anderson-hanna
Hanna Anderson, sophomore, electrical and computer engineering.

Story by Hanna Anderson

As a freshman, or maybe even a sophomore, college can seem a bit daunting. Classes are harder and larger, there are three-hour labs, recitations, financial aid, football games, pressure to start research, Greek life, midterms, new friends and 10 weeks later there’s finals week. All of these events and aspects can pile up and before you realize it, you’re drowning in a first-year mid-term crisis.

As an entering sophomore in electrical and computer engineering here at OSU, I can recommend some resources and tips to help you through the hard times.

  1. Check out the student groups and clubs on campus

Even in college, sometimes it can be hard to make friends, or find people you have a connection with. Joining a student group or club can be a great way of connecting with other people and having some great experiences! I joined the marching band last year, and was given the opportunity to perform in front of the entire football stadium each game, as well as travel to several away games. It was a great experience meeting all the other 200+ members and seeing us all come together for one common purpose.

There are dozens of student groups and clubs on campus, many of which might fit your interests in and out of the classroom. Whether its building rockets, cars, robots, or mobile apps; working on open source software; or even bass fishing, check out the engineering-specific clubs or the many other inclusive student groups at Oregon State.

  1. Students with no previous robotic/electrical experience, HAVE NO FEAR

For those of you who may have no previous robotics or electrical experience, do not be worried. I personally was not a part of the robotics team in high school, nor had I ever had any real electrical experience, and I have managed to survive with very little wear and tear. However, if you are worried, there EECS peer mentors who are more than willing to help you out. Peer mentors are EECS students who can help you navigate the ins and outs of being an EECS student. They can assist with academic questions and are available for advice about classes, internships, clubs, and other opportunities.

  1. Research and internship opportunities

It’s never too early to start thinking about internships and work experience. Having work experience in your field before you graduate will greatly enhance your employability when it comes time to look for a job, but it can take bit of hard work and perseverance. Simply sending an email, or talking to a professor after class, or attending office hours are all great first steps to making your name known. The School of EECS provides students with many opportunities to connect and gain experience. Also, making a connection with your academic advisor is a great way to find out about other opportunities.

  1. Be aware of your physical and mental health

The transition to college may be a hard one, or may be an easy one. It all depends on each individual person. While this is true, it very important to keep tabs on your mental and physical wellbeing. The “freshman 15” is indeed a very real thing, as well as the possibility of declination of your mental well-being. The most important thing to combat both of these two happenings is to be cognitively aware of your decisions, and realize that your brain makes those decisions, and your body carries out those decisions. If either one is not working at its prime, things start to slip. You don’t need to be in crisis to take care of your mental health; make sure you know about Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS). The Dixon rec center and OSU’s Recreational Sports have many programs and opportunities for exercise, and relieving stress. Lastly, University Housing & Dining has many healthy eating options to keep your brain and body well nourished.

  1. Get to know your professors

Yes, it may be intimidating to meet with your professors, however they are a great first resource when in need of help. Getting to know a professor may even help you down the road when you are in need of letters of recommendation, and some may even hire you as an undergraduate researcher. Attending office hours is the best way to communicate with professors individually. If their office hours don’t work with your schedule, feel free to send them an email to schedule an appointment.

  1. Seek academic support

Oregon State and the College of Engineering have many resources for students to receive academic support with their class. The HUB in the College of Engineering has study tables and tutors for subjects such as physics, chemistry, math and electrical fundamentals. There are also engineering specific academic coaches who can help with skills such as organization, study skills, concentration, memory, note-taking, test-taking, and time management. Another resource are the academic tutors in the residence halls. Each residence hall will have a math and English tutor each week, as well as an Academic Learning Assistant who holds office hours every week.

  1. Attend class

Yes, it may be a struggle to get up for class in the morning… However, the knowledge that is shared and the connections that are made while attending class can never be recreated, and whether or not you attend class, you will still be held responsible for understanding the material. Some classes even have attendance as part of a requirement for passing. So just to be safe, go to class.

  1. Get to know your advisor

Your advisor will help you make a plan, get involved in extracurricular activities, and advise you about what to do when you are struggling with a class. As a first year engineering student, you will meet with your advisor at least once a term to receive your registration PIN. If you make a good connection with your advisor, they can even help you find scholarships, research positions, and internship opportunities!

  1. Check your ONID/OSU Google e-mail

Or make sure you have them forwarded to other e-mail accounts that you check regularly. This is the only way you’ll receive information from your professors and TAs about your classes and other important information that you need.

