Category: Undergraduate Programs
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 (email@example.com)
Before the Singh Imagineering Lab was launched in October 2011, Dean Kenneth R. Lutchen envisioned the facility as a place where College of Engineering students could cultivate their entrepreneurial spirit and develop as Societal Engineers who apply their expertise to advance our quality of life. Since the Lab’s opening, more and more undergraduates have taken advantage of its tools and machinery to pursue their own ideas on how to do just that — including nine who vied for top prizes in the College’s second annual Imagineering Competition, held April 16 and 23 at Ingalls Engineering Resource Center.
Facing a panel of five judges — Associate Dean for Administration Richard Lally, Associate Dean for Educational Initiatives/Professor Thomas Little (ECE, SE), Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs/Professor Solomon Eisenberg (BME), Engineering Product Innovation Center Director/Professor of Practice Gerry Fine (ME, MSE), and last year’s first prize winner, David A. Harris (ME ’15)—across an oblong conference table, the competitors described, demonstrated and defended seven projects that they developed in the Imagineering Lab and other on-campus facilities. The judges assessed each project for originality, ingenuity and creativity; quality of design and prototype; functionality; and potential to positively impact society.
Biking, 21st-Century Style
The project that wowed the judges the most and garnered the competition’s $2,500 first prize was Smart Bike, a bicycle that Konstantinos Oikonomopoulos (ME ’14) and Lanke A. Fu (ME ’14) enhanced to automatically shift gears in response to changing terrain and road conditions, such as hills and traffic lights.
To provide that capability, they developed an automatic transmission device that’s attached to the rear wheel along with a set of sensors measuring torque (turning force), cadence (peddling rate) and speed, and microcontrollers that adjust gears to keep each of these three factors steady. The gearing can change both manually and electronically via custom designed gear shifter.
“Given the platform’s ability to collect data as well as electronically adjust the gearing with the addition of microcontrollers, the bicycle can become a self-regulating system,” said Oikonomopoulos. “By making the biking experience more pleasant, technologically enhanced and ‘care free,’ we believe that more people will view biking as a modern means of transportation.”
In addition to adding new appeal to an alternative, non-polluting mode of transportation, the Smart Bike may be used as a means of outpatient rehabilitation for people recovering from leg injuries; by regulating the amount of torque on the crank set, the bicycle can reduce strain on riders’ legs.
Fu and Oikonomopoulos — who won second prize last year for his highly-accurate, affordable, easy-to-assemble desktop 3D printer — developed the Smart Bike using workspace and tools in the Imagineering Lab and 3D-printed parts from Mechanical Engineering Department labs.
“It’s like a gym bike that is used for real-life bike riding,” said Lanke, who sees fitness riders, rehab patients and commuters as its most likely customers.
“They started with an interesting premise — an exercise bike you could program with a certain setting and take out on the street and achieve that setting — and they solved a lot of mechanical, electrical, control system and software problems,” said Little. “It was a thorough, end-to-end design, and they built it and demonstrated it by getting on the bike in the presentation.”
Smarter Medicine Cabinets and Alarm Clocks
The second prize winners, John Aleman (ME ’14) and Benjamin Corman (EE ’14), received $1,500 for their project, Roommate Friendly Alarm Clock, which they designed to wake up and keep awake only one person in a room at a set time by shining a concentrated beam of high-brightness LEDs at the user’s face and an under-pillow motor that vibrates the bed.
“I’m a heavy sleeper, so the motor worked for me,” said Corman. “But I’m also a snooze button person, and the light helped me get out of bed.”
Two entries, Can of Corn and Smart Medicine Cabinet, tied for third place, splitting the $1,000 prize.
Can of Corn, developed by Yingming Wang (EE ’13), Ajith Prasad (SMG ’13) and Lalitha Kumaresan (EE ’13), couples electronics — LEDs, a photoresistor and microcontroller — with conventional bug traps to automate the counting of corn borers, which have caused massive crop damage in recent years in China. When counts spike at the start of mating season, farms are sprayed with an environmentally benign pheromone to kill the borers.
