Corwin Perren and Billy Edwards of the Oregon State Mars Rover team
Corwin Perren, electrical team lead, and Billy Edwards, team leader for the Mars Rover, traveled with three other teammates to the 2014 Sample Return Robot Challenge in Worcester, Mass..

Five members of Oregon State’s Robotics club on the Mars Rover team took their finals early so they could travel this week to Worcester, Mass. for the 2014 Sample Return Robot Challenge. The event on June 9 to 14, is hosted by NASA and Worcester Polytechnic Institute and has nearly $1.5 million available for prize money.

Before leaving, the team disassembled the robot and each packed part of it into their luggage to avoid the costly shipping charges. For a team that is concerned about expenses, the prize money is a big incentive.

“Building a robot from scratch is a pretty expensive venture. So if we can win some money at the competition, then we can concentrate more on the engineering and the project itself,” said Billy Edwards, Mars Rover team leader and junior in mechanical engineering. The money would go towards scholarships, projects, and supplies for the lab.

During the challenge, the robot must work on its own to find a specific object in a park and return it to a designated point. The autonomous robot is guided by a computer program, and the team members are not allowed to control it during the task. The idea is to simulate conditions on Mars where GPS is not available, so the robot navigates by using cameras and other sensors.

“It’s really cool,” Edwards said. “It’s almost like seeing AI — to see something work on its own.”

The competition has two challenges. For the first challenge there is only one object to retrieve. Those robots that are successful compete in the second phase which has multiple objects. The week-long event also includes demonstrating the robot to the public.

Mars Rover by the Oregon State Robotics club.
The Mars Rover built by the Oregon State Robotics club.

Joining Edwards on the trip is Corwin Perren, electrical team lead, Lane Breneman, software team lead, Richard Cook, software senior design team member, and Erich Merrill, software senior design team member, all from the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Beyond the prize money the team is excited about representing Oregon State.

“We want to show that OSU has successful teams and very good engineers. We want to show what we can do,” Edwards said.

–by Rachel Robertson

 

Oregon State Student at HWeekend
Caleb Schmidt (mechanical engineering) works on modifying a TekBot to retrieve and deliver a coffee cup.

The inaugural hardware weekend (HWeekend) at Oregon State gave 19 engineering students a taste of creating a prototype under time pressure. Six teams developed their ideas as far as they could in 30 hours, starting in the morning of May 31 and finishing June 1. Hosted by the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science the free event was sponsored by Eaton Corporation that provided hardware and food. Mentors from Eaton Corporation and Hewlett-Packard were on hand to help guide the projects.

“There are start-up weekends and app development weekends, but there wasn’t a program for something that covered the whole gamut of engineering, and included user experience. And I thought, ‘We can do that,’” said Don Heer, organizer of the event and instructor for the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

The theme for the weekend event was automation and non-obtrusive technology. Projects were as diverse as a moving trash can, and a cane for people who are visually impaired that would vibrate the handle when nearby objects were detected.

Oregon State students at a hardware weekend
HWeekend participants had a “speed dating” session to get to know each other before forming teams.

The teams formed after having a chance to interact with each other one on one. Students with ideas for a project wrote them up on a white board and other students shopped around for a group. Cross-disciplinary groups formed with students from electrical and computer engineering, mechanical and industrial engineering, computer science and chemical and biological engineering.

Cory Rea, a power systems engineer for Eaton Corporation who served as a mentor, said the weekend was a great way for students to get some real-world experience.

“Every day in my job I work with a team across multiple disciplines — mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, sales, project managers. So, it’s important to be able to collaborate effectively,” he said.

Hannah Marvin, a freshman in electrical in computer engineering, said she came because she wanted to make connections with students outside her major. Marvin was a winner of one of the “Ironman Awards” given to 17 students who stuck it out the whole 30 hours.

“It went a lot faster than I perceived it would. It’s really cool looking at everybody else’s projects, so that makes it go by faster,” she said. And even after several hours with no sleep, she was still positive.

