Phylicia Cicilio’s project to help a rural Alaskan community improve the reliability and cost of their electric power microgrid will be funded by the Evans Family Graduate Fellowship in Humanitarian Engineering at Oregon State University. The fellowship will pay for her travel next summer to Alaska to meet with the community and work out the details of the project.
“I’m really excited to travel there and work with the people. I’m from rural Vermont, so I love rural communities,” said Cicilio, a graduate student in electrical and computer engineering, advised by Professor Eduardo Cotilla-Sanchez.
Cicilio’s move to Oregon State this fall marked a switch in her career. Her undergraduate degree is in chemical engineering, but after a year of working in the field she realized that electrical engineering would allow her to better pursue her broad interests in renewable energy.
The project in Alaska will allow her to integrate her focus on renewables with her other interests in energy storage and microgrids, and her desire to help rural communities. Although she has not yet settled on which community she will be helping, there are several options where she can make an impact.
“People in rural Alaska pay 15 times more than everyone else in the U.S., so one goal could be to see how inexpensively we can produce electricity,” she said. “They also live a subsistence lifestyle and don’t deal with money, so paying for utilities can be a problem. Having a system that can be run by the people would be a huge benefit.”
Liang Huang, assistant professor of computer science at Oregon State University, received the 2015 Yahoo Faculty Research and Engagement Program Award. Yahoo gave 24 faculty awards worldwide in 2015 to “produce the highest quality scientific collaborations and outcomes by engaging with faculty and students conducting research in areas of mutual interest.” It is the first time an Oregon State faculty member has received this award.
The award was granted for Huang’s proposal on “Fast Semantic Parsing with Applications in Question Answering,” based on preliminary work by his Ph.D. student Kai Zhao. Yahoo and many other internet companies are interested in furthering research in the field of semantic parsing to improve their search results.
Semantic parsing is the process of mapping a natural-language sentence into a formal representation of its meaning, and has applications in understanding natural questions, especially resolving ambiguity.
For example, the query, “How can I book Paris Hilton?” could be about either the hotel or the person, while “How to upgrade to El Capitan?” is definitely about OS X rather than Yosemite. A more complicated query such as “flights leaving after 5 from New York City to Tokyo with a layover of 1 to 3 hours” can be turned into an SQL-like query to be executed on a database or knowledge base.
For the second time in the last four years, Margaret Burnett, computer science professor at Oregon State University, has won the Most Influential Paper Award from the IEEE Symposium on Visual Languages and Human-Centric Computing. The awards demonstrate the leadership role Burnett has taken in the field in human computer interaction (HCI).
Ten years ago, the paper brought attention to the issue of gender differences in software itself, which has now led to a growing subfield in gender HCI.
From the nomination letter: “This paper was the first to address the topic of gender differences in programming environments. There had previously been work on software to target females (e.g., video games for girls), but no one had focused a lens on gender inclusiveness in ostensibly “neutral” software. The paper combined theories from five different fields and showed how they apply to end-user programming environments. This seminal paper started a line of work that attracted a considerable number of other researchers.”
This is the third such award for researchers at Oregon State. Just last year, Chris Scaffidi won it for his 2005 paper, “Estimating the Number of End-Users and End-User Programmers,” co-authored with Mary Shaw, and Brad Myers.
Burnett was also recognized this year for her outstanding mentoring by the National Center for Women and Information Technology.
Pranjal Mittal was initially thwarted from studying computer science in college, but never lost his excitement for it. Now a master’s student in computer science at Oregon State University, he was honored this year with an Intel fellowship.
Mittal wanted to pursue computer science as early as high school, but the determining factor for his major was an entrance examination for the Indian Institute of Technology. After studying for two years for the exam that one million people take, he was selected to be an electronics engineering major instead of his first choice.
But he did not give up his passion for computer science. He was able to take courses in computer science while in college and sought out other opportunities to learn on his own. He started by building websites for college events and then moved on to writing more complex web applications.
It was what he did next that changed the course of his career.
During his junior year, he was confident enough in his programming skills to apply for the Google Summer of Code, a global program that offers stipends to students to work remotely on open source projects with a mentoring organization. The project he applied for was with Oregon State’s Open Source Lab (OSL) to work on tool for the Ganeti Web Manager. He enjoyed it so much that he returned to the OSL through Google Summer of Code the following year. The experience of working with the people at OSL encouraged him to apply to graduate school at Oregon State.
