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.
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 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.
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.
Students in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) won three of the four overall awards at the Engineering Expo 2015. Additionally, the Industry Advisory Board for EECS recognized six other outstanding projects.
Boeing Engineering Excellence Award
The Boeing Engineering Excellence Award distinguishes a project team that delivers a robust and innovative solution with a clear focus on enabling potential customers to excel in their markets and missions.
Winner: EyeRobot. Team: Amber Hartman, Benjamin Narin and Kai Ovesen.
This project aims to help people with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) or similar diseases in which people lose motor control. Using eye gaze, the Electrooculography (EOG) headset provides an emergency stop for those who cannot physically hit a button. The project is in collaboration with researchers at the Personal Robotics Lab at Oregon State University who are developing a wheelchair that can drive itself using way points set by eye-tracking equipment. The head set measures electric potential across the eyes from two sensors placed on the temples.
Tektronix Commercialization Award
The Tektronix Commercialization Award winners will be evaluated based on the level of innovation and potential impact in the market.
Winner: Custom Car Head Unit. Team: Jordan Belisle, Megan Kamiya, and Trevor Buys
This custom car head unit for controlling the car stereo is a low-cost upgrade that has multiple audio input options and other connection capabilities including WiFi. The system also collects car data and generates web displayed reports on driving patterns.
People’s Choice Award
The People’s choice award was voted on by attendees to the Engineering Expo.
Winner: Eye Gaze System. Team: Sultan Alyamani, Trevor Fiez and George Vartanov.
This device is designed for individuals who have motor restrictions. Our goal for this project is to create an inexpensive eye gaze directional detector. Current eye-gaze systems use expensive technologies that are limited in their utility.
Electrical and Computer Engineering Industry Award Winners:
First place: OSU Rocketry – Payload Electronics. Team: Elliott Fudim, Tyler Giddings and Sagar Rotithor.
The OSU Rocketry team has built a rocket capable of ascending a 10 pound payload to 25,000 feet for the 2014 Experimental Sounding Rocketry Association (ESRA) intercollegiate competition. The Payload Electronics Team designed a payload that will conduct experiments and collect data during the rocket launch.
Second place: Persistence of Vision Globe. Team: Harry Bloom, Matthew Eilertson and Masa Kawaharada.
This functional persistence of vision (POV) globe utilizes LEDs spinning on a spherical frame in order to create a three-dimensional optical illusion of the Earth. The human eye can only retain an image for one twenty-fifth of a second. By flashing LEDs at precise increments as they rotate at a rapid speed, we can trick the human mind into seeing continuous lines of light, which will project an image. POV Globe video.
Third place: Smart Disk Wireless Switching Device. Team: Rachael Carlson, Alan Huang and Keith Kostol.
Is your light switch in the wrong place? The Smart Disk operates lights wirelessly so you put your light switch anywhere. Smart Disk video.
Computer Science Industry Award Winners:
First place: V2x Systems and Integration. Team: Stephen Austin, Ashley Greenacre, Chris Harper, Faith Steltzer, and Sam Quinn. V2x Systems video.
If cars could talk roads would be safer. This project combines sensors, networking, and an in-vehicle display to make driving safer by sensing when accidents occur and communicating the crash information to emergency responders and other vehicles on the road.
Second place: Camera Test Drone. Team: Loren Brown, Justin Cheng and Ken Hafdahl.
Vibration can be a big problem for cameras mounted on a moving vehicle. This anti-vibration system combines mechanical, electrical, and computer science elements to record and process flight video from a variety of cameras mounted to a quadcopter. Camera Test Drone video.
Third place: World of Fitcraft. Team: Nick Bristow, Tracie Lee and Vedanth Narayanan.
Having trouble getting fit? This app makes a game of exercise; users earn rewards and “level up” on their way to better health. World of Fitcraft video.
An Oregon State University team of computer science and electrical and computer engineering students earned third place at the Intel-Cornell Cup on May 1-2 at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Cape Canaveral, Fla.
The purpose of the embedded design competition is to inspire student innovation. Entry into the event is competitive; only 22 teams from across the country were selected to attend. The chosen teams were provided with $1,500 in funding and the latest Intel Atom board which they incorporated into their project.
Auto Safe, the Oregon State team, designed a system to send information about car accidents to other cars in the area. The device includes sensors to detect crashes and rollovers, and a wireless mesh network to transmit information between vehicles. The device can be plugged in to any car 1996 or newer via the OBD II port. (See video below for a demonstration.)
