Electrical and Computer Engineering https://www.ece.ncsu.edu NC State Thu, 17 Sep 2020 13:50:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.5.1 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/cropped-lightbulb-2-32x32.png Electrical and Computer Engineering https://www.ece.ncsu.edu 32 32 New Data Processing Module Makes Deep Neural Networks Smarter https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2020/09/new-data-processing-module-makes-deep-neural-networks-smarter/ Thu, 17 Sep 2020 13:50:58 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=237965 AI researchers from NC State ECE—including Tianfu Wu—have improved the performance of deep neural networks by combining feature normalization and feature attention into a single module.]]>

Artificial intelligence researchers at North Carolina State University have improved the performance of deep neural networks by combining feature normalization and feature attention modules into a single module that they call attentive normalization (AN). The hybrid module improves the accuracy of the system significantly while using negligible extra computational power.

“Feature normalization is a crucial element of training deep neural networks, and feature attention is equally important for helping networks highlight which features learned from raw data are most important for accomplishing a given task,” says Tianfu Wu, the corresponding author of a paper on the work and an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State. “But they have mostly been treated separately. We found that combining them made them more efficient and effective.”

To test their AN module, the researchers plugged it into four of the most widely used neural network architectures: ResNets, DenseNets, MobileNetsV2, and AOGNets. They then tested the networks against two industry-standard benchmarks: the ImageNet-1000 classification benchmark and the MS-COCO 2017 object detection and instance segmentation benchmark.

“We found that AN improved performance for all four architectures on both benchmarks,” Wu says. “For example, top-1 accuracy in the ImageNet-1000 improved by between 0.5% and 2.7%. And Average Precision (AP) accuracy increased by up to 1.8% for bounding box and 2.2% for semantic mask in MS-COCO.

“Another advantage of AN is that it facilitates better transfer learning between different domains,” Wu says. “For example, from image classification in ImageNet to object detection and semantic segmentation in MS-COCO. This is illustrated by the performance improvement in the MS-COCO benchmark, which was obtained by fine-tuning ImageNet-pre-trained deep neural networks in MS-COCO, a common workflow in state-of-the-art computer vision.

“We have released the source code and hope our AN will lead to better integrative design of deep neural networks.”

The paper, “Attentive Normalization,” was presented at the European Conference on Computer Vision (ECCV), which was held online Aug. 23-28. The paper was co-authored by Xilai Li, a recent Ph.D. graduate from NC State; and by Wei Sun, a Ph.D. student at NC State. The work was done with support from the National Science Foundation, under grants 1909644, 1822477, and 2013451; and by the U.S. Army Research Office, under grant W911NF1810295.

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Research Advances Learning Capability of Drone Swarms https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2020/08/research-advances-learning-capability-of-drone-swarms/ Mon, 31 Aug 2020 18:11:03 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=237710 Researchers, including Aranya Chakrabortty, have developed a reinforcement learning approach that will allow swarms of unmanned vehicles to accomplish various missions while minimizing performance uncertainty.]]>

It is common for multi-agent systems in a battlefield to be restricted by strict deadlines for taking control actions and to lack the resources to install a large number of reliable or fast enough communication links. In such circumstances, solving a common target-tracking or motion planning control problem in real-time can be highly challenging, or even impossible. The problem becomes even more complex when the network model is unknown to the designer.

Aranya Chakrabortty , professor of electrical and computer engineering at North Carolina State University, and his research group in collaboration with researchers from the Army Research Lab (ARL) and Oklahoma State University have developed a new machine learning-based control strategy to resolve this problem. In their recent paper published in the American Control Conference 2020 (with an extended journal version available on Arxiv) they propose a hierarchical reinforcement learning (RL) based control scheme for extreme-scale multi-agent swarm networks where control actions are taken based on low-dimensional sensed data instead of models. The approach is to decompose a large-dimensional control objective into multiple smaller hierarchies – for example, multiple small group-level microscopic controls that can be learned using local group-level data only, and a broad system-level macroscopic control that steers the swarm in its desired direction but using only high-level sparse data.

One pertinent example is target-tracking using swarms of ground vehicles and air vehicles. The air vehicles serve as higher-level coordinators that provide a macroscopic view of the target motion and generate macroscopic control signals to steer the populations of ground vehicles. The ground vehicles, on the other hand, will be divided into teams that are autonomously formed through learning. Each team uses the higher-layer information for tracking detailed microscopic dynamics of the target while respecting their individual local preferences and constraints.

Aranya Chakrabortty, Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering

“We strongly believe that this multi-layer, hierarchical, data-driven controller will become a seminal mechanism for the future Army’s movement, sustainment, and maneuverability,” Chakrabortty said. He and his postdoctoral researcher Ganghsan Jing are currently working with ARL and Oklahoma State to develop more online, data-driven approaches for autonomous maneuvering and sensing, not just for a single robotic agent or small-scale robotic teams, but for significantly larger-scale robotic teams. “Our methods will come in handy especially when sensing, learning, and decision-making all need to be done very fast despite the data volume being gigantic,” he said.

The paper is jointly authored by He Bai, an assistant professor in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering department at Oklahoma State University, Jemin George of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory, and Chakrabortty. The Army funded this effort through the Director’s Research Award for External Collaborative Initiative, a laboratory program to stimulate and support new and innovative research in collaboration with external partners. Partial funding is also provided by the US National Science Foundation (NSF) through a recent grant under its cyber-physical system (CPS) program.

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Neural Interface System for Somatosensory Feedback https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2020/08/neural-interface-system-for-somatosensory-feedback/ Wed, 12 Aug 2020 15:54:33 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=237656 NC State's Yaoyao Jia has been chosen to lead one of the new collaborative NSF programs, with a million-dollar grant aimed at improving our understanding of somatosensory feedback with the help of a cat.]]>

NC State University has been chosen as the lead institution for one of the new collaborative National Science Foundation (NSF) programs—Integrative Strategies for Understanding Neural and Cognitive Systems (NCS). This million-dollar grant for “Intelligent Closed-Loop Neural Interface System for Studying Mechanisms of Somatosensory Feedback in Control of Functional and Stable Locomotion” will be led by NC State’s Yaoyao Jia, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering.

The awards contribute to NSF’s investments in support of Understanding the Brain and the BRAIN Initiative, a coordinated research effort that seeks to accelerate the development of new neurotechnologies.

Somatosensory feedback is the perception of sensations that we feel from our environment—touch, pressure, vibration, temperature, pain, and proprioception (where a body part exists in time and space). Our brains interpret that feedback and use the information to make cognitive decisions—whether to scratch an itch or jerk away from something burning. This feedback is vital for functional and dynamic movement, however, the mechanisms by which somatosensory feedback contributes to the coordination of muscle activity, limb dynamics, and body stability remain poorly understood. It is especially true for relatively large animals, like cats, whose limb inertia substantially affects limb dynamics, and the limb inertia must be compensated by precise muscle actions mediated by somatosensory feedback.

Thus, it is important to perform experiments using the cat model system as cat locomotor mechanics and neural control are mechanically closer to humans than rodents.

This project aims to investigate the mechanisms of somatosensory feedback from the spindle afferents of selected muscles on control of limb dynamics and dynamic stability in the cat model by developing an intelligent and closed-loop neural interface system.

Yaoyao Jia, Assistant Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering

“If successful,” Jia noted, “the outcomes of this project and the developed methods will substantially enhance our understanding of the mechanisms of somatosensory locomotor control and contribute to developing novel therapeutic interventions for a sizeable population of people suffering from limb loss or sensory neuropathies.”

The major innovation of this project is that the researchers will for the first time perform selective and reversible activation and inhibition of spindle afferents in selected muscles of a relatively large animal (the cat) by applying optogenetic stimulation of the target neurons in an intelligent, closed-loop, and well-controlled manner.

“The next steps of the projects include designing and developing a wireless opto-electro neural interface platform,” explained Jia. These extremely small devices will be implanted in dorsal root ganglia (DRG) for high-channel-count neural recordings and optogenetic stimulations in a closed-loop manner. “[And then] designing machine learning algorithms to map DRG sensory activities to 4-limb locomotor kinematics and muscle activities for closed-loop control of optogenetic neuromodulation, and characterizing the role of hip spindle afferents in interlimb coordination and gait selection.”

If successful, the results of this project and the developed methods will substantially enhance our understanding of the sensory control of locomotion in large animal models.

Jia received her Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology in 2019. During her Ph.D. studies, she has built bi-directional neural interface devices for closed-loop neuromodulation, distributed mm-sized opto-electro stimulation implants, inductive power transmission systems for omnidirectional wireless power delivery, and smart data acquisition systems for enabling large wireless coverage and eliminating RF blind spots. She also worked on power management IC design during her M.S. in Microelectronics and Solid-State Electronics from the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, Chengdu, China.

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2020 budget of $8.3 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals.

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NC State Places #9 Globally for Electrical Engineering https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2020/07/nc-state-places-9-globally-for-electrical-engineering/ Wed, 22 Jul 2020 14:14:48 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=237553 For the third year in a row, NC State ranks in the top 10 globally for electrical engineering— #9 in the 2020 ShanghaiRankings]]>

NC State routinely ranks among the United States’ premier electrical and computer engineering programs, and now a recent listing of the best universities around the world confirms that NC State is one of the finest places anywhere to become an electrical engineer.

The renowned ShanghaiRanking Consultancy published their 2020 Academic Ranking of World Universities in various academic subjects, including Electrical and Electronic Engineering in which they ranked NC State University as ninth in the world and eighth among U.S. universities.

“I think the ShanghaiRanking is particularly significant in that it is the only major ranking based entirely on quantitative data—not surveys,” explained Daniel Stancil, Alcoa Distinguished Professor of electrical and computer engineering and ECE Department Head.

The ARWU Shanghai Ranking is published annually and gives an insight into the academic quality of the world’s leading institutions. General university rankings are provided, as well as global rankings on specific academic subjects. Topics covered are the number of scientific publications, citation impact, the number of paper in top-rated journals and internationally collaborated papers.

Produced by Shanghai Ranking Consultancy and more commonly known as the Shanghai Rankings, the results rate university programs in a variety of academic subjects across engineering and the life, medical, social and natural sciences.

The groundbreaking work being done by faculty and researchers was recognized with NC State receiving the third-highest score for citation impact, and the fourth-highest for number and impact of awards received by faculty.

Chemical Engineering at NC State also made the rankings, placing 24th in the world and 11th among U.S. universities. NC State also ranked in the top 100 globally in these academic subject rankings: metallurgical engineering, biotechnology, environmental science and engineering, energy science and engineering, nanoscience and nanotechnology, and materials science and engineering.

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Alumna receives Skip Ellis Early Career Award https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2020/07/alumna-receives-skip-ellis-early-career-award/ Tue, 14 Jul 2020 14:15:12 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=237486 Tawana Dillahunt, a computer engineering alumna and associate professor at the University of Michigan named the inaugural recipient of the CRA-WP Skip Ellis Early Career Award.]]>

University of Michigan School of Information (UMSI) associate professor Tawanna Dillahunt was named an inaugural recipient of The Computing Research Association’s Committee on Widening Participation in Computing Research (CRA-WP) Skip Ellis Early Career Award. Dillahunt received her bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from NC State in 2000.

This award is given to a person who identifies as a member of a group underrepresented in computing who has made significant research contributions in computer science or engineering and has also contributed to the profession, especially in outreach to underrepresented demographics.

The award honors the late Clarence “Skip” Ellis, who was the first African-American scholar to earn a Ph.D. in computer science and the first African-American to be elected a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery.

Tawanna Dillahunt

Tawanna Dillahunt, School of Information, University of Michigan

“I am truly honored to be a recipient of this award,” says Dillahunt. “I was lucky to have met Skip at UC Boulder in 2007 where he gave me career advice that was key to getting me to where I am today. Skip paved the way for many of us. I admire his research and I share his belief that technologies should be used to foster positive human interactions. When you use Google Docs, Overleaf, or any other collaboration systems, remember Skip. I hope my research will one day become as impactful as his.”

In addition to her work at UMSI, Tawanna Dillahunt holds a courtesy appointment with the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department. Her research spans the human-computer interaction and ubiquitous computing field, with a primary focus on identifying needs and opportunities to further explore how theories from the social sciences can be used to design technologies that have a positive impact on group and individual behavior.

She and her team have developed digital employment tools that address the needs of job seekers with limited digital literacy and education; assessed real-time ridesharing and online grocery delivery applications among lower-income and transportation-scarce groups, and proposed models for novice entrepreneurs to build their technical capacity.

“Tawanna is an outstanding recipient of this early career award named in memory of Clarence “Skip” Ellis,” says Thomas A. Finholt, dean of the School of Information. “Like Professor Ellis, Tawanna shares a commitment to conduct high-quality research that also focuses on social concerns, such as economic sustainability and mobility. Professor Ellis interrupted his own doctoral studies to engage in the civil rights movement. That same spirit of engagement imbues the work Tawanna has undertaken within marginalized communities in Detroit and elsewhere.

“Although he is sadly no longer with us, I’m sure Professor Ellis would have recognized in Tawanna a kindred spirit and one who is also driven to use her research program to improve conditions for those who have been neglected or left out.  Receiving this award is a great individual accomplishment for Tawanna – and recognition by the CRA, the top academic organization for computer science in North America – of the significance of Tawanna’s research program. Just as Tawanna followed in Professor Ellis’ footsteps – I hope this award leads others to follow in hers.”

Professor Dillahunt has received funding to support her research from the National Science Foundation, the Gates Foundation, U-M Poverty Solutions, U-M Ginsberg Center, and the U-M Ford School. Her work appears in the most prestigious HCI conferences and journals and has won several best papers and honorable mentions. She holds a Ph.D. and M.S. in Human-Computer Interaction from Carnegie Mellon University, an M.S. in Computer Science from the Oregon Health and Science University, and a B.S. in Computer Engineering from North Carolina State University.

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Chow Receives 2020 IEEE IES Achievement Award https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2020/07/chow-receives-2020-ieee-ies-achievement-award/ Thu, 02 Jul 2020 13:50:15 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=237473 Congratulations to Dr. Mo-Yuen Chow, 2020 recipient of the IEEE IES Mittelmann Achievement Award, recognizing his substantial technical contributions and leadership with industrial electronics technologies]]>

Mo-Yuen Chow, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State University was named the recipient of the 2020 Dr.-Ing. Eugene Mittelmann Achievement Award for substantial technical contributions and leadership in Industrial Electronics technologies from the IEEE Industrial Electronics Society.

The Achievement Award was first presented in 1975 to recognize outstanding contributions in industrial electronics. Administered by the Industrial Electronics Society Awards and Honor Committee (IES A&H Committee), it is given for a single major accomplishment or for a career of recognized achievements. The award is not necessarily given yearly, and is only awarded when suitable candidates can be identified.

Notably, Chow joins the mere 37 recipients since this prestigious award’s founding, including Troy Nagle, Distinguished Professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State, who received the award in 1990.

Chow earned his degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (B.S., 1982); and Cornell University (M. Eng., 1983; Ph.D., 1987). Chow is a Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at North Carolina State University. Chow was a Changjiang Scholar at Zhejiang University.

Chow’s recent research focuses on distributed control and management, smart micro-grids, batteries, and mechatronics systems. He has established the Advanced Diagnosis, Automation, and Control Laboratory. He is an IEEE Fellow, the Co-Editor-in-Chief of IEEE Trans. on Industrial Informatics 2014-2018, Editor-in-Chief of IEEE Transactions on Industrial Electronics 2010-2012. He has received the IEEE Region-3 Joseph M. Biedenbach Outstanding Engineering Educator Award, the IEEE ENCS Outstanding Engineering Educator Award, the IEEE ENCS Service Award, the IEEE Industrial Electronics Society Anthony J Hornfeck Service Award. He is a Distinguished Lecturer of IEEE Industrial Electronics Society.

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Using Leaf Fungi to Improve Crop Resilience https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2020/07/using-leaf-fungi-to-improve-crop-resilience/ Wed, 01 Jul 2020 15:01:15 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=237458 An interdisciplinary collaboration across three colleges at NC State are working together to identify and analyze beneficial fungi in the core crops of North Carolina.]]>

Microscopic fungi can be found almost everywhere, from the surface of your skin and the soil beneath your feet to inside the leaves of corn and soybean plants. Many of these fungi are harmless, and some are helpful, producing needed vitamins or fending off harmful fungi.

An interdisciplinary team of researchers at NC State is setting out on an ambitious three-year project to identify the beneficial fungi found in five key crops: corn, soy, wheat, hemp and switchgrass.

The team is led by Christine Hawkes, a professor in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology. Once the beneficial fungi are identified, the team will work to determine how the fungal species help plants fend off diseases and tolerate drought stress.

The team will also work on tools to detect the types of fungus present in a field and methods to improve the fungal community present – like eating yogurt to improve your gut health.

“Our overarching goal is to improve plant health management and increase crop sustainability through the use of beneficial fungi in plant leaves,” said Hawkes, who is also a member of the Microbiomes and Complex Microbial Communities Cluster, a Chancellor’s Faculty Excellence Program cluster of excellence. “We hope to mitigate unnecessary crop yield losses to stresses like drought and disease, which will help us safely increase our food supply and better feed the world.”

The project is one of four interdisciplinary projects selected by NC State’s Office of Research and Innovation to receive seed funding to address the global challenges facing agriculture identified by the North Carolina Plant Sciences Initiative (N.C. PSI).

Finding Friendly Fungi in the Field

Last summer, Hawkes and her team collected samples of fungi living in the leaves of corn, soy, wheat and the potential biofuel crop switchgrass.

Using the Official Variety Testing program led by Ryan Heiniger, the team collected leaf samples from locations across the state, both from research stations and partner farmers’ fields. They isolated around 3,000 different fungi from the leaves, which they are currently identifying.

Now, Hawkes and her team are analyzing these fungi to determine how the species vary between varieties, crops, locations and regions. Perhaps they will find some fungi are only in soybeans, others are more common in coastal regions, and a third group is common in fields plagued by a particular pest. Ultimately, this information will help them decide the best scale for interventions.

Next, the team will select some of the fungal species that were found in fields for their ability to “rescue” plants from disease or drought in collaboration with U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service researchers Peter Balint-Kurti, Gina Brown-Guedira and Anna Locke.

Initially, they will use detached leaves in microplates to rapidly screen many fungi against a small number of wheat and corn pathogens. Those that prevent pathogen infection will be tested in more realistic conditions to see if they protect whole plants.

From there, they will determine which fungi are beneficial and how they are helpful at a molecular level. For example, it is known that some fungi produce plant hormones, while others release antibiotics to protect their hosts. Ross Sozzani, a researcher in Plant and Microbial Biology, and Cranos Williams, a researcher in Electrical and Computer Engineering, will use computational modeling tools to identify the genes most likely responsible for any observed benefits.

“One big challenge will be to understand the molecular mechanisms by which these fungi exert their beneficial effects,” said Nathan Crook, a researcher in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. “Knowledge of these mechanisms could inspire us to develop additional technologies to improve plant traits, or could allow us to identify other beneficial organisms.”

To meet this challenge, Crook will collaborate with Kevin Garcia, a researcher in Crop and Soil Sciences, to develop CRISPR tools for manipulating fungal genes in ways that enhance their benefits for the plant. These tools could revolutionize our ability to use fungal symbionts for crop disease and stress management.

A second part of the project is focused on developing a tool to quickly detect the presence of different beneficial fungi in a field, which is critical for using those fungi as tools for crop management. This part is led by Michael Kudenov, a researcher in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Starting in the lab with a benchtop machine commonly used to “fingerprint” different chemicals, Kudenov will look at the fungi — both inside plant leaves and by themselves — to attempt to pinpoint markers specific for the beneficial species.

In addition to identifying fungal markers, the team will need to determine how specific the markers are to each fungal species and how much fungus needs to be in the leaf in order to be detected.

After they tackle these challenges, Kudenov and his team will work on developing a portable sensor to bring the detection of beneficial fungi to the field, and eventually to help North Carolina producers. In collaboration with Josh Gray, a researcher in the Center for Geospatial Analytics in the College of Natural Resources, they will attempt to link detection from the leaf level to aerial images from drones, which may allow for more rapid and extensive assessments.

“I’ve learned a lot more since working with researchers from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences than I would have by just staying in my own little bubble,” said Kudenov, who is also a member of the big data for better sweet potatoes GRIP4PSI project. “Also, interdisciplinary research like this provides a unique opportunity to provide impact, especially directly to North Carolina. In this case, we’re interacting closely with stakeholders and people who have significant problems, many of which affect their livelihoods. That adds a lot of meaning.”

Educating Stakeholders from the Field to The Hill

Hawkes and the rest of the team agree that working with growers, producers, and other stakeholders is critical for their project. In fact, working with growers to determine their needs and educating them on the benefits of helpful fungi is the third part of the project.

Lindsey Thiessen, a researcher and Extension specialist in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, will lead this part along with Ryan Heiniger.

At first, Thiessen and Heiniger will focus on educating Extension agents through regular corn, soy and wheat trainings. Since NC Cooperative Extension agents work throughout North Carolina, delivering research-based solutions directly to farmers, educating them about the beneficial fungi that live inside plant leaves is critical.

