Friday, July 30, 2010

Smoke-Tracking Robots

Above and below are images from today's morning test of the smoke-tracking robots from the Bewley robotics lab in the MAE department here at the Jacobs School. This morning, the mechanical engineers tested their robots along with complex controls systems in a proof-of-concept systems integration test.

The student below is MAE Ph.D. student Nick Morozovsky, the lead student on this project.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Robots will Navigate Smokey Parking Lot, Algorithms Will Predict Where Smoke Will Move

An army of advanced "Switchblade" robots designed and created by the UC San Diego Coordinated Robotics Lab will infiltrate the P705 parking lot at UCSD on Friday July 30 as they roll through clouds of (inert, non-toxic) colored smoke set off by their advisor. Equipped with high-tech sensor packs and electronics, the robots will measure smoke concentrations and wind velocities as they move.
(Two preview videos are available here.)
The measurements will be transmitted in real time (via a high-speed cell-phone connection) to an off-site supercomputer running advanced weather-forecasting type algorithms developed by the UCSD Flow Control Lab, which will synchronize a numerical simulation of the smoke plume with the actual measurements taken in the field in real time (a problem known as data assimilation), and then tell the vehicles where to move next.

The goal is to forecast where the smoke is going to go, as precisely as possible, before it gets there. A series of 3-4 such tests will be performed during the 7 to 9 AM window. A camera performing time-lapse photography, hanging from a large balloon overhead, will record how well the system performs. The project is sponsored by National instruments and the U.S. Department of Energy.

The research has important social relevance related to new technology and algorithms for tracking a wide variety of environmental plumes of interest, from Gulf-coast oil, to Icelandic volcanic ash, to possible chemical/radioactive/biological plumes in homeland security settings.

World Record for Data Sorting / Slashdot

Congratulations to the entire data sorting crew over in computer science. They broke a world record when they broke a 60-second-sort terabyte barrier. They also tied another world record at the Sort Benchmark competition. And now their hard work is getting the attention of the inquisitive eyeballs on Slashdot.

Implanted Glucose Sensor Works For Over One Year

Above is the cover image illustrating work on an implantable sensor that provided long-term glucose monitoring in pigs. The next step: approval for clinical trials for humans. Read the glucose sensor Web story from the Jacobs School for details on how this kind of sensor could eventually help people with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Data Sorting World Record Falls

It's hard to imagine sorting a terabyte of data in one minute...but that's what computer scientists at the Jacobs School did...and for their efforts, they got themselves a world record at the Sort Benchmark competition. (Check out the full Sort Benchmark / UC San Diego press release.) But before you go, consider the fact that data sorting is a big deal, for a variety of reasons. Facebook ads and Amazon product suggestions are generated thanks to heavy duty data sorting techniques. Companies across the world are turning to data sorting to sift through the mountains of potentially relevant data that are piling analytics in action.

The lead computer science graduate student on the project, Alex Rasmussen (pictured below), explained to me during our photo shoot in a Calit2 server room, that data sorting is a good way to flex a whole bunch of computing / networking / systems muscles. He explained it this way:

“Sorting is also an interesting proxy for a whole bunch of other data processing problems. Generally, sorting is a great way to measure how fast you can read a lot of data off a set of disks, do some basic processing on it, shuffle it around a network and write it to another set of disks,” explained Rasmussen. “Sorting puts a lot of stress on the entire input/output subsystem, from the hard drives and the networking hardware to the operating system and application software.”

For anyone following along, this is the follow up to the 10,318 seconds post.

Meet the (Electrical) Engineer in the San Diego Union Tribune

Electrical and computer engineering professor Gert Lanckriet was profiled in the "Meet the Engineer/Scientist" feature in the July 26 "Quest" section of the San Diego Union Tribune.

So check it out before the paper makes its way to the recycling bin. An image of the story is below.

Monday, July 26, 2010

NanoEngineering Department is a World Leader

The Department of NanoEngineering at UC San Diego is highlighted in two info-grahics that accompany the cover story of the July 19 issue Chemical & Engineering News "Filling Nanotech Jobs." UC San Diego is highlighted the undergraduate, M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in nanoengineering offered by the Department of NanoEngineering.

