Alannah Oleson, undergraduate student in computer science at Oregon State University, was one of a handful of students from all over the world to win the Adobe Research Women-in-Technology Scholarship. The scholarship acknowledges women who are improving technology and have demonstrated outreach for their community.
Oleson is helping to improve technology in the area of human-computer interaction (HCI) with Margaret Burnett, distinguished professor of computer science. Oleson is working on the GenderMag project which helps programmers to design gender inclusive software.
Her outreach to the community included mentoring two high school students through Saturday Academy, which is a program designed to help students from under-represented communities gain experience in STEM fields. She taught them how to program and what it is like to work on a research project. A couple of years after the summer-long program, Oleson saw one of her students at Oregon State going through engineering orientation. Oleson felt proud to see him choose to major in computer science after participating in the Saturday Academy program.
“To see him go from whatever he had overcome to being a computer scientist and feeling like I played a part in that was really cool,” Oleson said.
Scholarship winners are awarded $10,000 and a one-year creative cloud subscription; are assigned an Adobe research mentor; and are given an opportunity to interview for an Adobe internship. Oleson succeeded in receiving an Adobe internship and worked in San Jose, CA for 10 weeks on a research team this summer.
“All I had known was living in Roseburg, so the experience of being in the middle of the tech world was fantastic. It made me feel more confident in my career,” she said.
After the internship, Adobe decided to sponsor Oleson’s senior capstone project. In the future, Oleson hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in human-computer interaction and eventually work in industry research.
The first term of college can be intimidating — especially in an engineering major where you will be taking calculus and other technical courses as early as your first term. As an electrical and computer engineering major with no prior programming or robotics experience, I was incredibly nervous when I first started at Oregon State University. But I managed to find a good balance; and now I’m going into my senior year with an on-campus job, a research position in a lab and active participation in two clubs.
Your transition from high school can be easy if you try to stay organized and maintain a good balance of academics and social life. When things get hard, definitely ask for help. Your advisors and instructors will be understanding and help you find the right resources.
These are some tips that have helped me so far:
Use a calendar for the term
Mark out your midterms and quizzes on your calendar as soon as you get the syllabus for all your classes. It helps a lot to know when the exams are ahead of time — you won’t be caught off guard and can study ahead. Doing this at the start of the term makes you feel very organized and prepared. In fact, having just one calendar with all your due dates and even club meetings and extra-curricular activities is a great way to plan out your schedule.
Don’t be afraid to talk to upperclassmen
Seniors can seem intimidating sometimes, but they are just as approachable and friendly as anyone else. Don’t be afraid to talk to people outside of your grade. They are often great people to hang out with, and can give you invaluable advice since they’ve already been through your classes and some of your experiences. I met some of my closest friends through the engineering sorority Phi Sigma Rho.
Schedule advising appointments early
Meeting with your academic advisor is important, especially if you have questions about changing majors or talking about career options. It can be easy to forget to schedule an appointment but if you wait too long all the appointments could be filled up — so definitely plan ahead.
Find a hobby or activity you enjoy
Taking small breaks from studying and homework can help a lot with productivity — it’s important to not get burnt out. Find something fun to do, like hiking, reading, trying out a new coffee shop or just watching a TV show every so often. If you can find people from your dorm or your classes to do these things with, it can be a great way to de-stress.
Learn a new skill or take an interesting class
There are many physical activity courses like bowling, billiards, ballet and scuba at OSU that are just one credit and very easy to accommodate in an engineering major’s schedule. When I have a difficult term with many technical courses, it helps to have one easy class to balance it out. This could even be a baccalaureate core class.
I’m an international student from Mumbai, India. I’m an Ambassador for the College of Engineering and a mentor for Women and Minorities in Engineering. I’m part of the academic sorority Phi Sigma Rho. I’m interested in medical devices and have been working on a research project in the soft robotics lab. I’m a huge fan of the Lord of the Rings series and watching TV shows in my free time.
Researchers from universities, national laboratories, and tech companies came to Oregon State University this July to discuss needs and challenges in measuring the performance of magnetic nanodevices.
This first-time workshop, called “Frontiers in Metrology Techniques for Magnetic Nanodevices” drew participants from as far away as Japan, Belgium and the United Kingdom. It was jointly organized by Pallavi Dhagat, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Thomas Silva at the National Institute for Standards and Technology.