“For training, I might bring some plants that have been treated and some that haven’t,” Thiessen said. “Or I might bring microscopes and culture plates to give them an idea of what the fungi look like. Even though they’re microscopic, it’s usually pretty fun to look at a fluffy fungus on a plate.”

A GIF of a variety of Petri dishes with white fungi

A collection of the different fungi the researchers found inside soybean leaves. GIF courtesy of Briana Whitaker.

In addition to the hands-on demonstrations and back-and-forth conversations with the agents, Thiessen and her team will produce fact sheets to help make the information accessible. And as the GRIP4PSI project progresses, she will be able to demonstrate treated and untreated fields and explain how the beneficial fungi can be applied to commercial fields. Though the research is still in early stages, the GRIP4PSI team imagines beneficial fungi could be applied to fields during planting, or as a treatment applied to a field as needed for disease or stress control.

Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainly as to whether face-to-face trainings, field days and commodity meetings will be held as usual this year is causing the team to re-think how they can reach agents, growers and other stakeholders.

“As COVID-19 keeps being a concern, a lot of the information we share will not necessarily be at face-to-face meetings but will be through videos or through Zoom meetings,” Heiniger said. “I think that’s going to be our predominant form of communication until we have a vaccine or something changes.”

CALS faculty and Extension specialists have already held successful virtual field days, webinars and countless phone conversations.

In addition to engaging with Extension agents, growers and the agricultural community, the project team also plans to engage with politicians, regulators and the general public.

“The other challenge is going to be communication with the general public, not just the agriculture community,” Theissen said. “We need to communicate well with the general public about the benefits and long-term sustainability of using these fungi. And we can’t forget about the regulatory groups and politicians. Fortunately, we’ve already met with stakeholder groups to talk about their interests and their concerns with our project, so we’ve started early.”

Jason Delborne, a researcher with the Genetic Engineering and Society Center and the College of Natural Resources, will lead the efforts to assess public opinion and analyze the potential regulatory pathway for techniques to introduce beneficial plant fungi to crops.

This interdisciplinary project is funded by the GRIP4PSI seed-funding program, based on NC State Office of Research and Innovation’s 2016 Game-Changing Research Incentive Program (GRIP). The new program is led by the Office of Research and Innovation in partnership with eight NC State colleges and offices. GRIP4PSI is intended to support visionary ideas in the plant sciences that will result in large-scale funding, meaningful impact for future research and first-class interdisciplinary graduate education and training.

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New Approach to DNA Data Storage Makes System More Dynamic, Scalable https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2020/06/new-approach-to-dna-data-storage-makes-system-more-dynamic-scalable/ Fri, 12 Jun 2020 14:03:40 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=237432 A partnership of researchers from ECE and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering are laying out a fundamentally new approach to DNA data storage.]]>

Researchers from NC State University’s departments of electrical and computer engineering and of chemical and biomolecular engineering have developed a fundamentally new approach to DNA data storage systems, giving users the ability to read or modify data files without destroying them and making the systems easier to scale up for practical use.

“Most of the existing DNA data storage systems rely on polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to access stored files, which is very efficient at copying information but presents some significant challenges,” says Albert Keung, co-corresponding author of a paper on the work. “We’ve developed a system called Dynamic Operations and Reusable Information Storage, or DORIS, that doesn’t rely on PCR. That has helped us address some of the key obstacles facing practical implementation of DNA data storage technologies.” Keung is an assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at NC State.

DNA data storage systems have the potential to hold orders of magnitude more information than existing systems of comparable size. However, existing technologies have struggled to address a range of concerns related to practical implementation.

Current systems rely on sequences of DNA called primer-binding sequences that are added to the ends of DNA strands that store information. In short, the primer-binding sequence of DNA serves as a file name. When you want a given file, you retrieve the strands of DNA bearing that sequence.

Many of the practical barriers to DNA data storage technologies revolve around the use of PCR to retrieve stored data. Systems that rely on PCR have to drastically raise and lower the temperature of the stored genetic material in order to rip the double-stranded DNA apart and reveal the primer-binding sequence. This results in all of the DNA – the primer-binding sequences and the data-storage sequences – swimming free in a kind of genetic soup. Existing technologies can then sort through the soup to find, retrieve and copy the relevant DNA using PCR. The temperature swings are problematic for developing practical technologies, and the PCR technique itself gradually consumes – or uses up – the original version of the file that is being retrieved.

DORIS takes a different approach. Instead of using double-stranded DNA as a primer-binding sequence, DORIS uses an “overhang” that consists of a single-strand of DNA – like a tail that streams behind the double-stranded DNA that actually stores data. While traditional techniques required temperature fluctuations to rip open the DNA in order to find the relevant primer-binding sequences, using a single-stranded overhang means that DORIS can find the appropriate primer-binding sequences without disturbing the double-stranded DNA.

“In other words, DORIS can work at room temperature, making it much more feasible to develop DNA data management technologies that are viable in real-world scenarios,” says James Tuck, co-corresponding author of the paper and a professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State.

The other benefit of not having to rip apart the DNA strands is that the DNA sequence in the overhang can be the same as a sequence found in the double-stranded region of the data file itself. That’s difficult to achieve in PCR-based systems without sacrificing information density – because the system wouldn’t be able to differentiate between primer-binding sequences and data-storage sequences.

“DORIS allows us to significantly increase the information density of the system, and also makes it easier to scale up to handle really large databases,” says Kevin Lin, first author of the paper and a Ph.D. student at NC State.

And once DORIS has identified the correct DNA sequence, it doesn’t rely on PCR to make copies. Instead, DORIS transcribes the DNA to RNA, which is then reverse-transcribed back into DNA which the data-storage system can read. In other words, DORIS doesn’t have to consume the original file in order to read it.

The single-stranded overhangs can also be modified, allowing users to rename files, delete files or “lock” them – effectively making them invisible to other users.

“We’ve developed a functional prototype of DORIS, so we know it works,” Keung says. “We’re now interested in scaling it up, speeding it up and putting it into a device that automates the process – making it user friendly.”

The paper, “Dynamic and scalable DNA-based information storage,” is published in the journal Nature Communications. The paper was co-authored by Kevin Volkel, a Ph.D. student at NC State.

The work was done with support from the National Science Foundation, under grants CNS-1650148 and CNS-1901324; a North Carolina State University Research and Innovation Seed Funding Award; a North Carolina Biotechnology Center Flash Grant; and a Department of Education Graduate Assistance in Areas of Need fellowship.

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Low-Cost Cameras Could Be Sensors to Remotely Monitor Crop Stress https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2020/06/low-cost-cameras-could-be-sensors-to-remotely-monitor-crop-stress/ Wed, 10 Jun 2020 13:40:06 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=237409 Being able to identify crop problems early can make the difference between saving a crop and losing it, but high-tech solutions can be costly. An interdisciplinary team is leveraging existing technology for a solution.]]>

Being able to identify crop problems early can make the difference between saving a crop and losing it, but high-tech solutions can be costly. An interdisciplinary team of researchers thinks a new approach leveraging existing technology may be part of the solution.

Specifically, NC State researchers in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering are launching an inexpensive camera system that can monitor crop stress remotely.

Corn and soybeans are important commodities for North Carolina and the world. Both are eaten fresh, processed into a variety of foodstuffs and turned into animal feed. A lack of water at certain stages stress the plants and can make a significant dent on yields.

Paula Ramos-Giraldo, a computer vision and machine learning expert in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, has spent the past year working on a camera system that costs less than an average smartwatch to track drought stress in corn and soybean fields.

“Our goal, specifically, was to construct a low-cost sensor to track the soil moisture level in the field through plant behavior,” Ramos-Giraldo said.

These low-cost sensors can help researchers studying ways to make agricultural systems more resilient; plant breeders breeding more drought-tolerant varieties; and someday may be able to alert farmers when their fields need to be irrigated.

Constructing a StressCam

The StressCam system — constructed from parts that cost about $150 — is based around a Raspberry Pi. A Raspberry Pi is a tiny, inexpensive and easily-programed computer originally designed for teaching computer science.

The tiny WiFi-enabled computer includes a camera for taking pictures of a field and is hooked up to a timer that turns the system on in the morning and off in the evening, Ramos-Giraldo said. For corn, the camera is mounted at a 90-degree angle over the field and takes photos every 30 minutes to watch for curling leaves. For soybeans, the camera is mounted at a 45-degree angle over the field and takes photos every 15 minutes to watch for wilting. The system is solar-powered, with a back-up battery for cloudy days.

The tiny computer runs a machine learning algorithm on the photos to analyze them for indications of drought stress. Then it sends this information to a web platform for researchers, breeders or farmers, she said.

Both the machine learning algorithm and the web platform were constructed with help from students in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Teaching a Machine to Score Stress

Three researchers in front of a white box on a pole mounted at the Lake Wheeler University Field Lab.

Paula Ramos-Giraldo, left; Anna Locke, center; and Edgar Lobaton, right; have worked together to launch an inexpensive camera system to monitor crop stress remotely. (Photo from Summer 2019)

During the fall 2019 semester, Ramos-Giraldo worked with Edgar Lobaton, an associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, to enlist the students in his Neural Networks class to design machine learning algorithms capable of looking at photos of soybean fields and score the severity of drought stress, she said.

Machine learning algorithms can find patterns in data without being explicitly programmed what important features to look for. Instead, they are “trained” on pre-defined data – in this case 5,000 photos of soybean fields showing different amounts of drought stress annotated by Anna Locke, a U.S. Department of Agriculture- Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) soybean expert in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences.

The class’s algorithms were then tested on thousands of other photos taken by the StressCam during the summer of 2019. One of the best algorithms was programmed into the StressCam.

In the fall of 2020, Lobaton will run another competition in his Neural Networks class to try to develop more efficient algorithms, such as ones that require less computer memory and thus would run better on the tiny Raspberry Pi.

Seniors Design Web Platform, Despite Pandemic

Also during the fall of 2019, Ramos-Giraldo started working with a team of senior Electrical and Computer Engineering students to design a cloud-based web platform to allow farmers, soybean breeders and researchers to manage their StressCams and monitor their fields.

This team included Artem Minin, Nathan Libner, Stephanie Sierra and Manish Goud.

“It must have taken us the first three weeks to get our heads wrapped around how we could build a platform to solve the problem that Paula Ramos-Giraldo had,” said Minin, who will be returning to NC State in the fall to pursue a master’s degree in computer engineering. “That was one of the really difficult parts of the project because none of us had ever really built such a diverse system with so many different components, technologies, and requirements.”

The web platform allows the users to check that the StressCam is on and not overheating, change the photo scheduling and importantly, look at the past images from the StressCam and the drought stress severity scores. Overall, the platform will save time and increase the precision of drought data collection for plant breeders and researchers studying resiliency.

And on top of the expected technical and project management challenges of producing the StressCam web platform, the team of ECE seniors had to deal with unexpected challenges of a pandemic.

“Before the pandemic, our group would meet in person once a week, and that’s when our best results got created,” Minin said. “COVID-19 also added a difficulty that we couldn’t test our system like we wanted to. Originally, we planned to have a test site set up at the Sandhill Research Station, but obviously that didn’t happen. Instead, Paula set up a test field in her backyard.”

Despite all of the COVID-19-related challenges, Minin found working on an agricultural problem very rewarding.

“I think one of the coolest things about engineering is applying science and technology to an industry that could benefit from it, because otherwise it’s just math on paper,” Minin said. “I really enjoyed working in the agricultural industry, and I think there’s a lot of applications for technology in agricultural industry that haven’t been fully explored yet.”

Ramos-Giraldo agrees about the value of cross-College collaborations.

“It is an amazing effort that we made with the ECE department, and will continue,” Ramos-Giraldo said. “The most important thing is that the students were so enthusiastic about their results. And on the way we learned a lot of things, not only the students, but us as well. It is amazing the results we can produce when we work together.”

The StressCam platform uses IBM’s Internet of Things cloud platform at its core. Additionally, IBM sponsored the senior design project and provided technical mentorship from two researchers based at the IBM Innovation Center, on NC State’s Centennial Campus.

 

StressCam over a corn fieldPutting the Stress Cams to Use

Last summer Ramos-Giraldo deployed more than 20 StressCams at the Sandhills Research Station over fields of different soybean varieties. In addition to providing the images used by the Neural Networks class to design the machine learning algorithm, the StressCam images will help NC State and USDA-ARS soybean breeders, including Locke and Tommy Carter, track which of their strains respond best to drought conditions.

This summer, the team has 50 StressCams and plans to deploy them over corn fields. Twelve of the cameras will be deployed in Maryland at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, and the rest will be deployed at research stations like Central Crops Research Station in Clayton, where they will take advantage of the new wireless internet infrastructure; Cherry Research Farm, in Goldsboro; and the Caswell Research Farm, in Kinston.

The eventual goal is to roll out the StressCams to the Precision Sustainable Agriculture research network, a network of farms and research stations in 22 states supported in part by a USDA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative grant for the development of resilient agricultural systems.

The StressCams will monitor drought stress in cash crops after planting cover crops, or other alternative cultural practices, said Chris Reberg-Horton, a professor in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences and co-leader of the research network.

“Our ultimate target with the StressCams is to use them to monitor water status on many, many farms across the U.S.” Reberg-Horton said. “These cameras will help us study the effectiveness of cover crop mulch in capturing extra rain water. They will help us understand how to manage that system to capture the most water and keep it on farmers’ fields.”

Esleyther Henriquez, a master’s student in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, will lead an effort to install these cameras on farms across North Carolina and work with the farmers to integrate this new tool into their farm management system.

Funding for developing the StressCam came from USDA National Institute of Food Agriculture.

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Remembering ECE Department Head Dr. Robert Kolbas https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2020/06/remembering-ece-department-head-dr-robert-kolbas/ Mon, 08 Jun 2020 21:40:20 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=237394 ECE remembers Dr. Robert Kolbas, and exemplary teacher, department head, and a force behind the ECE MakerSpaces.]]>

Dr. Robert Kolbas, professor and former head of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at NC State passed away on June 7, 2020.

Kolbas was a professor at NC State from 1985-2020 and was Department Head from 1995-2000 of ECE, and then served as interim head from 2008-2009. He retired at the end of the Spring semester of 2020.

He is remembered by hundreds of students who took his ECE classes. “He took extremely complicated concepts and equations, broke them down into understandable chunks,” described former student Richard Hodson (B.S. EE/CPE 2005, M.S. EE 2012). “He taught those chunks in a fun and effective manner that made learning the near impossible within reach.”

“I started my teaching career in the department by co-teaching [his] electronics lab course,” recalled Rachana Gupta, an associate teaching profession and associate director of ECE Senior Design. “I learned so much and it’s still one of the best hands-on undergraduate courses here.”

On October 26, 2017, ECE officially opened the ECE MakerSpace in Engineering Building II, consisting of two facilities – the Robert M. Kolbas MakerSpace, and the William F. Troxler MakerSpace. The two spaces serve to provide all of the resources students need to realize electronics and fabrication projects, both for Senior Design and other coursework as well as extracurricular and personal experimentation and creation. Kolbas’ contribution and enthusiasm toward creating a space for students to be able to create and invent the future was contagious, and provided opportunities for students from across Engineering to tinker, experiment, and start their own enterprises utilizing tools and spaces that had never been available to them before.

“When I was a student in the early-70s, I was very frustrated, because I wanted to build things, but I didn’t have the tools, I didn’t have the space, I didn’t have the parts,” expressed Kolbas at the time, “When I heard that the department wanted to make MakerSpaces, that’s what led me to make this donation because I don’t want our students to be as frustrated as I was.”

Kolbas was born on November 13, 1953 in Syracuse, New York and completed his Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Illinois in 1979 where he worked under Professor Nick Holonyak, Jr. in the early development of semiconductor quantum well heterostructure lasers. From 1979-1985 he was employed by Honeywell Inc. as a Principal Research Scientist and a Senior Research Scientist where he responsible for the development of Integrated Optoelectronic Circuits and the growth of semiconductor thin films.

Kolbas’s research interests and contributions included: III-V semiconductor heterostructures and quantum wells, optoelectronic integrated circuits, quantum well lasers, strained layer lasers, vertical-cavity lasers, ultra-thin quantum wells, carrier collection in quantum wells, phonon-assisted stimulated emission and AlGaN-GaN heterostructures, and II-VI semiconductor materials and devices. He published more than 140 manuscripts in refereed journals. His present interests include MBE, MOCVD, tunable light-emitting devices, light emission from nanoparticles, rare earth doped semiconductors, and wide bandgap semiconductor materials. He was a member of the IEEE, American Physical Society, Sigma Xi and Tau Beta Pi.

Memorial offerings in Kolbas’ memory can be made to NC State Engineering Foundation ECE’s Kolbas MakerSpace.

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Welcoming new Faculty https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2020/06/welcoming-new-faculty/ Fri, 05 Jun 2020 19:53:44 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=237366 ECE is proud to announce the addition of four new members of our faculty to bolster the stellar research and teaching going on in the department—welcome to the Pack!]]>

NC State ECE is proud to announce the addition of four new professors to the distinguished faculty. A variety of scholars from across the country will be joining the Wolfpack to lend their experience and expertise to our students and researchers.

Robert Heath

Heath is presently the Cockrell Family Regents Chair in Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin (UT).

He received his Ph.D. from Stanford under the supervision of A.J. Paulraj.  His research interests lie in the area of circuits with an emphasis on next-generation communication systems, terahertz systems, and machine learning with applications to circuits and systems.  He served as the Associate Director (4 years) and Director (3 years) of the Wireless Networking and Communications Group (WNCG) at UT and is also the founding Director of the Situation-Aware Vehicular Engineering Systems (SAVES) initiative.

His research has been recognized by almost 20 best conference or journal paper awards and was elected a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors in 2018. He was also a co-recipient of the 2019 IEEE Kiyo Tomiyasu Award, which is a mid-career IEEE field award. He has published four textbooks and developed a laboratory manual to teach wireless communications to undergraduate students.

Heath will be joining the ECE Department in August 2020 as a Distinguished Professor.

Nuria González-Prelcic

González-Prelcic is presently an Associate Professor in the Signal Theory and Communications Department, the University of Vigo in Spain, where she also received her Ph.D. under the supervision of Domingo Docampo Amoedo. She has been on temporary leave since May 31, 2018, working at The University of Texas at Austin.

Her research interests lie in the areas of signal processing and communications, particularly for millimeter-wave communication systems. She started the first research center on telecommunications in Galicia (and one of the first ones in Spain) called AtlantTIC, which is now a recognized institution in the region. When she left the position after seven years, she was managing 6 staff in a center that supported 70 faculty.

She also raised around 13 Million Euros as single-PI and center director, and was the developer and founding director of an M.S. program called SIGMA, “Applications of Signal Processing in Communications.”

González-Prelcic will be joining the ECE Department in August 2020 as a Tenure-Track Associate Professor.

Amro Awad

Awad is presently an assistant professor at the University of Central Florida.

He earned his Ph.D. in our Department with Yan Solihin, and spent 2 years as a senior staff member at Sandia National Labs prior to joining the faculty at UCF. A key theme in his research is secure and efficient (performance and power) integration of emerging non-volatile memory devices in future computing systems.

Awad will be joining the ECE Department in August 2020 as a Tenure-Track Assistant Professor.

Amay Bandodkar

Amay is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Northwestern University. He obtained his Ph.D. from the Department of Nano Engineering at the University of California, San Diego in 2016. His research interests are in the field of conformal bioelectronics, biochemical sensors, energy systems, low power devices, hybrid fabrication, and microfluidics, and he will be affiliated with the ASSIST Center.

Bandodkar will be joining the ECE Department in January 2021 as a Tenure-Track Assistant Professor

The department extends its congratulations and whole-hearted welcome to our new faculty members and looks forward to their contributions to our stellar faculty and contributions to our stellar faculty and student experience over the coming years.

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Professors Kolbas and Trussell Retire https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2020/06/kolbas-and-trussell-retire/ Tue, 02 Jun 2020 21:25:11 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=237343 In addition to the accomplishments of our graduated Class of 2020, we also recognize the retirement of two faculty members who have shaped our Department over many decades: Joel Trussell and Bob Kolbas.]]>

May 15 not only marked the end of one of the most unusual semesters in the history of the university, but it also marked the official retirement of two ECE faculty members who each have made contributions that have shaped our Department over many decades Joel Trussell and Bob Kolbas.

Joel Trussell began his career at NC State as an Associate Professor in 1980 and was promoted to Professor in 1986. He also served as Director of Graduate Programs from 2002 to 2010. During this time he significantly strengthened the graduate program and was a tireless proponent of the highest academic standards. Joel received his B.S. in applied mathematics from Georgia Institute of Technology and his M.S. in mathematics from Florida State University. He completed his Ph.D. in electrical engineering and computer science from the University of New Mexico in 1976. Prior to joining NC State, he was a staff member at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM. Joel and his students have published more than 200 manuscripts in refereed journals and conferences, including two best journal paper awards from the IEEE Signal Processing Society. He has also published two books. One of these, coauthored with Yannis Viniotis, has been used as the text in our core course, Analytical Foundations of Electrical and Computer Engineering, for more than 15 years. During the last several years, he has led an effort to integrate automated homework and testing systems into multiple courses using the open-source Webwork system. To date, he has helped develop Webwork materials for at least 9 ECE courses.

