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

dietterich-hutchinson-cropped
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.

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.

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.

Amber Hartman, Benjamin Narin and Kai Ovesen win the Boeing Engineering Excellence Award.
Amber Hartman, Benjamin Narin and Kai Ovesen win the Boeing Engineering Excellence Award at OSU’s Engineering Expo. Photo by Gale Sumida.

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.

Trevor Buys, Megan Kamiya and Jordan Belisle win at Expo.
Trevor Buys, Megan Kamiya and Jordan Belisle win the Tektronix Commercialization Award at OSU’s Engineering Expo. Photo by Gale Sumida.

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

Video of Eye Gaze project.
Video of Eye Gaze System.

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.

David Piorkowski
David Piorkowski

Graduate student David Piorkowski received an IBM Ph.D. Fellowship Award in March 2015. The fellowship is an intensely competitive worldwide program, which honors exceptional Ph.D. students who have an interest in solving problems that are important to IBM and fundamental to innovation in many academic disciplines and areas of study.

Piorkowski’s research is in the area of software engineering, and aims to create better tools to help software developers debug code.

Margaret Burnett, professor of computer science, and Piorkowski’s Ph.D. advisor said, “David is a rising star. His research stands to fundamentally impact software engineering, and this award recognizes its importance. The computer science research community’s recognition of its importance also shows in David’s academic successes along the way.

“In the five years past his B.S., David won four research internships, and published six ACM/IEEE papers with more in the pipeline. His papers are significant, building a foundation for practical support of software developers’ information seeking. He also “gives back,” mentoring younger graduate students, undergraduates, and even highschoolers.  I am extremely proud of his achievements.”

Description of his Ph.D. dissertation from his award nomination:

“Information foraging theory (IFT) has explained and predicted how people seek information, but IFT does not explicitly account for how people forage when simultaneously “fixing” information in the environment. This gap may limit IFT’s applicability to programming.

Informed by prior research in IFT and Minimalist Learning Theory, my research investigates how programmers forage differently when debugging (fixing) versus understanding (learning) code — via empirical studies and constructing computational models — and how software tools can capitalize upon these differences. The results will contribute new, evidence-based theoretical foundations for understanding software developers’ information seeking behaviors, and how tools can support them.”

John Conley working in his lab.
Professor John Conley and Ph.D. student Dustin Austin use a technique called atomic layer deposition (ALD) to synthesize a nanolaminate dielectric film.

John F. Conley, Jr., professor of electrical engineering at Oregon State, has been named the only 2015 IEEE Fellow in Oregon. He is being recognized for “contributions to semiconductor process technology to improve radiation hardening of MOS devices,” according to the IEEE awards committee. Conley’s work has had direct impact on earth orbiting satellites, military applications, and the robotic exploration of deep space, as well as the reliability and lifetime of everyday electronic devices.

“I have been a member of IEEE since I was a student at Penn State and I feel greatly honored and humbled to have achieved this level of distinction within this organization,” Conley said.

The IEEE Grade of Fellow is conferred by the IEEE Board of Directors upon a person with an outstanding record of accomplishments in any of the IEEE fields of interest. The total number selected in any one year cannot exceed one-tenth of one- percent of the total voting membership. IEEE Fellow is the highest grade of membership and is recognized by the technical community as a prestigious honor and an important career achievement.

One of Conley’s key contributions to improve the radiation hardening of CMOS devices was to the understanding of the reactions between hydrogen and radiation damage centers in MOS devices (with Patrick Lenahan). Another was the first experimental confirmation of the Lelis Model for switching (border) traps (with Lenahan, Aivars Lelis, and Tim Oldham). This work provided fundamental insight into the way in which oxygen vacancy defects, the most important oxide traps, change structure and electronic properties in response to charge capture. Although this work dealt specifically with radiation damage problems near Si/SiO2 interface, the experimentally demonstrated Lelis model now forms the basis for understanding of the negative bias temperature instability (NBTI) — one of the most important MOS reliability problems.

Conley has also made significant contributions to the atomic layer deposition (ALD) of dielectrics and nanotechnology (the selective growth of nanowires). His research group at Oregon State is focused on materials development using ALD, metal/insulator/metal devices, internal photoemission, and thin film transistors.

Conley’s career includes positions at Dynamics Research Corporation, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), and Sharp Laboratories of America (SLA). Since 2007 he has been at Oregon State where he is a professor in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and the Intercollege Materials Science Program. He is an ONAMI Signature Faculty Fellow, and co-director of the Materials Synthesis and Characterization (MASC) facility.

