News Release

UC San Diego Students Win Top Honors for Innovation at Imaging Competition

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From left:  DRS's George Skidmore and Mike Sarrica, UC San Diego students Will Warren, Daniel Yang, Yuncong Chen, and DRS COO Terry Murphy.
Related story: Firefighting Robot Paints 3D Thermal Imaging Picture for Rescuers

Arlington, Va., July 23, 2013  ̶  A team of engineering graduate students at the University of California, San Diego, has won the second annual Student Infrared Imaging Competition, a contest that allows students to showcase their innovative ideas using thermal imaging technologies.  The UC San Diego team won the “Best Overall Project” award for their "3D Thermal RGB Mapping for Firefighting Robots" project and received the $10,000 grand prize. The team consists of Will Warren, Daniel Yang and Yuncong Chen, all students in the research group of Thomas Bewley, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego.

The competition is organized by DRS Technologies Inc., a leading supplier of products, services and support to military forces, intelligence agencies and contractors around the world. The awards ceremony was held at the DRS facilities in Melbourne, Fla.

The UC San Diego team developed new image processing techniques for rapid exploration and characterization of structural fires by small Segway-like robotic vehicles. A sophisticated on-board software system takes the thermal data recorded by the robot’s small infrared camera and maps it onto a 3D scene constructed from the images taken by a pair of stereo RGB cameras.  This allows small mobile robotic vehicles to create a virtual reality picture that includes a 3D map and temperature data that can be used immediately by first responders as the robot drives through a building on fire. The research is part of a plan to develop novel robotic scouts that can help firefighters to assist in residential and commercial blazes.

Students from the University of Memphis took second place with their project, "Forgery-proof Identification Using Sweat Gland Distribution.”  The team received a $2,000 prize. The judges awarded third place to a team from the Missouri University of Science and Technology for its entry of a “New Method to Identify Counterfeit Products Using Infrared Cameras," earning them a $1,000 prize.

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FFR is equipped with stereo cameras that allow the robot to create 3D imaging maps.

Select students at participating universities were provided with Tamarisk®320 thermal imaging cameras, from the Network and Imaging Systems division of DRS, with the objective being to develop projects that portray the most innovative use of infrared imaging.

 “We are encouraged by the growth of this competition,” said Terry Murphy, DRS Technologies’ Chief Operating Officer. “From an engineering perspective, we’ve seen progressively advanced applications of infrared imaging. The technical caliber of the entries for ‘Best Overall Project’ was remarkable. However, we are also enthusiastic about the addition of the ‘Most Viral Video’ category to the competition that inspired an artistic adaptation of thermal sensing and imaging technology. These new interpretations should serve to further extend the knowledge base for infrared applications to a larger audience.”

The winner of the $5,000 prize for the new category of the “Most Viral Video” was awarded to “Infrared Flows” from Max Junda of the University of Toledo.  Junda’s video was a cinematic adaptation of the Tamarisk®320 thermal imaging camera as an artistic medium, capturing unique heat signatures of fluids as they passed through a hand-carved sculpture.

To learn more about the DRS Technologies Student Infrared Imaging Competition and see video and pictures of this year’s winners and their projects, visit

Media Contacts

Ioana Patringenaru
Jacobs School of Engineering