Designed by Benjamin Graham (ME ’16), Smart Medicine Cabinet upgrades the traditional medicine cabinet by exploiting built-in electronic sensors and Internet connectivity to make taking medicine and monitoring and ordering prescriptions simple and stress-free, particularly for seniors.
Other entries included a system to manufacture arrays of microneedles for faster, painless diagnostic blood tests; an electronic go-cart; and a MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) controller.
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.
Student Group Develops Software to Address Societal Challenges
A modest College of Engineering workshop that built mobile apps for community service organizations last summer has mushroomed into a vibrant BU-wide student organization that is enhancing communication between pediatric emergency staff and families in New York, enabling collaboration between hundreds of technology trainers, and has its sights set on a massive global project to convert landfill waste into energy.
Last August the College of Engineering ran a five-day residential workshop called Clean App Your Neighborhood, in which 30 undergraduates and recent graduates from across the country designed and built mobile apps to boost the productivity of volunteers for five community service organizations seeking to improve access to healthcare, education, nutrition and other critical resources. Supported by BU faculty and industry experts, the participants assessed each organization’s needs, developed a project plan and initial concept design, produced a rapid prototype of its app, and solicited feedback from organizational representatives.
Eager for a year-round version of the highly successful workshop, five College of Engineering undergraduates took the logical next step: they formed a student organization, the Global App Initiative (GAI), where undergraduates across BU could learn how to design and build mobile apps while addressing the needs of community service organizations. Since its founding last September, GAI has grown to more than 100 members, produced several apps for volunteer-driven organizations recruited by GAI and recently began to field requests from app-seeking organizations around the world.
That includes Sustainable Waste Resources International (SWRI), a new nonprofit that plans to recruit 10,000 volunteers (mostly students) around the world to collect and share data about 100,000 landfills that could vastly improve the quality of the environment and public health for 1 billion people in developing countries. Starting with data provided by Esri, a satellite mapping technology company, SWRI aims to equip volunteers with up to three apps to help them identify landfill sites where waste recovery and conversion businesses could profitably transform garbage into recycled materials, fuel or energy.
That’s where GAI comes in. On April 19 from 10 a.m. to noon in Photonics 206, the club will host a seminar on the SWRI effort, known as the Waste to Worth project, to launch the project and invite BU students to participate starting in September. Featuring the CEO of SWRI and a senior program leader at Esri, the seminar will explore how Geographical Information Systems (GIS) mapping and ground-based information collected by volunteers can be used to improve the lives of people in resource-limited countries, and how GAI members can be part of the solution.
Working in teams, the club has already developed apps to solve problems for four community service organizations, from Harlem Hospital’s pediatric emergency department to the World Computer Exchange, which provides refurbished computers and technical training to youth in developing countries. The Harlem Hospital team’s app provides simple, clear and concise instructions to parents with educational and language challenges so they can respond more effectively to children with asthma, sickle cell anemia and other illnesses. The World Computer Exchange team’s app is designed to help the organization’s 800 volunteers collaborate with one another to improve their effectiveness as technology trainers.
“The work offers a lot of freedom of expression and team interaction, and provides a great opportunity to make a real difference,” said Habib Khan (ECE ’14), president of GAI. “While you have the time as a student, why not give back to the world?”
Supported by funding from the Kern Family Foundation and ongoing training sessions from BU and industry professionals, the club meets at 111 Cummington Mall in a classroom and computer lab provided by the Computer Science Department where members learn about, design, develop and publish iPhone, iPad and Android-based, open-source apps that any organization may use. Today about 80 core members participate in one of four teams composed of students from ENG, CAS, CFA and SMG. Each team has a leader, communications director, lead developer and lead graphic designer.