The purpose of the workshop was to bring together researchers from diverse areas working on magnetic nanotechnologies to share information that could spark collaborations and advance the field. The format of the workshop emphasized networking and encouraged sharing unpublished and ongoing work.
“The targeted goals of the workshop made for productive and highly relevant discussions and networking,” said Ania Bleszynski Jayich, associate professor of physics at UC Santa Barbara. “As a physicist with a basic research approach, it was instructive to discover several close connections to industrial needs, and thus I was able to initiate several important relationships that will hopefully flourish in upcoming years.”
Although there are several conferences in the field of magnetism this was the first international workshop that was focused solely on metrology. Attendees gave very positive feedback and indicated they would like it to become a biennial event.
“It was very fruitful. We were often behind schedule because the talks were generating so many discussions,” said Hans Nembach, senior research associate at University of Colorado, Boulder. “It’s a great format, we should certainly have it again.”
Support for the workshop was provided by Oregon State University, Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute and Intel.
Oregon State University in collaboration with Portland State University held a one-day course on June 30, 2017 for power systems engineers and related professionals concerned with solutions to the threat of Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquakes and tsunamis.
The course was part of a grant from the Oregon Talent Council to support training for the Oregon workforce in disaster preparedness as it relates to electrical system resiliency.
Members of 17 different companies or other organizations came to the event including representatives from the Bonneville Power Administration, Portland General Electric, Central Lincoln PUD, Pacific Power and the Eugene Water and Electric Board.
The speakers were Ted Brekken, Jinsub Kim, Eduardo Cotilla-Sanchez of Oregon State University; Leon Kempner of the Bonneville Power Administration; and Yumei Wang from the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries.
Other training supported by the Oregon Talent Council grant includes an on-campus course that Brekken taught in the spring term of 2017, and an on-line course that will be released this summer by the Oregon State University Office of Professional and Continuing Education meant for practicing professionals.
Three Oregon State University students working with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory received the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE) Startup Allocation based on their senior design capstone project.
Taylor Alexander Brown (computer science), Heidi Ann Clayton (computer science), and Xiaomei Wang (finance), also won the CH2M Multidisciplinary Collaboration Award at the 2017 Undergraduate Engineering Expo at Oregon State for their project called Coal and Open-pit surface mining impacts on American Lands (COAL).
The team created a system to process remote-sensing data to identify land surface types, coal mining operations, and the environmental impacts on water resources to help NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory study the effects of coal mining on the environment.
The XSEDE award will allow the team to continue development on the project including the use of XSEDE resources for benchmarking, evaluation and experimentation. Funded by the National Science Foundation, XSEDE is a collection of integrated advanced digital resources and services.
“The availability and opportunity to use computational infrastructure of this caliber will further enable the development of a science gateway to continue foundational COAL research,” said Lewis John McGibbney, data scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the client for the project.
“I am extremely proud of the team’s achievements and know that such endeavors set a high standard for each and every one of them as they progress further through their journey in higher education and beyond.”
Vishvas Chalishazar, Kamesh Mullapudi, and Sharmin Kibria took top honors for the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the Oregon State College of Engineering’s Graduate Research Showcase.
The three also presented their research posters at the Oregon Stater Awards ceremony a week later, where they were able to meet with distinguished alumni.
Preventing massive power outages
In the summer of 2003, a massive blackout occurred in the power grid in the northeast United States and Canada, resulting in a loss of power for two days, affecting 55 million people across eight states and Ontario. The cause of the outage was traced back to the grid’s control center failing to identify few anomalies in measurements and not providing an accurate analysis of the problem. Because the control center was unaware of the situation, it wasn’t able to take preventive action in time, and the fault spread throughout the interconnected grid.
Working with Jinsub Kim, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, doctoral student Sharmin Kibria is looking for ways to prevent power outages, big and small. She is developing better ways for control systems to detect and identify anomalies in measurements and fix issues before they become problems.
Conventional methods for detecting anomalies in measurements rely on measurements collected by sensors at only a single time point of interest. In Kibria’s algorithm, the sensing system scans the grid continually — every two to four seconds — to obtain readings from multiple time points and use them to enhance accuracy of measurement correction. The key idea is to exploit a generic property of anomalies in a sensor network. Specifically, their locations tend to be invariant over multiple measurement periods.