Oregon State students Ryan Skeele and Soo-Hyun Yoo at HWeekend
Ryan Skeele (mechanical engineering) and Soo-Hyn Yoo (computer science) show off their winning project.

“It’s really fun! Everyone should have a chance to do this,” she said.

It was a collaborative atmosphere where students helped out other teams when they could. One team stood out to win the “Helper Award.” Elliott Highfill, Travis Hodgin, Austin Hodgin, Max Schmidt, and Bradly Thissen worked on a project to play a game of tag with the TekBot robots, but were also a great help to the other teams by loaning tools, offering ideas, and help with coding.

The top award for execution went to a team that built a device to augment the function of a human arm as an aid for people with limited strength or other disabilities. Kyle Cesare, John Fritter, Ryan Skeele and Soo-Hyun Yoo intend to continue to work on the project which they hope to eventually be an exoskeleton suit including both arms and legs that can be easily reproduced by others without highly specialized equipment.

Heer hopes that events like these will show people how cool engineering is. “Engineers should be rock stars…they are the ones that make the world run,” he said.

–by Rachel Robertson

Intellicycle-team
Brian Benavidez, Arron Bellini, and Kamil Agrawala win the People’s Choice Award at Oregon State’s Engineering Expo.

The whirring sound of bike tires spinning on stationary stand could be heard throughout the Kelley Engineering Center as one after another Engineering Expo visitors tested out the Intellicycle. Based on the number of people flocking to get on the bike it was not surprising the senior design project won the People’s Choice Award. But it was more than senior Arron Bellini had anticipated.

“I wasn’t expecting more than passing glances, but then the interest in it blew up. It was pretty crazy,” Bellini said.

The Intellicycle is a device that can be added to any bike to measure speed, distance, cadence and temperature. The information is sent to a smartphone where it is displayed on a mobile application which can also bring up a map of your location. There are no worries about the phone running out of battery life, because the system harvests energy from the front wheel. In addition to recharging a phone, the power system runs the lights on the bike. But they are not just ordinary lights — these “smart” lights automatically turn on when it gets dark, and can also be controlled manually.

Brian Benavidez said he thought their project did well at Expo because it was very hands-on, it was easy for people to understand and useful to many types of bike riders. Having a bike situated in the atrium of Kelley was an amazing hook to get people interested. “We had a five-year-old riding it and an 82-year-old riding it, and they both had huge smiles on their faces,” he said.

Beyond seeing how fast they could get the bike to go, the visitors also had questions.

Benny-on-bike
Benny Beaver tries out the Intellicycle.

“We had genuine questions from people who are not engineers wanting to know how it works. It was cool that we could take some complicated engineering and convert it into something that a 5-year-old kid wants to know about. It turned the competition into education,” Kamil Agrawala said.

The project, which was first hatched by the friends at a football game, split nicely into three parts they each had independent control over: the power system, the sensors, and the mobile application. The hard part, they all admitted, was getting the three separate parts to work together. And although they sometimes butted heads on how to get it to work, they left business behind them when they would hang out together as friends.

“The one thing I would tell other students doing their senior project, is pick a team that you have a good group chemistry with, because you’ll be working with these people for a year,” Agrawala said.

The many hours of work paid off in a project that captured the imaginations of those who visited, some who wondered if the group would turn it into a marketable product. For now, the success of finishing is enough.

“To come up with a plan and execute it the way we wanted to, and then to cap off with the award was a pretty monumental achievement. Right now I’m just feeling sincere gratification,” Bellini said.

–by Rachel Robertson

After participating in the App Hackathon last year, Nicole Phelps knew she wanted to bring the experience of creating an app to more students. Renamed OSU’s App Challenge, she David Meehan organized the event this year that culminated in a competition on May 10. It was the capstone senior project for the two computer science students.

Phelps and Meehan taught weekly classes in Android and iOS development to prepare students for the competition. But expanding students’ skills was not the only point to the competition.