  1. Represent your school

Go Beavs!

 

Hanna Anderson is from Bonney Lake, WA, and attended Bonney Lake High School, class of ’14. As a freshman, she was a member of the Oregon State marching band and joined the CreateIT Collaboratory, a program in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science to employ students on projects to develop new prototypes for industry clients.

She is now a sophomore in electrical and computer engineering. She decided to pursue an ECE degree because she really enjoys being able to understand how a piece of technology works, and thinking about how she could modify it to make it better. “ECE is a one big puzzle that I am continually being challenged to solve,” she said.

In her spare time, she enjoys playing the pianos around campus, as well as going into the Collaboratory and engulfing herself in new fun, interesting projects.

Could artificial intelligence take over the world? The question captured the attention of the media this year when Bill Gates, Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk spoke publically about the dangers of artificial intelligence (AI).

Gates said he is “concerned about super intelligence,” Hawking warned that “the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race,” and Musk described AI as “our biggest existential threat.”

Tom Dietterich, president of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence and a distinguished professor of computer science at Oregon State University, has been busy this year giving the academic perspective on the issue for articles, video and radio. He was the plenary speaker at Wait What? a future technology forum hosted by DARPA on September 9-11, 2015.

In an article by Digital Trends in February, Dietterich was tapped for his expertise on the topic:

Dietterich lists bugs, cyber-attacks and user interface issues as the three biggest risks of artificial intelligence — or any other software, for that matter. “Before we put computers in control of high-stakes decisions,” he says, “our software systems must be carefully validated to ensure that these problems do not arise.” It’s a matter of steady, stable progress with great attention to detail, rather than the “apocalyptic doomsday scenarios” that can so easily capture the imagination when discussing AI. Read more

In July, Dietterich was interviewed for NPR’s On Point “Managing the Artificial Intelligence Risk” during which he tackled a question from a caller who argued that robots should be programmed to love.

He responded, “My sense is that we should make a very clear distinction between robotic artificial intelligence and humans. I don’t think it’s appropriate to talk about a robot loving anything…Love is a relationship between people.”

When interviewer, Tom Ashbrook, pressed further, saying, “But if one day AI runs the world and does not recognize love…

Dietterich jumped in to say, “We will not let AI run the world… It’s a technology that should be used to enhance our humanity.”

You can listen to or download the entire show from the On Point website. Dietterich’s portion begins at minute 36.

Dietterich was also featured by Business Insider, Business Insider AustraliaFedScoop, Microsoft Research, PC MagazineTechInsiderU.S. Department of Defense; was filmed by Communications of the ACM and KEZI; and has been mentioned in articles by the Wall Street Journal, Tech Times, and The Corvallis Advocate.

 

Danny Dig

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.

Oregon State press release posted 7/24/2015

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Open Source Lab in the College of Engineering at Oregon State University has significantly upgraded the FTP service used by the open source software community and increased its download speeds by 900 percent.

This service can now handle millions of additional download requests per day, and serves as a critical link in the distribution of open-source software around the world.

With recent improvements, the lab increased the combined download speed to 30 gigabytes per second, and storage capacity to 9 terabytes, a 50 percent increase over what was previously available. Other performance improvements include a 100 percent increase in peak hard disk throughput, and a 60 percent increased capacity in web traffic.

“We’re on the leading edge,” said Lance Albertson, director of the laboratory. “We’re the only group providing this service using machines with the POWER8 architecture. This upgrade has already been noticed by many of our hosted projects due to the improved speed.”

IBM POWER8 server
IBM donated three servers with POWER8 architecture for the OSL upgrade. Pictured here is the one located in New York.

This cluster, which has locations in New York City, Chicago and Corvallis, Ore., hosts 85 open source software projects, whose users rely on this service to download applications and patches.

The content is mirrored to three servers so that it provides the fastest and most reliable service possible. Users include system administrators from around the world keeping Linux servers up to date, and end-users downloading the latest version of applications such as LibreOffice or Inkscape. In the coming months, the lab plans to open up the service to more projects.

IBM donated the three new servers that made the recent upgrade possible. Additional industry partners for the project included TDS Telecom and Google.

“The OSL has provided hosting services that have been key to our Apache, Power and Open software development programs for many years,” said Keith Brown, director of IBM Systems Technical Strategy & Product Security. “We’re continuing to build on that partnership.”

In addition to providing open-source services to the community, the OSL provides Oregon State students with hands-on training in open source development.

