Jen-Hsun Huang photoJen-Hsun Huang, co-founder, president and chief executive officer of NVIDIA, is honored this week by the Oregon State University Alumni Association at the 35th Annual Spring Awards. Huang is receiving the E.B. Lemon Distinguished Alumni Award for his significant contributions and accomplishments within the society and the university.

Since graduating in 1984, Huang has kept close ties with Oregon State as he has progressed through his career. He came to Oregon State when he was 16 to start his degree in electrical engineering. One of the best things that came out of his experience here, he said, was meeting his wife, Lori Mills. The two were assigned to be lab partners in an electrical engineering fundamentals class, and they married five years later. Together they are benefactors of the Kelley Engineering Center, contributing $2.5 million.

Huang, who was also a nationally ranked junior table tennis champion in high school in Beaverton, spoke to Oregon State students about how to succeed on a visit to campus in 2013.

“The most important thing is to do important work — to do relevant work. Then you have to do it with the best of your might,” he said.  “If you do that…you’ll be surrounded by the world’s best at what they do, and then almost anything is possible.”

The success of NVIDIA was built on innovations for graphics processing units for computer gaming. The reach of NVIDIA is beyond video games, however, now entering the realm of artificial-intelligence projects such as self-driving cars. This month NVIDIA announced a new chip that is specifically designed for a technique called deep learning.

The Spring Awards Celebration will be held Friday, April 22, 2016 in the CH2M HILL Alumni Center, on the OSU campus in Corvallis. Registration is requested by April 20.

Carl Beery photo
Carl Beery shows the project that earned him four achievements in the Mastery Challenge.

Carl Beery, a junior in electrical and computer engineering, took first place and a cash prize of $150 in the Mastery Challenge for winter term.

The Mastery Challenge is a new extracurricular program hosted by the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Oregon State University to provide more hands-on learning opportunities for all students, regardless of major. The program is based on a concept called gamification which uses elements of game playing, such as leader boards and badges, to motivate participants to gain new abilities such as 3D modeling and Python programming.

Beery had already been working on projects on his own, but he realized the Mastery Challenge would give him a better framework for learning new abilities and more motivation for completing tasks.

“The Mastery Challenge is a good starting point to learn about topics you wouldn’t have thought about trying on your own,” Beery says. “Without it, I wouldn’t have learned how to laser cut, and laser cutting is pretty cool.”

To participate, students login to the Mastery Challenge website with their university account to see the list of challenges for which they can earn achievements. In winter term two cash prizes were awarded — one for the highest number of achievements, and a second was awarded randomly to anyone earning at least one achievement.

Beery had completed eight achievements and was tied for first place when he realized a project he had been working on for class — an audio amplifier — would qualify him for four more achievements. He simply videotaped his class presentation and uploaded it to the Mastery Challenge website as proof of completion.

“The experience Carl had was what I was hoping for — a fun way to gain new skills that will benefit him in the future as he enters the job market,” says Don Heer, creator of the Mastery Challenge program and instructor of electrical and computer engineering in the College of Engineering.

Mike Rosulek

Mike Rosulek, assistant professor of computer science, was selected for a Google Research Award for a grant to advance methods of customer privacy. The award will allow Rosulek to hire a graduate student to work on the project, and give them the opportunity to collaborate with Google researchers and engineers.

“I have lots of ideas in this space, and it will allow me and a student to dive in head first exploring them,” Rosulek says.

Companies are looking for inexpensive ways to share information with each other without violating the privacy of their customers. For example, two companies may want to find out which customers they have in common. A tool from cryptology called private set intersection allows two parties to find items in common on two separate lists without revealing anything else from those lists.

One part of Rosulek’s research seeks to strengthen the security of private set intersection tools while keeping the costs reasonable so that companies are more likely to adopt good practices for keeping their customer’s information secure.

Another part of the project will work on flexible (or “fuzzy”) matching of items on lists such as addresses. Names and street addresses may have differences in spelling, so looking for exact matches between two sets can be too restrictive. Rosulek’s research will seek to modify current techniques to allow for “close enough” matches.

“I’m excited to see that Google is interested in these advanced cryptographic tools. I’m excited that the techniques can be used to protect sensitive user information. And I’m excited about the new technical and mathematical challenges on the roadmap,” Rosulek says.

Margaret BurnettMargaret Burnett, a professor of computer science at Oregon State University, is one of eight researchers worldwide to be inducted into the CHI Academy in 2016 for pioneering contributions to the field of human-computer interaction. It is one of the highest awards given by the Association for Computing Machinery, SIGCHI.

When Burnett began her career in 1971, there were few female computer scientists, indeed, she was the first woman software developer hired at Procter & Gamble Ivorydale. A few degrees and start-ups later, she joined academia with a research focus on people who are engaged in some form of software development. She was the principal architect of the Forms/3 visual programming language, and pioneered the use of information foraging theory in the domain of software debugging.