His research interests include estimation theory, color imaging, signal and image restoration and reconstruction, and new mathematical techniques applied to signal processing. Specific applications include color measurement and reproduction, image restoration, system characterization, and improved signal measurement.

He is a member of the American Society for Engineering Education, the Inter-Society Color Council, and is a Fellow of the IEEE. Of particular note, Joel was Editor-in-Chief of the IEEE Proceedings—the flagship publication of the IEEE—from 2013-2018.

During his 40 years of service at NC State, he has served on numerous committees at all levels of the University, including the University Admissions Committee, University Enrollment Planning Committee, University Teaching Effectiveness Committee, ECE Graduate Admissions Committee, ECE Undergraduate Admissions Committee, and ECE Curriculum Committee, to name a few.

Bob Kolbas began his career at NC State as an Assistant Professor in 1985, and progressed through the ranks to Associate Professor and Full Professor. He served as Department Head from 1995 to 2000 and interim head from 2008 to 2009. From 1979-1985, he was employed by Honeywell, Inc. as a principal research scientist and a senior research scientist where he was responsible for the development of integrated optoelectronic circuits and the growth of semiconductor thin films. Bob received his B.S. in engineering physics from Cornell University and his M.S. in physics from the University of Illinois. He completed his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Illinois in 1979, where he worked under Professor Nick Holonyak, Jr. in the early development of semiconductor quantum well heterostructure lasers. Bob has published more than 190 manuscripts in refereed journals and conferences. His research interests include MBE, MOCVD, tunable light-emitting devices, light emission from nanoparticles, rare earth doped semiconductors, and wide bandgap semiconductor materials.

He is a member of the American Physical Society, Sigma Xi, and Tau Beta Pi, and he is a Fellow of the IEEE. He is a strong believer in reducing ideas to practice and has pioneered hands-on laboratory experiences for undergraduates. He evaluated several possibilities for student-owned equipment several years ago, and the Department has moved forward with integrating the Analog Discovery into our curriculum as a result of his recommendation. Further, he has provided generous resources to help create the ECE MakerSpace, and encourages students to invent, tinker, explore, and discover how to realize their dreams in the MakerSpace.

During his almost 35 years of service at NC State, he has served on numerous committees at all levels of the University, including the ECE Faculty Search and Post-Tenure Review Committees, the College Executive Committee, the college Dean Search Committee, the Faculty Senate, the University Scholarships and Student Aid Committee, and Academic Policy Committee, to name a few.

It is not an exaggeration to say that few faculty have had as much positive impact on the Department as Joel Trussell and Bob Kolbas. We will miss them as active members of the faculty but will look forward to staying in touch, and wish them both health and happiness in retirement.

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Alumni Co-Owned Startup Allows Contractors to Monitor Job Sites Remotely https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2020/05/alumni-co-owned-startup-allows-contractors-to-monitor-job-sites-remotely/ Fri, 29 May 2020 14:24:00 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=237278 A pain-point noted by an ECE alumnus facing the construction industry that led to the launch of a new venture – Bedrock Wireless, a company aimed to bring data-forward solutions to construction sites.]]>

It started as a conversation between two friends; a chat about a pain-point in the construction industry that led to the launch of a new venture. Bedrock Wireless is a company aimed to bring data-forward solutions to construction sites. Co-founder and CEO Phillip Baxter was frustrated with the lack of technology being used to improve the productivity of the job site. “I was spending half my day driving between job-sites, just to check on things like whether workers showed up, were material delivered, and are doors locked every night – It wasn’t working and I needed a way to remotely manage my sites,” Baxter shared. Being very familiar with the inefficiencies that plague the industry, he chatted with long-time friend and NC State alum, Stephen Smith to cook up a solution.

Smith holds degrees in Computer Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering from NC State. During his time at State, Smith and three other friends from the Engineering Entrepreneurs Program launched a startup called Jar~with~a~Twist – a jar that works similarly to a deodorant stick that twists on the bottom while moving the contents of the container to the top. Smith spent some time after graduating trying to get Jar~with~a~Twist off the ground, but it was clear that without ample funding, they would struggle to make a dent in the industry. He decided to pursue a Master’s degree from Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute, where he received his fourth engineering degree at the age of 24. 

During his time at grad school, Smith met the founders of TerrAvion, an aerial imagery for agriculture start-up in Silicon Valley. After graduation he took his robotics degree to the Valley to help bring farmers into the modern world. Through his time at TerrAvion, Smith helped build out some incredible technology and worked his way up to becoming the Chief Technology Officer, managing operations and technology for the company.  

It was around this time when he reconnected with Baxter and started discussing at length the inefficiencies in the construction industry. Bedrock Wireless launched in January of this year – a little over a year since the conversation began. A couple of months later, the duo introduced Construction Access Points (CAPs), a technology that allows general contractors to monitor their job-sites remotely while ensuring workers have access to the data they need.  

During the COVID-19 pandemic, CAPs offer the crucial benefit of reducing exposure risks for contractors who have to manage multiple sites by allowing remote monitoring from the comfort of their homes – something completely unheard of before. “Remote management is 100x easier when you can see what’s going on at the site,” Smith tells us.

Another side effect the construction industry is facing during the pandemic is increased theft at construction sites due to the decreased monitoring at the job site. With a CAP, customers have access to a 360 degree, live, HD monitoring of their job-sites from anywhere. “ If a builder averages their losses, they will realize they are losing several thousand dollars per home. Our CAP has a huge ROI for theft alone,” Smith shared.

For now, Bedrock Wireless mainly serves building contractors and land developers in the Triangle area, but they plan on growing beyond the Triangle and into other markets quickly.  

To learn more about the Bedrock Wireless and the CAP product visit their website or email sales@bedrockwireless.com.

 

This post was originally published in Entrepreneurship News.

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a:1:{i:0;s:3:"115";} https://entrepreneurship.ncsu.edu/news/2020/05/21/alumni-co-owned-startup-allows-contractors-to-monitor-job-sites-remotely/ https://entrepreneurship.ncsu.edu/?p=27580 Entrepreneurship News 7839 ncstate_wire a:3:{s:4:"fb-2";a:3:{s:14:"post_permissin";s:1:"1";s:11:"post_method";s:1:"2";s:7:"message";s:28:"{POST_EXCERPT} - {PERMALINK}";}s:4:"tw-2";a:3:{s:23:"post_twitter_permission";s:1:"1";s:29:"post_twitter_image_permission";s:1:"1";s:7:"message";s:28:"{POST_EXCERPT} - {PERMALINK}";}s:4:"ln-2";a:2:{s:20:"lnposting_permission";s:1:"1";s:7:"message";s:28:"{POST_EXCERPT} - {PERMALINK}";}} 1 1
Researchers Incorporate Computer Vision, Uncertainty into AI for Robotic Prosthetics https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2020/05/researchers-incorporate-computer-vision-uncertainty-into-ai-for-robotic-prosthetics/ Thu, 28 May 2020 13:53:09 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=237246 Lobaton's lab leverages AI to create a software integration for existing hardware to enable people using robotic prosthetics to walk in a safer, more natural manner on different types of terrain.]]>

Researchers have developed new software that can be integrated with existing hardware to enable people using robotic prosthetics or exoskeletons to walk in a safer, more natural manner on different types of terrain. The new framework incorporates computer vision into prosthetic leg control, and includes robust artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms that allow the software to better account for uncertainty.

“Lower-limb robotic prosthetics need to execute different behaviors based on the terrain users are walking on,” says Edgar Lobaton, co-author of a paper on the work and an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at North Carolina State University. “The framework we’ve created allows the AI in robotic prostheses to predict the type of terrain users will be stepping on, quantify the uncertainties associated with that prediction, and then incorporate that uncertainty into its decision-making.”

The researchers focused on distinguishing between six different terrains that require adjustments in a robotic prosthetic’s behavior: tile, brick, concrete, grass, “upstairs” and “downstairs.”

“If the degree of uncertainty is too high, the AI isn’t forced to make a questionable decision – it could instead notify the user that it doesn’t have enough confidence in its prediction to act, or it could default to a ‘safe’ mode,” says Boxuan Zhong, lead author of the paper and a recent Ph.D. graduate from NC State.

The new “environmental context” framework incorporates both hardware and software elements. The researchers designed the framework for use with any lower-limb robotic exoskeleton or robotic prosthetic device, but with one additional piece of hardware: a camera. In their study, the researchers used cameras worn on eyeglasses and cameras mounted on the lower-limb prosthesis itself. The researchers evaluated how the AI was able to make use of computer vision data from both types of camera, separately and when used together.

“Incorporating computer vision into control software for wearable robotics is an exciting new area of research,” says Helen Huang, a co-author of the paper. “We found that using both cameras worked well, but required a great deal of computing power and may be cost prohibitive. However, we also found that using only the camera mounted on the lower limb worked pretty well – particularly for near-term predictions, such as what the terrain would be like for the next step or two.” Huang is the Jackson Family Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering in the Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering at NC State and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The most significant advance, however, is to the AI itself.

“We came up with a better way to teach deep-learning systems how to evaluate and quantify uncertainty in a way that allows the system to incorporate uncertainty into its decision making,” Lobaton says. “This is certainly relevant for robotic prosthetics, but our work here could be applied to any type of deep-learning system.”

To train the AI system, researchers connected the cameras to able-bodied individuals, who then walked through a variety of indoor and outdoor environments. The researchers then did a proof-of-concept evaluation by having a person with lower-limb amputation wear the cameras while traversing the same environments.

“We found that the model can be appropriately transferred so the system can operate with subjects from different populations,” Lobaton says. “That means that the AI worked well even thought it was trained by one group of people and used by somebody different.”

However, the new framework has not yet been tested in a robotic device.

“We are excited to incorporate the framework into the control system for working robotic prosthetics – that’s the next step,” Huang says.

“And we’re also planning to work on ways to make the system more efficient, in terms of requiring less visual data input and less data processing,” says Zhong.

The paper, “Environmental Context Prediction for Lower Limb Prostheses with Uncertainty Quantification,” is published in IEEE Transactions on Automation Science and Engineering. The paper was co-authored by Rafael da Silva, a Ph.D. student at NC State; and Minhan Li, a Ph.D. student in the Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering.

The work was done with support from the National Science Foundation under grants 1552828, 1563454 and 1926998.

-shipman-

Note to Editors: The study abstract follows.

“Environmental Context Prediction for Lower Limb Prostheses with Uncertainty Quantification”

Authors: Boxuan Zhong, Rafael L. da Silva and Edgar Lobaton, North Carolina State University; Minhan Li and He (Helen) Huang, the Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering at North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Published: May 22, IEEE Transactions on Automation Science and Engineering

DOI: 10.1109/TASE.2020.2993399

Abstract: Reliable environmental context prediction is critical for wearable robots (e.g. prostheses and exoskeletons) to assist terrain-adaptive locomotion. In this paper, we proposed a novel vision-based context prediction framework for lower limb prostheses to simultaneously predict human’s environmental context for multiple forecast windows. By leveraging Bayesian Neural Networks (BNN), our framework can quantify the uncertainty caused by different factors (e.g. observation noise, and insufficient or biased training) and produce a calibrated predicted probability for online decision making. We compared two wearable camera locations (a pair of glasses and a lower limb device), independently and conjointly. We utilized the calibrated predicted probability for online decision making and fusion. We demonstrated how to interpret deep neural networks with uncertainty measures and how to improve the algorithms based on the uncertainty analysis. The inference time of our framework on a portable embedded system was less than 80ms per frame. The results in this study may lead to novel context recognition strategies in reliable decision making, efficient sensor fusion and improved intelligent system design in various applications. Note to Practitioners—This paper was motivated by two practical problems in computer vision for wearable robots: (1) Performance of deep neural networks is challenged by real-life disturbances. However, reliable confidence estimation is usually unavailable and the factors causing failures are hard to identify. (2) Evaluating wearable robots by intuitive trial and error is expensive due to the need of human experiments. Our framework produces a calibrated predicted probability as well as three uncertainty measures. The calibrated probability makes it easy to customize the prediction decision criteria by considering how much the corresponding application can tolerate error. In this study, we demonstrated a practical procedure to interpret and improve the performance of deep neural networks with uncertainty quantification. We anticipate that our methodology could be extended to other applications as a general scientific and efficient procedure of evaluating and improving intelligent systems.

This post was originally published in NC State News.

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a:1:{i:0;s:3:"115";} https://news.ncsu.edu/2020/05/prosthetics-computer-vision-uncertainty/ https://news.ncsu.edu/?p=507422 NC State News 7867 ncstate_wire a:3:{s:4:"fb-2";a:3:{s:14:"post_permissin";s:1:"1";s:11:"post_method";s:1:"2";s:7:"message";s:28:"{POST_EXCERPT} - {PERMALINK}";}s:4:"tw-2";a:3:{s:23:"post_twitter_permission";s:1:"1";s:29:"post_twitter_image_permission";s:1:"1";s:7:"message";s:28:"{POST_EXCERPT} - {PERMALINK}";}s:4:"ln-2";a:2:{s:20:"lnposting_permission";s:1:"1";s:7:"message";s:28:"{POST_EXCERPT} - {PERMALINK}";}} 1 1
Check-Up https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2020/05/check-up/ Wed, 20 May 2020 14:20:51 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=237128 Platforms developed in the Center for Advanced Self- Powered Systems of Integrated Sensors and Technologies (ASSIST) allow for a wide range of health applications]]>

When engineering researchers were tasked by the National Science Foundation (NSF) with creating wearable, self-powered health monitoring devices to help patients suffering from chronic diseases, a couple of uses came to mind early on.

The team behind the Center for Advanced Self-Powered Systems of Integrated Sensors and Technologies (ASSIST) first looked at systems that can monitor heart rate or help an asthmatic head off an attack by monitoring both his respiratory rate and the condition of the air around him. Researchers in the NSF Engineering Research Center (ERC) led by NC State, have developed research that could lead to wearables that help with wound healing, diet management for pre-diabetics and even medication compliance.

And once ASSIST platforms are built and made available for physicians and their patients, the use scenarios could continue to grow.

This can be a real disruption in health monitoring… There’s nothing like that out there right now.”
—Dr. Veena Misra

While wearable devices that count steps or even take a heart reading are popular and available on the market, the ASSIST vision dramatically increases the amount of useful health data collected and does it without forcing a patient to change batteries or recharge the device by utilizing power created by the human body. An always-on ASSIST device will produce valuable data on chronic medical conditions that will benefit not only an individual patient’s doctor but, when combined with the data from thousands of patients, physicians treating the same illnesses around the globe.

“This can be a real disruption in health monitoring,” said Dr. Veena Misra, director of ASSIST and Distinguished Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) at NC State. “There’s nothing like that out there right now.”

Dual-Platform Approach

NSF awarded the ASSIST ERC in 2012 to a team that includes collaborators from Florida International University, Penn State University and the universities of Michigan, Notre Dame, Virginia, Utah and North Carolina. With the award, NC State became just the second university to lead two ERCs at once and one of just two universities to ever take the lead role in three.

Over seven years, ASSIST has developed two platforms — a health and environmental tracker (HET) that measures vital signs and environmental exposures running on a long-lasting battery and a self-powered, adaptive sensing platform (SAP) that takes electrocardiogram readings and is powered by energy harvested from the human body. Along the way, research projects have broken new ground both in how much power can be pulled from the human body and in how little power sensors and radios that transmit data from a wearable to a cell phone can use to operate. One breakthrough was in using liquid metal to fabricate flexible thermoelectric devices that can pull energy from the body more efficiently.

Other research thrusts within ASSIST are working on how to make devices comfortable to wear and how to crunch all the data that will be produced from patient monitoring.

As the center moves forward, all of that work is being integrated together into these platforms that drive multiple sensors and operate in a self-powered mode.

Then the types of health monitoring cases available can grow. ASSIST researchers are also looking at what information can be drawn from sweat or interstitial fluid from just beneath the skin. With that type of data, physicians might be able to tell whether a diabetic patient is following dietary guidelines or whether the person wearing the device is taking her medication on schedule.

Out of the Lab

ASSIST platforms allow for a wide range of health applications”

ERCs receive funding from NSF for 10 years. With year eight on the horizon, ASSIST’s leadership team is already looking toward funding that would keep the center going past a decade and what its vision would be.

During a site visit with NSF officials in 2019, ASSIST successfully demonstrated a self-powered electrocardiogram wearable that is built into a shirt.

“We are going to focus in year eight on maturing it, working with external partners to scale it and reliably test it and then, hopefully, commercialize it,” Misra said. Other versions of an ASSIST platform could take the form of a wristband or even a device worn under the skin.

Finding an industry partner to produce an ASSIST device is an ultimate goal, but some of the center’s technology may find uses elsewhere. The energy harvesting advances, for instance, could help industrial machines make use of the heat they produce for devices that sense temperature, humidity or vibration.

For now, ASSIST’s work is being put through small-scale clinical trials at the School of Medicine at UNC-Chapel Hill to test their usefulness for physicians.

“I think success for ASSIST will be putting together systems that work and that can be used in small-scale medical studies to prove the concept,” said Dr. Mehmet Ozturk, ASSIST deputy director and professor in ECE. “I think we need the doctors’ word that yes, indeed these devices are useful for monitoring these conditions.”

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a:3:{s:4:"fb-2";a:3:{s:14:"post_permissin";s:1:"1";s:11:"post_method";s:1:"2";s:7:"message";s:28:"{POST_EXCERPT} - {PERMALINK}";}s:4:"tw-2";a:3:{s:23:"post_twitter_permission";s:1:"1";s:29:"post_twitter_image_permission";s:1:"1";s:7:"message";s:28:"{POST_EXCERPT} - {PERMALINK}";}s:4:"ln-2";a:2:{s:20:"lnposting_permission";s:1:"1";s:7:"message";s:28:"{POST_EXCERPT} - {PERMALINK}";}} https://www.engr.ncsu.edu/news/2020/04/23/check-up/ College of Engineering News 1
Veety named Blessis Outstanding Undergraduate Advisor Award recipient https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2020/05/veety-named-blessis-outstanding-undergraduate-advisor-award-recipient/ Tue, 19 May 2020 15:08:02 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=237217 Congratulations to Elena Veety, a teaching assistant professor in ECE and education director for ASSIST who has been named a winner of the Blessis Outstanding Undergrad Advisor Award for 2020.]]>

Dr. Elena Veety has been announced as a winner of this year’s George H. Blessis Outstanding Undergraduate Advisor Award, given by the College of Engineering at North Carolina State University.

The award recognizes faculty members who consistently and willingly give their time and effort to advising, counseling and mentoring students and assisting student groups. It is also a continuing memorial to George H. Blessis, a faculty member whose interest in undergraduate education and advising serves as an example today.

Candidates are nominated by their department and are selected by the College of Engineering Teaching and Advising Awards Committee. The awardee receives $1,000 and a certificate and the recipient’s name is engraved on a permanent plaque displayed in the administrative building for the College of Engineering.

Elena VeetyVeety, a teaching assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and operations and education director for the National Science Foundation Advanced Self-Powered Systems of Integrated Sensors and Technologies (ASSIST) Center, joined the NC State faculty and the ASSIST Center in 2012. She is known for her commitment to advising, assisting and mentoring undergraduate students. Under her leadership, the ASSIST Center has grown its reputation as having a nationally recognized high-quality education program that is an example for other NSF Engineering Research Centers.

A student shared, “Dr. Veety is an outstanding mentor and resource for students in the ASSIST Center. She goes above and beyond to connect with individuals on a personal level to better help and advise them. She approaches problems with creativity and a positive attitude that spreads to her colleagues and she works tirelessly to expand and improve the Education & Outreach arm of the ASSIST Center. I am incredibly grateful to her for providing a sounding board when I struggled in graduate school.”

Typically, the award is given at the College’s spring faculty meeting. But, due to COVID-19 and the restrictions placed on large gatherings, Veety will be honored at the fall faculty meeting.

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Paper by Aysu and Becchi Chosen as Best Paper at DATE Conference https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2020/05/paper-by-aysu-and-becchi-chosen-as-best-paper-at-date-conference/ Fri, 15 May 2020 15:08:13 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=237219 A paper outlining a hardware solution to then next generation of cryptographic solutions by Aydin Aysu and Michela Becchi was chosen as Best Paper at the Design, Automation and Test in Europe Conference]]>

At this year’s Design, Automation and Test in Europe Conference (DATE), a paper co-authored by Aydin Aysu, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering and Michela Becchi, an associate professor of ECE was selected for a DATE Best Paper Award.

The paper, A Flexible and Scalable NTT Hardware: Applications from Homomorphically Encrypted Deep Learning to Post-Quantum Cryptography, sets the stage for the next generation of powerful cryptographic hardware.

The Number Theoretic Transform (NTT) enables faster polynomial multiplication and is becoming a fundamental aspect of next-generation cryptographic systems. NTT hardware designs have two prevalent structural and hardware problems related to design-time flexibility, which the paper seeks to address with hardware acceleration that shows great improvements to the prior software and synthesis solutions—paving the way for next-generation cryptographic hardware solutions.

