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.
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.”
Claudia Mini’s passion for technology was sparked by watching her aunt play Nintendo NES, although it was not until college that she decided to pursue it as a career. Now an Oregon State computer science student, Mini has found a way to combine her creative side with computer science.
Of those early days hanging out with her aunt, Mini said, “I just loved watching her play and would root for her, but when I would play I’d always lose.” Not deterred, she later became the computer expert of the household she shared with her grandmother, mother and aunt, who were originally from Nicaragua.
In third grade, Mini won a computer in a raffle which gave her the chance to start exploring all the possibilities that computers offered. But she didn’t try programming beyond learning enough html to improve her Myspace page. In a high school class on Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, Mini’s teacher noticed she liked to help others out and asked her to be a be a teaching assistant in a computer science class. So, although she never took a programming class in high school she had the opportunity to learn more about all the options computer science had to offer through the class she assisted with.
“I thought it was just really cool that there was so much versatility, and you could show your creativity through computer science,” she said.
But Mini had planned to follow in the footsteps of her mother and aunt who were both in medical professions. She applied to Oregon State as a pharmacy major, but switched her major before taking classes when she realized that she fit better into computer science.
“I feel like when you’re in the right major you definitely know it because you’re surrounded by people that have the same common interests as you, and you get along with them,” she said.
To get through her first year of computer science courses, Mini said she was at her teaching assistant’s office hours every day. The strategy not only helped her to be successful, but she also made a close friend.
“She helped me so much, because it was intimidating at first and she helped me get through it. She is definitely my mentor,” Mini said of Sneha Krishna.
Mini not only mastered the material, but she started teaching it herself when she became a teaching assistant the following year for the introductory classes. “I really like seeing the progress in the students. At the beginning I was explaining to people what a function was, and by the end they were learning linked lists,” she said, beaming with pride.
Although she enjoyed computer science, Mini initially didn’t have a plan for her career until she discovered she could combine computer science with psychology, and pursue a career in human-computer interaction (HCI).
“I really like to communicate with people and make software that’s helpful to people, and HCI involves a lot of talking with the user to find out what they want incorporated into the product,” Mini said.
Mini has quickly grown from a nervous freshman learning to code for the first time to a leader for her peers. In addition to being a teaching assistant she serves on the board of the OSU ACM Club as the secretary. She has also gotten much better at computer games, but she still likes to watch others play and root them on.
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.
Brian Benavidez did not expect to have a chance to go to college since he had enlisted in the U.S. Air Force immediately after graduating from high school. But it was the experience in the military that gave him focus and direction that he credits for his success in school. And the scholarship support he received from the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science inspired his desire to give back.
Benavidez spent four years in the Air Force including a deployment to Iraq. Most of his enlistment time was in Arizona where he was maintainer for F16s which included working on avionics systems like navigation, fire control, and flight control computers.
“I’ve always been a tinkerer, but that experience really opened up that horizon of electronics and engineering,” he said.
Meanwhile many of his buddies from his high school in Portland went to Oregon State University, and he started to realize he was missing out on the college experience. Through the Enlisted Commissioning Program he was able to come to Oregon State as an Air Force ROTC cadet.
“When I first got here I was in shock and intimidated, but as time went on I got into my groove,” he said. His “groove” included three projects with the CreateIT Collaboratory, a program where student teams work with clients on developing a prototype device. He worked with Tektronix on a modernized user interface for oscilloscopes, The Utah Ballroom Company on light up dance suits, and Texas Instruments on a device for sensing nearby objects.
Culminating his undergraduate experience, his senior design project won the People’s Choice Award at the Engineering Expo. Benavidez with two friends created the “Intellicycle,” which could be added to any bike to measure speed, distance, cadence and temperature and send the data to a smartphone. The system also harvested energy from the front wheel to charge the phone and bike lights.