Conley has authored or co-authored over 120 technical papers, over 130 additional conference presentations (including tutorial short courses on high-k dielectrics and 15 invited talks), and 20 U.S. patents.

The first peer-reviewed paper Christopher Scaffidi wrote 10 years ago has just been named the Most Influential Paper at the IEEE Symposium on Visual Languages and Human-Centric Computing, (VL/HCC) in Melbourne, Australia, July 28-Aug 1.

Chris Scaffidi and Brad Meyers accept award.
Chris Scaffidi (center) and Brad Meyers (left) accept the Most Influential Paper award.

“It’s surprising because my first attempt at something usually isn’t my best …but this paper won the award because it helps to establish the scope of impact for a research area,” said Scaffidi, assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Oregon State University.

The research area the paper impacts is end-user programming — a type of programming such as website or spreadsheet authoring that is performed by people who are not trained programmers. The 2005 paper, “Estimating the Number of End-Users and End-User Programmers,” predicted that 90 million end users would be in American workplaces by 2012, and that 55 million of those would potentially be programming spreadsheets and databases. They also predicted that 13 million end users would describe themselves as programmers, which far exceeds an estimated 3 million professional programmers.

“Those were astonishing numbers, which, along with the detailed analyses presented in the paper, has resulted in this paper being highly cited, and highly influential in getting more researchers to focus on this class of programmers, which generally has received little attention,” said Brad Meyers, Scaffidi’s co-author and professor at Carnegie Mellon University.

Scaffidi started the research as a first-year graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University with his other co-author and advisor, Mary Shaw, when he became intrigued by an often cited, but unsupported estimate of the number of end-user programmers.

Beyond estimating the number of end-user programmers, Scaffidi made predictions based on his method and validated the results with real data from 2001 and 2003.

Scaffidi said the importance of the paper is that is highlights an area of research that is becoming more critical in our society. The research aims to make end-user programming easier and more accessible to a broader range of people.

“I really think end-user programming is absolutely essential for the health of a middle class workforce. There are lots of jobs which are being automated away and being given to intelligent software or robots, and end-user programming gives people a way to be more secure in their jobs — they are the automators, not the automated,” Scaffidi said.

–by Rachel Robertson

Flanked by conference officials, Danny Dig and students accept their award
Flanked by conference organizers, Danny Dig (in black) and collaborators (left to right) Semih Okur, David Hartveld, and Arie van Deursen, accept the ACM SIGSOFT Distignguisted Paper Award.

Danny Dig and his Ph.D. student Semih Okur, along with international collaborators David Hartveld and Arie van Deursen, presented a paper at the prestigious International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE’14) in Hyderabad, India last week, which won the ACM SIGSOFT Distinguished Paper Award. The companion website to the paper “A Study and Toolkit for Asynchronous Programming in C#” is an educational resource with examples from real code on how to use async constructs. The winning paper was one of three that Dig’s Ph.D. students presented at the conference which he said is more selective than the top journals in the field of software engineering. Oregon State students Caius Brindescu, Mihai Codoban, and Sergey Shmarkatiuk collaborated with him on the other projects presented at the conference.

Oregon State was also represented at the conference by Rahul Gopinath, Carlos Jensen, and Alex Groce who presented a paper, and by Margaret Burnett who gave an invited presentation.

“I am happy that OSU is so well represented at the top event in the field of software engineering,” Dig said.

Abstract of winning paper: A Study and Toolkit for Asynchronous Programming in C#

Semih Okur, David L. Hartveld, Danny Dig, and Arie van Deursen
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA; Delft University of Technology, Netherlands; Oregon State University, USA

Asynchronous programming is in demand today, because responsiveness is increasingly important on all modern devices. Yet, we know little about how developers use asynchronous programming in practice. Without such knowledge, developers, researchers, language and library designers, and tool vendors can make wrong assumptions. We present the first study that analyzes the usage of asynchronous programming in a large experiment. We analyzed 1378 open source Windows Phone (WP) apps, comprising 12M SLOC, produced by 3376 developers. Using this data, we answer 2 research questions about use and misuse of asynchronous constructs. Inspired by these findings, we developed (i) Asyncifier, an automated refactoring tool that converts callback-based asynchronous code to the new async/await; (ii) Corrector, a tool that finds and corrects common misuses of async/await. Our empirical evaluation shows that these tools are (i) applicable and (ii) efficient. Developers accepted 313 patches generated by our tools.