“We can accurately identify where the error is and throw out corrupted data and use healthy measurements,” Kibria said.
Kibria tested her proposed algorithm on a model of a portion of the New England power grid and it outperformed the benchmark technique that uses single measurements, showing great promise for a better system that won’t leave us in the dark.
Helping save lives after earthquakes
First place winner Vishvas Chalishazar, a doctoral student in electrical and computer engineering, is working with the energy systems research group to help make sure critical buildings, like hospitals, remain functional after an earthquake.
“The main idea is to make the whole electrical grid more robust, more resilient, and add more redundancies,” Chalishazar said.
Although it is impossible to ensure that the entire grid never loses power, Chalishazar is working to figure out which nodes in a grid will likely become impaired and help electric utility companies develop their plans to shore up specific assets in their grids.
Under the guidance of Ted Brekken and Eduardo Cotilla-Sanchez, professors of electrical and computer engineering, Chalishazar developed and ran one million simulations on a simple 3-bus electrical grid model. His next step will be to develop and apply simulations to the Oregon State University’s Corvallis campus grid, which consists of 286 buses.
The energy systems group is working with the Central Lincoln People’s Utility District, Portland General Electric, and Pacific Power to research grid operation, planning, and analysis methods for improved resiliency.
Pushing the limits of Moore’s Law
Many scientists have been predicting that the death of Moore’s Law — that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit (IC) doubles each year — is imminent, but electrical and computer engineering doctoral student Kamesh Mullapudi is working to delay its demise.
IC manufacturers are currently working on developing and producing 10-nanometer node transistors. These transistors — some of them just 50 atomic layers across — are so small that finding defects on chips is challenging. Optical and electron microscopy techniques currently being used to detect defects, are inadequate and impractical for transistors that make up the latest microprocessors. Magnetic resonance can detect defects on this scale, but the giant magnets required are not practical and expensive.
To overcome these obstacles, Mullapudi is working with John Conley, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, on using low-field electrically detected magnetic resonance (LFEDMR) that uses small magnets and is extremely sensitive. This technology can help pinpoint not only which chips are defective on a wafer, but can help identify the cause of a particular defect.
In the chip manufacturing business, yield loss (the number of defective chips on a wafer) is costly.
“We’re working with Intel to develop the LFEDMR technique to a scale that is implementable in industry and ultimately increase their yield and profitability,” Mullapudi said.
Five students in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science will be heading to Germany this summer to compete in the 2017 Rohde & Schwarz Engineering Competition. Their performance in the U.S. preliminary round earned them a spot at the world league competition.
Aaron Schraner, an electrical and computer engineering student, was motivated to compete since he participated last year on a team from the Oregon Institute of Technology that won the 2016 regional competition. Based on his experience there, he recruited Karen Harper for additional electrical engineering knowledge. All the other team members are in computer science: Braxton Cuneo, Erich Kramer, and Andy Tolvstad.
Their task was to make improvements to software for a digital-signal processing application that could ultimately make video streaming better. Specifically, they were asked to speed up the processing of the software-based DVB-T2-Coder, based on the open source GNU Radio project, while maintaining accuracy.
“Signal processing is traditionally very, very computationally intensive, so any optimizations you can get out of something like that are going to be very beneficial to your workflow,” Andrew Tolvstad said.
“There was one loop we optimized that was run about 1.2 million times,” Karen Harper agreed.
“Just by changing a data type that was 32-bits wide to one that was 64-bits wide, we took another 5 to 10 percent off the total amount of time it took to run the program,” Aaron Schraner said.
During the competition, students made improvements to the code that was then automatically compiled and tested for performance once they submitted it via Git. Rohde & Schwarz continuously published a leader board of the top performing teams so the teams could watch their ranking move up or down.
The team members are excited to have an all-expenses paid trip to Germany, and are squeezing the trip into very busy lives of classes and internships. They also have a chance to win $3,000 for the top prize, $1,500 for second place, and $750 for third place.
But the money was not the only objective.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Tolvstad said. “Just the thrill of trying to take something and make it the best it can possibly be by just rearranging its parts.”
This final will be held in Munich, Germany at the Rohde & Schwarz headquarters. Rohde & Schwarz is a privately held company with over 10,000 employees worldwide, including a design center in Beaverton.