Each year the Design, Automation and Test in Europe Conference presents awards to the authors of the best papers following peer selection.

“The best application paper has been awarded to one paper out of 748 submissions,” commented Aysu. “The paper proposes a design automation technique for automatic and efficient hardware implementation of a critical component used in post-quantum secure cryptography protocols and homomorphic encryption. We acknowledge NSF CRII Award #1850373 for making this research possible.”

The DATE conference, intended to be hosted in Grenoble, France, was shifted successfully to a virtual platform due to the global impacts for the COVID-19 pandemic.

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ACM Service Award Recognizes Dixit for Strengthening Computing Community https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2020/05/acm-service-award-recognizes-dixit-for-strengthening-computing-community/ Wed, 13 May 2020 14:47:27 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=237203 Congratulations tor associate teaching professor Arati Dixit, 2020 receipient of the Outstanding Contribution to ACM Award for contributing to the growth and diversity of Indian women in computing.]]>

ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, today recognized three individuals, including NC State’s Arati Dixit, with awards for their exemplary service to the computing field. Working in diverse areas, the 2019 award recipients were selected by their peers for longstanding efforts that have strengthened the community. This year’s ACM award recipients made seminal contributions in areas including textbooks and educational tools, bibliographic resources, and advancing the computing community in India.

Arati M. Dixit, an associate teaching professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State receives the Outstanding Contribution to ACM Award for contributing to the growth and diversity of ACM programs in India, especially ACM-W India.

In addition to her teaching role at NC State, Dixit is currently a Senior Scientist at Applied Research Associates, Inc. in Raleigh. Dixit has been an active member of ACM-W India, an initiative that focuses on the empowerment of women, for many years. In 2013, she was involved in launching the first ACM-W Celebration of Women in Computing event in Pune. ACM-W Celebrations are events that are designed to build a sense of community among women in computing and can include anything from a technical session, to a graduate panel, to a career fair. When she became Chair of ACM-W India in 2017, Dixit expanded the number of ACM-W celebrations to eight diverse regions of the country in both rural and metropolitan settings. She also championed the creation of an annual ACM-W India hackathon.

In 2017, when the broader ACM India Council initiated a program of summer schools across the country to encourage undergraduate students to take up graduate studies, Dixit proposed the idea of having one of the schools dedicated exclusively to women. Dixit organized the first school in Pune in 2017, and an additional summer school was added in Bengaluru in 2018. These women-only summer schools were a success and the model has been repeated. The number of ACM-W chapters across India also grew during Dixit’s tenure. When she stepped down as Chair at the end of 2019, there were 35 active ACM-W student chapters and three ACM-W professional chapters in the country.

Dixit’s other prominent public contribution to ACM was her work as the founding Vice Chair of the ACM India Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education (iSIGCSE), in which she made tireless efforts to promote ACM curriculum implementation across India. As an ACM India Eminent Speaker, she has delivered more than 50 talks on diverse topics. She has been especially active with her local ACM professional chapter in Pune, having served as Chair, Vice Chair, and Secretary/Treasurer.

The Outstanding Contribution to ACM Award recognizes outstanding service contributions to the Association.  Candidates are selected based on the value and degree of service overall, and may be given to up to three individuals each year.

ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, is the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, uniting computing educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field’s challenges. ACM strengthens the computing profession’s collective voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and recognition of technical excellence. ACM supports the professional growth of its members by providing opportunities for life-long learning, career development, and professional networking.

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A Smarter Collar https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2020/05/a-smarter-collar/ Wed, 13 May 2020 14:26:21 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=237133 Wearable data collection systems being developed in the College are empowering guide dog trainers and making a costly, time-consuming process more efficient]]>

TJ and Lorraine Trapani

Lorraine Trapani’s husband, Michael, was a hard-charging, happy person. So, when he became partially blind, he worked to live with it, learning a scanning technique that made the most of the vision that remained.

“He said the hardest thing was not being able to see my face,” Lorraine Trapani remembers.

Seventeen years after his death, Trapani honors her husband’s memory as a volunteer puppy raiser, providing a loving home and teaching foundational skills to puppies who will one day provide their recipients with independence, safety and companionship.

“I want to raise an army of guide dogs in honor of Michael,” said Trapani, who was paired with her seventh puppy trainee, Jackie, in 2019.

As a volunteer for the nonprofit guide dog school Guiding Eyes for the Blind, Trapani will take a puppy for about 16 months. During that time, she’ll keep the animal with her at all times, exposing her to different social situations and constantly observing how she reacts.

Not every puppy is cut out for this type of work. The best guide dogs can make hundreds of snap decisions a day while remaining calm in environments that can be noisy and stressful. Guiding Eyes can invest $50,000 and two years in a dog, whether the animal is ultimately trained and placed with a blind person or not. Fifty to 75 percent of puppies that start the training don’t complete it, so the earlier they can determine whether a dog is cut out for the work, the more resources can be put toward training the right dogs and placing them in a position to help.

Technology developed at NC State, combined with Watson artificial intelligence applied to data collected and stored on the IBM Cloud, has led to a smart collar that gathers valuable insights during Jackie’s training period that will help determine if life as a guide dog is the right path.

It’s a tool that will help improve the training process, giving volunteers like Lorraine Trapani a chance to train that army of dogs in memory of her husband.

A Mutually Beneficial Relationship

Candidate dogs begin evaluations as young as 71/2 weeks and are scored on a number of traits, including fear of strangers, separation anxiety and excitableness.

The drawbacks are that it takes years of experience for a trainer to be able to score an animal accurately, and it requires a high level of time and attention for volunteers.

Collecting that data on dozens of dogs with smart collars and using Watson AI technology to predict what it means, Guiding Eyes will be able to tell earlier on which animals are fit to continue training as guide dogs. The data could also offer valuable information for the organization’s genetics program by helping to estimate the heritability of temperament traits between generations of dogs.

In a 2019 paper, researchers from NC State’s Departments of Computer Science (CSC) and Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) showed that by outfitting dogs with a data collection system that records electrocardiography and other measurements, they could predict 29 behavioral scores with approximately 92 percent accuracy over 11 distinct tasks.

Our technologies are creating impact in real life applications, for two critical populations in this case: guide dogs and their humans.”
—Dr. Alper Bozkurt

The research is part of a long partnership between Dr. Alper Bozkurt, professor in ECE, and Dr. David Roberts, associate professor in CSC. The two met in a faculty orientation workshop after arriving at NC State and have collaborated on several projects involving animals, sensors and artificial intelligence, including work on an interactive harness for search and rescue dogs that monitors their health and allows them to communicate with handlers in a disaster zone.

Projects in Roberts’ Canine Instruction with Instrumented Gadgets Administering Rewards (CIGAAR) Lab study how to improve upon the centuries-old mutually beneficial relationship between man and his best friend.

The CIGAAR Lab smart handle project focuses on the non-visual communication of canine heart and respiratory rates. The main goal is to communicate canine physiological data to a blind handler in real time to give him or her a better idea of the animal’s current physical and emotional state. A scent discrimination project collects physiological and behavioral data from a dog during scent-detection tasks to identify patterns that correlate to the presence of a target odor; it can be used to develop an automated training system that can capture and reinforce a desirable behavioral response upon detection of scents.

Bozkurt’s research involves using engineering to better understand biological systems, be they human, animal or plant.

In work with the National Science Foundation Advanced Self-Powered Systems of Integrated Sensors and Technologies (ASSIST) Engineering Research Center led by NC State, he is helping develop wearable, self-powered systems that track a patient’s health data and environmental exposure.

Bozkurt has studied the potential for turning Madagascar hissing cockroaches into cyborgs for use in disaster zones and, in collaboration with the Plant Sciences Initiative in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at NC State, is looking at how sensors can be used to improve plant health for agriculture applications.

“We have been working on wearable technologies for dogs for the last 10 years,” Bozkurt said. “We are now very glad to see that our technologies are creating impact in real life applications for two critical populations in this case: guide dogs and their humans.”

Tech for Good

Trapani’s first puppy, Merrick, was successfully trained and placed, but even before he became a guide dog he served as a therapy dog. He was the first thing Trapani allowed herself to love after her husband passed away. Her second puppy completed training and was matched with a partner. Before graduating, however, he was released, as the stress of actual guide work was too much for him.

The setback made her want to work harder and wonder what could be done to ensure more successful trainings and placements.

Guiding Eyes has been collecting data on its dogs since 1995 and had begun using IBM Cloud to store it, then Watson to help predict whether a dog in training would ultimately make a good guide dog. The company learned about the research going on at NC State from a paper that Roberts and Bozkurt had published together.

An IBM donation is putting smart collars on 350 puppy trainees and is sponsoring dogs being trained by Trapani, who works for the company in Government and Regulatory Affairs. The puppy she worked with before

Jackie was named TJ after Thomas J. Watson, a former IBM CEO and the company’s AI platform’s namesake.

Trapani’s work includes frequent trips to Washington, D.C., and her trainees tag along. She’s constantly watching for a calm emotional state, smooth movements and as little barking as possible. Learning when it’s appropriate to eliminate is also part of the process, especially not when in a senator’s office.

“Jackie is walking the halls of Congress with me, advocating for the potential of AI to benefit society,” she said.

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ASSIST Center partners on virtual incubator to advance remote care https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2020/05/assist-center-partners-on-virtual-incubator-to-advance-remote-care/ Mon, 11 May 2020 14:02:51 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=237196 The ASSIST Center has partnered with Digital Health Institute for Transformation (DHIT) to launch a webinar series to serve as an innovation engine for advanced remote care, with the first on May 15]]>

The Advanced Self-Powered Systems of Integrated Sensors and Technologies (ASSIST) Center led by NC State has partnered with Digital Health Institute for Transformation (DHIT) to launch a virtual crowdsourced incubator that will serve as an innovation engine for advanced remote care by sourcing ideas from the ecosystem and providing resources to advance them from inception to implementation.

The program, COVID-19 Unites Us All, will consist of a biweekly webinar series featuring panels of thought leaders in digital health, as well as an Innovation Sprint. By using a collaboration platform, Crowdicity, the Innovation Sprint aims to crowdsource ideas from participants and bring them through the vetting process so that the most promising can advance from ideation, to validation and ultimately to commercialization. The program will host these panels and collect ideas through July 2020, then proceed with idea selection and resources for acceleration.

“The time is now to accelerate innovation in remote care through crowdsourced ideas,” says Michael Levy, president of DHIT and co-host of the webinar series. “Great ideas abound, and this program will serve as a vehicle to incubate innovation throughout the crisis and beyond. Prominent digital health organizations are continuing to sign up to support this effort.”

Adam Curry, director of the Innovation Ecosystem at ASSIST and co-host of the webinar, says, “The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that reliable sources of personal health data are critical to informing effective public health decisions. We are, therefore, excited to be working with DHIT to gather thought leaders in research, wearable health technologies, health care and public health for in-depth explorations of this topic. We also look forward to working with DHIT and other partners to advance new technologies that can address critical health challenges.”

DHIT is a 501(c)(3) non-profit education and research institute supporting communities through the process of digital health transformation. DHIT collaborates with leading academic institutions, associations and industry to cultivate talent and ecosystems with its immersive learning platform, harnessing real-world experiences that drive the adoption of next generation skills, emerging technologies and mindsets needed to foster the digital health leaders and innovators of the future, today. For more information, visit dhitglobal.org.

ASSIST develops leading-edge systems for high-value applications such as healthcare and IoT by integrating fundamental advances in energy harvesting, low-power electronics, and sensors with a focus on usability and actionable data. For more information, visit assistcenter.org.

The first webinar of this partnership series will launch on May 15 at 9 a.m. EDT and feature a showcase of self-powered and low-powered wearable health sensor technologies from the ASSIST Center. You may register for free using this link.

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Endowment honors alumnus who valued education and knew the importance of scholarships https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2020/05/endowment-honors-alumnus-who-valued-education-and-knew-the-importance-of-scholarships/ Fri, 08 May 2020 14:09:59 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=237125 Alumnus Frank Madren’s love of electrical engineering resulted in an endowed scholarship in his name to ensure future undergrads in financial need have the opportunity to join the field.]]>

Alumnus Frank Madren’s love of electrical engineering and computer science was surpassed only by his love for his wife of 55 years, Jo Ann Madren.

Three years after Frank Madren passed away in 2015, Jo Ann Madren honored his memory by endowing a merit-based scholarship at NC State in his name. The Frank Simpson Madren Scholarship Endowment is for undergraduate students in the College of Engineering with preference given to those with demonstrated financial need.

Both of the Madrens grew up on farms in Alamance County, NC, and attended Altamahaw-Ossipee High School, where they began dating. Their relationship flourished on a school bus, a bus he rode his bike through the woods to take because he liked to sleep longer.

Jo Ann Madren said, “My bus was full by the time he got on, so he would stand at the front. I was at the front because I was one of the first people on. He would stand over me and started talking to me.”

They continued dating while he attended NC State and she attended Elon College, now Elon University. They were married in his last year of school.

Frank Madren was president of the Engineers’ Council as a senior and graduated in 1961 with a B.S. in electrical engineering. He worked for two years at Procter & Gamble as an electrical engineer and then attended Harvard Business School, receiving his M.B.A. in 1965.

His love of computer science and technology took him back to work in North Carolina, where his daughter, Carol, and son, Eric, were born, and then on to Massachusetts.

The family moved to Los Gatos, Calif., in 1981. He had a successful business career there, working for several start-ups and eventually owning and building up his own, GarrettCom, a company that designs, manufactures and sells industrial networking products.

In 2010, Frank Madren sold GarrettCom to Belden Solutions. Afterwards, he traveled, spent time with family and was on several boards in Silicon Valley.

Jo Ann Madren explained why she chose to honor his memory with the scholarship endowment: “He really believed in education. I think there are a lot of young people who could use the help.”

She said that he valued what scholarships could mean to an individual’s life when they are trying to get ahead. The Aubrey Lee Brooks Scholarship paid for his education at NC State, and he received the J. Spencer Love Fellowship at Harvard.

Three of five grandchildren are now in college. Cooper Bedin is in his second year at the University of California, Berkeley, studying linguistics and computer science, and Ben Madren is a senior at the University of Mary Washington studying math. Libby Madren is in her first year at NC State in computer science, loving the discipline as her grandfather did and carrying on his legacy at NC State.

Frank Madren would be proud.

“He was a good guy,” Jo Ann Madren said. “It has been a wonderful life.”

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Master’s student gives back by making PPE for healthcare workers https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2020/05/masters-student-gives-back-by-making-ppe-for-healthcare-workers/ Fri, 01 May 2020 15:07:16 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=237146 Harley Leroy , an ECE Master's student is hard at work in the Entrepreneurship Garage leveraging 3D printers to make PPE face shields for front-line workers.]]>

Although the Entrepreneurship Garage is closed, student worker, Hartley LeRoy, has been hard at work volunteering his time to make face shields for front-line health care workers.  The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in critical shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) required for health care providers to safely care for COVID-19 patients.  Through the university, LeRoy has been granted special permission to work in NC State Entrepreneurship’s prototyping space – a place dear to the Garage Graduate Assistant.

Hartley LeRoy
NC State Garage’s Graduate Student Assistant, Hartley LeRoy

Hartley went to his supervisor, Eren Hebert, Lead Technician for the Garage, and offered to volunteer his time to make the PPE.  “Hartley knows the machines we have in our prototyping space and came to me and asked if he can directly help health care workers by making these face shields.  We saw his passion to volunteer his time to help those on the front lines,” said Hebert.

LeRoy has been using 3D printers to make face shields that will be distributed to healthcare organizations across the state.  NC State University has been working closely with America Makes, the NC Government, and NC health care interests, while following FDA guidelines, to address the significant gap in the supply chain for PPE.

LeRoy has worked in the new Entrepreneurship Garage since the fall of 2019.  It was an easy transition having LeRoy work and train other students in the prototyping space in the Garage, as he has been a fixture in NC State’s Entrepreneurial scene over the past four years.  During his sophomore year, LeRoy lived in the Albright Entrepreneurship Village, NC State Entrepreneurship’s living and learning residence hall, he was a finalist in Entrepalooza’s Minute to Pitch It Competition and the Lulu eGames two years in a row.

As an undergraduate student, LeRoy helped launch two different ventures, TRASHR, which was an Internet of Things (IoT) waste management system, and Portal, which sought to create a universal vending machine that could sell anything anywhere.  Although both of these companies failed, LeRoy says his experiences starting two companies have been the most valuable lessons of his college career.  “I wasn’t destroyed when my companies failed. Instead I took the time to figure out why things didn’t work and what I could do differently next time. After all they say the 3rd time’s the charm,” says LeRoy. LeRoy received his undergraduate degree at NC State and is now pursuing a master’s degree in electrical engineering with a focus on artificial intelligence and computer vision.

In addition to engineering, LeRoy has a wide range of interests such as producing electronic music, painting abstract art, and just creating things in general.  “In the future, I would like to start my own company that advances technology while protecting our planet and all the people that inhabit it. However, I recognize the importance of experience and plan to first develop my technical and business skills,” says LeRoy.

When reflecting on the current circumstances students are in because of the pandemic, LeRoy had this advice for other students, “No matter how down you might feel, especially during these weird times, it will often get better given time. However, if things aren’t progressing as fast as you’d like it’s up to you to change things, whether it’s habits, mindset, etc. Others can set you on the right path but the burden is always on you to improve yourself.”

NC State Entrepreneurship wishes to thank Hartley Leroy for all his efforts in producing PPE for first responders in our community.  “Hartley has played an instrumental part in our operations at the Garage. As a passionate serial entrepreneur with extensive technical knowledge, Hartley’s been able to provide valuable insights to our 900+ strong community of student entrepreneurs. His dedication to entrepreneurship is augmented by his positive attitude and willingness to give back and help others achieve success in their entrepreneurial projects,” said Hebert.

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Adapting to online: A remote master’s defense https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2020/04/adapting-to-online-a-remote-masters-defense/ Thu, 30 Apr 2020 13:34:56 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=237116 ECE Master’s student Ryan Spurney learned to pivot to a [successful] remote defense in just two weeks with committee member Cranos Williams.]]>

Like most thesis master’s students planning to graduate in May, Ryan Spurney had dutifully scheduled his thesis defense with his committee for March 30, about a month in advance. But over spring break earlier in the month, he learned that his in-person defense would have to be done remotely over Zoom, a virtual meetings platform, because of social distancing at NC State University.

Graduate School Dean Peter Harries announced to graduate faculty in early March that remote defenses would be allowed. “Although I strongly believe that defenses should take place in person, I also want to minimize the impact that the Coronavirus has on those students who have scheduled defenses,” Harries said in his message. “Therefore, the Graduate School will allow for remote defenses given the move to limit face-to-face meetings.”

“They say you have two working weeks to submit the request for the remote defense,” Spurney said. “Although I think they’re a little lenient, I was kind of scared because my defense was almost exactly two weeks away when that happened,” Spurney said.

Spurney is a master’s student in computer engineering, but he did his lab work and served as a research assistant in plant biology. His research involved developing and applying computational tools for analyzing genetic data.

“So (I was analyzing) gene expression data for plants, and seeing what kind of connections and what kind of biological processes we can understand by learning how the genes work,” Spurney said.

Adapting the defense wasn’t too challenging, he said, although he had never done a presentation via Zoom before. He was a little concerned about internet connectivity and how the presentation would turn out if the video moved a little slowly.

“When you’ve got a lot of people in one Zoom meeting room, especially with my basic internet package, there can be a little bit of choppiness sometimes,” Spurney said. “So I had to make sure that the information was presented in a way so that if I’m cutting out a little bit, someone can still understand what’s going on.”

Once he learned how to present his PowerPoint on Zoom, he felt comfortable with the process.

“I don’t think I’ve ever given a presentation like that remotely before, so just experiencing that in the first place was interesting. Making sure everybody who needed to be at the Zoom meeting was actually present on time was a little stressful too, just because you can’t actually see them in front of you,” Spurney said.

One awkward moment in the defense was when the committee had to “meet” to discuss Spurney’s presentation. They had to ask him to leave the meeting for a few minutes, then invited him back once they were finished. The good news: He passed the defense, and he learned shortly after that his thesis had been accepted.

A positive result of the remote defense was that Spurney was able to invite family and friends to participate, although he acknowledges that his department had previously used Zoom as a backup for defense sessions. Spurney’s committee members are Ross Sozzani and Robert Franks from plant and microbial biology, and Cranos Williams from electrical and computer engineering.

“I think generally my department is pretty good about having seminars both live and by Zoom as well anyway, just as kind of like a backup for most people. But it was nice; it forced me to make sure that everybody that I knew was going to be able to jump right in. I tested it with my parents to make sure they knew how it worked,” Spurney said.

After earning his degree, Spurney will head off Baltimore to work for a medical devices company there. Coronavirus may delay his start date, but he’s hoping to begin the new job by late summer.