The C&EN trend article, by Ann M. Thayer, provides some background on where nanotechnology in the United States has been, and where it is going.

The UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering established the Department of NanoEngineering in 2007. Read the inagural NanoEngineering at UC San Diego story here.

Take a spin through some of the exiting NanoEngineering research happening here at UC San Diggo: peruse the first edition (in PDF form) of the Department of NanoEngineering newsletter.

NanoEngineering professors from the Jacobs School have been in the news recently. NanoEngineering professor Joseph Wang made headlines around the world for one piece of his lab's smart sensor research.

NanoEngineering professor Shirley Meng is the UC San Diego lead on a new grant from the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy. The grant went to General Atomics and UC San Diego's Meng is leading a subcontract. Onell Soto from the San Diego Union Tribune covered the story.

According to Soto:

General Atomics will get nearly $2 million to work with the University of California San Diego to develop a battery big enough to store power for utilities, in which chemicals would flow through cells as power is needed.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Hat Tip to Saura Naderi

UC San Diego alumna Saura Naderi wore a fantastic hat to the opening day for horse racing at Del Mar this week. But you don't have to take our word for it...Cindy McNatt from the Orange County Register captured it all...including Naderi's hat (see below)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Computer Vision, Face Recognition and Bluffing

Check out this video illustrating a UC San Diego project involving computer vision, speech analysis and neuroscientific analysis. Video credit: Calit2.

The video includes Mohan Trivedi, an electrical and computer engineering professor here at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.

Additional folks with "speaking roles" in the video:
Ashish Tawari: Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) PhD student at UC San Diego.
Clarissa Lock: Physchology graduate student at UC San Diego

Check out more videos on the Calit2 YouTube channel.

Monday, July 19, 2010

10,318 Seconds...

What can you do in 10,318 seconds? How many records can you sort in that time? (And we're not talking about flipping through used CDs in that cool music store you don't visit as often as you'd like to.)

We'll have an update tomorrow or Wednesday on the record-breaking data sorting done in 10,318 seconds at UC San Diego.

email me at dbkane AT ucsd DOT edu if you want the story before the story is officially out.

Friday, July 16, 2010

NextGen Nano Sensors

UC San Diego NanoEngineering professor Jen Cha is using a $300,000 grant from the U.S Defense Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop nanoscale materials for biological and chemical sensing for health and environmental monitoring. Cha and her research team are hoping to find routes to fabricate arrays of nanoscale materials for medical diagnostics or for security sensing that does not require high engineering costs. For these types of applications to make a “real world” impact, the production of the devices needs to be kept at an absolute minimum, Cha explained.

“If we can get around the problem of repeatedly needing an expensive tool, such as those used for semiconductor chip manufacturing (i.e. lithography), and still be able to achieve sub-50 nanometer resolution, that would be pretty revolutionary for applications such as low-cost diagnostics and chemical sensors,” she said.

Enhancing Heart Surgery For Children

UC San Diego mechanical and aerospace engineering professor Alison Marsden is working through an international collaboration to develop multiscale models for all three stages of the surgery used to treat children with single ventricle heart defects. The end goal of the $6 million project, funded by Fondation Leducq in France, is to produce software that can be used for clinical decision support. These surgeries are typically done with three stages starting from birth: the Norwood (or variant), Glenn procedure, and Fontan surgery. According to Marsden, these young patients are among the most challenging for pediatric cardiologists to treat, and they can develop a number of very serious morbidities.

“While our group at UCSD has done research previously on the Fontan surgery (stage three), we were not able to take advantage of closed loop models of the circulatory system,” she said. “This collaboration will allow us to model the surgical connection in detail as well as the response of the entire circulation. In addition, this is the first time in our research group that we are taking a close look at the engineering aspects of the first two stages of the surgery, and that will hopefully shed light on possibilities for earlier interventions that can help prevent poor outcomes. The network gives us access to a large pool of clinical data through several leading clinical centers that are participating in the grant.”

Marsden is an American core member of the international research team on this project, which also includes Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, Politecnico di Milano in Milan, The French National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control (INRIA) in Paris, Medical University of South Carolina, University of Michigan, and Clemson University.

Earthquake-Safe Buildings

As earthquake preparedness continues to be at the forefront of research and conversations around the globe, structural engineers at UC San Diego have received a boost in funding to help protect buildings and people from potential seismic disasters.

Benson Shing, a structural engineering professor at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering, will use a nearly $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to study and test performance-based seismic design methods and tools for reinforced masonry shear-wall structures. Under the three-year project, Shing and his colleagues will develop innovative methodologies and improved design requirements for the seismic resistance design of shear walls in reinforced masonry buildings, and reliable analytical tools for assessing their seismic performance in an effort to enhance the cost-effectiveness and performance of these structures. These types of masonry structures are mainly used for low rise commercial buildings, as well as for mid-to-low rise office buildings and hotels. As part of the grant, Shing plans to conduct a series of simulated earthquake tests on two-and-three-story shear wall systems at the end of 2011 and in early 2012 at the UC San Diego Englekirk Structural Engineering Center, home of the world’s largest outdoor shake table.

“We hope to break new ground in design and modeling,” Shing said about the project. Earlier this year, the NSIT awarded a total of $34.12 million in grants for measurement science and engineering research. The NIST Measurement Science and Engineering Research Grants Program, made possible through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will fund 27 projects at higher-education, commercial, and nonprofit organizations in 18 states.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

High Tech iPad App

John Kooker (third from left) ended the presentation of the winning project with a demonstration of his iPad-based interface on the new HIPerSpace installation in Jacobs Hall (fka EBU1). More photos here.

Electrical engineering (ECE) graduate students created an iPad application that turns the iPad's cool touch interface into a doorway for the cutting edge visualization tools being developed here at UC San Diego.

The students created these projects for the course ECE 291. More details are below, and the full story is on the Jacobs School Web site. (The original Calit2 story was written by Maureen Curran at Calit2 here at UC San Diego)

"My favorite part of doing the project is getting hands-on experience with this incredible new visualization technology," enthused Kooker, "Being able to contribute to that significantly in one quarter was really fun. Also, being able to play with brand new technology, the iPad, was just a thrill."

Kooker's interface ("OptiActor") supports the majority of existing HIPerSpace/OptiPortal applications (primarily visualization apps, including image and video viewers, maps and weather and scientific data visualizations). It has true multitouch and accelerometer-based interaction.

"You have multitouch in your hands, you can paint with your fingers, throw images around, and pinch to zoom, while watching the wall. It's really fun," explained Kooker. It also supports mouse and keyboard emulation, which enables use with older applications that do not support multitouch.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Souped Up Surfboard Video in the Works

A group of undergrads from the Jacobs School recently finished up a cool project involving a surfboard and an on-board computer. The video and text for the story are nearly done...and will be posted here early next week.

Below is one of the key components of the high-tech surfboard.

Any thoughts on how it might be used on a surfboard?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Von Liebig and SleepServer in San Diego Business Journal

Monday was the third day of a three day weekend, and how many PCs in corporations, universities and other organizations were running on Monday even though the usual users were enjoying the holiday?

Monday was also the day the San Diego Business Journal ran a story describing the UC San Diego technology aimed at fixing these sorts of problems. SleepServer lets users put their enterprise PCs to sleep without the fear that they won't be able to access them remotely. The lightweight image of each sleeping PC can also run stripped down programs that enable the PC to work while it sleeps.

Yuvraj Agarwal photos on the Calit2 Flikr photostream. (Credit: UC San Diego / Erik Jepsen)

Update Thursday July 8: The La Jolla Light ran a SleepServer story "Research Report: PCs can work while they sleep."

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Wireless Sensor Research in Technology Review

The wireless sensor research from electrical engineering PhD student Yu "Mike" Chi and bioengineering professor Gert Cauwenberghs is profiled today in a Technology Review story by Lauren Gravitz, "Biosensors Comfortable Enough to Wear 24-7."

