougherty. “He takes notes and observes at the hospital, finds great sources for us to speak with and has served as a mentor.”
Five years since his own hospital stay, Morse’s speech has improved thanks to two years of therapy and fortunately, the stroke didn’t affect his mobility. Still, he remembers his experience vividly and is excited to see his students creating an app that would prevent others from going through what he had to.
“I am pleased beyond belief with the work these alumni are doing,” he said. “This app would have been superbly helpful if it existed when I was in the hospital.”
Right now, the application is being used at Massachusetts General Hospital and specifically, in their Respiratory Acute Care Unit where patients are sometimes unable to speak.
“Eventually we would like to test this out in other hospitals, too, but we think proving its effectiveness at MGH holds a lot of weight,” said Zoeller.
“Nurses and patients have really been our greatest advocates so far,” added Dougherty. “It helps us to know that what we’ve designed is really meaningful.”
Since graduating, Dougherty, Hsiao and Zoeller have worked to design a product that reflects what hospitals really need and are building upon the customizability of their app. Patients can now write specific requests while nurses can add new input fields. The app also has the ability to prioritize the requests of patients based upon their needs and urgency.
“We’ve been able to use much of this feedback to really refine the user experience,” said Hsiao.
Eventually, the alumni would like to see their app used not only in hospitals but also in homes and senior centers.
“Our ultimate goal is to improve patient care,” said Dougherty. “By improving nurse efficiency and cutting back on hospital costs, we hope our app can provide the means to do just that.”
Based on the positive responses so far from patients, nurses, doctors, administrators, and even a U.S. senator, it looks like Verbal is headed in the right direction.
-Rachel Harrington (firstname.lastname@example.org)
According to a recent report in The Boston Globe, 3,300 computer engineering and Web developer positions have been added to Massachusetts since the beginning of 2012 – 50 percent more than just a year ago.
Reporter, Michael B. Farrell, credits the jump to an influx in hiring at software companies like Akamai Technologies Inc.
“Even though the state’s unemployment rate rose slightly to 6.1 percent in July, with employers from all sectors adding just 1,600 jobs – much lower than the monthly average of 9,500 earlier this year – many technology companies can’t hire software engineers fast enough,” Farrell writes.
Associate Professor Ari Trachtenberg (ECE) said that he has noticed that more of Boston University’s Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering students are finding positions right out of college.
“I definitely think that our students are in hot demand,” he said. “Though our better students have always found high quality jobs, I have noticed that even students with blemishes on their transcripts are able to find good jobs in the current market.”
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that currently in Massachusetts, there are approximately 65,000 computer systems design jobs. Some of the students filling the recent openings were BU’s Computer Engineering (CE) graduates.
Since May, 78% of the CE Class of 2012 have found jobs, with many staying in Massachusetts, while the remaining 22% are either attending graduate school or serving in the military.
Peter Galvin (ECE ’12), who found a software engineer position at Kiva Systems shortly after Commencement, said that while he is happy that software developers are in high demand, he hopes this news doesn’t draw students to the program that are only motivated by job prospects.
“I think passionate applicants who are good at what they do, be it circuit design or something like writing robotic control software in my case, are going to do well in industry regardless of the state of opportunity,” he said.
The Boston Globe: “Competition fierce in Mass. for software talent”
-Rachel Harrington (email@example.com)
ENG Community Celebrates Program’s Rigors and Rewards at 59th Commencement
Reflections on years of hard work, aspirations to better the world, and a vibrant community spirit predominated at the College of Engineering’s 59th annual Commencement. Held on May 20 at the Track & Tennis Center, the event celebrated the accomplishments of 39 master of engineering, 177 master of science and 289 bachelor of science candidates.
In his opening remarks, Dean Kenneth R. Lutchen congratulated graduating seniors for completing “unquestionably the most difficult undergraduate degree program at Boston University” and urged them to continue taking on hard challenges to positively transform society. Quoting Tom Hanks’ character in A League of Their Own, he said “’It’s supposed to be hard. The hard is what makes it great. If it wasn’t hard, anyone could do it,’” and then added, “Anyone can’t do it; you can.”
Lutchen invoked a moment of silence to remember three outstanding BU students, Austin Brashears (ME ’13), Roch Jauberty (CAS ’14), and Daniela Lekhno (SMG ’13), who died a week earlier when a van they were traveling in overturned on its way to a popular New Zealand tourist destination.
“The university lost some spectacular individuals; the College of Engineering lost one of the most incredible students that this College has ever had,” said Lutchen. “He was totally devoted to enhancing the College of Engineering experience for all the other students and to a life of impacting society with his engineering background.”
In a talk centered on service to fellow students and the world at large, undergraduate student speaker Yasmin M. Atefi (ME) stressed how the College’s strong sense of community enabled her and her fellow graduates to meet the many academic and other challenges they faced over the past four years.
“You’ve gone through the hard work. You’re about to receive your engineering degree and that puts you in a unique position to make the world we live in a better place,” said Atefi, adding, “Remember, you will not change the world alone; rely on your support networks to pull you through, just as you did in your senior projects.”
Recounting the rigors and rewards of the College of Engineering program in between bites of vegetables and dip during a lively reception for students and their guests preceding the Commencement ceremony, graduating seniors frequently described their past four years and future plans in “we” language indicative of a strong identification with the Engineering Class of 2012 community.