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For more technical details about the upgrade, see Lance Albertson’s blog Leveling Up With POWER8.

Terri FiezTerri 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.

2015 Oregon State AIAA team
The 2015 Oregon State AIAA team at the Intercollegiate Rocketry Engineering Competition held in Green River, Utah.

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.

Oregon State AIAA Club rocket.
Going, going, gone. Oregon State took first place in the payload competition and placed third in the overall competition for the advanced category at the Intercollegiate Rocketry Engineering Competition.

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.

Oregon State team arms the rocket.
The OSU team toggles the external power buttons to physically arm the electronics in the rocket. The ‘live’ circuits are connected to black powder ignition charges, hence the protective face masks.
OSU ground station engineers.
The ground station engineers attempt to make a radio connection with the transmitters in the rocket from 750 feet away. The receivers needed to be elevated in order to make the connection.

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.

-Story by Rachel Robertson

View more photos at the AIAA Flickr album

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Tom Dietterich (left) was surprised to receive OSU’s Postdoctoral Mentoring Award. He was nominated by postdoctoral fellow Rebecca Hutchinson (right).

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.

The Technology Association of Oregon (TAO) sponsored an Education Roadshow at Oregon State on May 28 to help students tailor their education to match industry needs. Representatives from AKQA, Columbia Sportswear, Hewlett-Packard, Tripwire and Vadio answered questions about what to expect when entering the workforce and how best to prepare. The event drew 250 students which was beyond the expectations of Danny Dig, assistant professor of computer science, who facilitated and moderated the event.

Maria Powell, who attended the event, said, “Being able to get first hand advice from professionals in the industry is invaluable to me. It not only gives me ideas of what I would like my goals to be beyond college but it helps me to be pro-active about my future right now.” Powell is a senior in computer science who will be graduating this August.

Nicholas Nelson, came to the event with more experience than most students since he worked in industry before returning to school in 2012 to finish his degree. “Our industry operates at such a fast pace, things that seemed common place three years ago when I was still working are likely to have changed. I wanted to be aware of the latest and greatest, and this industry panel did not disappoint. The diversity of panelists provided an excellent glimpse into both the start-up world and the established giants of industry,” Nelson said.

To make the time with the panelists the most effective, Dig polled students ahead of time to find out what questions they most wanted answered. The top two questions were: What questions should a prospective candidate ask during an interview? What kind of coursework and/or research projects are valued by industry? All the questions and answers are available on the EECS website.

“The students loved the event and many commented that these kinds of events make them feel lucky to be at Oregon State. Several of them have continuing discussions with the panelists about jobs and interviewing,” Dig said.

The event fits with the mission of the TAO to grow the technology economy in the region by providing programs and initiatives that support industry promotion, advocacy, professional networks, and talent development.

Dig acknowledged the help of the panelists: Bryce Clemmer (Vadio), Andy Neville (Columbia Sportswear), Andy Doan (AKQA), David Whitlock (Tripwire), Shelly Reasoner (HP) who volunteered their time to answer questions; Tina Batten who helped organize the event; Kevin McGrath, instructor for Operating Systems who gave up a class period for the event; all the students who helped generate questions and took notes during the event; TAO, which started the Education Roadshow; and Chris Scaffidi, associate professor of computer science, who had the vision of bringing the Education Roadshow to Oregon State.

Tanner Cecchetti, Eta Kappa Nu 2015 Sophomore of the Year.
Tanner Cecchetti, Eta Kappa Nu 2015 Sophomore of the Year.

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.

-by Rachel Robertson

Amber Horvath, computer science
Amber Horvath, computer science

Amber Horvath, computer science student, received honorable mention for the Undergraduate Research Student of the Year Award at Celebrating Undergraduate Excellence (CUE) 2015. Students from all majors presented posters of their research or creative work.

Horvath, advised by Dr. Margaret Burnett, presented a research study entitled, “Principles of a Debugging-First Puzzle Game for Computing Education.”

Abstract: Although there are many systems designed to engage people in programming, few explicitly teach the subject, expecting learners to acquire the necessary skills on their own as they create programs from scratch. We present a principled approach to teach programming using a debugging game called Gidget, which was created using a unique set of seven design principles.  A total of 44 teens played it via a lab study and two summer camps. Principle by principle, the results revealed strengths, problems, and open questions for the seven principles. Taken together, the results were very encouraging: learners were able to program with conditionals, loops, and other programming concepts after using the game for just 5 hours.