The event was open to the public, so in addition to presenting to the judges, the team explained their project to crowds of elementary students who were visiting the Kennedy Space Center.
“Our project was really fun for the kids because they could drive the simulator. One girl, who had never played a driving game before, stayed for a really long time,” said Ashley Greenacre, senior in electrical and computer engineering.
Meeting students from other universities and seeing their projects was one of the best parts of the event for the team. Chris Harper, senior in electrical and computer engineering said, “We were all using the same hardware, so it was really interesting to see everyone’s different take on it.”
It was the first time Sam Quinn, senior in computer science, had participated in a competitive event. “It was eye-opening to see the troubles that go on behind the scenes,” he said. The team had to deal with last minute networking problems, but rather than be upset by it, Quinn said that he really enjoyed high pressure problem solving.
The hands-on experiences that the students receive by working as a team to design a product is why Kevin McGrath, computer science instructor and advisor to the team, recruits students to participate in the event every year. “There will always be challenges, and how you overcome those challenges dictates the kind of engineer you are,” he said.
A new energy test bed using cutting-edge sensor technology has been located at Oregon State University, designed to gain a better understanding of the local electric grid.
The Bonneville Power Administration awarded a $350,000 grant to develop a system that will provide a detailed analysis of load composition and power use. The project should help accommodate new types of load demands and new sources of renewable energy, such as wind and wave energy, while averting blackouts.
The sensors, called phasor measurement units or “synchrophasors,” can take voltage and current measurements 60 times a second, compared to standard sensors that take measurements every two to four seconds. All data will be time-stamped and synchronized with a common clock, allowing researchers to track electrical spikes and other anomalies throughout the grid.
A better understanding of these anomalies could eventually lead to a “smart grid” that can automatically detect blackout warning signs and disconnect portions of the grid to protect critical loads.
“These synchrophasors will allow us to develop better load models,” said Eduardo Cotilla-Sanchez, an OSU assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering and leader of this project. “Currently, our cascading power outage analysis assumes the campus load to be like a giant toaster – a big resistor that doesn’t change over time – but reality is much more complex.
“We won’t be able to have accurate models until we have a better understanding of the load composition and time-varying demands.”
Three of the synchrophasors have already been installed, and a total of seven will measure a variety of load types. The campus locations for the sensors include the Energy Center, the Salmon Disease Lab, Snell Hall, the photovoltaic array on Campus Way, and the Wallace Energy Systems and Renewables Facility. Two off-campus locations include a platinum foundry in Albany, and one near Newport at the future wave energy testing center, in collaboration with Consumers Power and Central Lincoln PUD.
In addition to the research benefits, the project will allow OSU students to learn about the advanced technology. Graduate students involved in the installation and management of the system are getting hands-on experiences with the all the steps in the chain, from connecting the current transformer to data management and machine learning, which incorporates both electrical engineering and computer science.
“Our students will really have an advantage by being exposed to this technology and having the opportunity to work directly with the local utility companies,” Cotilla-Sanchez said.
In addition to the local utilities, the project involves collaborators from the BPA, OSU Facilities Services, OSU Information Services, and the College of Engineering information technology department.
In just 30 hours, Oregon State University students created wearable technology projects at HWeekend on April 10-12, sponsored by the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Thirty-five students spanning several areas of engineering formed seven teams and built projects that ranged from a remote controlled arm to a video game.
The event was organized by Don Heer, instructor in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, who wanted to provide students an event similar to a start-up weekend or app hackathon, but for hardware. It was the fourth event for Heer who values real-world experiences that augment the student’s classroom experiences.
To build their projects the students had a variety of components available to them including tiny computers, NVIDIA Jetsons, motion sensors and motors, and as access to 3D printers.
“It’s surprising how much this relates to my classwork, but also how much fun I had with it,” said Mark Andrews, student of electrical and computer engineering and math. It was the second HWeekend for Andrews.
About half of the students at the spring HWeekend had participated in one of the previous three HWeekend events that were sponsored by Eaton, Rockwell Collins and Micron.
Two projects: The Hand of Glory by Mark Andrews, Paul Lantow, and Conner Yates; and Go Go Gadget Claw by Tyler Gilbert, Ryan Green, Rattanai Sawaspanich, and Keaton Scheible are featured in videos below. The Go Go Gadget team won the Most Innovative award and tied for the Most Helpful award with the Mechanical Calf Assisting Device team.