“Gadgets and Gizmos” was the theme for the first HWeekend of 2017 on January 20-22, jointly sponsored by the College of Business and the College of Engineering.
In just one weekend, forty-seven students from business and engineering designed, built, and pitched their idea for a marketable product including temperature based alarm clock, a computer controlled potato launcher, a 3-D printed longboard fender, and a self-playing guitar.
It was the seventh iteration of the popular event that provides students from different disciplines an opportunity to work together in teams. Students came from a variety majors including business, bioengineering, civil engineering, chemical engineering, computer science, electrical and computer engineering, environmental engineering, and mechanical engineering.
“This event is really cool, because I get to do things that I normally don’t get to do in my major,” said Alec Westbrook, a chemical engineering student who worked on the 3D printed longboard fender project. “I mean, how often can a guy that is mixing chemicals all day work with his hands and create something new?”
Mentors for this HWeekend included six industry members from Intel and two from Microsemi.
“People here are really excited about the things they are making,” said Aayush Pathak, a silicon architecture engineer from Intel who attended HWeekend as a mentor. “And to be a part of it and share what I have seen in my school and life — it’s a proud feeling.”
Staff from both the College of Business and the College of Engineering also helped mentor students through the creation and marketing of their projects.
“It’s an incredibly valuable partnership between business and engineering,” said Dale McCauley, the makerspace manager for the College of Business. “The students are getting the chance to build relationships that ordinarily wouldn’t form. If you get business students to understand how engineers think and vice versa, I think that is valuable.”
At the end of the weekend, the students received group awards for their dedication and hard work. The Executors award goes to the team that produces the best engineering execution of their idea to create the most polished final product, the Helping Hand is for the team that contributes the most to other teams, and the InnovationX Pitch awards go to two teams who had the best business pitches for selling their prototypes.
Executor: Temperature Based Alarm Clock team. The team included members Noah Hoffman, Taylor Johnston, Alexia Patterson, and Abdurrahman Elmaghbub.
Helping Hands: Checkpoint team. The team included members Andrey Kornilovich and Graham Barber
InnovationX Pitch: Checkpoint team and Temperature Based Alarm Clock team.
The following quote comes from the the Education Committee of the Computing Research Association award announcement:
Margaret Burnett, Ph.D., is a distinguished professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Oregon State University (OSU), a member of the ACM CHI Academy, and an ACM Distinguished Scientist. Burnett has contributed pioneering research on how ordinary users interact with software and optimizing that interaction. This resulted, in part, in the development of a new subarea, which is at the intersection of human-computer interaction and software engineering, called end-user software engineering.
Throughout her academic career, Burnett has continuously worked with undergraduate researchers and even accommodated high school students in her lab. She has mentored 39 undergraduate students in research; 21 were from underrepresented groups in computing, 32 co-authored published research papers, and 25 went on to graduate studies. A selection of the honors of her highly accomplished mentees includes three Google Scholarships, three NSF Graduate Fellowships, and two National Physical Sciences Consortium Graduate Fellowships. In her nomination, several mentees attested to her personal influence on and involvement in their lives and careers.
Impressively, Burnett influenced the culture of faculty undergraduate research mentoring in her school, increasing it to 50% participation. She has also led efforts to better support a diverse undergraduate population through trips to the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, the adoption of a diversity plan, and new experimental scholarships for incoming freshmen women in computing. She has received awards from NCWIT, Microsoft, and OSU for her mentoring and research.
Graduate student Ziad Eldebri was the winner of the Lattice Hackathon Contest hosted by Lattice Semiconductor. He was awarded the grand prize of $5,000 and a trip to the Consumer Electronics Show 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Eldebri competed against other students across the country to create an original idea on how to improve a battery powered device using Lattice FPGA. Eldebri’s winning idea was to develop a LIPO battery charger that could be used in any product that uses Lattice FPGAs.
“It was awesome, because I got to attend the Consumer Electronics Show and see state of the art electronics that ranged from 3D printed cars to drones that will talk to you,” Eldebri said. “I also got to learn more about Lattice Products and FPGAs.”
The goal of the competition was to create new ideas on how we can use FPGAs to improve our lives and the electronic devices that we use every day.