Having faced the challenges of being an older non-traditional student, Benavidez wanted to do more to help other veterans at Oregon State succeed. He served as the president and vice president of the Veterans & Family Student Association (VFSA) on campus, to help veteran students create a sense of community. Inspired by his experience of receiving scholarships, Benavidez initiated the Allworth-Holcomb Memorial Scholarship Fund for outstanding veterans at Oregon State.
“Getting a scholarship is very, very humbling. It’s hard to take money from someone just because you’re doing your job,” he said. “I didn’t really feel comfortable just accepting the scholarships without finding a way to give back. So, this was my way of saying thanks for all these resources given to me.”
Benavidez graduated June of 2014 and is working on a master’s degree in cyber intelligence studies through American Military University. Currently he is commissioned as a second lieutenant, and will be attending the Intelligence Officers Course with the U.S. Air Force.
Matthew Johnston’s interest in multidisciplinary science and entrepreneurship is reflected in his career as an electrical engineer who specializes in developing electronic platforms that have applications in fields like chemistry, biology and medicine.
“I’ve always been interested in non-standard applications of electrical engineering … especially biology and medicine, maybe because there are a lot of physicians in my family,” Johnston said.
Early lessons in approaching open-ended problems included projects for Science Olympiad competitions in middle school and high school, where Johnston competed for many years building elaborate Rube Goldberg-type contraptions. While the final goal was simple, such as lighting a candle or raising a flag, points were won by linking electrical, mechanical, and chemical actions together in novel combinations.
As an undergraduate at Caltech he got involved in research on a microfluidics project for chemistry and biology labs that involved piping chemicals on a microscale. The complex networks of fluid routing could mix and separate tiny amounts of fluid. The project sparked his interest in miniaturizing lab technologies (lab-on-chip).
Johnston followed his interest to Columbia University to work on his Ph.D. with Ken Shepherd who is one of the early pioneers of using integrated circuit technology for biological applications. After finishing his master’s degree, he took a pause in his graduate studies to co-found a start-up company, Helixis, in Carlsbad, California, that was related to research he did as an undergraduate at Caltech. The successful venture was acquired by Illumina in 2010, and Johnston returned to Columbia to finish his Ph.D.
He stayed in New York as a postdoc to further develop a label-free sensor platform he developed at Columbia, which garnered a National Science Foundation grant to aid in commercializing the platform. Johnston also worked for a life science venture capital firm that funded new technology for medical applications and devices, where his role was to assess the feasibility of novel products like orthopedic implants or diagnostic technologies. It was a job that gave him a different perspective. “It was intensely interesting,” he said. “I learned a lot about practical applications, whereas in the lab we are too often focused on the technology and only later try to find real-world applications for it.”
Johnston’s interdisciplinary research in biosensor and bioelectronic platforms, massively-parallel sensing, and lab-on-chip technologies for medical monitoring and point-of-care diagnostics, fits well with the collaborative research at Oregon State which was important for his choice to move here.
“I feel that interdisciplinary work is the one of the most effective ways to creatively solve problems,” he said. “We’re dealing with very complex problems now on a global scale that require collaborative solutions and systems approaches.”
The move to Corvallis is a major lifestyle change for Johnston, who said he will miss the museums and dining opportunities in New York City, but is gaining a world of outdoor activities that were not possible there. He hopes to spend more time on hobbies like hiking, skiing, and fly-fishing that were mostly put aside while he lived in New York.
As an avid traveler, however, Johnston has hiked in several countries he has visited, with especially memorable treks in China and South Africa. He also travels to a different country each year with friends from college on a New Year’s trip. Their trips have ranged from Europe to South and Central America with highlights including Portugal, Scotland, Brazil, Costa Rica and Panama.
Just as he enjoys crossing the boundaries of disciplines in his work, he also enjoys learning about different cultures and seeing their influences on each other expressed in art and food. He even finds the challenge of not understanding the language a boon.
“When we were in places like Japan or Italy where there was really limited ability to communicate verbally, that was even more fun and heartwarming because people try to help you, and it’s exciting when you can come up with solutions to get your messages across,” he said.