“What we started as a co-curricular initiative has now morphed into a popular campus-wide extracurricular activity that allows undergraduate students to apply their emerging technical, communication, artistic, management and other skills directly to respond to the needs of communities worldwide through the development of apps that support volunteer programs,” said Jonathan Rosen, director of Technology Innovation Programs for the College of Engineering and faculty advisor for GAI. “It also reflects the College’s commitment to educating students to become Societal Engineers who apply what they learn to solve challenging problems faced by communities and the world-at-large.”
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
New Venture Competition Finalists
Congratulations to the 6 teams selected to progress to the Finals Competition on Thursday, April 4!
Meet Our Finalists:
Aeolus Building Efficiency provides software-based optimization of airflow in large commercial office buildings. Our approach enables calibration of airflow rates on a room-by-room basis without the need for labor-intensive manual measurements. We have developed a scalable business model that creates significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and energy use. The team includes: David Cushman, GSM ’14, Jonathan Ellermann, GSM ’13, Benjamin Smith, GSM ’13, Ryan Cruz ENG ’13, Laura Kamfonik, ENG ’13, Michael Gevelber and Donald Wroblewski.
Cellanyx Diagnostics combines nanomedicine and predictive diagnostics to improve outcomes for prostate cancer patients and to deliver personalized diagnostic solutions. Cellanyx has invented proprietary matrix biology, microfluidics and nonmedicine to address an unmet need by providing a quantitative live-cell in vitro diagnostic service to physicians and hospitals. The team includes: Kevin Yu, ENG ’10, Brad Hogan, GRS ’13 and Jonathan Varsanik.
NineBrain is an online platform that incentivizes market-to-innovator driven dialogues for connecting need-sharing medical practitioners, with need-seeking research institutions, to create fast-adopting, market-desired technologies. NineBrain’s unique gamification model, along with proprietary algorithms for generating market analytics and archiving intellectual contribution incentivizes frequent user engagement. This creates a highly specialized and engaged community for rapid innovation development. The team includes: Arun Rai, MED ’14 and Ruby Kandah.
Read Ahead increases parent involvement in education by addressing the challenges of language, time and familiarity with education content. This web application allows teachers to push course concept notifications from the classroom to the home in the parents’ preferred language and track engagement analytics. The team includes: Matt Uvena, GSM ’14 and Kirk Hlavka, GSM ’14.
ScanKart is a Quick Response (QR Code) sales and marketing platform that helps businesses increase product sales and revenue. Our unique QR codes are integrated with leading payment gateways (Visa, MasterCard, PayPal, etc.), such that when a smartphone user scans our QR code, they can now purchase a product of interest while on the go while businesses gain deep scan analytics for targeted marketing. The team includes: Kavita Mehta, SMG ’12, Gaurav Tanna, SMG ’13, Okeno Palmer and Gaurav Mehta.
Verbal is an iPad-based communication platform for patients who have difficulty interacting with their caregivers. Our multifunctional platform allows caregivers to easily interpret a patient’s requests, thereby saving the nurses time and improving the quality of patient care. The team includes: Nick Dougherty, ENG ’12, Eric Hsiao, ENG ’12 and Greg Zoeller, ENG ’12.
Article courtesy of the Boston University School of Management Institute for Technology Entrepreneurship & Commercialization
“The Verbal Advantage” – January 17, 2013
College to Develop Engineering Product Innovation Center
Recognizing the value of experiential learning opportunities in keeping engineering undergraduates engaged and in preparing them to transform concepts into innovative products and technologies that move society forward, the College of Engineering has begun construction of the Engineering Product Innovation Center (EPIC). Slated for launch in the coming academic year, EPIC will serve as a resource to significantly increase the amount of design work in the undergraduate curriculum through stand-alone courses, enhancements to existing courses and opportunities to collaborate with fellow students, faculty and working engineers from a variety of disciplines.