The story provides some really interesting details about how this technology could be used to improve at-home monitoring for heart patients. The story also includes some tantalizing forward-looking projects that could help people who are paralyzed communicate via their thoughts recorded by sensors that pick up brain activity.

Check out the story.

Learn more about the research and the UC San Diego student business plan competition that Mike Chi won in spring 2010.

See related photos on the Jacobs School blog.

Photo caption: Yu Mike Chi, an electrical engineering PhD student at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering, demonstrates sensors how his sensors that do not not directly touch his skin pick up his heart beat.

Alley Project "Up Students Alley"

The "alley engineering" that UC San Diego seniors in the Urban Studies and Planning program performed on a Hillcrest is described in a recent story "Students turn alley into oasis" in the San Diego Union Tribune.

Hillcrest is very much a UCSD community, especially given that the shuttle between the UCSD Medical Center in Hillcrest and the La Jolla campus means people can go back and forth without using a car.

The students collaborated with the Hillcrest Business Association to research how to transform the urban element into a pedestrian-friendly area. They applied their findings to a Hillcrest alley between Fourth and Fifth avenues near Robinson Avenue by covering graffiti-stained walls with art and bougainvillea.

That’s not all.

Students also proposed replacing the concrete road with permeable pavement, which soaks up stagnant water. During a recent exhibition, they set up a coffee shop for passers-by. They also strung lights from fire escape to fire escape.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Beach Ball: 4th of July Icon and CSE 168 Honorable Mention

Computer science grad student Oleg Bisker's final image from the Spring 2010 version of CSE 168 looks like a good kick off to the 4th of July weekend. Bisker created the image using C++ programming code...not a digital camera and Photoshop or Picasa. (Class Web site here.)

Oleg, can you give us any insights on this image? What was trickiest part? What aspects of the image are you most happy about? Any other thoughts?

Update: Oleg pointed me to the CSE 168 Spring 2010 competition Web site where he and the other participants had to provide info on the process that led them to their images.

Oleg wrote:

My inspiration for this project was the much loved San Diego beach. I wanted to do an outdoor scene with some water, sand and a geometrically simple but visually sophisticated beach ball.

Read the rest of the Bisker beach ball story here.

Candle Lights win Graphics Competition

If a picture is worth a 1,000 words, then the computer science corollary must be “a picture is worth a 1,000 lines of C++ code.”

That’s certainly the case for the computer science students at the University of California, San Diego who paint pictures with C++ computer programming code. Computer science professor Henrik Wann Jensen – winner of a 2004 Academy Award for his work on realistic, computer-generated human skin – taught the class: CSE 168: Rendering Algorithms.

For their final project, the Rendering Algorithms students pulled together what they’d learned about generating digital images from their own computer code and painted one final picture with C++.

The image above won the grand prize this year. Computer science master’s students Carlos Dominguez-Caballero and Holmes Futrell created the image. Congrats.

Union Tribune Headline: Stimulus funding flowing at UCSD

Today's San Diego Union Tribune includes a story by Gary Robbins about research funding at UC San Diego.

Federal stimulus money helped UCSD receive a record $1 billion in the past year for research, triggering a boom that’s expected to create more jobs and deepen scientists’ understanding of everything from sickle cell anemia to ocean currents.

The bit about understanding ocean currents refers, at least in part, to a project led by professor Jorge Cortes from the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE). Cortes and colleagues won NSF funding to figure out how to implement the controls systems that keep swarms of underwater ocean robots in the kinds of formations that will enable them to collect the data necessary to figure out what is going on with ocean currents in the area. (read full story here

This project is related to one led by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography here at UC San Diego.

In the news:
Robot Swarms on DC Airwaves
Robots on KPBS radio

Thursday, July 1, 2010

cell phone user photo / computer science

Sometimes, you just need a photo of a person with a cell phone in a research, a computer science graduate from UC San Diego student handles two of the phones she is using in her research.