By Maureen C. Curran
San Diego, CA, April 4, 2008 -- A project adding two-way wireless audio capability to Gizmo was awarded best project of the winter quarter team engineering design course when the students made their final presentations on Friday, March 21 in the new Henry G. Booker conference suite in EBU-I.
The Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) department's Engineering Group Design Project course (ECE 191) provides undergraduate students with hands-on experience working in a team to design, build, demonstrate, and document an open-ended engineering project.
The UCSD division of Calit2 sponsored, or cosponsored, eight of the 10 undergraduate projects in the course. "Calit2 appreciates student participation at all levels of research," said B.S. Manoj, a Calit2 researcher and group mentor, "and ECE 191 provides a wonderful forum for undergraduates to participate in advanced areas of research."
Quarter after quarter, each group of students finds the hands-on group engineering experience unique, stimulating and valuable to their future work in either academia or industry.
"This was a great hands-on experience," said Nguyen Nguyen, "not only did I gain technical knowledge, but obtained skills in teamwork as well, which is very important in industry."
"The best thing about the course was working on a very dynamic, complex and complete system," said Alicia Courtney, "in our course work, we're typically working only on a segmented piece."
The winning project team of Justin Tse, Daniel Su, Nguyen Nguyen and Alicia Courtney was mentored by Calit2 researchers Javier Rodriguez Molina and Don Kimball. Kimball is the head of Calit2's High Performance Circuits and Networking research section at UCSD. The student team developed and built a working prototype for streaming audio and video from Gizmo to a laptop and streaming audio from the laptop back to Gizmo. Forwarding sensor data to the Gizmo Control application is pending additional testing. They also mounted two ultrasonic distance sensors on Gizmo and integrated them with the existing GUI and circuit board to detect and process distance information.
The team was happy that their efforts were rewarded. Speaking for the group, who nodded in agreement, Alicia noted, "It was very much a group effort, we couldn't have done it without Justin, his experience really helped a lot, as did our mentors, and Jeff [Cuenco] too." Justin does project management for the IEEE club and had done and lead several projects previously. For his part, Justin said "I enjoy the rewarding feeling of completing something and after long hours of work seeing it actually work."
Team member Nguyen's joy extends even further, to include his experience at UCSD. He is an education abroad student from the National University of Singapore where he is an electrical engineering major. He explained "To study in the United States is my dream from childhood and now my dreams have come true."
Gizmo is a toy-sized remote-controlled truck which serves as an adaptable and reliable research platform on wheels to deploy different technologies. This autonomous multi-radio device is reconfigurable for the task at hand. It can be controlled by several different interfaces. Gizmo is designed for use in numerous applications, including disaster response environments, radio frequency mapping, data and sensor gathering and educational purposes, as well as others.
"This is great," declared Eldridge Alcantara, "Gizmo finally won." For the last couple of years, there have been one or two team design course projects to expand, or improve, Gizmo's functionality and this is the first best project winner. Alcantara is a current ECE graduate student who took ECE 191 in the Fall of 2006. He and partner Kristi Tsukida successfully developed and implemented a Bluetooth interface for Gizmo, enabling control of the truck via laptop and cell phone. Eldridge has remained connected to Calit2 since then, working on various Circuits Lab and Telemedicine projects and helping new students with their design efforts.
Alcantara gave a few pointers to this quarter's other Gizmo project: "Telekinesis Glove," which is an expansion of the interface technology to control GIZMO. The team of Sweta Gupta, Melissa N. Wylie and Mayank Gupta was also mentored by Calit's Rodriguez Molina and Kimball. Their objective was to prototype a wireless glove capable of controlling GIZMO, using triple axis accelerometers attached to the fingers of the glove and Bluetooth technology as a communication interface.
They developed a working system with two triple-axis accelerometers and a microcontroller mounted on a PC board, which was coded to control communication between accelerometers and GIZMO using a Bluetooth module, also mounted on the PC board. It was successfully tested using HyperTerminal and Bluetooth and is potentially expandable to five accelerometers (one for each finger). Integration with a hand-worn glove is a potential project for subsequent ECE 191 student groups.
The "Cognitive Enterprise Wireless Networking" project with Oluwafemi (Femi) Akinwale, Ankit Bhargava, Jonathan Fleming and Xuanning Gao was also successful. "My students this quarter were very dedicated and resourceful," noted Calit2's Manoj, "They helped develop new knowledge in wireless networking by developing a set of crucial elements for our concept of a cognitive enterprise wireless network system. I am happy about doing a project with them." Manoj is also a lecturer in ECE. Bheemarjuna (Arjun) Reddy Tamma, a Calit2 postdoc, comentored the team.