“By doing this in an interdisciplinary way, we’ll have an opportunity to show our budding engineers how design is a common discipline that affects all fields,” said Thomas D.C. Little, associate dean for Educational Initiatives.
Occupying the former Guitar Center space on the first floor of 750 Commonwealth Avenue and a small portion of an adjacent commercial parking garage, EPIC will also provide an environment where both undergraduate and graduate students can develop the knowledge and skills needed in tomorrow’s manufacturing enterprises.
The center will include flexible, high-tech teaching spaces, demonstration areas, laboratories, design spaces and fabrication facilities – all in a reconfigurable layout. Students will have access to advanced machining tools, laser processing equipment, rapid 3-D printers, intelligent robotics and state-of-the-art software. Once EPIC goes live, they’ll learn how to create innovative new products in an integrated, holistic way that encompasses design, prototyping, fabrication, manufacturing and lifecycle management.
“We approach the construction of this facility with a belief that the reason students want to become engineers is that they like to build new things,” said EPIC Director and Professor of Practice Gerald Fine (ME, MSE). “We also believe that engineering design is an important part of engineering education and should be woven into the curriculum starting in the freshman year.”
EPIC’s work will be complemented by BU’s Fraunhofer Center for Manufacturing Innovation, which advances technological solutions for a wide range of industries. By training students to work with engineers, scientists and faculty on high-impact projects, EPIC will leverage CMI’s resources, including internship opportunities, to give students a running start when they join the workforce.
Just one idea proposed at Smarter Cities conference
As both an engineer and a motorist, Christos Cassandras (ECE, SE) feels the pain of drivers on Commonwealth Avenue. Although he usually leaves work after the evening rush has waned, he invariably hits a red light at the BU Bridge, even when there’s no traffic coming on the cross street. After that, it’s one red light after another along the avenue with its synchronized traffic lights—“just to make my life as miserable as possible.”
Wouldn’t it be nice if communicating “smart” lights could sense when there’s no oncoming traffic and wave you through, the College of Engineering professor mused to a packed house attending Wednesday’s Smarter Cities conference at the Photonics Center. That dream could be realized someday by the nascent technologies Boston and other cities are pioneering to collect, analyze, and act on data such as traffic counts, according to Cassandras and other speakers.
In fact, we already have a high-tech version of the old-fashioned parking garage. Cassandras said data shows motorists in major urban downtowns, including Boston’s, cruise an average of eight minutes in search of a parking space. BU has one garage linked to a “smart” parking system: motorists can check an app on their handheld devices to see if there’s an open space in the garage. (Reserving it, however, is one bug that still remains to be ironed out, Cassandras said.)
IBM bankrolled the conference as part of its Smarter Cities program, which supports data gathering to improve environmental, health, safety, and productivity initiatives in communities where company employees work and live. Lucy Hutyra, a College of Arts & Sciences assistant professor of earth and environment, is working with a grant from the IBM program to calculate better traffic counts in Boston and their related greenhouse gas emissions, which foster climate change.
Tag-teaming with Cassandras on his presentation to the assemblage of BU, IBM, and municipal leaders, Hutyra proposed creating a center or institute at the University to study and coordinate projects in environmental sustainability.
Boston has cut its greenhouse gas emissions to 7 percent below the 1990 levels, and Mayor Thomas Menino (Hon.’01) has targeted a reduction of 25 percent below that year’s levels over the next seven years. Statewide, Massachusetts hopes for a whopping 80 percent cut in emissions by 2050. The problem, Hutyra said in an interview, is that current emissions counts aren’t very good: they’re based on taking gas consumption and industrial activities and estimating average emissions resulting from each. Traffic counts are used occasionally as well, she said, although they aren’t conducted frequently enough to be of much value. She said that depending on who’s measuring, current emission estimates for Massachusetts can vary by as much as 40 percent.