“The Open Source Lab is very famous in the open source community and I thought if an Oregon State lab and its members were so amazing then the university should be amazing too,” Mittal said.
At the time of his decision to move to the U.S. for graduate school, Mittal had other opportunities. He already had a job with Citrix in India, and he and three other teammates were finalists in the Google Cloud Developer Challenge, which led to an opportunity to develop the application into a commercial product.
He decided to pursue a master’s because it was an opportunity to advance his knowledge in computer science and it also offered him a chance to be a teaching assistant. It was his first teaching experience and he has really enjoyed helping new students learn about web and cloud computing.
As part of his fellowship with Intel, Mittal will mentor three senior capstone project teams (nine students) who are working on a cloud computing project; an extension of the work he did as an Intel intern. “It feels great to be a link between Oregon State and Intel for further industrial collaboration on research and development,” he said.
Mittal is also conducting research work in cloud computing related to container-based clouds and plans to write his master’s thesis in this area.
“Most of the technology you see today is somehow connected to the cloud, it is the backbone of so many fields, making it an area in which even small research advances can have a huge impact,” he said.
Danny Dig, assistant professor of computer science at Oregon State, received two awards this year at the top software maintenance conference, the IEEE International Conference on Software Maintenance and Evolution (ICSME) hosted in Bremen, Germany.
Dig was also a keynote speaker at the conference, in recognition of the award for Most Influential Paper in the last ten years. The paper, co-authored with Ralph Johnson and entitled, “The Role of Refactorings in API Evolution,” opened a new area of research. It was the first quantitative and qualitative analysis on the evolution of Application Program Interfaces (API) which has inspired researchers all over the world to build on the seminal study.
The second award was for Best Paper which Dig shares with Oregon State graduate students, Mihai Codoban and Sruti Srinivasa Ragavan; and Brian Bailey, associate professor at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The paper, entitled “Software History Under the Lens: A Study on Why and How Developers Examine It,” received perfect marks from the judges.
Most Influential Paper:
The Role of Refactorings in API Evolution
Danny Dig (Oregon State University) and Ralph Johnson (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
Abstract—Frameworks and libraries change their APIs. Migrating an application to the new API is tedious and disrupts the development process. Although some tools and ideas have been proposed to solve the evolution of APIs, most updates are done manually. To better understand the requirements for migration tools we studied the API changes of three frameworks and one library. We discovered that the changes that break existing applications are not random, but they tend to fall into particular categories. Over 80% of these changes are refactorings. This suggests that refactoring-based migration tools should be used to update applications.
Best Paper Award:
Software History Under the Lens: A Study on Why and How Developers Examine It
Mihai Codoban, Sruti Srinivasa Ragavan, Danny Dig (Oregon State University) and Brian Bailey (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
Abstract—Despite software history being indispensable for developers, there is little empirical knowledge about how they examine software history. Without such knowledge, researchers and tool builders are in danger of making wrong assumptions and building inadequate tools. In this paper we present an in-depth empirical study about the motivations developers have for examining software history, the strategies they use, and the challenges they encounter. To learn these, we interviewed 14 experienced developers from industry, and then extended our findings by surveying 217 developers. We found that history does not begin with the latest commit but with uncommitted changes. Moreover, we found that developers had different motivations for examining recent and old history. Based on these findings we propose 3-LENS HISTORY, a novel unified model for reasoning about software history.
Danny Dig, assistant professor of computer science at Oregon State University, was awarded a Google Faculty Research Award for a project to improve responsiveness of Android apps.
Google selected 113 proposals of the 805 submitted this summer on computer science topics such as systems, machine learning, software engineering, security and mobile.
“The biggest significance of the award is the chance to have strong collaboration with researchers at Google and to integrate our research into large-scale infrastructure at Google that all Android app developers will use in the future. This will multiply the impact of our research many fold,” Dig said. “The monetary part of the award will help me invest into grad students and grow them into world-class leaders.”
Developing tools for Android app programmers is a relatively new line of research for Dig who is a national leader on techniques for transforming sequential code into parallel code.
Terri Fiez, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Oregon State University, was selected as the 2016 winner of the IEEE Undergraduate Teaching Award “for innovative undergraduate engineering and computing curriculum development fostering student engagement and retention.” IEEE is the world’s largest professional technical association, and honors one individual each year for inspirational undergraduate teaching.