“It’s really nice to see all the hard work we put in come to fruition,” said Benjamin Duong (CE), who, among other things, learned “how to work well with people, how to keep trying different angles to solve a problem when your first approach doesn’t work, and how to manage time” while at the College. Duong plans to return to BU this fall to pursue a Master of Engineering in Computer Engineering degree after a summer internship with VMware, a global leader in cloud computing.
“We all worked really hard for this,” said Lisa Cervia (BME), who intends to focus on cancer research this fall as a PhD student at Duke University. “It’s a very good feeling.”
Inspired by the College’s emphasis on the Societal Engineer, Cervia devoted countless hours to her studies, including a senior project that improved a low-cost, portable, battery-operated, optical device that could be used to rapidly and non-invasively diagnose cancer in developing countries.
The Commencement speaker, Dr. Norman Augustine, a leading architect of the space program and a former CEO of Lockheed Martin, explored how students could build on their undergraduate experience to impact society.
“The education each of you has received has prepared you not only to survive in this changing world but also to serve and to shape it,” said Augustine, who received an honorary doctorate at the BU Commencement earlier in the day. “Yet shaping the world will require more than simply the world-class education you’ve received.”
Toward that end, he advised graduates to maintain a good reputation, pursue work that motivates them, seize opportunities as they present themselves, focus on current responsibilities rather than obsess about getting ahead, engage in selfless pursuits and lifelong learning, set big goals and take calculated risks.
Before presenting a diploma to each graduate, Lutchen announced several student awards for academic excellence and service, including the first-ever Societal Impact Capstone Project Awards, which recognized three projects deemed likely to have the biggest impact on society. Caitlin M. Monahan and Dayana Rojas (BME) won first place for “Robust Dissolution System for the Detection of Counterfeit Drugs in Resource-Limited Settings;” Kholood Al Tabash, Donald N. Dougherty, Eric A. Hsiao, Kenneth Zhong and Gregory A. Zoeller (ECE) won second place for iMedix—Patient-Nurse Communciation System;” and Rachel N. Deraney, Kaitlin C. Gargiulo and Chelsea Saniel (BME) won third place for “System for Nucleic Acid Preparation for TB Diagnostics (SNAP-TB).”
Lutchen also announced the Department Awards for Teaching Excellence: Professor H. Steven Colburn (BME); Assistant Professor Douglas Densmore (ECE); and Lecturer Caleb Farny (ME). The Outstanding Professor of the Year Award was presented to Professor Mark Horenstein (ECE) and the Faculty Service Award went to Associate Professor Hua Wang (ME, MSE).
On May 4, the ninth floor of Boston University’s Photonics Center was transformed as Electrical & Computer Engineering students displayed their end-of-the-year projects – designs that included a tracking program that follows a speaker’s movements during a lecture, an iPad application designed to improve hospital efficiency, and even a ping pong ball retriever.
The projects may be challenging in scope, but that didn’t stop ECE seniors from tackling the research and developing real-life solutions to engineering problems.
On ECE Day, 59 seniors finally had a chance to show off their senior design projects or honors theses – the result of two semesters of work.
Fifty-five of those students made up 12 teams that worked to design and prototype a product, electronic device, or software system. They worked with customers ranging from industry figures to faculty in an effort to improve everything from solar panel functionality to UAV collision avoidance.
The four remaining seniors wrote honors theses about topics ranging from geosensing to human-computer interfaces.
“The students’ accomplishments surpassed even my expectations this year,” said Professor Alan Pisano (ECE), the senior design advisor. “Their hard work and diligence – including several ‘all-nighters’ in the Senior Design Lab – really paid off in producing some of the best projects in recent years. I am very proud of this year’s class.”
Five alumni judges – Bradley Rufleth, Chris Maloof, David Mabius, Francine Lalooses, and David Lancia – returned to their alma mater to watch the seniors present and weigh in on their final designs. Ultimately, they selected System for Sensing Neural Response, also known as Team MINSensory, as the winner of the top prize, the P. T. Hsu Memorial Award for Outstanding Senior Design Project. Benjamin Duong, Nima Haghighi-Mood, Michael Kasparian, and Parth P. Patel (BME), members of the winning team, worked with Professor Ronald Knepper (ECE) to develop a system that senses neural responses.
“If neuroscientists are going to be using our product, we have to make something that’s helpful for them,” said Kasparian.
The team decided to design a complete interface suite that allows for real-time collection, analysis, and visualization of neural signals.
“A suite for collecting and visualizing this kind of data did not exist prior to this project,” explained Duong.
Ultimately, the MINSensory design will provide researchers with unprecedented control and depth in their neural experiments and also help expand neural research.
The day largely focused on the seniors’ accomplishments, but two teachers were awarded as well. David Castañón, ECE professor and department chair, presented Douglas Densmore with the ECE Award for Excellence in Teaching and John Gancarz was named the GTF of the Year.
Other awards announced at this year’s ECE Day included:
Michael F. Ruane Award for Excellence in Senior Capstone Design
Senior Honors Thesis Award
Automated Detection of Colon Pre-Cancer Based on in vivo Endomicroscopy Images: Evgeni Aizenberg
iMedix Patient-Nurse Communication System: Kholood Al Tabash, Donald Dougherty, Eric Hsiao, Kenneth Zhong, and Gregory Zoeller
Design Excellence Awards
Self-Cleaning Solar Panels: Alex Chan, Sarah Griesse-Nascimento, Kshitiz Kohli, Syed Naufal Bin Veqar and Christopher Petrik
Sailboat Bailer: Andrew Francis, Srilalitha Kumaresan, Henry Lok, Mason Tan, and Alexander Whittemore
-Rachel Harrington (firstname.lastname@example.org)