Many of the projects are open-ended, where one quarter's project is a stepping stone from previous work, advancing the effort forward, improving and streamlining it, adding capabilities, etc. Many mentors keep coming back each quarter to work with a new group of students, continuing a project to the next level, and occasionally beginning new ones.
"The ATLAS in silico team has enjoyed working with the students from ECE 191," explains Ruth West, "and being a part of their evolution as they develop creative problem solving strategies and team-based approaches to research challenges." West is an artist-in-residence and director of visual analytics and interactive technologies at the National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research (NCMIR) and an affiliate of the Center for Research in Computing and the Arts (CRCA) and Calit2. With Raj Singh, Todd Margolis and Alex Horn, she mentored Adam Nuhaily, Chris Young and Ed Johnson. Their project, "Camera Based Hand and Body Driven Interaction Within Immersive Virtual Reality Environments," took place in Calit2's Immersive Visualization lab,using the Varrier display wall.
Another returning mentor was John Pringle of the San Diego Emergency Medical Service (EMS) and Fire Service. He and Calit2 principal development engineer Doug Palmer mentored an EMS project. Greg George, Ted Chan and Jim Dunford provided help from the medical perspective.
Building on the Fall quarter efforts, Shraddha Chaplot, Jeff Tu, Ankit Bhargava, Justin Kenny created a portable device that can wirelessly transmit data from an EKG to a Palm Treo, then on to the hospital via email. Images, as well as patient information, can also be emailed to the hospital. The process takes less than a minute, making this an efficient and portable solution to streamline the process of getting heart attack patients to cardiac care centers.
Calit2 researcher Jeff Cuenco helped the group as well. Just last spring, Cuenco was an ECE 191 student working on a Circuits Lab project; after graduating, he became a staffer. Jeff also helped the winning Gizmo team, providing some programming assistance.
Like Rodriguez Molina and Kimball of the Circuits Lab, Calit2 UCSD's interim director, Bill Hodgkiss, also had two groups. The "Wireless Sensor Networks" group tackled a problem close to the heart of many at UCSD: finding an empty parking space. Natalia Lo, John Dale, Tim Manestitaya created, developed and tested new sensors and a wireless sensor network for telling an end-user which parking spots are available. Providing easy access to retrieve real-time data over a self-renewing internet database, the program determines whether a car is parked in the space using the collected sensor data.
Hodgkiss's other group, "Bluetooth Data Transmission," worked to develop a point-to-multipoint short range Bluetooth network that communicates bidirectionally. Daniel Chung, Leonard Yoon, Willy Yang developed a working system that allows users to remotely control two devices in a short range network to collect and transmit data to a base station. They found that although Bluetooth is a half duplex communication technology, it effectively works as full duplex in this situation. Hodgkiss is also a professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (Scripps) and an adjunct professor in ECE.
Calit2 researcher Paul Blair mentored Edwin Supardi and Brent Hurley on their project "Physical Activity Meter;" they worked on the development of a reliable device for physicians to remotely monitor their patients´ activity levels.
Longtime ECE 191 mentor Michael D. Deshler of Raytheon mentored Azadeh Berenjian, Jon Chen, Andreas Kontokanis and Gloria Toth on their project "Integrated Network Tester and Configuration Tool (INTACT)," which is designed for detecting malfunctions in military command and control systems.
ECE professor Clark Guest mentored Junaid Fatehi, Christine Lim and Garrett Wong in developing a "Multipurpose Lab Gizmo," an inexpensive device that would serve as an analog and digital interface between a computer and a lab experiment. This is intended to be used by lower division ECE students to help them in their labs.
ECE 191 is an upper division course which is part of the design requirement for undergraduates and is typically taken by seniors, although there were several third year students this quarter. ECE professors Pankaj K. Das and Guest are the instructors. For students interested in taking ECE 191 this spring, there are many interesting projects available.
Two ECE graduate students also presented their final project during the evening. Soha Dalal and Moonjung Kyung's project, "Biologically Motivated Analog-to-Digital Converter," was sponsored by Information Systems Laboratories. They investigated an architecture inspired by biological neural networks which has been proposed to increase the effective sampling ratio of binary A/D converters. To begin, they implemented single and multi neuron systems in Matlab to compare their performance and implemented an eight neuron system in Cadence and confirmed its functionality. They went on to implement a 16 neuron system and simulate it in Matlab, where the characteristics of the system were investigated with different components sizes.