Spurney’s advice for successfully completing a remote defense is this:
“I would say just to not worry too much about it. It’s already stressful to do the defense in the first place and then having to think about if the Zoom is going to work, all this different stuff on top of it. But I think, at least in my experience and with the way the university has been handling things, everyone is really understanding of the situation, and there’s no one I’m aware of who wouldn’t understand if something went wrong. So just don’t take it too hard, considering everything else going on.”

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Seeking to Change the Stigma in STEM https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2020/04/seeking-to-change-the-stigma-in-stem/ Wed, 22 Apr 2020 13:31:04 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=237086 As a sophomore in ECE, Lauren White knows how difficult it can be adjusting to college. As a female member of the LGBTQ community from out of town, the task of fitting in seemed extra daunting...]]>

As a sophomore, Lauren White knows how difficult it can be adjusting to college life and academics. As a member of the LGBTQ community from out of state, and as a female in the traditionally male-dominated STEM field, the task of fitting in on campus seemed extra daunting when she first arrived at NC State. Fortunately, she had several mentors who helped her get acclimated and involved, and now she’s paying it forward to others like her.

White, a student studying electrical engineering, is a mentor for the Summer Start program, which allows new first-year and transfer students to move in early and take classes, orient themselves with campus, and participate in activities that help them connect with their classmates and develop friendships. White was not in the Summer Start program herself, but she did live in the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Village during her first year.

“It’s very much like Summer Start where you have mentors and programs to kind of enrich your time there, and everyone lives in the first couple floors of Lee Hall,” White said. “The WISE Village was a great source for networking and support. If I ever had an issue, my mentor was actually my neighbor and was queer too, so I felt like I could go talk to her any time. It was really nice for the STEM and the LGBTQ aspects of my college career, and it’s exactly what I was looking for.”

Another program that has shaped the trajectory of White’s NC State career so far is out in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (oSTEM). She is the newly elected vice president of the NC State chapter of the national, nonprofit professional organization, whose mission is to empower LGBTQ+ people in STEM to succeed personally, academically, and professionally by cultivating environments and communities that nurture innovation, leadership, and advocacy.

Lauren White tables an event for oSTEM

Lauren White tables an event for oSTEM

Some of White’s proudest achievements at NC State have come from her involvement with oSTEM. During her service with the group, membership has doubled, and community outreach and partnerships have also improved. The NC State chapter has hosted networking events alongside the Career Development Center as well as speakers from both local and national tech companies. In fact, it was through a networking session that White was hired for an internship this summer with Intel’s Client Computing Group.

“I’m really proud of the growth we’ve seen and getting to be a part of an executive board that is doing so many great things,” White said. “I think I really saw it all come to fruition when we tabled the North Carolina FIRST Robotics Competition and had so many students and parents come up to us and take all of our flyers, ask questions, and take our stickers and merch. So many people were happy we were there, and we were glad to tell them about NC State and what it means to be an LGBTQ student there.”

Another of White’s greatest passions is theater, and it’s one of the main reasons she is majoring in electrical engineering. She first became involved in theater during middle school, and continues to work as a stage technician today. Ultimately, she hopes to run the audio for a professional theater or production company.

“I really loved doing all of the audio work and running the sound board, mic connections, lighting, and all of that,” White said. “I was involved in theater all through high school, and eventually I took my first physics class and technical electives and realized I could combine what I was learning there with my work on the theater stage.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, White’s extracurricular involvement has lessened and she admits she has had more time to focus on academics. However, she has stayed connected to her friends and held plenty of virtual meetings to help the groups she is involved in continue to move forward.

“I feel like I can walk up to anyone on campus and have a great conversation, especially in my major where there are so many students from different places and backgrounds,” she said. “During COVID-19 I’ve started using an online chat platform called Discord, and it’s been an amazing way to just talk to people and learn more about them, find resources, or ask for help with classes. Everyone is just so friendly here and I don’t think I’ve ever felt unsafe or shunned or disrespected in any way.”

In her own words…

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Better Predicting the Unpredictable Byproducts of Genetic Modification https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2020/04/better-predicting-the-unpredictable-byproducts-of-genetic-modification/ Mon, 13 Apr 2020 12:47:26 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=236962 How a new model may pave the way for more efficient research in the fields of genetic modification and forestry.]]>

Researchers are interested in genetically modifying trees for a variety of applications, from biofuels to paper production. They also want to steer clear of modifications with unintended consequences. These consequences can arise when intended modifications to one gene results in unexpected changes to other genes. A new model aims to predict these changes, helping to avoid unintended consequences, and hopefully paving the way for more efficient research in the fields of genetic modification and forestry.

The research at issue focuses on lignin, a complex material found in trees that helps to give trees their structure. It is, in effect, what makes wood feel like wood.

“Whether you want to use wood as a biofuel source or to create pulp and paper products, there is a desire to modify the chemical structure of lignin by manipulating lignin-specific genes, resulting in lignin that is easier to break down,” says Cranos Williams, corresponding author of a paper on the work and an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State. “However, you don’t want to make changes to a tree’s genome that compromise its ability to grow or thrive.”

The researchers focused on a tree called Populus trichocarpa, which is a widely used model organism – meaning that scientists who study genetics and tree biology spend a lot of time studying P. trichocarpa.

“Previous research generated models that predict how independent changes to the expression of lignin genes impacted lignin characteristics,” says Megan Matthews, first author of the paper, a former Ph.D. student at NC State and a current postdoc at the University of Illinois. “These models, however, do not account for cross-regulatory influences between the genes. So, when we modify a targeted gene, the existing models do not accurately predict the changes we see in how non-targeted genes are being expressed. Not capturing these changes in expression of non-targeted genes hinders our ability to develop accurate gene-modification strategies, increasing the possibility of unintended outcomes in lignin and wood traits.

“To address this challenge, we developed a model that was able to predict the direct and indirect changes across all of the lignin genes, capturing the effects of multiple types of regulation. This allows us to predict how the expression of the non-targeted genes is impacted, as well as the expression of the targeted genes,” Matthews says.

“Another of the key merits of this work, versus other models of gene regulation, is that previous models only looked at how the RNA is impacted when genes are modified,” Matthews says. “Those models assume the proteins will be impacted in the same way, but that’s not always the case. Our model is able to capture some of the changes to proteins that aren’t seen in the RNA, or vice versa.

“This model could be incorporated into larger, multi-scale models, providing a computational tool for exploring new approaches to genetically modifying tree species to improve lignin traits for use in a variety of industry sectors.”

In other words, by changing one gene, researchers can accidentally mess things up with other genes, creating trees that aren’t what they want. The new model can help researchers figure out how to avoid that.

The paper, “Modeling cross-regulatory influences on monolignol transcripts and proteins under single and combinatorial gene knockdowns in Populus trichocarpa,” is published in the journal PLOS Computational Biology. The paper was co-authored by Ronald Sederoff, a professor emeritus of forestry and environmental resources at NC State; Jack Wang, an assistant professor of forestry and environmental resources at NC State; and Vincent Chiang, a Jordan Family Distinguished Professor Emeritus and Alumni Outstanding Research Professor with the Forest Biotechnology Group at NC State.

This work was supported by the National Science Foundation Grant DBI-0922391 to Chiang and by a National Physical Science Consortium Graduate Fellowship to Matthews.

-shipman-

Note to Editors: The study abstract follows.

“Modeling cross-regulatory influences on monolignol transcripts and proteins under single and combinatorial gene knockdowns in Populus trichocarpa

Authors: Megan L. Matthews, Ronald Sederoff and Cranos M. Williams, North Carolina State University; Jack P. Wang and Vincent L. Chiang, Northeast Forestry University, Harbin, China, and North Carolina State University

Published: April 10, PLOS Computational Biology

Abstract: Accurate manipulation of metabolites in monolignol biosynthesis is a key step for controlling lignin content, structure, and other wood properties important to the bioenergy and biomaterial industries. A crucial component of this strategy is predicting how single and combinatorial knockdowns of monolignol specific gene transcripts influence the abundance of monolignol proteins, which are the driving mechanisms of monolignol biosynthesis. Computational models have been developed to estimate protein abundances from transcript perturbations of monolignol specific genes. The accuracy of these models, however, is hindered by their inability to capture indirect regulatory influences on other pathway genes. Here, we examine the manifestation of these indirect influences on transgenic transcript and protein abundances, identifying putative indirect regulatory influences that occur when one or more specific monolignol pathway genes are perturbed. We created a computational model using sparse maximum likelihood to estimate the resulting monolignol transcript and protein abundances in transgenic Populus trichocarpa based on targeted knockdowns of specific monolignol genes. Using in-silico simulations of this model and root mean square error, we showed that our model more accurately estimated transcript and protein abundances, in comparison to previous models, when individual and families of monolignol genes were perturbed. We leveraged insight from the inferred network structure obtained from our model to identify potential genes, including PtrHCT, PtrCAD, and Ptr4CL, involved in post-transcriptional and/or post-translational regulation. Our model provides a useful computational tool for exploring the cascaded impact of single and combinatorial modifications of monolignol specific genes on lignin and other wood properties.

This post was originally published in NC State News.

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The Insider on Undergraduate Research https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2020/04/the-insider-on-undergraduate-research/ Fri, 10 Apr 2020 14:32:00 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=236928 Hear from Britanya Wright, one of ECE's seniors and Goodnight Scholars as she recounts her journey or curiosity beyond the classroom while undertaking undergrad research in the NNF.]]>

Britanya Wright

Wright is a senior in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at NC State, as is also a Goodnight Scholar.

The Goodnight Scholars Program, funded by a gift from Dr. Jim and Ann Goodnight, began in 2008 with 25 scholars. Since that time, it has grown into a comprehensive student development program designed to develop scholars into leaders within the STEM and/or education fields.

My undergraduate research journey started in the summer of 2019 with the smell of roasted coffee as it enveloped the air while I hastily walked down to my first training in the clean room at the NC State Nanofabrication Lab.

Clothed in white protective gear from head to toe, I began the process of learning. I hovered over three beakers filled with various chemicals as I meticulously transferred material from one beaker to the next. I then flashed to endless papers, scraping of unworkable devices, and victorious accomplishments.

While these are some of the many research opportunities I have experienced, one thing is relatively common among all: the immense level of knowledge that is gained.

As an undergraduate student, doing research has aided me in building many facets of my life. For me, learning took on a whole new meaning when I spent many days in the lab to improve device fabrication. Learning became not just late-night studying for the midterm exam, or the formation of small study groups, or even the attendance of regularly scheduled classes. Learning became a developing desire to gain knowledge about a topic that was beyond the classroom. Research learning is the application of all the knowledge I acquired from the classroom.

Learning formed into the soaking up of never-ending research articles, experimentation, trial and error, and constant “alright back to the drawing board.”

In retrospect, I never truly understood the level of academic and mental growth I would undergo by being a part of undergraduate research.”
—Britanya Wright

In conjunction with learning of new concepts, I gained an insight into my future through undergraduate research. Being an undergraduate student, among many things that I ponder, I often contemplated the path or concentration I wished to take within my major. Researching allowed me to gain unmistakable connections with various professors within and outside my major who gave me insight into the world of electrical engineering. Developing and improving something overtime through research really helps you to either foster a love for that topic or end up disliking that topic altogether. Research is where my passion for learning and the field of robotics grows.

I have found that the main objective behind undergraduate research is to create an environment where young minds can flourish and think beyond just mere textbooks, paper, and pencil; it is filled with a pool of growing knowledge waiting to be discovered.

“Research is formalized curiosity,” said Zora Neale Hurston. “It is poking and prying with a purpose.”

In retrospect, I never truly understood the level of academic and mental growth I would undergo by being a part of undergraduate research. In various instances, I was able to build my resume by attending and participating in undergraduate research seminars and presentations. Currently, I am a part of a research opportunity working with wearable medical devices in addition to my classes. Ever since the summer of 2019, I never stopped exploring the research world.

Here’s the real question: Would I recommend undergraduate research to other students pondering whether to pursue that path or not?

Yes, times a million more yeses.

Through undergraduate research, I found passion in learning at my own pace under a professor who was extremely passionate about what they do and who was more than willing to help me grow and learn. I learned how to learn beyond the scope of a classroom; learning in the research world has taught me how to apply what is learned from simple mathematical equations and derivations. Through research, I made influential connections that will travel with me beyond graduation and even into the world beyond the walls of NC State.

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a:3:{s:4:"fb-2";a:3:{s:14:"post_permissin";s:1:"1";s:11:"post_method";s:1:"2";s:7:"message";s:28:"{POST_EXCERPT} - {PERMALINK}";}s:4:"tw-2";a:3:{s:23:"post_twitter_permission";s:1:"1";s:29:"post_twitter_image_permission";s:1:"1";s:7:"message";s:205:"Hear from Britanya Wright, one of ECE's seniors and Goodnight Scholars as she recounts her journey or curiosity beyond the classroom while undertaking undergrad research in the @NCStateNanoFab- {PERMALINK}";}s:4:"ln-2";a:2:{s:20:"lnposting_permission";s:1:"1";s:7:"message";s:28:"{POST_EXCERPT} - {PERMALINK}";}} 1 1 https://goodnight.ncsu.edu/2020/04/the-insider-on-undergraduate-research/ Goodnight Scholars
Algorithmic Research Could Reduce Testing Quantities Needed by 85% https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2020/04/algorithmic-research-could-reduce-testing-quantities-needed-by-700/ Fri, 10 Apr 2020 12:07:57 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=236917 A team led by Dror Baron at NC State ECE is working on a sophisticated algorithm estimated to reduce the number of tests required for group coronavirus testing by up to seven times.]]>

This figure shows the approach’s accuracy (quantified by AUC in the
vertical axis; up is good) as a function of the percent of sick patients,
rho, and the number of PCR tests per patient, R. Taking more PCR tests improves accuracy, while having more sick patients requires more PCR tests.

One of the big challenges related to addressing COVID-19 in the U.S. is the lack of testing. A group of researchers has come up with a technique that could significantly expedite testing, making the process faster and more efficient. Their advance is an algorithm for testing protocols, not a change in testing technology.

Their work builds on a concept called “group testing,” in which pools of genetic material from multiple patients are processed together. If the test is negative for COVID-19, the result shows that all of the people tested are healthy. If the test is positive, then more measurements are needed to figure out who’s positive within that group. A research team in Israel has already done a “proof of concept” demonstration showing that pooling genetic material works with genetic (PCR) coronavirus tests. And a group in Austria has published a paper on a simple group testing algorithm. A group at NC State began work on a more sophisticated algorithm in February.

“Numerical results indicate that our algorithm requires fewer measurements than the Austrian group and/or provides lower rates of erroneous diagnosis,” says Dror Baron, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State who is leading the project. “We estimate that our algorithm would allow authorities to test a large population using six to seven times fewer PCR tests than conventional testing methodologies.”

A pre-publication paper describing the algorithm and related work has been made available on arXiv.

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Daniele Recipient of 2020 Outstanding Global Engagement Award https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2020/04/daniele-recipient-of-2020-outstanding-global-engagement-award/ Thu, 09 Apr 2020 17:16:33 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=236904 Congratulations to Michael Daniele, a 2020 recipient of the NC State Global Engagement Award for his vast collaborations, as well as his work with the SensUs international competitions.]]>

Michael Daniele, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State and in the Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering at UNC-Chapel Hill and NC State has been named as a recipient of the 2020 Outstanding Global Engagement Award by the NC State Office of Global Engagement.

The Outstanding Global Engagement Award encourages and recognizes outstanding accomplishment in globally engaged teaching, student support, research, extension, and/or engagement and economic development by faculty and non-faculty professionals of North Carolina State University. Nominees for this award should have made important international contributions in one or more of the following aspects of the university’s mission: Research and Discovery, Teaching and Learning, or Engagement, Extension and Economic Development with documented impacts and accomplishments.

Daniele has initiated, and mentored more than 25 students in SensUs international, extracurricular research program and competition which includes 14 teams from 5 continents. SensUs research has resulted in multiple peer-reviewed publications as well as increasing students’ global outlook on their field of study. In less than 5 years, Michael has already formed a network of collaborations with several research groups across the world and generated new and exciting educational opportunities for our students to engage in international experiences. Daniele’s own research efforts have led to international collaboration and engagement opportunities in Ireland, Japan, and Germany.

Daniele, who received his Ph.D. from Clemson University in 2012, joined the faculty at NC State in 2015, coming from the Naval Research Laboratory, where he has been the Jerome and Isabella Karle Distinguished Scholar and Staff Scientist. His primary area of interest is the broad application of soft nanomaterials to engineer devices which monitor, mimic or augment biological function. Specific topics of research include wearable and implantable biosensors, organ-on-a-chip models, and human-machine interfaces.

 

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Engineering a More Inclusive Campus https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2020/04/engineering-a-more-inclusive-campus/ Tue, 07 Apr 2020 13:51:25 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=236849 Timothy Humphrey ’96 recently created two endowments with one extraordinary goal: promoting opportunities to create a more diverse, inclusive campus.]]>

The applause was unexpected.

As vice president for IBM’s Chief Data Office, senior state executive for IBM in North Carolina and senior location executive for Research Triangle Park, Timothy Humphrey ’96 is accustomed to public speaking. And as an involved alumnus, he has stood in front of an audience of NC State students numerous times to share his expertise.

But at the fall 2019 welcome address for the College of Engineering, when Humphrey reached the part of his talk where he mentioned being inducted to the college’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Hall of Fame, the first-year students caught him off guard.

“Normally when I say that, I just keep going, but this time, everybody started clapping. It was really touching — a very, very proud moment,” he said.

A proud moment on an already meaningful day —Humphrey felt like he was going back in time. “I was imagining if I was in their shoes,” he said. “I’ve benefited from great advice through the years. So to be able to give that back to 1,700 engineering freshmen, it was powerful.”

Volunteering his time through such talks is just one way Humphrey chooses to give back to NC State. He participates in panel discussions about careers and delivered the College of Engineering’s fall commencement address.

He sums up his passion for higher education succinctly: “Great institutions teach you how to learn.” And Humphrey is a model for constant learning, having gained experience in fields like artificial intelligence, software development testing, battery technology and analytics.

But before he leveraged his education into a successful career, before his hall of fame induction, before he entered the College of Engineering after being encouraged toward that career path by a guidance counselor — before all that, as a high school student in Fayetteville, Humphrey already saw himself at NC State.

The summer before his junior year, he had the opportunity to attend a camp run by Wilson College of Textiles. The week at camp sold him on NC State — in fact, he liked it so much, he considered majoring in textiles before his lifelong fascination with electricity brought him back to engineering.

Humphrey was able to fund his NC State education through a combination of work and partial scholarships — one of which was the Minority Engineering Scholarship.

“I think the work they do at the College of Engineering to encourage minorities to pursue careers in engineering is amazing. Working with middle and high school students, then working with the students in the engineering program is game-changing,” he said. “I always say that getting a job in a STEM field is, for some people, generational wealth. It really can change generations.”

Humphrey’s experiences, as well as his desire to give back and create additional opportunities for students with backgrounds similar to his, helped motivate his recent decision to create the Timothy L. Humphrey Women and Minority Engineering Initiatives Award. The endowment will support the work of Women and Minority Engineering Programs (WMEP) at the College of Engineering.

Through summer programs, recruitment weekends, workshops and roundtables, WMEP assists in recruiting, retaining and mentoring students traditionally underrepresented at the College of Engineering. The program is run by Dr. Laura Bottomley and Angelitha Daniel.

“Tim’s support allows us to continue exposing students of all ages to the field of engineering. It is also important to create a campus culture that allows all students to thrive. Having a partner like Tim is crucial to us reaching our program goals in terms of enabling a dynamic and inclusive student body that can solve the most pressing problems of our society,” Daniel and Bottomley said in a shared statement.

Diversity is one of the pillars he focuses on in his work at IBM, a company he describes as having a longstanding history of firsts when it comes to inclusion. “I like to do anything I can to move the ball forward,” he said. “So that’s an additional motivating factor around focusing on diversity at NC State.”

On a recent campus visit, Humphrey spent time with the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity and learned more about what the office’s programs deliver to students. “It really hit home for me,” he said. “Meeting some current students and seeing them take advantage of OIED’s resources made me say this group could really use some help.”

He decided to establish an additional endowment, the Timothy L. Humphrey Inclusion, Equity and Diversity Award to support OIED’s campus community centers.

“Tim’s personal story of his time at NC State motivates us to work hard every day to enhance our university’s climate of belonging and inclusion, and to enrich everyone’s cultural competence. That’s part of what we see as setting NC State apart. His financial backing of our programs shows that, as an alum and a business person, he recognizes how the work of OIED supports student success for all students. Tim’s investment is so meaningful, and we hope it inspires others,” said Sheri Schwab, vice provost for institutional equity and diversity.

“When you want to be proud of your university, your university should model the world, the society, your region. Diversity and inclusion programming helps the school look like its surroundings,” Humphrey said. “And creating a diverse institution takes time and programming, which requires investing.”

Humphrey’s two endowments will further the extraordinary opportunities NC State can offer to students by fostering a more inclusive campus.

“Thinking and doing the extraordinary to me means creating something you would have never imagined possible in the past,” he said.

This was reflected in his fall commencement address for the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering as he described the accomplishments of previous alumni, from first-generation flash memory technology to the success of women in space.

