Industry experience: Putting MATLAB to work

Anthony Pyka
Anthony Pyka spent his summer working with MATLAB on a project with the Funai Corporation.

Persistence and stubbornness are the two qualities that Anthony Pyka says drew him to study chemical engineering at Oregon State. They’re also the qualities that served him well last summer, when he was working as an intern with the Funai Corporation. It was an experience that he says was as rewarding as it was challenging.

Anthony worked under the direction of Dr. Manish Giri, an Oregon State alumnus and 2017 inductee in the Council of Outstanding Early Career Engineers. Their project involved building on Funai’s microfluidics technology to create an accurate and portable liquid handling platform.

The underlying technology — using a silicon microfluidic chip to dispense picoliter-scale quantities of liquids with a high degree of accuracy — is familiar to anyone who has seen an inkjet printer in operation. But this technology shows great promise for a wide variety of applications, not just in industrial and consumer printing, but also in biomedical pico-dispensing, and microfluidic modules for lab-on-chip and point-of-care devices as well.

Anthony’s part of the project involved integrating an image validation system. He was given a computer and a USB camera to work with. He chose MATLAB as the scripting language because of its convenient image-processing software packages.

“I thought I knew a lot of MATLAB after being an undergraduate teaching assistant for CBEE’s freshman coding class,” Anthony said. “I was completely wrong. This internship showed me how different components of MATLAB can come together to complete a goal.”

Anthony learned different logging techniques and organizing functions to complete image processing. He says these skills helped his understanding of matrixes and made him more familiar with scripting languages, both important to industry and his own education. As with any learning process, it wasn’t always fun.

“At first it was frustrating to see ‘ERROR’ pop up every time I tried to run a code,” Anthony said. “I would often leave work with my code not working, only to come back again the next day and try something different.”

Eventually, everything worked. After six weeks and 600 lines of code, Anthony had a working system that could scan a print job accurately and send processed data to an executable user interface, so users could examine photos and determine whether a sample was printed to proper specifications.

“In class I had to use MATLAB as a modeling program and as a calculator,” Anthony said. “It was exciting to use MATALB for a practical application. “Maybe now I can build and control something on my own!”

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