“Nobody’s trying to cheat,” Hutyra said. It’s just that “we need better verification.” That could be achieved with laser spectroscopy technology that measures emission levels directly in the atmosphere; BU has such a sensor atop CAS measuring carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas. It’s part of a network of half a dozen sensors that BU and Harvard colleagues have established.
A center would enable government-corporate-academic partnerships, such as her Smarter Cities project, to “be more than one-offs—be something that is sustainable and something that can grow and evolve over time,” Hutyra said. She has discussed her idea for such a center with ENG Dean Kenneth Lutchen, another conference speaker, who expressed support in an interview.
“I think there’s a tremendous opportunity to create an integrated center or institute,” he said. “It would be a University-wide hub institute, which would have coalitions and partnerships with the private sector and government.” Budgeting such a center would require “a foundation or a company or a benefactor,” and “in order to make that work, you need one or more iconic, visionary faculty leaders to help coordinate it.
“The next step is to identify how the key stakeholders would like to integrate and work at a University hub institute or center,” Lutchen said, “and identify what should be the portion of it that the University has to ante up, both with some staff resources and faculty time, and what should be the contributions from external constituents such as companies, foundations, or perhaps government funding… I think we’re potentially a year or maybe two away from a major center.”
He noted that BU’s Sustainable Neighborhood Laboratory (SNL) already works with IBM, the city, and other businesses to make Boston “smarter.” For example, SNL and partners are working to collect and analyze data about energy use in Boston residential buildings and hotels to improve energy efficiency. One result: the Lenox Hotel recently installed energy-efficient windows, lighting, and insulation.
In another project, SNL is working with Roxbury’s Madison Park Development Corp., which operates more than 1,000 housing units for low-income Bostonians, to study energy use in those homes and how to make them more efficient.
-Rich Barlow, BU Today
In late January, eager faculty members and graduate students representing 28 research labs in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering waited
behind tables lined around the Photonics Building colloquium room.
They had come together for the third annual ECE Undergraduate Research and Lab Job Fair in hopes of finding undergraduate students to assist them in their research activities. The event is designed to help students get involved with engineering research.
Professor Mark Horenstein (ECE), who has organized the event since its inception, said that the fair meets the needs of the many undergraduates seeking a chance to gain research experience.
“We hold this function as a way to better engage our students and showcase the research that is going on in the department,” said Horenstein.
After Horenstein gave a brief introduction, students immediately began speaking with the available professors and submitting their resumes.
Patrick Williamson (BME ’16) was one of the event’s younger attendees.
“I am interested in a broad scope of areas, but I am more interested in research,” he said.
Williamson was one of many students hoping to sell his skills and find a research position in one of the department’s labs.
Providing research opportunities to undergraduates gives students some research background prior to graduate school. It also allows professors like Douglas Densmore (ECE) a chance to find students who can help him with his projects. “We need help in a variety of levels – from simple to complex,” he said.
Bessie Steinberg (ECE ’14) came to the fair in order to get a research-based part-time job. She expressed the desires that most students in the room felt: “I want to apply what I have learned in class.”
The event has been very successful over the last three years. This time, 84 students registered to attend the sold out event.
Horenstein’s goal is simple. The fair is designed, he said, “for students to walk away with an opportunity” as long as they are willing to contribute their skills and hard work.
-Chelsea Hermond (SMG ’15)
What does the future hold for the internet?
Henning Schulzrinne, a professor at Columbia University and the Chief Technology Officer of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), tried to answer that question in front of a packed room of students, faculty, and other members of the Boston University community on January 30. He started by explaining that the internet is here to stay.
“Civil infrastructures are part of what makes up a civilization, and they generally aren’t built over one generation,” said Schulzrinne. “The internet has now become one of our core infrastructures that society requires in order to operate.”
Schulzrinne visited BU’s Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering as part of the Distinguished Lecture Series. During his talk, he discussed where he sees the internet is going and the areas he felt engineers could have the greatest impact.
“Much of our more promising research will probably be in spectral efficiency,” said Schulzrinne.