As Humphrey continues to share his experiences with current engineering students, he thinks about how many potential superstars there are at NC State right now, and the great things they will go on to do. He hopes the Timothy L. Humphrey Women and Minority Engineering Initiatives Award and the Timothy L. Humphrey Inclusion, Equity and Diversity Award will provide more opportunities for students to think and do the extraordinary — and to share their own meaningful moments with the next generation.

“When I think about the breadth and depth of expertise that NC State produces, I think about how we as a university can change the world in areas from engineering to veterinary medicine to business to textiles. Dollars spent with NC State are dollars toward making our region, our state, our country and our planet a better place.”

 


With the widespread impact of COVID-19, alumni support of students is more important than ever. Learn more about how the Pack is coming together for our students through the Student Emergency Fund.

This post was originally published in Giving News.

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Remembering Tony Mitchell, Asst. Dean Emeritus https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2020/04/remembering-tony-mitchell-asst-dean-emeritus/ Fri, 03 Apr 2020 00:34:58 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=236829 We fondly remember Tony Mitchell, Assistant Dean of Engineering (emeritus) and Associate Professor of ECE who sadly passed away on April 1, 2020.]]>

Dr. Tony L. Mitchell, retired associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and assistant dean emeritus of the College of Engineering at North Carolina State University, passed away on April 1, 2020.

Mitchell, a long-serving member of the department’s teaching faculty, who went on to make a significant impact on the College of Engineering, was one of the inaugural ECE Hall of Fame inductees in 2015.

“During his career he made significant contributions to the College of Engineering as well as ECE,” expressed Daniel Stancil, Department Head and Alcoa Distinguished Professor of electrical and computer engineering. “On a personal level he was one of the most positive and energetic people that I have known.”

Mitchell earned a Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering in 1987 on a USAF graduate fellowship. He is the first African American full-time student to earn that degree from NC State and his dissertation won him the 1988 USAF Research and Development Award.

Mitchell had over 45 years of professional success, including 31 years of university service. His talents earned USAF promotion to Lieutenant Colonel, university promotion to Assistant Dean of Engineering, the 2000 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring, and grants of over $35,000,000.

Prior to selection to the ECE Hall of Fame, perhaps the most appropriate tribute to Dr. Mitchell’s outstanding career occurred when he was featured in 55,000 copies of the Fall 2011 NC State Engineering Magazine.

Dr. Mitchell retired from NC State in 2011 and assumed the title of Assistant Dean of Engineering, Emeritus. He continued to serve locally as chair of the NC State Lifelong Faculty Involvement Standing Committee, board member of the Association of Retired Faculty, and member of the NC Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission. National service included scholarship chair of the General H. Hugh Shelton National Leadership Center, ABET program evaluator and consultant to the National Science Foundation.

“I grew up in Robeson County, then and likely still the poorest in NC,” he mentioned in his Hall of Fame statement. “I never imagined being blessed with such a fulfilling career and life. Never stop dreaming but realize dreams are accomplished through perseverance, patience, self-confidence, some luck and most of all, faith. Things DO happen for a reason!”

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Teaching ECE from the Living Room https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2020/03/teaching-ece-from-the-living-room/ Tue, 31 Mar 2020 17:52:30 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=236723 As classes shift entirely online for the remainder of the semester, ECE faculty shift into high gear to leverage online tools and adapt (sometimes even household items) to dramatically different teaching needs.]]>

As news rapidly unfolded with the arrival of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the United States—and then its rapid spread to North Carolina—that which for many was just a never-ending series of news articles suddenly became a looming reality. Faculty across the university started weighing their teaching curriculum, and wracking their minds on how they’d translate their classrooms to the cloud, and what the effect would be if that too became a necessary reality for the rest of the semester.

Within days, it did.

Following an extension of students’ spring break, the semester continued with all classes turning themselves into online classes virtually overnight. While NC State, and Engineering specifically are no strangers to online courses (with even most graduate certificate courses in ECE being offered online as well as in-class), there were no shortage of issues at stake: translating objectively tactile coursework to video engagement and tools like the Analog Discovery 2 that all undergraduate students already had; socially distancing group work like Senior Design into teleconferencing and collaborative platforms; and even ensuring that doctoral candidates could still perform their thesis defenses remotely.

Like many organizations and institutions, many of ECE’s previously-face-to-face interactions have shifted to leveraging solutions like Zoom or Google Hangouts video conferencing–what previously were only edge-case tools has now become core parts of teaching curricula.

“As teaching has resumed after spring break, I have given several Zoom lectures,” noted Keith Townsend, an Alumni Association Distinguished Undergraduate Professor in the department. “Based on student queries, they seem to be working well.”

“I am fortunate to have a laptop that can be folded into a pad and written on with a stylus,” explained Greg Bottomley, a teaching professor in electrical and computer engineering as he adapts to completely digital lectures. “This has allowed me to write equations on a shared, electronic whiteboard instead of needing a document camera.”

“We all have different ways of teaching,” Aranya Chakrabortty, an associate professor in the electrical and computer engineering department elaborated. “Zoom has a whiteboard option, but if you want to use the whiteboard, you need a digital pen […] if you really want to hand-write your notes, which is what I always do—in real time in front of the students—then you need a document camera.” As Chakrabortty normally utilizes a document camera provided in a recording studio in the Monteith Research Center, he had to adapt to recording from home. Cleverly, with the assistance of furniture, a selfie stick, and an iPhone, he’s been able to fabricate his own live document camera solution to continue his teaching style from his living room–and shared his process for others to replicate.

“Moving into online classes has been a bit daunting but I think that my professors have tried to alter the requirements as much as possible and have made themselves available for online office hours which has helped smooth the transition,” commented Ashley Robbins, a graduating Senior in electrical engineering with a concentration in renewable electric energy systems (REES). “Senior design has been a bit difficult to transition to online delivery since this class is based on meeting together and working hands-on to create a product,” she added.

Her Senior Design team has been working with a non-profit in Uganda to design a security system for community lighting in rural parts of the country, and had just spent Spring Break in the country testing their system. “It is a little disappointing that we are not able to complete all of the functionality we had hoped for but we are all trying to work our hardest while remote to leave the project off in a good place for the non-profit we are working with.”

All of my professors have gone above and beyond to make this transition as easy as possible for the students, whether that’s extra office hours, quick email replies, or more detailed assignment reminders.”
—Jacob Smith, Class of 2020

In addition to affecting teaching and research activities, many students are at the critical stage seeking advising as they map out their course choices to ensure they’re on path to graduate successfully–much of which traditionally involved face-to-face meetings and printed degree audits, adding more challenges to the mix.

“Fortunately ECE had a department-built online advising platform that some students were already using,” described Cecilia Townsend, the Coordinator of Advising for undergraduate students and a senior lecturer in the department. “This semester, all students who did not get advised before spring break will now be using it.  I have had Zoom meetings with a few students so far, but most interactions have been through email as questions arise.”

“Despite this sudden transition, I believe that the faculty are doing a great job of taking this challenge head-on and adapting their coursework as efficiently as possible,”  Jacob Smith, also graduating senior in electrical engineering with a REES concentration. “All of my professors have gone above and beyond to make this transition as easy as possible for the students, whether that’s extra office hours, quick email replies, or more detailed assignment reminders. Although this transition hasn’t been easy, especially for more hands-on courses like Senior Design, the dedication of the faculty has helped tremendously to alleviate the stress of this situation.”

Through all the challenges and rapidly changing situations, the last few weeks have been marked with creativity, perseverance, and unending experimentation as the core mission of everyone involved has never wavered. While the situation is far from ideal, the lessons learned, ideas marked with success, and experimentation with remote learning and working practices set the stage for a more available and adaptable learning experience for engineering students.

 

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Researchers Develop Faster Way to Replace Bad Data With Accurate Information https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2020/03/researchers-develop-faster-way-to-replace-bad-data-with-accurate-information/ Fri, 27 Mar 2020 13:08:02 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=236728 A new model from ECE and the ARO could aid in displacing false information about anything from computer security to public health.]]>

Researchers from North Carolina State University and the Army Research Office have demonstrated a new model of how competing pieces of information spread in online social networks and the Internet of Things (IoT). The findings could be used to disseminate accurate information more quickly, displacing false information about anything from computer security to public health.

“Whether in the IoT or on social networks, there are many circumstances where old information is circulating and could cause problems – whether it’s old security data or a misleading rumor,” says Wenye Wang, co-author of a paper on the work and a professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State. “Our work here includes a new model and related analysis of how new data can displace old data in these networks.”

“Ultimately, our work can be used to determine the best places to inject new data into a network so that the old data can be eliminated faster,” says Jie Wang, a postdoctoral researcher at NC State and first author of the paper.

In their paper, the researchers show that a network’s size plays a significant role in how quickly “good” information can displace “bad” information. However, a large network is not necessarily better or worse than a small one. Instead, the speed at which good data travels is primarily affected by the network’s structure.

A highly interconnected network can disseminate new data very quickly. And the larger the network, the faster the new data will travel.

However, in networks that are connected primarily by a limited number of key nodes, those nodes serve as bottlenecks. As a result, the larger this type of network is, the slower the new data will travel.

The researchers also identified an algorithm that can be used to assess which point in a network would allow you to spread new data throughout the network most quickly.

“Practically speaking, this could be used to ensure that an IoT network purges old data as quickly as possible and is operating with new, accurate data,” Wenye Wang says.

“But these findings are also applicable to online social networks, and could be used to facilitate the spread of accurate information regarding subjects that affect the public,” says Jie Wang. “For example, we think it could be used to combat misinformation online.”

The paper, “Modeling and Analysis of Conflicting Information Propagation in a Finite Time Horizon,” is published in the journal IEEE/ACM Transactions on Networking. The paper was co-authored by Cliff Wang of the Army Research Office.

The work was done with support from the National Science Foundation, under grants CNS1423151 and CNS1527696; and from the Army Research Office, under grant W911NF-15-2-0102.

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Note to Editors: The study abstract follows.

“Modeling and Analysis of Conflicting Information Propagation in a Finite Time Horizon”

Authors: Jie Wang and Wenye Wang, North Carolina State University; Cliff Wang, Army Research Office

Published: March 25, IEEE/ACM Transactions on Networking

DOI: 10.1109/TNET.2020.2976972

Abstract: Emerging mobile applications enable people to connect with one another more easily than ever, which causes networked systems, e.g., online social networks (OSN) and Internet-of-Things (IoT), to grow rapidly in size, and become more complex in structure. In these systems, different, even conflicting information, e.g., rumor v.s. truth, and malware v.s. security patches, can compete with each other during their propagation over individual connections. For such information pairs, in which a desired information kills its undesired counterpart on contact, an interesting yet challenging question is when and how fast the undesired information dies out. To answer this question, we propose a Susceptible-Infectious-Cured (SIC) propagation model, which captures short-term competitions between the two pieces of information, and define extinction time and half-life time, as two pivots in time, to quantify the dying speed of the undesired information. Our analysis revealed the impact of network topology and initial conditions on the lifetime of the undesired information. In particular, we find that, the Cheeger constant that measures the edge expansion property of a network steers the scaling law of the lifetime with respect to the network size, and the vertex eccentricities that are easier to compute provide accurate estimation of the lifetime. Our analysis also sheds light on where to inject the desired information, such that its undesired counterpart can be eliminated faster.

This post was originally published in NC State News.

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Blockchain Article Featured by IEEE Access https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2020/03/blockchain-article-featured-by-ieee-access/ Thu, 26 Mar 2020 14:17:16 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=236713 An article with over 1680 citations and co-published by Konstantinos Christidis, an ECE doctoral candidate, and Michael Devetsikiotis, a 2017 ECE Hall of Fame inductee is featured by IEEE Access.]]>

An article co-published by Konstantinos Christidis, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at NC State, and Michael Devetsikiotis, adjunct professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State, and department head of ECE at the University of New Mexico, has been selected by The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers as the IEEE Access “Article of the Week” on its website and social media platforms.

The article, “Blockchains and Smart Contracts for the Internet of Things” has received over 1680 citations, on a topic which is become increasingly popular.

“Blockchains give us resilient, truly distributed peer-to-peer systems and the ability to interact with peers in a trustless, auditable manner,” explained Devetsikiotis whose research focuses on The Internet of Things. “[This integration] will cause significant transformations across several industries, bringing about new business models and having us reconsider how existing systems and processes are implemented.”

Christidis, expected to earn his Ph.D. this semester, was the recipient of an IBM doctoral fellowship, serving as an expert on blockchain research with the company before joining Netflix in California as a Senior Software Engineer.

Devetsikiotis, a 2017 inductee into the ECE Alumni Hall of Fame, earned both his Master’s and Doctoral degrees at NC State, then returned to as an Associate Professor in 2000. He served as the coordinator of the Master of Science in Computer Networking program until 2011, when he became the ECE Director of Graduate Programs, managing one of the largest graduate ECE programs in the country with over 800 students. On August 1, 2016, he joined the University of New Mexico as a Professor and Chair of the ECE Department.

IEEE Access is an open access, award-winning, multidisciplinary all-electronic archival journal that presents the results of original research or developments across all IEEE’s fields of interest. Its content is technical in nature, peer-reviewed, supported by article processing fees, and is accessible around the world via the internet without charge to readers.

 

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Aysu receives NSF CAREER Award https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2020/03/aysu-receives-nsf-career-award/ Tue, 17 Mar 2020 18:36:07 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=236680 Congratulations to Dr. Aysu for receiving an NSF Faculty Early Career Development Award (CAREER) for his ongoing cryptographic and deep learning research!]]>

Dr. Aydin Aysu, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at North Carolina State University, has received a Faculty Early Career Development award, also known as the CAREER Award, from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The award is one of the highest honors given by NSF to young faculty members in science and engineering.

NSF will provide $438,000 in funding over five years to support his project, “Physical Side-Channels Beyond Cryptography: Transforming the Side-Channel Framework for Deep Learning.”

Aysu’s project aims to extend the physical side-channel analysis framework beyond cryptography for securing deep neural network (NN) classifiers. This will help protect valuable NN Intellectual Property and the critical cyberinfrastructures where NNs are used. The research tasks for this work are to design physical side-channel resilient NN components, to integrate the developed components into a high-level synthesis framework for automatic generation of protected NN hardware accelerators and to evaluate/benchmark side-channel security and countermeasure overheads.

The broader impact of this project includes disseminating publications, distributing open-source hardware and software and bridging the research on NNs and hardware security. Additionally, a focus will be made on developing a college course to teach hardware security for NNs with hands-on experiments.

Aysu received his B.S degree in microelectronics engineering with a mathematics minor and his M.S. degree in electrical engineering from Sabanci University, Istanbul, Turkey. He received his Ph.D. degree in computer engineering from Virginia Tech. He is the recipient of 2020 DATE best paper award, 2019 NSF CRII award, 2019 GLS-VLSI best-paper award and 2018 and 2019 HOST best paper nominations.

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Bozkurt and Floyd Named University Faculty Scholars https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2020/02/bozkurt-and-floyd-named-university-faculty-scholars/ Fri, 28 Feb 2020 19:25:54 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=236381 Congratulations to professors Alper Bozkurt and Brian Floyd, named University Faculty Scholars for their significant academic achievements and contributions to the university.]]>

Alper Bozkurt, professor of electrical and computer engineering

NC State’s 2019-20 class of University Faculty Scholars was announced today, including recipients Alper Bozkurt and Brian Floyd, both professors of electrical and computer engineering. They join 22 other early- and mid-career faculty receive this designation due to their significant academic achievements and contributions to NC State through their teaching, scholarship and service to the university and greater community.

Since the University Faculty Scholars program began in 2012, 170 faculty have received this honor. Faculty members selected as University Faculty Scholars carry the title for the duration of their faculty appointment at NC State and receive an increase to their base salary.

Brian Floyd, professor of electrical and computer engineering

Colleges may submit nominations for assistant professors appointed for a second term, associate professors and professors within the first three years of their appointment. Senior faculty then review nominations, evaluating them on research and scholarship productivity, excellence in teaching and mentoring, and leadership in extension, professional societies and public service initiatives.

This year’s class of University Faculty Scholars includes:

  • Kimberly Allen, associate professor of agricultural and human sciences
  • Alper Bozkurt, professor of electrical and computer engineering
  • Ashley Brown, assistant professor of biomedical engineering
  • Emiel DenHartog, associate professor of textile engineering, chemistry and science
  • Umut Dur, associate professor of economics
  • Anna Egalite, assistant professor of educational leadership, policy and human development
  • Tiegang Fang, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering
  • Brian Floyd, professor of electrical and computer engineering
  • DeLeon Gray, associate professor of teacher education and learning sciences
  • Derek Ham, assistant professor of graphic design and industrial design
  • Katie Jennings, associate professor of horticulture science
  • Cristina Lanzas, associate professor of population health and pathobiology
  • Jeff Mielke, professor of English
  • Shevaun Neupert, professor of psychology
  • Peter Ojiambo, professor of entomology and plant pathology
  • Christopher Osburn, associate professor of marine, earth and atmospheric sciences
  • Benjamin Reading, assistant professor of applied ecology
  • Reade Roberts, associate professor of biological sciences
  • Lynsey Romo, associate professor of communication
  • Erik Santiso, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering
  • Robert Scheller, professor of forestry and environmental resources
  • Erin Seekamp, professor of parks, recreation and tourism management
  • Ross Sozzani, associate professor of plant and microbial biology
  • Casey Theriot, assistant professor of population health and pathobiology
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GRIP4PSI seed grant winners announced https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2020/02/grip4psi-seed-grant-winners-announced/ Sat, 15 Feb 2020 19:26:31 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=236396 Two interdisciplinary research teams with significant ECE involvement have entered the next phase of the Game-Changing Research Incentive Program to tackle plant science challenges]]>

Four NC State research teams have been selected as recipients of the next phase of the Game-Changing Research Incentive Program (GRIP), including two with significant ECE involvement, including by Cranos Williams, Michael Kudenov, and Edgar Lobaton, all associate professors of electrical engineering.

The program was initially created in 2016 as a three-year seed-funding initiative to stimulate interdisciplinary and collaborative research. Now, a new initiative — called GRIP4PSI — will encourage the NC State community to collaborate on integrated research and outreach projects that focus on addressing the global challenges tackled by the N.C. Plant Science Initiative. 

The four awards, each worth up to $650,000 over three and a half years, were the result of a collaborative effort led by the Office of Research and Innovation in partnership with the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the College of Engineering, the College of Natural Resources, the College of Sciences, Wilson College of Textiles, Poole College of Management, the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost, and the Kenan Institute for Engineering, Technology and Science. GRIP is intended to support visionary ideas that will result in large-scale funding, meaningful impact for future research and first-class interdisciplinary graduate education and training.

Two of the proposal include ECE:

Improving Crop Productivity and Value Through Heterogeneous Data Integration, Analytics, and Decision Support Platforms

Lead Principal Investigator: Cranos Williams, associate professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Co-Investigators:  Michael Kudenov, Mike Boyette, Anders Huseth,  Khara Grieger, Alessandra Scafuro, Natalie Nelson, Daniela Jones, Kemafor Ogan, Ross Sozzani, Edgar Lobaton, Craig Yencho, Ken Pecota, Jennifer Kuzma

Synopsis: How do you grow a superior sweetpotato? This multidisciplinary team is developing a data-driven platform to find out. Together, they’ll work to improve crop productivity, quality and value for North Carolina growers, producers and distributors. The platform uses custom imaging to capture traits such as shape, size, surface texture and internal composition, as well as the presence of harmful crop damage. That data then enters a computational platform — which will be created in partnership with Intero Life Sciences and SAS, Inc. — to offer insights across the sweetpotato supply chain and improve decision-making for stakeholders. The project seeks to promote a diverse agricultural workforce by providing students and researchers with opportunities to identify real-world problems through agricultural analytics, while also offering education to youth and rural communities through NC Cooperative Extension.

FUN-CROPS: Foliar fungal endophytes for enhanced crop sustainability and resilience

Lead Principal Investigator: Christine Hawkes, professor, Department of Plant and Microbial Biology

Co-Investigators: Nathan Crook, Jason Delborne, Kevin Garcia, Josh Gray, Ross Sozzani, Lindsey Thiessen, Gina Brown-Guedira, Peter Balint-Kurti, Ryan Heiniger, Michael Kudenov, Anna Locke, Cranos Williams

Synopsis: Could fungi that live inside plant leaves be harnessed to create better, more resilient crops? An interdisciplinary team will study the drivers that allow plant fungal symbionts to improve resistance to drought and disease in their hosts. They’ll work to determine the scale at which fungi can be manipulated across the landscape, identify highly beneficial fungi and the genes associated with their benefits, develop methods to identify fungi that are not visible to the naked eye, and explore potential policy implications and stakeholder responses to fungal manipulation in crops. Through this holistic approach, the team aims to speed the development of practical tools to adapt to later cold snaps, longer heat waves, bigger hurricanes and atypical droughts.