OSU’s App Challenge organizers pose with the judges. (left to right) David Meehan,  Luke Kanies (Puppet Labs), Bryce Clemmer (Vadio), Shashi Jain (MatterCompilers), Scott Kveton (Urban Airship), and Nicole Phelps.
OSU’s App Challenge organizers pose with the judges. (left to right) David Meehan, Luke Kanies (Puppet Labs), Bryce Clemmer (Vadio), Shashi Jain (MatterCompilers), Scott Kveton (Urban Airship), and Nicole Phelps.

“The event currently has some amazing judges, which provides students with an uncommon opportunity to network with inspiring role models in the tech industry,” Phelps said. The judges this year were Scott Kveton, CEO and co-founder of Urban Airship, and co-founder of OSU’s Open Source Lab; Bryce Clemmer, CEO and co-founder of Vadio; Luke Kanies, CEO and co-founder of Puppet Labs; and Shashi Jain, CTO and co-founder of MatterCompilers and Corporate Innovations Lead at UP Global.

“Another thing we wanted to do with the classes was build a community of app developers,” said Meehan. “It’s great to have other people to talk to who are working on the same kinds of problems you are.”

Encouraging teamwork was the focus of this year’s event which Phelps said is an important skill for future jobs, but also makes the experience more fun and less pressure.

Luke Kanies, of Puppet Labs, said he could see a significant improvement in the quality of the apps this year and was impressed with partnerships that the students had with industry and research labs. “The organization has learned a lot over the year,” he said.

francis
Francis Vo shows off his app to play Texas hold ’em.

Several app developers had real clients: Three of the apps were built for the Corvallis Transportation System to help bus riders navigate the bus system, Francis Vo and Meghan Gorman competed with an app sponsored by Intel that displays a game from multiple phones on one TV screen, and the overall winning team, OccuChrome, developed an app for an Oregon State chemistry lab to read enzyme slides using a smartphone camera, and analyze the chemical reaction.

Others brought apps that they developed for their own use. Greg Luis-Ramirez competed with a quiz app that he uses as a study tool, and Michael Woffendin and Nick Piatt created an app that uses ratings that friends give restaurants to find one that everyone will agree on. “I have very indecisive friends,” Piatt said with a smile.

Thanks to a generous donation by Urban Airship, and swag by Google, the participants also received some great prizes. The overall winner received a $200 Amazon gift certificate and all other winners received $75 Amazon gift certificates.

Joe Runde helps Luke Kanies test out the OccuChrome app,
Joe Runde helps Luke Kanies test out the OccuChrome app that reads and analyzes enzyme slides.

Overall Winner

OccuChrome by Kyle Cesare, Joe Runde, and Kevin Hess
OccuChrome automates the process of calibrating statistical models to evaluate reactions on enzyme slides. This will speed up research processes in a lab setting, and may have further uses in the field as a mobile diagnostic platform for doctors.

Category Winners

Usability: CorBus by Cezary Wojcik and Russel Barnes
Corbus is an app that is meant to assist users of the Corvallis Transportation System. The goal of the app is to provide a quick and beautiful interface that can help users easily plan and navigate the buses of Corvallis.

Presentation: Transport by Chris Vanderschuere, Carly Farr, and Bret Lorimore
Transport app for the Corvallis Transit System, which serves to provide bus riders with real-time information about where the bus is and when it will get to your stop.

Completeness: LANREG by Charles Catino
LANREG is an event registration web application that is designed to support small to large scale LAN parties. It includes organization, event, and seating chart creation tools along with full PayPal payment integration.

People’s Choice: Profit by Soroush Ghorashi and Chadwick Swenson
Profit is a simple mobile app that solves the three biggest problems freelancers and small business owners face: taxes, audit preparation and client tracking.