Lately, news coverage often focuses on spectrum interference and shortages. A radio station, for example, broadcasts using spectrum to transfer communications signals. No two channels transmit over the same spectrum at an identical moment because that would result in interference.
The FCC is responsible for keeping track of who uses which portions of spectrum, and as the use of smartphones and tablets increases, so does the need for spectrum.
Schulzrinne said that one way the FCC is trying to solve this problem is by convincing television and radio stations to sell their unused spectrum for a portion of the proceeds.
“Incentive auctions benefit the current occupants by motivating them to voluntarily relocate their spectrum for an economic gain,” he said.
At the end of his lecture, Schulzrinne also made some predictions for 2023. In a decade, he said, computer protocols and applications will not have changed too drastically.
“Many technologies that we see in widespread use will still look familiar,” he said. “…We will, however, see increased complexity which will result in some serious security challenges.”
Schulzrinne said that while engineers will play a role in the internet’s future, they must be adaptable to working with those from other fields like politicians, lawmakers and economists.
“Networks including the internet are too important to be left just to engineers,” he said. “When working with others, we have to recognize their constraints and work within them when we’re called upon to help.”
-Rachel Harrington (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Schulzrinne’s talk was the first in the three-part Spring 2013 Distinguished Lecture Series. The next talk features Professor Kim L. Boyer, head of the Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering Department at Rensselaer Polytechnic University. He will speak on the topic, “Staring Into Your (Dry) Eyes: Monitoring the Pre-Lens Tear Film From Narrowband Interferometry.” Hear him on Wednesday, March 20, 2013, at 4 p.m. in PHO211.
When students think of studying engineering in college, problem sets, heavy textbooks and challenging midterms all come to mind.
During the fall semester, Boston University’s Assistant Professor Ayse Coskun (ECE) and Associate Professor Ari Trachtenberg (ECE) took a different approach to teaching by giving students a chance to design mobile games for their final projects.
At the end of their Introduction to Software Engineering course (EC327), Coskun and Trachtenberg asked students to design a marketable Android app.
“Students had to learn how to interface different software components, work in teams – which is often the case in the real world – and think about important aspects of their apps like the target audience, robustness and user interface,” said Coskun.
“One of the goals of this project was to make students think about how their application will actually be used, as use-considerations often have a significant influence on real engineering design decisions,” said Trachtenberg.
As part of the assignment, John Moore (ECE ’15) and his teammates designed an app based off of one of the earliest arcade games, Pong.
“This project really showed us how to apply the programming knowledge we’d already had,” he said. “It was great because we had a chance to build something from scratch.”
Students had about a month to complete the projects before in-class demonstrations. They worked in teams of four or five people.
Moore said that one of his favorite parts of the project was seeing the interesting ways his teammates would tackle a programming problem – ideas that were often different from his own.
“With this project, you really learned how to work on a team,” he said. “Group members couldn’t improve the app unless they understood how it was working so that forced us to communicate with each other constantly.”
Like Moore, the majority of students designed games for their final projects but some groups took a different approach. Patrick Crawford (ECE ’15) and his teammates created MorSMS, an app that converts text messages into Morse coded vibrations.
“I had a blast working on it,” he said. “Finding the best ways to create the app, for user interface as well as efficiency, is definitely an important skill we took away from this.”
These final projects were possible, in part, because of funding from the Kern Family Foundation. As a Kern Faculty Fellow, Trachtenberg is responsible for helping develop an entrepreneurial mindset among engineering students. Overall, he and Coskun were very pleased with their first results.
“We were impressed by the quality and functionality of the projects as well as the amount of creativity students put into them,” said Trachtenberg.
Their students also gained some insight into what working as an engineer might be like one day. Crawford said, “This was my first time in mobile development, and though it can be time-consuming and difficult to learn something as new as this, it’s well worth it.”
-Rachel Harrington (email@example.com)