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Driverless Shuttle a Smart Move for Centennial Campus https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2020/02/driverless-shuttle-a-smart-move-for-centennial-campus/ Tue, 11 Feb 2020 20:01:15 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=236157 NC State isn't cutting corners in the drive for innovation. Thanks to a partnership with the N.C. Department of Transportation, the university is testing an autonomous vehicle that can ferry 12 passengers.]]>

It looks like a giant branded sugar cube, rolling on a continuous predetermined loop on NC State’s Partners Way, Varsity Drive and Main Campus Drive — all without a driver.

That’s what the Connected Autonomous Shuttle Supporting Innovation (CASSI) is: an innovative research partnership between NC State and the North Carolina Department of Transportation to launch the state’s first autonomous vehicle.

It’s a six-month pilot program that will use a specified route on Centennial Campus as a field lab for the autonomous electric vehicle, which was built by French transportation manufacturer EasyMile and operated by Free2Move. The EasyMile’s EZ-10 is the world’s most deployed driverless shuttle, can hold up to 12 passengers and completes its one-mile route in about 12 minutes.

Friday, NC State chancellor Randy Woodson and North Carolina Secretary of Transportation James H. Trogdon III will take the inaugural ride on CASSI, boarding just in front of Hunt Library. After invited guests and media have their turn, CASSI will open its doors to the public all day Friday and Saturday.

By federal law, there is an operator on board — but that CASSI ambassador is mostly there to provide answers to the many questions riders might have. Such as:

  • CASSI uses cameras, radar, global positioning systems and electronic sensors to navigate its preset operating domain. There is no steering wheel, brake pedal or rear-view mirror.
  • Rated by the Society of Automated Engineers as a Level-4 automated vehicle, CASSI is programmed to handle the majority of all driving situations within its specified operating environment.
  • Not only does it have state-of-the-art guidance technology, it has an automated wheelchair ramp, superior battery life, heating and air conditioning.
  • CASSI’s normal schedule will be Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. until 4 p.m., except on holidays.
  • The vehicle will be on NC State’s campus through August, as the NCDOT begins taking applications from others around the state for its next round of testing.
  • When not operational, CASSI is docked at a recharging station on Centennial Campus.

To learn more about CASSI, visit NC State Transportation’s frequently asked questions page.

CASSI at a stop sign.
CASSI features an automated wheelchair ramp.

“As a research campus and innovation center, NC State’s Centennial Campus is the most appropriate place to launch North Carolina’s first autonomous vehicle,” says NC State Transportation Assistant Director for Planning and Operations Mike Kennon. “It adds value for our students, staff and faculty, as well as corporate and private partners, while also allowing the NCDOT the opportunity to do important research on an advancing technology.”

Above all, CASSI is a research project.

“We are focused on understanding how future technologies are impacting our infrastructure and our transportation network,” says Julie White, NCDOT’s deputy secretary of multimodal transportation. “We also want to know more about how autonomous vehicles will interact with our existing infrastructure, such as signal interaction, curb height and rider use.

“This is an opportunity to see all those things in action.”

Interior of CASSI.
CASSI uses cameras, radar, global positioning systems and electronic sensors to navigate. It has no steering wheel or brake pedal.

NC State, and other college campuses, are great research labs because of the frequent use of multiple modes of transportation interacting with pedestrian traffic, White says.

The vehicle is designed to be a first- and last-mile solution for commuters and those with mobility challenges, says EasyMile Senior Vice President of North American Operations Sharad Agarwal.

“In general, that last-mile challenge is the biggest one we face in transportation, because — even though it’s a short distance — it is still the reason most people do not use public transportation,” Agarwal says. “The cost of staff people for other solutions is expensive, so we think, where feasible, an autonomous vehicle makes more sense.

“This is an opportunity for us to test our technology that will ultimately be on larger vehicles with more capacity in the next few years. This is technology that will eventually be in all motor vehicles.”

CASSI also will be equipped with AERPAW technology, as part of NC State’s $24 million National Science Foundation grant to create a more flexible and adaptable 5G network. NCDOT will monitor multiple datasets on rider usage, deployment, safety and usability before selecting a new location for CASSI later this year.

This post was originally published in NC State News.

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Health Care Company Anthem Joins NC State’s IBM Q Hub https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2020/02/health-care-company-anthem-joins-nc-states-ibm-q-hub/ Tue, 11 Feb 2020 15:57:08 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=236107 The leading health benefits company is the second industry partner to join the Hub, which seeks to advance quantum computing.]]>

Anthem, Inc., a leading health benefits company, is the second founding member to join the IBM Q Hub at NC State University, where it will explore how quantum computing may further enhance the consumer health care experience.

Last year NC State became the first university in North America to establish an IBM Q Hub as part of the global IBM Q Network, a collaboration between IBM and Fortune 500 companies, national research labs, startups, and leading universities to advance quantum computing and explore practical applications for science and business. Hubs have a unique role within the network, focused on accelerating industry collaborations, learning, skill development and implementation of quantum computing.

“NC State is excited to collaborate with Anthem and IBM in this initiative,” said executive director Daniel Stancil. “Our quantum computing researchers and students will work with them to identify opportunities for development and implementation in the health benefits arena.”

Through NC State’s IBM Q Hub, Anthem will have access to the world’s largest fleet of quantum computing systems for commercial use cases and fundamental research. This includes the recently announced 53-qubit quantum computer, which is the single largest universal quantum system made available for external access in the industry to date.

“We know that we have to take innovative approaches to developing services and solutions that address the challenges facing health care and improve consumers’ experiences,” said Rajeev Ronanki, Anthem’s chief digital officer. “With exponential increases in computing capacity, quantum computing has the potential to help individuals lead healthier lives in a number of ways, such as helping in the development of more accurate and personalized treatment options and improving the prediction of health conditions in real time.”

More than one in eight Americans receive coverage for their medical care through Anthem’s affiliated plans, and the company brings its decades-long expertise in working with health care data to the Q Network.

Quantum computing has the potential to analyze data significantly faster than classical computing and perform certain types of analysis that are not possible with today’s classical computers – while also enhancing privacy and security.

“Anthem joining the Hub at NC State is a great example of the potential for quantum computing to make an impact on the consumer health care experience,” said Jamie Thomas, general manager of strategy and development at IBM Systems. “For NC State, Anthem joining their IBM Q Hub is a necessary component to solving concrete problems and increasing the general maturation of quantum computing in regions across the country.”

This post was originally published in NC State News.

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Christina Koch Completes 328-Day Mission on Space Station https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2020/02/christina-koch-completes-328-day-mission-on-space-station/ Thu, 06 Feb 2020 14:50:42 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=236067 Setting a record for the longest single spaceflight in history by a woman, NASA astronaut Christina Koch returns to Earth after orbiting the planet 5,248 times.]]>

At 4:12 a.m. EST in a remote corner of Kazakhstan, Christina Koch completed her 328-day mission on the International Space Station and set a record for the longest single spaceflight in history by a woman.

Koch, a three-time graduate of NC State with bachelor’s degrees in physics and electrical engineering and a master’s in electrical engineering, conducted and supported more than 210 scientific investigations spanning Expeditions 59, 60, and 61. This included operating as the research subject volunteer to allow scientists the opportunity to observe the effects of long-duration spaceflight, as NASA prepares their plans to return to the Moon with the Artemis program.

Astronaut Christina Koch smiles as she gives a “thumbs up” sign shortly after being extracted from the Soyuz MS-13 crew ship that brought her home after 328 days in space. Credit: NASA TV

She also conducted research on Mizuna mustard greens, determining how the role of gravity and space can affect plant health and development, while simultaneously examining how growing plants affect human social dynamics—an important factor as NASA plans long-duration crewed missions to the Moon or Mars.

While in space, Koch orbited the Earth 5,248 times, traveling 139 million miles. While doing so, she performed six spacewalks, including the first (and second, and third) performed exclusively by women. Watch clips from NASA that show Koch’s most memorable moments from her record-breaking mission.

Following initial medical evaluations, Koch will return home to Houston, via Karaganda in Kazakstan, and Cologne, Germany.

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‘Wristwatch’ Monitors Body Chemistry to Boost Athletic Performance, Prevent Injury https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2020/02/wristwatch-monitors-body-chemistry-to-boost-athletic-performance-prevent-injury/ Wed, 05 Feb 2020 15:05:57 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=236056 Engineers have developed a device the size of a wristwatch used for everything from detecting dehydration to tracking athletic recovery, with applications ranging from military training to competitive sports.]]>

Engineering researchers have developed a device the size of a wristwatch that can monitor an individual’s body chemistry to help improve athletic performance and identify potential health problems. The device can be used for everything from detecting dehydration to tracking athletic recovery, with applications ranging from military training to competitive sports.

“This technology allows us to test for a wide range of metabolites in almost real time,” says Michael Daniele, co-corresponding author of a paper on the work and an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at North Carolina State University and in the Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering at NC State and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Metabolites are markers that can be monitored to assess an individual’s metabolism. So, if someone’s metabolite levels are outside of normal parameters, it could let trainers or health professionals know that something’s wrong. For athletes, it could also be used to help tailor training efforts to improve physical performance.

“For this proof-of-concept study, we tested sweat from human participants and monitored for glucose, lactate, pH and temperature,” Daniele says.

A replaceable strip on the back of the device is embedded with chemical sensors. That strip rests against a user’s skin, where it comes into contact with the user’s sweat. Data from the sensors in the strip are interpreted by hardware inside the device, which then records the results and relays them to a user’s smartphone or smartwatch.

“The device is the size of an average watch, but contains analytical equipment equivalent to four of the bulky electrochemistry devices currently used to measure metabolite levels in the lab,” Daniele says. “We’ve made something that is truly portable, so that it can be used in the field.”

While the work for this paper focused on measuring glucose, lactate and pH, the sensor strips could be customized to monitor for other substances that can be markers for health and athletic performance – such as electrolytes.

“We’re optimistic that this hardware could enable new technologies to reduce casualties during military or athletic training, by spotting health problems before they become critical,” Daniele says. “It could also improve training by allowing users to track their performance over time. For example, what combination of diet and other variables improves a user’s ability to perform?”

The researchers are now running a study to further test the technology when it is being worn by people under a variety of conditions.

“We want to confirm that it can provide continuous monitoring when in use for an extended period of time,” Daniele says.

“While it’s difficult to estimate what the device might cost consumers, it only costs tens of dollars to make. And the cost of the strips – which can last for at least a day – should be comparable to the glucose strips used by people with diabetes.

“We’re currently looking for industry partners to help us explore commercialization options for this technology,” Daniele says.

The paper, “Wearable multiplexed biosensor system toward continuous monitoring of metabolites,” is published in the journal Biosensors and Bioelectronics. First author of the paper is Murat Yokus, a Ph.D. student at NC State. Co-corresponding author of the paper is Alper Bozkurt, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State. The paper was co-authored by Tanner Songkakul, a Ph.D. student at NC State; and Vladimir Pozdin, a postdoctoral researcher in the Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering at NC State and UNC.

Funding for the work comes from NC State’s National Science Foundation-funded Advanced Self-Powered Systems of Integrated Sensors and Technologies (ASSIST) Center under grant EEC1160483. The mission of the ASSIST Center is to create self-powered wearables capable of long-term multi-modal sensing without having to replace or charge batteries.

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Wearable Health Tech Gets Efficiency Upgrade https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2020/01/wearable-health-tech-gets-efficiency-upgrade/ Thu, 30 Jan 2020 18:10:07 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=236035 NC State engineers led by Mehmet Ozturk have demonstrated a flexible device that harvests the heat energy from the human body to monitor health.]]>

NC State University engineers have demonstrated a flexible device that harvests the heat energy from the human body to monitor health. The device surpasses all other flexible harvesters that use body heat as the sole energy source.

In a paper published in Applied Energy, the NC State researchers report significant enhancements to the flexible body heat harvester they first reported in 2017. The harvesters use heat energy from the human body to power wearable technologies – think of smart watches that measure your heart rate, blood oxygen, glucose and other health parameters – that never need to have their batteries recharged. The technology relies on the same principles governing rigid thermoelectric harvesters that convert heat to electrical energy.

Flexible harvesters that conform to the human body are highly desired for use with wearable technologies. Mehmet Ozturk, an NC State professor of electrical and computer engineering and corresponding author of the paper, mentioned superior skin contact with flexible devices, as well as the ergonomic and comfort considerations to the device wearer, as the core reasons behind building flexible thermoelectric generators, or TEGs.

The performance and efficiency of flexible harvesters, however, currently trail well behind rigid devices, which have been superior in their ability to convert body heat into usable energy.

“The flexible device reported in this paper is significantly better than other flexible devices reported to date and is approaching the efficiency of rigid devices, which is very encouraging,” Ozturk said.

The proof-of-concept TEG originally reported in 2017 employed semiconductor elements that were connected electrically in series using liquid-metal interconnects made of EGaIn – a non-toxic alloy of gallium and indium. EGaIn provided both metal-like electrical conductivity and stretchability. The entire device was embedded in a stretchable silicone elastomer.

The upgraded device employs the same architecture but it significantly improves the thermal engineering of the previous version, while increasing the density of the semiconductor elements responsible for converting heat into electricity. One of the improvements is an improved silicone elastomer – essentially a type of rubber – that encapsulates the EGaIn interconnects.

“The key here is using a high thermal conductivity silicone elastomer doped with graphene flakes and EGaIn,” Ozturk said. The elastomer provides mechanical robustness against punctures while improving the device’s performance.

“Using this elastomer allowed us to boost the thermal conductivity – the rate of heat transfer – by six times, allowing improved lateral heat spreading,” he said.

Ozturk added that one of the strengths of the technology is that it eliminates the need for device manufacturers to develop new flexible, thermoelectric materials because it incorporates the very same semiconductor elements used in rigid devices. Ozturk said future work will focus on further improving the efficiencies of these flexible devices.

Yasaman Sargolzaeiaval, Viswanath P. Ramesh, Taylor V. Neumann, Veena Misra, Michael Dickey and Daryoosh Vashaee co-authored the paper. The group also has a recent patent on the technology.

Funding for the work comes from the NC State’s National Science Foundation-funded Advanced Self-Powered Systems of Integrated Sensors and Technologies (ASSIST) Center under grant EEC1160483. The mission of the ASSIST Center is to create self-powered wearables capable of long-term multi-modal sensing without having to replace or charge the batteries.

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Online Electrical Engineering Masters Ranked #5 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2020/01/online-electrical-engineering-masters-ranked-5/ Thu, 16 Jan 2020 11:57:18 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=235816 Our online master’s program in electrical engineering was just ranked fifth nationally by US News & World Report for 2020—the online offerings provide an awesome opportunity for career growth.]]>

The online engineering master’s program in electrical engineering offered by NC State University was ranked fifth nationally by US News & World Report in the publication’s 2020 list of the Best Online Programs.

Additionally, NC State’s Engineering Online ranked seventh nationally on the list of Best Online Engineering Programs and 15th on the list of Best Computer Information Technology Programs.

The online graduate engineering program was also ranked sixth on a list of Best Online Graduate Engineering Programs for Veterans.

Established in 1978, Engineering Online is the College’s master’s degree or professional certificate distance education program. Engineering Online is fully accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and is authorized in every U.S. state for delivery of online degree programs.

Engineering Online offers 16 different graduate engineering degree programs that are the same high-quality engineering and computer science degree programs offered on campus, but with the flexibility of online learning to help meet students’ educational and professional goals.

Though online students are welcome to visit campus during their enrollment, there is never any requirement to do so. All assignments are submitted and returned online, all lectures are available online and all student-faculty and student-student interaction is conducted online. Most of the mid-term and final exams must be administered by a proctor, but proctors are typically available in the student’s workplace or community.

The US News rankings look at metrics including faculty credentials and training, services and technologies made available to students, student excellence and how engaged faculty members are.

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Nagle Inducted into IEEE TAB Hall of Honor https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2020/01/nagle-inducted-into-ieee-tab-hall-of-honor/ Mon, 13 Jan 2020 19:27:54 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=235569 Congratulations to Dr. Troy Nagle who was honored with induction into IEEE Technical Activities Board's Hall of Fame for 2019, recognizing his long contributions to the Board's governance.]]>

Troy Nagle, a Distinguished Professor of electrical and computer engineering was honored at the November IEEE Technical Activities Board (TAB) Meeting with membership in the TAB Hall of Honor. He was nominated for “leadership in reforming TAB governance which included giving Society Presidents the same TAB voting rights as Division Directors.”

The TAB Hall of Honor honors those persons, living or deceased, who have made one or more major contribution(s) to IEEE Technical Activities. Contributions include the creation, development, or advancement of the technical objectives of IEEE. Objectives include the advancement of the theory and practice of electrical, electronics, communications, and computer engineering, as well as computer science, the allied branches of engineering, and the related arts, sciences, technologies and their application for the benefit of IEEE members worldwide, and for the general public.

Nagle was the Founding Chair of the UNC-NC State Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering, in which he also is a professor. Nagle is widely published in data acquisition and signal processing, co-edited a handbook on machine olfaction, and is coauthor of textbooks in digital logic design and digital control systems. In recent years, he has focused his research on machine olfaction and experimented with its use in food processing, environmental monitoring, and medical diagnostics. Dr. Naglereceived the BSEE and MSEE degrees from the University of Alabama, the Ph.D. degree (Electrical Engineering) from Auburn University, and the MD degree from the University of Miami School of Medicine. He is a life fellow of IEEE, a past TAB Chair (1989-90) and a past IEEE President (1994).

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Delta Air Lines Joins NC State’s IBM Q Hub https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2020/01/delta-air-lines-joins-nc-states-ibm-q-hub/ Thu, 09 Jan 2020 13:52:20 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=235791 Delta, the world’s largest global airline, will be the founding industry partner to join the IBM Q Hub at NC State, as part of a multi-year quantum computing collaborative effort with IBM. ]]>

Delta Air Lines, the world’s largest global airline, will be the founding industry partner to join the IBM Q Hub at NC State, as part of a multi-year collaborative effort with IBM to explore the potential capabilities of quantum computing to transform experiences for customers and employees.

Last year NC State became the first university in North America to establish an IBM Q Hub as part of the global IBM Q Network, a collaboration between IBM and Fortune 500 companies, national research labs, startups and leading universities to advance quantum computing and explore practical applications for science and business. Hubs have a unique role within the network, focused on accelerating industry collaborations, learning, skills development and implementation of quantum computing.

“NC State is proud to partner with Delta to accelerate real-world applications as part of our IBM Q Hub,” said executive director Daniel Stancil. “Our quantum-trained students and researchers are excited to work with IBM and Delta to identify opportunities for development and implementation.”

Through NC State’s IBM Q Hub, Delta will have access to the world’s largest fleet of quantum computing systems for commercial use cases and fundamental research, including the recently-announced 53-qubit quantum computer, which is the single largest universal quantum system made available for external access in the industry to date.

“Partnering with innovative companies like IBM is one way Delta stays on the leading edge of tech so we can best determine how it can be used to better serve our customs and our people, while drawing the blueprints for application across our industry,” said Rahul Samant, Delta’s CIO. “We’ve done this most recently with biometrics in our international terminals and we’re excited to explore how quantum computing can be applied to address challenges across the day of travel.”

Delta’s CEO Ed Bastian delivered the CES 2020 opening keynote address that focused on how Delta is transforming travel into a part of the journey to look forward. The airline is using technology to extend the warmth of its people to non-traditional airline touchpoints and delivering innovative experience that reduce stress across the day of travel.

As part of the agreement, Delta will work with NC State and IBM researchers to create innovations that will inform the airline’s future technology strategy, while solving existing business and operational challenges. The partnership will also allow IBM to better understand real-world business challenges to help speed the commercialization of research.

“We are very excited by the addition of the world’s largest airline to our list of collaborators working with us on building practical quantum computing applications,” said Director of IBM Research Dario Gil. “IBM’s focus, since we put the very first quantum computer on the cloud in 2016, has been to move quantum computing beyond isolated lab experiments conducted by a handful of organizations, into the hands of tens of thousands of users. We believe a clear advantage will be awarded to early adopters in the era of quantum computing and with partners like Delta, we’re already making significant progress on that mission.”

“Delta joins more than 100 clients already experimenting with commercial quantum computing solutions alongside classical computers from IBM to tackle problems like risk analytics and options pricing, advanced battery materials and structures, manufacturing optimization, fraud detection, chemical research, logistics and more,” said Jamie Thomas, General Manager, Strategy and Development for IBM Systems. “As the first airline to join the IBM Q network, I’m looking forward to exploring how we can work together to solve real business challenges in a new industry alongside our Hub members at NC State.”

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Krim Honored with IEEE SPS Sustained Impact Paper Award https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2019/12/krim-honored-with-ieee-sps-sustained-impact-paper-award/ Wed, 18 Dec 2019 19:29:20 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=235673 Congratulations to Dr. Hamid Krim, selected for the 2019 IEEE SPS Sustained Impact Paper Award—Two Decades of Array Signal Processing Research: The Parametric Approach.]]>

Hamid Krim, professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State University, and co-author Mats Viberg, Vice-Chancellor of Blekinge Institute of Technology in Sweden have been selected for the 2019 IEEE Signal Processing Society (SPS) Sustained Impact Paper Award. The paper credited with the sustained impact is “Two Decades of Array Signal Processing Research: The Parametric Approach,” which was published in the IEEE Signal Processing Magazine in 1996 (Volume 13, No. 4), and has had far-reaching effects in shaping today’s research, including garnering 2340 paper citations in addition to 157 patent citations.

“This was a good surprise,” exclaimed Krim. “Pleasant for work done a while back to still be actively cited, and I hope it will inspire younger researchers and remember in the end that they should do what they love, so that—as the saying goes—they will never work a day in their lives.”

The Sustained Impact Paper Award honors the authors of a journal article of broad interest that has had a sustained impact over many years on a subject related to the Society’s technical scope. A paper considered for the award should be relevant to current researchers and/or practitioners and represent at least one of the following: the paper resulted in a paradigm shift in how a particular problem is solved; the work forms the theoretical basis for much of the contemporary work in a particular field and the work introduced methods that are now broadly adopted in industry.

To be eligible for consideration, an article must have appeared in any of the Society’s financial sponsored periodicals, in an issue that is 10 years old or more from the current award year: for example, for the 2019 Award, the paper must have appeared in any of the Society’s financial sponsored periodicals in an issue in 2009 or earlier.

Presentation of the award will be made by the 2020-21 SPS President, Ahmed Tewfik, at the Society’s Awards Ceremony, during ICASSP, May 4-8, 2020, held in Barcelona, Spain.

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Veety Recipient of Blessis Outstanding Undergrad Advisor Award https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2019/12/veety-reciepient-of-blessis-outstanding-undergrad-advisor-award/ Fri, 13 Dec 2019 14:43:43 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=235658 Congratulations to @ASSISTcenter's Elena Veety who was announced as 2019 recipient of Blessis Outstanding Undergrad Advisor Award from the College of Engineering.]]>

We are pleased to announce that Elena Veety, a teaching assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering is the 2019 recipient of the George H. Blessis Outstanding Undergraduate Advisor Award from the College of Engineering.

Veety is the operations and education director for the ASSIST Center. She has shown an extraordinary commitment to advising, assisting, and mentoring undergraduate students.

The award recognizes faculty members who consistently and willingly give their time and effort to advising, counseling and mentoring students and assisting student groups. It is also a continuing memorial to George H. Blessis, a faculty member whose interest in undergraduate education and advising serves as an example today.

“I’m very honored to be recognized, and I want to thank all the folks who nominated me and wrote recommendations on my behalf,” expressed Veety. “It’s certainly very rewarding to hear that my work is having real and positive impact! It’s been a pleasure working in such a supportive environment both in ASSIST and ECE, and I look forward to continuing a successful career here at NC State.”

Candidates are nominated by their department and are selected by the College of Engineering Teaching and Advising Awards Committee. The awardee receives $1,000 and a certificate, and the recipient’s name is engraved on a permanent plaque displayed in Page Hall, the administrative building for the College of Engineering.

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ECE Alums Attribute Entrepreneurial Roots to Engineering Entrepreneurs Program https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2019/12/ece-alums-attribute-entrepreneurial-roots-to-engineering-entrepreneurs-program/ Sat, 07 Dec 2019 01:05:59 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=235637 After a decade of projects, two NC State ECE alumni and serial Triangle entrepreneurs announced $4.7 million in seed funding for their technology venture, Allstacks.]]>

After a decade of projects, two NC State ECE alumni and serial Triangle entrepreneurs announced $4.7 million in seed funding for their technology venture, Allstacks.

In a Triangle Business Journal interview Hersh Tapadia, Allstacks CEO, stated that while the company was technically founded in 2017, the entrepreneurship story began nearly a decade earlier at NC State’s Engineering Entrepreneurs Program (EEP) in 2008. That’s where Tapadia met his co-founder and longtime partner, Jeremy Freeman.

Tapadia proceeded to earn a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from NC State in 2009, and Freeman graduated from NC State in 2010 with a triple degree in Electrical Engineering, Computer Engineering, and Computer Science.

What followed is a story of entrepreneurial grit and determination that led Tapadia to start several companies, with Freeman either teaming up as co-founder or right hand-man. It was through these experiences that the two developed a skillset in machine learning and data analytics that would prove essential to Allstack’s creation. Now, a little over a decade later, the two former EEP students continue working side-by-side, doing what they do best – solving engineering problems.

As part of the NC State Entrepreneurship ecosystem, the Engineering Entrepreneurs Program (EEP) allows students to choose and then solve any engineering problem they like, by forming an entrepreneurial venture and inventing a new product to reach that solution. At its core, the program provides a transformational entrepreneurship education experience for students through its fully-immersive, multi-disciplinary, simulation-like learning environment.

The program takes pride in inspiring, empowering and challenging its students to change the world and radically improve the human condition.

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NC State Named a Hot Spot for 5G Innovation https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2019/12/nc-state-named-a-hot-spot-for-5g-innovation/ Thu, 05 Dec 2019 14:34:00 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=235584 Ultra-fast speed meets unparalleled responsiveness. That’s the promise of fifth generation (5G) wireless networks. And now, NC State ECE is the newest hub for driving 5G innovation.]]>

Ultra-fast speed meets unparalleled responsiveness. That’s the promise of fifth generation (5G) wireless networks. And now, NC State is the newest hub for driving 5G innovation.

Earlier this year, the Research Triangle region was selected to host the country’s third advanced wireless research facility. It’s part of a nationwide effort to explore avenues for improving wireless communication, led by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and jointly coordinated by U.S. Ignite and Northeastern University.

Over the next seven years, the NSF and an industry consortium are investing $100 million to build next-generation wireless research platforms across the country. The goal? To accelerate the development and commercialization of promising technologies, ensuring our nation’s leadership in wireless communications and preparing tomorrow’s workforce.

Salt Lake City and New York City were the first to receive funding under the NSF Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research (PAWR) initiative. Now, the Triangle joins the team with a $24 million, five-year grant called Aerial Experimentation and Research Platform for Advanced Wireless, or AERPAW.

Establishing three new experimentation sites across Raleigh and Cary, AERPAW will be the first wireless research platform to study the convergence of 5G technology and autonomous drones.

So, What Is 5G?

Say hello to the next big leap in wireless communication.

Each generation of cellular network technology represents a transformation in how we communicate — and 5G is no different. The first generation introduced analog voice calls. 2G brought us text messaging, and 3G technology allowed for mobile apps and web browsing. Then 4G made everything faster, enabling services like video streaming.

Looking forward, there are three major characteristics of 5G that have the potential to unlock unprecedented capabilities.

For one, the network is expected to be ten times faster than today’s 4G counterpart.

That speed will be paired with near-zero latency. Latency is the time it takes between sending and receiving information across devices. In fact, 5G devices are expected to communicate in almost real time, with just one millisecond of lag. By comparison, the average human reaction time is closer to 150 milliseconds.

We’ll also be able to connect more devices at once. By next year, experts anticipate as many as 200 billion connected devices globally. 5G’s high-speed, high-bandwidth network will support that growth, opening the door for more smart technology.

With a powerful combination of speed and responsiveness, 5G is set to revolutionize our wireless systems. That’s got major implications for our economy and the growing Internet of Things. And now, discoveries made on NC State’s campus may help pave the way.

A PAWRful Platform

AERPAW’s grant supports the creation of an experimental network platform to drive wireless innovation.

Three experimentation sites — basically, outdoor labs — will be established across the Triangle. Each location has been strategically selected, allowing researchers and industry to put their ideas to the test in various real-world scenarios.

A site in Cary will offer a suburban environment, a site near Lake Wheeler Field Laboratory will offer a rural environment and one on NC State’s Centennial Campus will serve as an urban environment.

“5G is a very complex technology system with many brand-new technological components, including radio frequencies that have never been used before for cellular telecommunications,” says Ismail Guvenc, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State and the primary investigator (PI) on the project.

“Extensive experimentation is needed to understand how well and reliably radio communication in these frequencies will work across different landforms. Until now, such communication has been all ground-to-ground. But not anymore.”

AERPAW is the first platform nationally to combine 5G research with another area that’s ripe for exploration: drones.

Today’s conventional networks use fixed nodes to enable 4G signals to connect to wireless devices. AERPAW will allow researchers to experiment with mobile nodes, which have the ability to transmit and receive radio waves from user devices while moving.

These mobile nodes will be placed on vehicles including cars, buses, golf carts and rovers. But they’ll also reach new heights on autonomous drones.

“On the AERPAW platform, drones and 5G are integrated to be mutually beneficial,” says NC State Vice Chancellor for Information Technology Marc Hoit. “Drones are supporting 5G by providing increased coverage and connectivity; and 5G is supporting drones by providing improved signals and location data.”

These drones aren’t glorified versions of popular RC toys, though. Designed and built by AERPAW’s creators, each device carries a powerful computer that enables it to be programmed with a specific mission. Therefore, the drones can essentially fly themselves.

“Designing a programmable AERPAW drone allows us to tell it to fly the exact same route many times over, gathering and transmitting wireless data, to ensure the repeatability that is so important for scientific experiments,” says Mihail Sichitiu, professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State and a co-PI on the project.

“Our prior experience with many kinds of commercial drones — and our knowledge of FAA regulations and processes to certify for exemptions — puts us in the perfect position to incorporate such programmable drones into the AERPAW platform,” adds Thomas Zajkowski, a co-PI and flight operations manager at the Institute for Transportation and Research Education.

Pioneering the Future of 5G

From self-driving cars to crops that water themselves, plenty of real-world solutions lie at the intersection of 5G and drones. And NC State researchers are ready to explore them.

The AERPAW platform is poised to yield new insights in areas including:

A woman oversees the construction of a mobile tower
Researchers will experiment with mobile towers, which can be erected in just three minutes to improve wireless connectivity in congested areas.

Connectivity

5G is the first network with the bandwidth and speed needed to connect an ever-increasing Internet of Things — from smart devices in your home to entire smart factories for industry.

The network could also solve a pesky problem for football fans and festival-goers. AERPAW will host experiments with mobile towers that, ready to be assembled in as little as three minutes, can strengthen signals in congested areas. These hotspots for wireless connectivity can be placed anywhere from packed stadiums to natural disaster sites.

Traffic Control

The platform has the potential to develop and mature algorithms for autonomous drones, which could help pilots fly the devices reliably beyond their line of sight and allow for improved air traffic control under FAA regulations.

Deliveries

Bolstered by 5G’s improved signals, drones will one day enable safe, on-demand package delivery. 

Vital medical supplies like defibrillators — or even blood — could be delivered throughout hospitals using drones. Earlier this year, WakeMed’s Raleigh campus was the first hospital in the country to pilot such a program.

And industry leaders are already working on drone delivery services to drop your shopping list at your doorstep in a flash. This November, UPS and CVS Pharmacy launched a program to deliver prescription drugs to customers via commercial drones. It was piloted at a CVS location in Cary, North Carolina, with plans to expand in the coming months.

Disaster Relief

After natural disasters, the combination of drones and 5G could provide fast, reliable relief to devastated areas — and help save lives.

Drones could be used to drop off medical supplies in large-scale emergency events. And mobile 5G nodes and towers (which can be quickly positioned in response to need) could help victims and first responders who might otherwise lose cell connectivity after an emergency.

Harnessing the responsiveness of 5G could also allow doctors to give real-time instructions to first responders via video chat in areas that aren’t easily accessible.

Smart Agriculture

You’ve heard of smart homes, but 5G may empower smart farms. In the future, fields embedded with thousands of sensors could collect samples and report on metrics (such as soil quality) to smart agriculture technology. Then, that data could be used to make optimized decisions and improve crop yields.

5G-enabled drones may play a role, too. Flying over expansive fields, the devices could intelligently decide what data is most valuable to collect as they go.

Autonomous Vehicles

NC State faculty have plans to study vehicle-to-vehicle communication, a research area that would support accident reduction and accelerate autonomous driving technology.

In a 5G-world, our daily commutes could be powered by a network of self-driving cars, able to safely connect and communicate with each other in real time without requiring continuous human intervention.

The outcomes of AERPAW are potentially transformative, but the platform itself is also a pioneering effort.

“Programmable radios, programmable drones, programmable networks — all in one outdoor testbed embedded in the real world, all to be made remotely accessible to a nationwide community of researchers in a safe and predictable manner. That’s something of a tall order,” says Rudra Dutta, a co-PI and professor and interim associate head of computer science at NC State. “We are combining a careful selection of state-of-the-art and best-practice technologies so that the AERPAW facility behaves exactly as we intend it to.”

A Community Effort

Turning this 5G vision into a reality requires the engagement of stakeholders from academia, government, industry and our community.

AERPAW’s experimental platform will see collaboration from corporate leaders, entrepreneurs, civic organizations and beyond to turn research into real-world applications. And everything from public services to leading-edge products could find their roots in these testing sites.

An individual flies a drone on NC State's campus

“AERPAW is not just a platform. It’s a meeting place for a complex ecosystem of technologists, policymakers, entrepreneurs and other change agents,” says Brian Floyd, a co-PI and professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State. “We will host workshops, tutorials and technology summits to bring these stakeholders together.”

Local partners in the deployment of the technology include the Town of Cary, City of Raleigh and N.C. Department of Transportation. And NC State will lead research working closely with the Wireless Research Center and researchers at Mississippi State University, Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Purdue University and the University of South Carolina.

AERPAW’s experimentation sites will be ready to host initial experiments by September 1, 2020, and equipped for the full envisioned range of experiments within another two years.

In later phases, the sites could be extended to the Town of Wake Forest, Town of Holly Springs, Koka Booth Amphitheater and the City of Wilson.

“NC State is committed to groundbreaking research that benefits our communities,” says Chancellor Randy Woodson. “We’re excited to work with our public and private partners to advance wireless communications and drone interaction.”

This post was originally published in NC State News.

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a:1:{i:0;s:3:"115";} https://news.ncsu.edu/2019/12/5g-wireless-network-aerpaw/ https://news.ncsu.edu/?p=497691 NC State News 6623 ncstate_wire a:3:{s:4:"fb-2";a:3:{s:14:"post_permissin";s:1:"1";s:11:"post_method";s:1:"2";s:7:"message";s:28:"{POST_EXCERPT} - {PERMALINK}";}s:4:"tw-2";a:3:{s:23:"post_twitter_permission";s:1:"1";s:29:"post_twitter_image_permission";s:1:"1";s:7:"message";s:28:"{POST_EXCERPT} - {PERMALINK}";}s:4:"ln-2";a:2:{s:20:"lnposting_permission";s:1:"1";s:7:"message";s:28:"{POST_EXCERPT} - {PERMALINK}";}} 1 1
Pignataro named Fellow of National Academy of Inventors https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2019/12/pignataro-named-fellow-of-national-academy-of-inventors/ Wed, 04 Dec 2019 19:30:33 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=235567 Congratulations to Carlos Pignataro, an adjunct lecturer in ECE being named fellow of the National Academy of Inventors.]]>

Three NC State faculty members have been named fellows of the National Academy of Inventors, including Carlos Pignataro, an adjunct lecturer in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Pignataro is a distinguished engineer at Cisco, where he serves as chief technology officer and chief architect for the Global SP Services business. He is co-chair of the Cisco Services patent committee and a founding member of the International Society of Service Innovation Professionals.

“Innovation is a collaborative process, and as such I share this distinction with many co-inventors with whom I’ve had passionate discussions and doodled whiteboards,” commented Pignataro. “It is humbling to be recognized but at the same time I hope inspiring and celebratory to the many innovators that are inventing the future.”

An expert in network architecture, he has co-invented almost two hundred U.S. patents (issued and pending), co-authored over 50 Internet Requests for Comments and co-authored three books on computer networking.

He has received a variety of awards in technology, innovation and services science, including the 2019 IEEE Communications Society Industrial Innovation Award and the 2018 Cisco Pioneer Award.

As an adjunct lecturer in ECE as well as contributing to the Master’s in Networking graduate program, he has maintained his efforts to push the discipline forward and serve as a catalyst for future engineers. “Education is cardinal to bettering ourselves and furthering our positive impact. I feel honored to be associated with and contributing to ECE and NC State,” he added. “This recognition also means increased opportunities to mentor and guide others, and give back via education and collaboration.”

The National Academy of Inventors is a member organization comprising U.S. and international universities and governmental and nonprofit research institutes, with over 4,000 inventor members and fellows spanning more than 250 institutions worldwide. It was founded in 2010.

The NAI is a member organization comprising U.S. and international universities, and governmental and non-profit research institutes, with over 4,000 individual inventors members, Senior Members and Fellows spanning more than 250 institutions worldwide. It was founded in 2010 at the University of South Florida.

They will be formally inducted at a ceremony on April 10 at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, and will join ten faculty members in the College of Engineering to have been named as NAI Fellows.

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Senior Design Teams Present https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/2019/12/senior-design-teams-present/ Mon, 02 Dec 2019 18:51:29 +0000 https://www.ece.ncsu.edu/?p=235542 With Design Day on the horizon, one team got to present its work-in-progress to its sponsor at the Fall Industry Meeting of CAPER in Charlotte. Check out more Senior Design projects at McKimmon on Dec 6, 1-4pm.]]>

As undergraduate students complete the final year of their electrical or computer engineering degree, they embark on one of the most challenging and rewarding projects of their academic experience. Over the course of two semesters, students work in teams to solve real-world challenges as part of the Senior Design program. These projects, supported by industry and other academic partners give students first-hand experience in project management, lifecycle development, and problem-solving that goes beyond the classroom.

Since the first capstone project requirement in 1992, thousands of ECE students have gone through the Senior Design program, with projects ranging from video game arcades to stair climbing robots, from elephant early-warning systems to electrical grid inspection systems.

At the end of each semester, students present at Design Day, showing off their final functioning project to students, industry, and the community. Teams also get opportunities to present their work to external audiences, going beyond the typical academics and representing NC State in national and international venues.

ECE Senior Design

The goal of the ECE Senior Design’s first semester is to establish product requirements and prove the viability of concept architectures by early prototyping of key subsystems. This is followed in the second semester with progressively maturing prototyping iterations leading to a fully integrated product to be demonstrated at Design Day.

Join us at the McKimmon Center on December 6, 2019, from 1:00 – 4:00 p.m. to see these projects, alongside more than 50 other impressive projects by talented ECE students.

Substation Inspection Robot

One such team—the Substation Inspection Robot—presented in their first semester to industry and academia at the industry and advisory board meeting of the Center for Advanced Power Engineering Research (CAPER) in Charlotte, NC on November 14, 2019.

The ambitious goal of this project is to develop an inspection robot product with live-stream, high-quality tilt-pan-zoom cameras and infrared sensors that can be remotely controlled through Wi-Fi to perform substation inspection duties equivalent to the current “live-person on-site” method.

“Already, the students had to solve early architectural challenges in the selection of cameras, communications strategies, and real-time hardware/software for integrated object avoidance sensing and joystick motion control of their chosen battery-powered robotics drive platform,” explained Bobby Compton, Director of ECE Senior Design.

The team is now prototyping initial key subsystems for their first demos at Design Day on December 6, 2019.

This ambitious project is being mentored by Duke Energy’s, Aleksandar Vukojevic, who is the Manager of Technology Development in Duke’s Emerging Technology Office and is sponsored by Steven Whisenant, Lead Engineer at Duke Energy, and Steering Committee Chair of CAPER.

Cognitive Telescope Network

Another industry-sponsored project on display at the upcoming Design Day is the Cognitive Telescope Network,  under the mentorship of IBM’s Arunava Muzumda and sponsored by Andy Rindos, head of IBM’s Research Triangle Park Center for Advanced Studies.

Telescopic followup—by the very limited number of capable telescopes—of transient astronomical events is one of the most desirable and scientifically useful activities in modern observational astronomy. However, very often transients are poorly localized on the sky and telescopes have a limited field of view thus pinpointing the transient source is often a daunting task. The Cognitive Telescope Network (CTN) will be a framework that takes notifications of transient events and intelligently instructs a network of submeter telescopes mapped into a grid and observe a large region of the sky that likely contains the transient event based on the geolocation weather and properties of the individual telescopes. The goal of CTN is to collect the data from this network of small telescopes evaluate and classify that data to identify the most likely candidates for the transient being hunted and deliver the results to the astronomer community for further analysis by larger telescopes for directed and focused observations.

“Several Senior Design projects have participated in this initiative,” commented Rachana Gupta, associate director of ECE Senior Design. “They’re tackling various challenges including how to process the astronomical images, how to set up the commander and server for each telescope, and how to ensure telescope safety during remote operation.”

In May 2019, a team of students (Hussain Arif, Daniel Palumbo, and Jacob Bouren) successfully designed and developed a system called “Observing Director for CTN,” which is a central system deciding how several telescopes at a certain locations on earth should be calibrated and organized to capture an event correctly based on the weather conditions, location on earth, time of event, time of the day, and telescope parameters. In Fall 2019, another team of students (Ishan Jolly, Kyra MacLean, and Ryan Lipski) is taking the project further by developing a mathematical optimization algorithm to decide the best way to rearrange the telescopes to capture most of the event.

CTN work done by several senior design teams has been presented by students, IBM sponsors and mentors at many events and conferences over the years including IBM Open Table, Watson Bootcamp Channel at Northwestern University, “Patterns for Big Idea Projects”, The SPS Symposium, and more.

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