Burnett co-founded the area of end-user software engineering, which aims to improve software for computer users that are not trained in programming. She established the EUSES Consortium, a multi-university collaboration which through her leadership has garnered international recognition.

Her current research investigates “gender-neutral” software, uncovering gender inclusiveness issues in software from spreadsheets to programming environments. She has published more than 200 papers, with several receiving best paper awards and honorable mentions, and has presented invited talks and keynotes on her research in 14 countries.

Burnett is also an award winning mentor, and recently received the Undergraduate Research Mentoring Award from the National Center for Women and Information Technology.

photo of Danny Dig

Danny Dig and his colleagues discovered widespread problems in mobile app development that can cause applications to be unresponsive and “freeze.” After looking at over 1,000 open-source mobile apps, they found two main problems — underuse and misuse of asynchronous programming.

“It’s very easy, if you are not careful, to write a mobile app that is unresponsive,” Dig says. “The number one culprit for a frozen app is that a programmer has written a blocking call, such as accessing the cloud, on the main thread that processes other user-interface events and actions.”

The solution is to move the blocking calls into the background with asynchronous programming. Dig’s team has sent out hundreds of patches to developers to fix the problems in their code, and they have created tools that developers can use to find and fix asynchrony errors. Their webpages LearnAsync.NET and refactoring.info/tools give many examples of asynchronous programming and access to the tools.

“Now what I want to do is help people avoid making those mistakes in the first place,” Dig said.

As part of his educational efforts, Dig will be presenting in Portland, Oregon for the Technology Association of Oregon in June. The cost is $25 for members and $45 for non-members.

The presentation will be a technical overview of why asynchrony is important, it will include descriptions of the common pitfalls and best practices, and he will also demonstrate the tools he has developed.

“I see this as a way of transferring knowledge from research into practice, but it’s also important for me to have a dialog with programmers. I bring back their feedback to the research,” Dig said. “So, this is a fabulous event for me to establish those connections.”

Story by Rachel Robertson

Photo of Brett Case, Logan Phipps, Taegan Warren.
Computer science freshmen, Brett Case, Logan Phipps, and Taegan Warren (left to right), won honorable mention at QuackHack.

Computer science freshmen, Brett Case, Logan Phipps and Taegan Warren had completed just one computer science class at Oregon State University, but their lack of expertise didn’t stop them from participating in QuackHack. The 40-hour gaming hackathon, held at the University of Oregon, challenged students to take an idea for a game and create a working prototype in a single weekend.

The trio entered the event for the learning experience and to see if they could create something with the basic programming skills they acquired in their introductory computer science class.

To their surprise, the virtual card game they created — in which players build hamburgers and feed them to the opponent — won an honorable mention for Best Scope, awarded to a team that had a reasonable goal and excellent execution of that goal.

“The judges were impressed not only by their execution, but how well the students knew their own skill in going after a project that was equal parts ambitious and reasonable,” said Jeff Bayes, QuackHack organizer.

More than 100 college students from 6 states, 14 universities and 16 different majors participated in the hackathon.

“We didn’t really expect to compete against more experienced people, but we decided we might as well go for it for our own benefit,” Phipps said.

“We just wanted to go and have fun and try to make something,” Case agreed.

To create their game within the short time frame, the team divvied up the programming components of the project. In the end, their separate functions had to come together to make the game work.

coding“It really makes you appreciate thorough design and pseudocode and flowcharts,” said Phipps. Jennifer [Parham-Mocello], our CS 160 professor, always talks about design, design, design. You
really need to have a large-scale design in advance; otherwise you can end up way over your head or you end up spending the entire time trying to debug.”

The teamwork is also crucial. “We helped each other with our weaknesses and built upon our strengths,” Warren said.

Parham-Mocello, who teaches the introductory computer science class, was thrilled with the students’ success. “This drives home what we teach: design, how to think and how to work in teams. They’re utilizing the principles that industry wants to see,” she said. “It’s not just about banging out code. We’re teaching students the proper way to do things from the very beginning.”

Story and photos by Gale Sumida

Students at HWeekend

A diverse group of students from 10 different majors traded sleep for creating a marketable product at Oregon State University’s HWeekend on January 16-17. In just 30 hours, 11 teams built devices ranging from fun to serious — including a spider robot, a wearable musical instrument, and a “smart” mask air filter — and pitched their product to a panel of judges.

The fifth HWeekend, hosted by the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, expanded this time to include business majors, with the collaboration of the Austin Entrepreneurship Program (AEP). At the beginning of the event students pitched their ideas to each other and formed groups based on interest. Mentors were on hand to help the teams develop their idea into a prototype.

“It was fantastic work by all the teams and it was really hard to decide on the winner,” said Dale McCauley, program manager of the AEP. In fact, the judges could not decide on the top two and instead awarded three prizes.

Zack McClure, a student in chemical engineering, participated for the first time. He admits he did not know what to expect coming into the event and was pleasantly surprised at how well the team formation worked.

