February 23, 2007 – Who says graduate students have all the research fun? At an annual event at the UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering held this Wednesday, undergraduates strutted their research stuff on topics as varied as better biodiesel generators, cartilage in the knees, and wireless networks that will “think.”
The event, called EUReKA (Engineering Undergraduate REsearch Konference & Assembly) is a part of National Engineering Week at UCSD. Students showed off their posters and gave short presentations for other students and the general public.
“EUReKA provides Jacobs School undergraduates with the opportunity to present their research to a wider audience and hone their verbal presentation skills,” said Charles Tu, an associate dean of the UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering and a professor of electrical and computer engineering (ECE). Tu first created EUReKA as a program for ECE undergraduates and has since expanded it to encompass the entire Jacobs School.
UCSD undergraduates are encouraged to perform original research, Tu explained. “They can knock on professors’ doors to find research projects or they can join one of the student organizations that offer research opportunities or TIES (Teams in Engineering Service).”
From getting motorbikes (rather than just cars) to trigger traffic light sensors, to adapting toys for kids with cerebral palsy, to creating systems for monitoring water quality, many of the research projects aim to solve existing problems or use technologies in new ways.
The students involved in one such project hope to get UCSD’s shuttle bus fleet running on biodiesels created from campus waste vegetable oil. Jennifer Asis, a senior chemical engineering major in the department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE), presented the biodiesel poster. Her group designed a 25-gallon biodiesel processor to convert campus waste vegetable oil into biodiesel. They are in what they hope are the last stretches of the fundraising necessary for building the $3,500 generator. “We hope to be making biodiesel by Earth Day – April 22,” said Asis, president of the UCSD student chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and a member of the UCSD Biofuels Action Awareness Network.
Converting waste vegetable oils to biodiesel is not new. In fact, you can buy biodiesel generators over the Internet. The UCSD team plans, however, to use their engineering training to optimize production techniques, explore different fuel sources, and make a modular, portable and reconfigurable system. Future iterations of the generator will be increasingly automated, once the necessary data have been collected, the students say.
|From vegetable fat to diesel fuel.|
“Way down the line, I imagine a UCSD biodiesel co-op where people could come to get biodiesel for cars, generators or other machines,” said James Ma, the second author on the poster and a senior chemical engineering major at UCSD.
One of the students presenting at EUReKA who may be on campus long enough to see a biodiesel-fed bus fleet is freshman computer engineering major Paul Baumgart.
Baumgart presented work on a relatively new research project, “CogNet” – an adaptive wireless network being developed at the California Institute of Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2).
“CogNet networks will adapt to the usage conditions as they currently are,” explained Baumgart. “These networks will adjust the parameters of the network as well as the protocols the network is using in order to enhance user experience.”
Ramesh Rao, director or the UCSD division of Calit2 and a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the Jacobs School, is the Principal Investigator of this largely NSF-funded project.
“I am helping to develop a test bed system that will help us determination the various parameter values that can be adjusted in our network,” said Baumgart.
Research conferences with poster sessions often give out awards for the best posters and EUReKA is no exception. Outstanding Poster awards were given to the following students: Byron Ho, Vince So, Utako Ueda and Yossof Eshaq. Titles of the winning posters are below.
Electrical engineering majors Byron Ho and Vince So, for their poster “Bluetooth-enabled Handheld Sensing Package with Organic Transistors.” Advisor: Professor Andrew Kummel, UCSD Chemistry Department.
Engineering physics majors Utako Ueda and Yossof Eshaq, for their poster “Supersonic Jet Formation in X-Pinch Experiments.” Advisor: Professor Farhat Beg, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE)
Utako Ueda also earned a best poster award for her work entitled “Spectral and Temporal X-Ray Emission Characterization of Multi-Wire X-Pinches.” Advisor: Professor Farhat Beg, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE)