Category: Undergraduate Student Opportunities

Giving Voice Where There Is None

August 8th, 2013 in Alumni, Awards, Faculty, News-CE, News-EP, News-ISS, Recognition, Research, Research-CE, Senior Design, Students, Undergraduate Programs, Undergraduate Student Opportunities, Undergraduate Students

ENG Alums’ iPad App Helps Speech-Challenged Communicate

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. Photo by Kelly Davidson.

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. Photo by Kelly Davidson.

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).

Caregivers can monitor a patient's request with the app. Photo courtesy of Verbal Care.

Caregivers can monitor a patient's request with the app. Photo courtesy of Verbal Care.

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.

Nick Dougherty (from left), Gregory Zoeller, and Eric Hsiao (all CE '12) founded Verbal Care, which was selected for both the School of Management's 2013 ITEC New Venture Competition and the MassChallenge. Photo by Kelly Davidson.

Nick Dougherty (from left), Gregory Zoeller, and Eric Hsiao (all CE '12) founded Verbal Care, which was selected for both the School of Management's 2013 ITEC New Venture Competition and the MassChallenge. Photo by Kelly Davidson.

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

Recruiting Tomorrow’s Women Scientists

July 31st, 2013 in Events, Faculty, Graduate Student Opportunities, Graduate Students, News-CE, News-EP, News-ISS, Students, Undergraduate Student Opportunities, Undergraduate Students

Summer Pathways opens doors for female high school students

Summer Pathways students Kristen Copley (left) and Jacquie Claveau hook up their visible light transceivers during a session with Tom Little, the associate director of the National Science Foundation Smart Lighting Engineering Research Center and a professor of electrical and computer engineering in the College of Engineering. Emily Lam (ENG '14) is on hand to help. Photos by Cydney Scott

Summer Pathways students Kristen Copley (left) and Jacquie Claveau hook up their visible light transceivers during a session with Tom Little, the associate director of the National Science Foundation Smart Lighting Engineering Research Center and a professor of electrical and computer engineering in the College of Engineering. Emily Lam (ENG '14) is on hand to help. Photos by Cydney Scott

Knowing that text messaging is teenagers’ preferred mode of communication, Tom Little capitalized on that recently to show how BU’s research into smart lighting technology could one day be used to send text messages and other data faster, cheaper, and more securely. His audience? A room full of 11th- and 12th-grade women from area high schools.

Little, the associate director of the National Science Foundation Smart Lighting Engineering Research Center and a professor of electrical and computer engineering in the College of Engineering, was leading one of the two dozen workshops taught during Summer Pathways, a week-long intensive program held at BU this month for 20 young women with an interest in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

“What you guys have done today is taken a bag of parts to create a transceiver used in optical wireless communications,” Little said, standing at the front of the classroom as the young women looked on. “Throughout this two-hour lab, you’ve created devices that cost very little to produce and make use of light waves instead of radio waves to enable digital transmission, like text messages.”

During their week on campus, the Summer Pathways students visited labs, heard talks from guest speakers, and had opportunities to interact with BU undergraduates, grad students, and faculty from numerous disciplines. Field trips included visits to the Broad Institute and Google’s offices in Kendall Square. The young women also received career and college admissions advice and got a taste of dorm life by living in Warren Towers. The week ended with the students delivering a presentation about what they’d learned to their families and friends.

Summer Pathways was cofounded six years ago by Cynthia Brossman, the founder and administrative director of BU’s Learning Resource Network (LERNet) and Elise Morgan, a College of Engineering associate professor of mechanical engineering and of biomedical engineering. The idea for the program evolved from two annual day-long events that had been in place from 1994 to 2003.

For Brossman – who recently received the John S. Perkins Distinguished Service Award for more than two decades of dedication to BU – Summer Pathways is one of the ways she encourages underrepresented students, especially women, to pursue careers in STEM fields. A 2011 report by the U.S. Department of Commerce found that while women fill nearly half of all jobs in the country, they hold fewer than 25 percent of jobs in STEM-related fields. That same report noted that women have seen no employment growth in STEM jobs since 2000. Currently, only one out of every seven engineers is a woman.

In addition to improving those statistics, Brossman hopes to push the young women who attend Summer Pathways into fields they didn’t even know existed by exposing them to areas of science and technology most high school students never get to experience. “Many times young women who come to Summer Pathways have an idea that they want to do something with science, but think the only way to do that is to become a medical doctor,” says Brossman. “We want to show them there are so many other fields out there that they can consider.”

RAMACHANDR

During the lesson with Little (above), the young women huddled in groups of two in a Photonics Center lab to create visible light transceivers. Starting with an empty printed circuit board, they soldered on components like LED lights, resistors, and a small photodiode, which would later enable the LED to pulse on and off rapidly—too fast for the human eye to see—to transmit information to, and receive it from, other enabled devices.

As they soldered the pieces onto the circuit boards, smoke plumes rose from their soldering irons. “I’ve seen people solder art and jewelry before, but never like this,” said 16-year-old Erin Hickey, who is considering pursuing a career in medicine as a general practitioner one day. Standing next to her was Jonathan Bell (ENG ’14), who was on hand to help. “In a lab here at BU, there is a team soldering boards that are two feet across,” he told her. Nearby, Emily Lam (ENG ’14) recommended that the young women occasionally touch their soldering irons to a damp sponge to keep them clean, and occasionally looked over a young woman’s shoulder to double-check her work.

Once the visible light transceivers had been built, the Summer Pathways group carried the green boards down the hall to a computer lab. Working in pairs, each young woman plugged a transceiver into an adjacent computer. After connecting their transceivers to computers using a special file transfer application known as PuTTY and a USB cable, the boards “spoke” to one another and carried a message that allowed the Summer Pathways students to experience wireless optical texting.

Summer Pathways student Sahar Khan carefully removes a microfluidic device from its mold in the lab of Joyce Wong, an ENG professor of biomedical engineering.

Summer Pathways student Sahar Khan carefully removes a microfluidic device from its mold in the lab of Joyce Wong, an ENG professor of biomedical engineering.

Other stops during the week included visits to Kim McCall’s and Joyce Wong’s labs. McCall, a College of Arts & Sciences associate professor of biology, engaged students in her work of studying programmed cell death in the ovaries of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster by inviting them to extract the flies’ ovaries and staining them. Wong, an ENG professor of biomedical engineering, had her BU students lead the Summer Pathways students through a series of experiments that taught about microfluidics.

Among the Summer Pathways students were Brooke Pierce and Nicole Clancy, who frequently found themselves partnered during the week. For Pierce, the visit to Google proved a highlight. “They showed us the inner workings of their patent-searching feature,” the incoming high school junior from Carver High School said. “I was really impressed by the work ethic there.” Prior to arriving at BU for the program, Pierce thought she wanted to be an engineer, but after a visit to BU’s Cognitive Neuroimaging Laboratory, part of BU’s Center for Memory & Brain, she says she now wants to learn more about neuroscience.

Clancy, a 17-year-old from Braintree High School, says that while she is leaning toward studying chemical engineering, she hasn’t ruled out biology. “I’ve liked this week because it’s given us a wealth of information on different futures,” she said. “I’m glad I came here because it’s a lot of stuff jam-packed into a week.”

-Amy Laskowski, BU Today

Shawn Jin (SAR ’15) Receives Hariri Award for Summer Research

July 5th, 2013 in Alumni, Awards, Faculty, Graduate Students, News-CE, Recognition, Research, Research-CE, Students, Undergraduate Programs, Undergraduate Student Opportunities, Undergraduate Students

Last year, Shawn Jin (SAR '15) was a member of the gold medal-winning iGEM team. Here, he poses with his teammate and mentors. Pictured from left: PhD student, Evan Appleton (BME '10, MS '12); post-doctoral associate, Traci Haddock; Jin; Monique De Freitas (MET '13); PhD student, Sonya Iverson; and PhD student, Swati Carr.

Last year, Shawn Jin (SAR '15) was a member of the gold medal-winning iGEM team. Here, he poses with his teammate and mentors. Pictured from left: PhD student, Evan Appleton (BME '10, MS '12); post-doctoral associate, Traci Haddock; Jin; Monique De Freitas (MET '13); PhD student, Sonya Iverson; and PhD student, Swati Carr.

Shawn Jin (SAR ’15) may be majoring in human physiology, but that hasn’t kept him from diving into research that combines both biology and computer engineering.

A Kilachand Honors College student, Jin has been working this summer on synthetic biology research with Assistant Professor Douglas Densmore (ECE) and Traci Haddock, a post-doctoral associate in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering.

Densmore, who recently spoke about the challenges facing this field on a DISCOVER panel, said that DNA assembly is not an efficient practice currently. To help alleviate this, Jin is designing a standardized method for tracking genetic circuits that has the potential to help solve this problem.

“We’re essentially creating a library of well characterized DNA parts that will allow synthetic biologists to share and compare information more quickly,” said Jin.

To help support his summer research, Jin was awarded a Hariri Award by the Rafik B. Hariri Institute for Computing and Computation Science & Engineering. The prize is given to students conducting research in computer science.

In addition to researching, Jin will also spend the next several months preparing for the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) regionals competition.

The iGEM competition, which is geared toward undergraduates, is dedicated to advancing the field of synthetic biology by developing its community and collaborations.

Last year, Jin and Monique De Freitas (MET ’13) took home gold in the competition. The BU team will be partnering with Wellesley College like previous years, and with five teammates this time instead of two, Jin and Haddock have high hopes for this year’s contest.

“Our partnership with Wellesley is great because they’re able to provide feedback on our software tools,” said Haddock, who advises the team. “We’re looking forward to working with them again.”

Eventually, Jin hopes to further his education by earning a medical degree. In the meantime, he’s looking forward to competing in iGEM this October in Toronto.

-Rachel Harrington (rachelah@bu.edu)

Pitch Wins at Imagine Cup

June 10th, 2013 in Alumni, Awards, Events, News-CE, Recognition, Research, Research-CE, Senior Design, Students, Undergraduate Programs, Undergraduate Student Opportunities, Undergraduate Students

From left to right: Nick Lippis, Brad Berk, Robins Patel, and Patrick Maruska (all ECE '13) presenting their software system Pitch on ECE Day.

From left to right: Nick Lippis, Brad Berk, Robins Patel, and Patrick Maruska (all ECE '13) presenting their software system, Pitch, on ECE Day

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)

Top Senior Design Projects Named at ECE Day ’13

May 20th, 2013 in Alumni, Awards, Courses, Events, Faculty, Graduate Students, News-CE, News-EP, News-ISS, Recognition, Research, Research-CE, Research-EP, Research-ISS, Senior Design, Students, Undergraduate Programs, Undergraduate Student Opportunities, Undergraduate Students, Video

Winners of the P. T. Hsu Memorial Award for Outstanding Senior Design Project, Team 17 - Calibration Device for Microarray Slides, demonstrate their project to judge, Bradley Rufleth (ECE '04). Pictured from left are Jyotsna Singh (ECE '13), Allison Marn (ECE '13), Ryan Lagoy (ECE '13), Rufleth, and Sasha Gazman (ECE '13).

Winners of the P. T. Hsu Memorial Award for Outstanding Senior Design Project, Team 17 - Calibration Device for Microarray Slides, demonstrate their project to judge, Bradley Rufleth (ECE '04). Pictured from left are Jyotsna Singh (ECE '13), Allison Marn (ECE '13), Ryan Lagoy (ECE '13), Rufleth, and Sasha Gazman (ECE '13).

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.

View photos from ECE Day ’13 presentations.
View photos from ECE Day ’13 awards and demonstrations.
View videos of the student presentations.

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.”

Chris Hall, a member of Team 3 - Choreographed LED Artwork, shows his team's project during ECE Day.

Chris Hall, a member of Team 3 - Choreographed LED Artwork, shows his team's project during ECE Day.

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
Chris Hoffman

Senior Honors Thesis Award
Beat Wave Generation and Interactions with Space Plasmas at Gakona, Alaska: Lisa A. Rooker

Entrepreneurial Award
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 (rachelah@bu.edu)

Building a Better Network

May 8th, 2013 in Events, Graduate Student Opportunities, Lectures, News-CE, Research, Research-CE, Undergraduate Student Opportunities

Keren Bergman

Professor Keren Bergman visited Boston University's Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering as part of the Distinguished Lecture Series in April.

Just fifteen years ago, internet browsing usually involved leaving the room to kill time as a dial-up modem slowly connected you to the world wide web. The process might have been painful but we didn’t know any better.

Fast forward to 2013 and these past connection speeds seem archaic. Still, that doesn’t stop some researchers from asking the question – can we be faster?

Professor Keren Bergman of Columbia University is one of those researchers asking that and she believes the answer is yes.

“It’s all about communication,” she said. “How do you get all of this data to talk to each other in the most effective way?”

In April, Bergman visited Boston University’s Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering as part of the Distinguished Lecture Series. She offered insight into one of her areas of expertise, optically enabled data.

During the lecture, Bergman discussed how recent advances in chip-scale silicon photonic technologies have the potential for developing optical interconnection networks that provide communications that are highly efficient and improve upon computing performance-per-Watt.

“With optical interconnects, it’s possible to build a better system that you couldn’t with electronics,” said Bergman.

As part of her work with the Lightwave Research Laboratory, some of Bergman’s other research centers around fiber optics through which data can be sent in the form of light waves.

“Compared to electronic routers, you can send a tremendous amount of data using photonic interconnects for computing platforms,” she said.

At this time, the fiber optic network isn’t configured in a way that’s particularly efficient, but according to Bergman, it has the potential to carry data faster than traditional copper wires.

In addition to teaching at Columbia, Bergman is an IEEE and Optical Society of America Fellow and serves as co-Editor-in-Chief of the IEEE/OSA Journal of Optical Communications and Networking.

Bergman’s talk was the third in the three-part Spring 2013 Distinguished Lecture Series. The lectures will resume again in Fall 2013.

-Rachel Harrington (rachelah@bu.edu)

Smart Bike Designers Win College’s Second Imagineering Competition

April 29th, 2013 in Alumni, Awards, Events, Faculty, News-CE, News-EP, News-ISS, Recognition, Research, Research-CE, Research-EP, Research-ISS, Students, Undergraduate Programs, Undergraduate Student Opportunities, Undergraduate Students

The Competition's ,500 first prize went to Konstantinos Oikonomopoulos (ME '14) (second from left) and Lanke A. Fu (ME '14) (third from left) for Smart Bike, a bicycle they enhanced to automatically shift gears in response to changing terrain and road conditions.

The Competition's $2,500 first prize went to Konstantinos Oikonomopoulos (ME '14) (second from left) and Lanke A. Fu (ME '14) (third from left) for Smart Bike, a bicycle they enhanced to automatically shift gears in response to changing terrain and road conditions.

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 Smart Bike display shows the rider's torque, speed and cadence.

The Smart Bike display shows the rider's torque, speed and cadence.

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.”

The second prize winners, John Aleman (ME '14) and Benjamin Corman (EE '14), received ,500 for their project, Roommate Friendly Alarm Clock.

The second prize winners, John Aleman (ME '14) and Benjamin Corman (EE '14), received $1,500 for their project, Roommate Friendly Alarm Clock.

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

Yingming Wang (EE '13) (right), Ajith Prasad (SMG '13) (left) and Lalitha Kumaresan (EE '13) developed Can of Corn to automate counts of crop-damaging pests. They split the ,000 third prize with Benjamin Graham (ME '16) (not pictured), who designed a Smart Medicine Cabinet.

Yingming Wang (EE '13) (right), Ajith Prasad (SMG '13) (left) and Lalitha Kumaresan (EE '13) developed Can of Corn to automate counts of crop-damaging pests. They split the $1,000 third prize with Benjamin Graham (ME '16) (not pictured), who designed a Smart Medicine Cabinet.

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.

-Mark Dwortzan

Think Globally, App Locally

April 18th, 2013 in Alumni, News-CE, News-EP, News-ISS, Students, Undergraduate Programs, Undergraduate Student Opportunities, Undergraduate Students

Student Group Develops Software to Address Societal Challenges

In the Global App Initiative's computer lab, the Harlem Hospital team works on integrating new health-related content about asthma into their app.

In the Global App Initiative's computer lab, the Harlem Hospital team works on integrating new health-related content about asthma into their app.

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.”

-Mark Dwortzan

BU ECE Team Among Imagine Cup Finalists

April 17th, 2013 in Awards, News-CE, News-EP, News-ISS, Recognition, Research, Research-CE, Research-EP, Research-ISS, Senior Design, Students, Undergraduate Programs, Undergraduate Student Opportunities, Undergraduate Students

Patrick Maruska, Nick Lippis, Robins Patel, and Brad Berk (pictured from left to right) make up the Boston University team, Pitch, that made it to the Imagine Cup finals.

Patrick Maruska, Nick Lippis, Robins Patel, and Brad Berk (pictured from left to right, all ECE '13) make up the Boston University team, Pitch, that made it to the Imagine Cup finals.

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

ECE Alumni Startup Makes Finals of New Venture Competition

March 29th, 2013 in Alumni, Awards, Events, Graduate Student Opportunities, Graduate Students, News-CE, News-EP, News-ISS, Recognition, Research, Research-CE, Research-EP, Research-ISS, Students, Undergraduate Programs, Undergraduate Student Opportunities, Undergraduate Students

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.

Pictured from left to right, Nick Dougherty (ECE ’12), Eric Hsiao (ECE ’12), and Gregory Zoeller (ECE ’12) designed the app, Verbal, which allows patients, nurses and caregivers to communicate with each other even if there are speech or language barriers.

Pictured from left to right, Nick Dougherty (ECE ’12), Eric Hsiao (ECE ’12), and Gregory Zoeller (ECE ’12) designed the app, Verbal, which made the finals of the New Venture Competition.

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

Related links:
The Verbal Advantage” – January 17, 2013