Innovative teaching has long been a focus for Fiez who created the TekBots Platform for Learning and spearheaded the nation’s first online post-baccalaureate program in computer science. She received the 2006 IEEE Educational Activities Board Innovative Education Award, the 2006 OSU Student Learning and Success Teamwork Award, the 2014 OSU Vice Provost Award for Excellence: Innovation in Online Credit-based Teaching, and she was recognized by the students of the School of EECS at OSU as the OSU EECS Professor of the Year in 2014.
Fiez and collaborators designed the TekBots Platform for Learning to bring experiential learning into the electrical and computer engineering curriculum. Students apply their classroom knowledge to create their own robot, and as they progress through the program they add more functions to their TekBot. The program has been widely adopted at other national and international educational institutions, resulting in more than 10,000 student experiences with TekBots to date.
To serve the growing needs in industry for trained computer scientists, Fiez led the development of a bachelor’s degree program for post-baccalaureate students that could be delivered online. In June 2012, the program was launched by Oregon State’s Ecampus program. Today the program boasts over 1,000 students from all over the country and the world with backgrounds as diverse as journalism, anthropology, chemistry, music, and law. It has been cited as one of the top online computer science programs in the country by multiple sources including Best College Reviews.
Karti Mayaram, professor of electrical and computer engineering, said, “Professor Terri Fiez has been a pioneer with a unique vision for engineering education that prepares ECE and CS undergraduate students for leadership positions in academia and industry.”
After 16 years at Oregon State, Fiez will assume the role of vice chancellor for research at University of Colorado Boulder in September of 2015.
For the second year in a row, the Oregon State University’s branch of AIAA (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics) took first place in the payload competition at the Intercollegiate Rocketry Engineering Competition held in Green River, Utah. The team also placed third in the overall competition in the advanced category that targets an altitude of 25,000 feet — their launch reached 17,611 feet and a maximum speed of Mach 1.4.
The competition, hosted by the Experimental Sounding Rocketry Association (ESRA), had 41 rockets launched this year by 36 different colleges representing seven countries (Australia, Brazil, Canada, Egypt, India, Turkey and the U.S.).
Oregon State’s team stood out in the competition for building nearly all of the components themselves. In fact, computer science student, Soo-Hyun Yoo said he had a hard time getting the judges to notice the extra work the team put in.
“All of the other teams at the competition had an aerospace program and bought off-the-shelf components. There were a very limited number of teams who built their own software and electronics and so very few people were asking about those things. I had to try really hard to make sure they realized the significance of having our own system that we can build on and modify to fit various needs,” he said.
Yoo said that a few of the payload judges were very excited about their original components and it was what likely earned them the payload award again this year. The award is prestigious because it includes all the teams in the competition from both the basic and advanced categories, and comes with a $700 prize. Since the award has been offered just two times, Oregon State is the only team to win it.
The payload is the main purpose of sounding rockets, which are designed to conduct scientific experiments. The Oregon State team built a deployable payload in the nose cone of the rocket that deploys at the highest altitude and uses propellers to accelerate downward to counteract aerodynamic drag force and achieve microgravity in order to conduct experiments in a zero gravity environment.
This year’s team built significantly on the success of last year’s rocket which won the basic category (targeting 10,000 feet) in 2014 at their first competition. Four sub-teams contributed to this year’s rocket: a payload team, a structures team, a propulsion team, and an aerodynamics and recovery team. At Oregon State’s 2015 Engineering Expo the payload team won the industry award for electrical and computer engineering and earned honorable mention recognition for the Boeing Engineering Excellence Award.
Elliott Fudim, an electrical and computer engineering student who joined the club as a senior, hopes that other students will discover the club sooner than he did and have more years to advance the rocket.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever been a part of. And it’s important to keep on setting the bar higher,” Fudim said.
Yoo agreed, “I don’t think many students at OSU can say they made something that broke the speed of sound. It’s pretty cool stuff.”
Both Fudim and Yoo said that aside from the cool factor of being able to build a rocket, the experience of working on a cross-disciplinary team was more realistic to what they will experience working in industry. Additionally, working on a rocket that deals with extreme conditions such as speed and temperature offered interesting challenges.
“The limited test cycle in which we only get a few chances to launch and the cost of failure is high, was a learning experience. Getting it right the first time was stressful but also exhilarating,” Yoo said.
The team performed on-ground tests of the various systems and also practiced their launch setup to make sure everything went smoothly on competition day (view photos). Their only full-flight test was performed in Brothers, Oregon near Bend where they could secure a waiver from the FAA for air space.