–by Rachel Robertson

Of the over 500 teams that applied, two Oregon State teams were among the top 35 to make it to the finals of Intel’s 2014 Cornell Cup competition, held on May 2 and 3 at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. After three rounds of judging by Intel representatives including a floor presentation, and a formal pitch to an audience — both teams were awarded honorable mention.

The competition gives students the real-world experience of working as a team to design a product for a client. “There will be supply chain issues, there will be hobgoblins in what should be working hardware, there will be times when you absolutely lose the motivation to fix the last few issues. How you overcome these challenges dictates what kind of engineer you are,” said Kevin McGrath, advisor to the teams.

McGrath took a hands-off approach to mentoring the students, and let the teams take ownership of their projects. “I think it was a net benefit for us as a team,” said Josh Sklar, computer science student. “We got a lot more out of it because we were forced to do everything, and had free rein to be more creative.”

The two teams were multidisciplinary including members from computer science, and electrical and computer engineering. The Motion Safe Systems team also included a business major to help with marketing.

Motion Safe Systems team (left to right): Josh Sklar, Glen Nicol, Ashley Greenacre, Stefan Herrenbruck, Ryan Kalb, and Stephen Austin
Motion Safe Systems team (left to right): Josh Sklar, Glen Nicol, Ashley Greenacre, Stefan Herrenbruck, Ryan Kalb, and Stephen Austin

Motion Safe Systems

A team of six took on the radical idea of turning cars into an alert system to contact emergency responders and warn nearby drivers when an accident occurs. They created an affordable device that can plug into the on-board diagnostics port of a car.

The device can detect a crash with a combination of instruments including an accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer. But he genius of the system is it how the devices connect to one another via a wireless mesh network — allowing cars to “talk” to each other. Since no centralized controller is needed, the messages can be passed from car to car, spreading the information to cars too distant from the initial accident to receive direct transmission. Motion Safe Systems could also be expanded to allow users to connect with their smartphones to access other information from their cars such as fuel economy.

Dr. Wattson: Power Inspector

Dr. Wattson team (left to right):  Berkeley Fisher, Kit Morton, Emily Raterman and Bennett Rand
Dr. Wattson team (left to right): Berkeley Fisher, Kit Morton, Emily Raterman and Bennett Rand

The four members of the Dr. Wattson team designed a product to help inform consumers about their power consumption. Their device takes energy monitoring in the home to a new level by allowing consumers to monitor several outlets at once. The data is sent wirelessly to a base station, where it is entered into a database. A web interface pulls the data from the database and displays it in a way that makes it easy for consumers to understand, and is accessible by a computer, tablet or phone. This advances current technology, such as the Kill-A-Watt, which monitors just one outlet and requires the user to look at the actual device where it is plugged in — sometimes under a desk or behind furniture. The team was also featured on the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science website.

The competition allowed the teams to connect with engineering students from all over the nation and find out about their projects. “The Cornell Cup was a lot of hard work and a lot of fun. All 35 of the teams that were there definitely deserved to be there — great projects and smart people,” said Bennett Rand, computer science student.

Both teams will have their projects on display at OSU’s Engineering Expo on May 16.

Students interested in participating in the 2015 Cornell Cup can contact Kevin McGrath.

–by Rachel Robertson

 

 

The OSU App Challenge will take place Saturday, May 10th 2pm-4pm in the Kelley Engineering Center Main Atrium.
Each team will have a dedicated table to show off the App they created. Technology industry executives will tour the tables and judge each on Innovation, Completeness and Presentation.

The prizes are:
First overall: $200 gift card to Amazon
Best of each the following categories: $75 gift card to Amazon

  • Most Innovative
  • Most Complete
  • Best Presentation
  • People’s Choice

The OSU App Challenge is a competition empowered by OSU students who are eager to learn to make mobile applications. We are in the process of building a community at OSU around the app development process. All levels of experience (including no experience) are encouraged to attend. You can form a team or work individually.

If you have any questions, feel free to email nicole.marie.phelps@gmail.com or davidmeehan7@gmail.com

App Challenge Poster