“We have all different majors on our team — chemical engineering, computer science, electrical engineering, renewable materials and mechanical engineering — we have no duplicates, but a perfect overlap and ability to mesh with each other,” McClure said.

Savannah Loberger, a computer science student, was also a first time attendee and was part of a multi-disciplinary team that included electrical engineering and business students.

“This has a different feel than working on a team for a class assignment because we got to pick a project that we all really like,” Loberger said. “So, it’s been cool to work with people who really care about what we are making.”

Loberger‘s team, Illumin8, won the top prize for an LED device that could be controlled wirelessly for events like football games. Second place winners were Comfort Coozi, a temperature-controlled, heated sleeve for disposable coffee cups; and Spider Minions, an eight-legged spider robot. Participants also voted for the best executed project which was awarded to My Baton, a musical instrument that can be controlled by hand movements. The Helping Hands award was given to the Bio-Shock team for being the most helpful to other teams.

HWeekend was sponsored by Rockwell Collins, the College of Engineering and the Austin Entrepreneurship Program.

Grand prize

Illumin8: Joshua Castillo, Elliott Highfill, Austin Hodgin, Savannah Loberger, Paige Patterson

Second place

Comfort Coozi: Alec Delude, James Flatt, Dylan Gould, Samuel Lee, Joseph Unfred, Brendon Yong (Onn Lim

Spider Minions: Svetlana Goloviznina, Joshua Griffin, Charlie Manion, Annul Nygmet

The Executors (voted by participants)

MyBaton: Lauren Smith and Terence Tai

Helping Hands (voted by participants)

BioShock Printable Circuits: Drew Ehlers, Chris McBee, Zack McClure, Deric Ntirandekura, Parker Snook

Story by Rachel Robertson

team photo
dEATS team: Vahid Ghadakchi (computer science), Elijah Mcgowen (finance), Josh Cosio (marketing), and Dylan Gould (entrepreneurship).

Computer science graduate student, Vahid Ghadakchi, decided to step out of his normal life one weekend this fall and try something new. So, he put aside his Ph.D. thesis work and attended the Willamette Startup Weekend at Oregon State University — a 50 hour event to inspire entrepreneurship.

Not only did his team win the second place prize for their app, but they are continuing to develop it into a business.

At the event, Vahid was quickly snapped up by business students Dylan Gould (entrepreneurship), Josh Cosio (marketing) and Elijah Mcgowen (finance) for their team. The three came to the event together with an idea for an app that restaurants could use to help bring in business during slow times. Vahid filled the team’s need for a computer scientist to implement their idea.

Initially the team just wanted to have some fun and learn some skills, but once they started market testing the app with businesses and potential users they realized their product could go farther than a weekend contest. Nearly all of the businesses they talked to said they would use the app, and one expressed interest being a beta tester.  Customer responses were very positive as well.

Restaurants could use the app, called dEATS, to post discount deals that would last for a limited amount of time, such as 30 minutes. The app would have a count-down timer so customers would know how long the deal would be active. The product would help businesses drive customers to their restaurants during slow times, and customers could get ideas for where to go by checking the app for deals.

The team is planning to apply to the OSU’s Advantage Accelerator to help develop their idea into a business, and is looking for more engineers to join the team to make the business a reality.

Vahid said that the experience was a great break from working on his thesis and he also learned some valuable skills that go beyond what can be learned in the classroom.

“I realized how important it is for a computer science student to learn to communicate with people in business and other areas, because they have a different perspective that can help you develop a better product,” Vahid said.

Story by Rachel Robertson

The School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Oregon State University is initiating a new extracurricular program to provide more hands-on learning opportunities for students. The Mastery Challenge program is based on a concept called gamification which uses elements of game playing, such as leader boards and badges, to motivate participants to gain new abilities such as 3D modeling and Python programming.

“The program is designed to help students apply the knowledge they learn in classes to practical skills that they will need for jobs when they graduate,” said Don Heer, instructor of electrical and computer engineering. Experiential learning is a focus for Heer who has also created the TekBots program, which integrates course content with building a robot; and the CreateIT Collaboratory, an internship program for students to work with outside clients to create prototypes.

To participate, students login to the Mastery Challenge website with their university account to see the list of challenges for which they can earn achievements. Participants can work on their own, or get help by contacting students who already have that achievement. Prizes will be awarded to students with the highest number of achievements each term. Helping other participants is another way for students to earn achievements.

Peers also participate in the evaluation process. To earn an achievement, a participant must demonstrate their ability by uploading a video or document to the website for review. Students who already have that achievement can recommend to Heer if the application should be accepted or denied. Heer then makes the final decision.

The Mastery Challenge program is open to anyone at Oregon State — students from other majors, faculty and staff can participate. Initially the program will include abilities in electrical engineering and computer science, but Heer’s vision is that the program will expand across the university, so students can earn achievements in a wide variety of disciplines.

Questions about the program can be directed to Don Heer.

Phylicia Cicilio

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.”