For future competitions, the club has begun developing an experimental hybrid rocket motor. The current rocket is a solid propellant rocket with a simple ignition – “you light it and it just goes,” explained Yoo. The hybrid rocket will have a throttle to adjust the thrust depending on need.
This year’s team was able to compete with the support of their sponsors: Advanced Circuits, CadSoft EAGLE, and the College of Engineering at Oregon State. “We couldn’t have done this without them,” Fudim said.
Tom Dietterich, Oregon State distinguished professor of computer science, was awarded the 2015 Excellence in Postdoctoral Mentoring Award by the Graduate School at Oregon State University. Dietterich has mentored 12 postdocs who have gone on to excellent positions that including academic appointments, industry leadership positions and research positions. His list of former postdocs also includes an NSF CAREER awardee and a Fulbright scholar.
Dietterich was nominated by Rebecca Hutchinson, who is currently working with him as a postdoctoral fellow, but has just accepted a joint faculty position at Oregon State in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. Hutchinson managed to surprise Dietterich with the award at an end of the term lunch for his research group.
“Tom demonstrates exceptional commitment to his postdocs’ success, provides tremendous resources for professional development, cares about their personal needs as well as their professional success, and is approachable and resourceful when needs arise,” Hutchinson said.
Dietterich is a leader in artificial intelligence research and is the president of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence. This year he has been in the news regarding the benefits and risks of artificial intelligence (The Wall Street Journal, Digital Trends, Future of Life Institute, Boston Herald). His research contributes to diverse areas such as drug design, scheduling, information management, ecological modeling and agricultural pest management.
“Postdocs in Tom’s lab benefit from being part of world-class research under the tutelage of a great mentor. In addition, Tom makes an effort to enrich the experience of all postdocs in our school by including them in the broader faculty community and spearheading addition opportunities for their learning,” said Bella Bose, interim head for the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
Tanner Cecchetti has always been a tinkerer, even as a child. His first experiments used simple technology such as tissue and corks to create tiny parachutes. Now, an electrical and computer engineering student at Oregon State, his focus is on mobile technology, and especially jailbroken iPhones.
His interest was encouraged by his mother who initially started her degree in computer science before switching to accounting. She bought him video editing software in fifth grade when Cecchetti was part of a video editing team at school, and she made sure he had a cell phone when he was 10 years old because she wanted him to start playing with that technology. The many hours he spent tinkering with technology lead to success when in high school he earned second place for three years in a row at a state-wide team-based programming competition.
“The coolest thing I’ve ever done with programming was to write a program that got a couple million downloads, which was super exciting,” Ceccetti said. The program was part of a business to create game cheats for Runescape that he and partners ran for a year in high school.
Also in high school he volunteered to manage the website for Relay for Life of Sherwood, Oregon. It was a project he initially viewed as a way to get some practical experience, but it became more than that.
“It felt good to be involved with that cause, raising money for cancer research, because cancer is what took my dad, so it was personally significant to me,” Cecchetti said. His father passed away when he was in fourth grade.
Although Cecchetti has less time for tinkering as a college student, he found time to create a tweak for jailbroken iPhones that has over 10,000 downloads, and an app that turns an iPhone into a mouse and keyboard for any device. He also designed and built an inexpensive sound effects system using a Raspberry Pi for the submarine at the Oregon Museum of Science and Technology.
In his first two years at Oregon State, Cecchetti earned scholarships for academic achievement including making the Dean’s list and receiving a scholarship from Pacific Power. “I have to pay for school on my own, so scholarships certainly make it easier for me financially but it also makes my decision to stay in school a lot easier knowing my burden of debt will be less,” he said.
Perhaps it is not surprising that Cecchetti won the 2015 Eta Kappa Nu Sophomore of the Year Award at Oregon State. “Tanner stood out for his commitment to service, academic excellence and passion for problem solving. His impressive personal projects showed he was going above and beyond what was being done in the classroom,” said Oregon State Eta Kappa Nu president, Tanner Fiez.
Although Cecchetti’s experience has mostly been in computer programming, he chose to major in electrical and computer engineering because he was interested in learning about hardware which would be more difficult to learn on his own. He initially thought he would pursue a career in designing cell phones but his experiences at Oregon State have opened up more options for him and he is not yet settled on a career path. For now he is content to continue to learn and tinker with technology.