News Release

UCSD Engineering Students Showcase Real-World Group Design Projects

 Guest and Das
        ECE 191 co-instructors and Electrical and Computer
       Engineering professors Clark Guest (left) and Pankaj
        Das introduce student presenters in Center Hall 101
San Diego, CA, March 31, 2005 -- It was the last day of the winter quarter, and the rain outside couldn't dampen the spirits of students inside the cavernous auditorium on the UCSD campus. More than 70 were there to deliver their final presentations for Electrical and Computer Engineering 191. The course gives many students their first real taste of hands-on, team engineering as they design, build, demonstrate and document an engineering project from start to finish for real-world 'clients,' including corporations and research units such as the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2).

Calit2 underwrote five of the 18 teams. Other sponsors included the Space and Naval Warfare (SPAWAR) Command and General Atomics (three teams each); UCSD School of Medicine and Scripps Institution of Oceanography (two each); as well as Northrop Grumman, Holowave, and a partnership of Anokiwave and San Diego Fire & Rescue, each of whom supported one team.

"We want to thank all the sponsors for the effort they've put in for our students over the quarter," said ECE professor Clark Guest, who co-taught the course with adjunct professor Pankaj Das. "They are really the instructors for this course, and we're the referees. Every one of the sponsors has taught their students a great deal." Added Das: "We are hoping that after the excellent progress made by the students this quarter, our sponsors will consider coming back again and again to sponsor and mentor more projects."

 Selena Salazar
     Selena Salazar explains how the 'man down'
                    detection device works
The five projects supported by the UCSD division of Calit2 all involve emergency-response technologies under development for ongoing homeland-security programs. Selena Salazar, Youn Woong Kim and Tanya Rostani developed a "man down" device to detect when a first responder such as a fireman is no longer upright or on the move.

"This device is capable of detecting a sudden change in acceleration that is characteristic of a fall, or a prolonged stationary position," said Salazar. "It will then communicate this information over Bluetooth, to the first responder's cellular phone, which will automatically relay the information to the command and control center." According to team member Kim, next quarter's team can continue working on integrating the Bluetooth module to the current system, and from there compose a working demo of the man-down detection device.

 Man Down Team
    Tanya Rostani and Youn Woong Kim in front of
               their 'man down' detection device
                              research poster
The group was mentored by Calit2 senior researcher Paul Blair, who also coached a second ECE 191 team that worked on a cellular system for home automation. "Our system allows us to control multiple appliances from only one device - the cell phone," said student presenter Hooman Borghei. "No longer do you require multiple remotes for multiple appliances. We can do everything from turning on your lights to turning on your toaster, from the same cell phone you use to make calls."

"We used the Symbian OS data-enabled operating system to develop an interface for the cell phone which will allow the user to choose a command that the household device will ultimately receive," said Ardi Baniahmad. The cell phone would interface via Bluetooth and RF with the widely used X-10 home-automation system for controlling lights, sensors and appliances. "Our project produces an affordable solution to home automation," said team member Nicholas Chung. "It also produces a solution for America's aging population and their need for independence."

Using wireless technology to assist the disabled is a passion for part-time Calit2 researcher John Miller, who mentored the ECE 191 team that worked on "zigzag" - a computer-controlled, sense-of-touch guiding system for first responders. "In a real disaster situation, rescue workers may not be able to rely on their vision to get from point A to point B," noted student Miho Nakao. "The zigzag sense of touch guidance system will allow rescue workers to reach their destination safely while completing their task."

The Zigzag group was sponsored by Calit2 and the NSF-funded RESCUE (Responding to Crises and Unexpected Events) project. The students constructed three different prototypes of the handheld gizmo using different input devices. The third prototype is computer controlled, and can integrate GPS-based "smart pointer" software and wireless technology to guide the rescue worker more effectively in an emergency situation. The technology has strong potential in non-emergency situations as well, notably as a tool to help the blind -- including mentor John Miller - navigate buildings and terrain.

   Calits-sponsored team members Chintan Sheth,  
        Hardik Desai, Pritesh Patel and Jeff Pon...
 ...with their poster describing the Wi-Fi PulseOx 
                LCD Component Design project.

Calit2 and the Wireless Internet Information System for Medical Response in Disasters (WIISARD) project sponsored an engineering design team for the fourth quarter in a row, to work on a Wi-Fi-based pulse oximeter. "This quarter's group of students was our best ever," said Douglas Palmer, a senior research scientist with Calit2. "This course is an important outreach for the institute because it is grooming undergraduates for engineering careers while also putting them to work designing technologies that can have very tangible benefits for society."

The four-person team mentored by Palmer was charged with designing an LCD display for the pulse oximeter, a handheld device that monitors two major health factors in an emergency situation: blood oxygen, and pulse rate. With support from companies including DPAC Technologies, WIISARD researchers are developing a wireless version of the device that could be use in mass casualty situations.

 WIISARD Mock-up
     Mock-up of the WIISARD
     wireless pulse oximeter
The ECE 191 students designed an LCD display for the device and presented a mock-up at the event. "We are producing a medical device that monitors a patient's vital signs and transfers that data wirelessly to a command center or hospital where they can marshal appropriate medical resources," said senior Jeffrey Pon. Added team-mate Chintan Sheth: "We are looking forward to seeing our LCD implemented on the Wi-Fi pulse oximeter and to seeing that its wireless capabilities are put to good use. We also hope that it will help save lives in the future."

A fifth team sponsored by Calit2 was a holdover from the previous quarter, when two of the students were so excited about their project that they asked to continue with it. Mark Noah and Robert Romabiles are putting the finishing touches on a system for tracking UCSD's campus shuttle buses via GPS-enabled cell phones. "Some of the improvements we implemented this quarter included a GPS-sending algorithm," said Noah. "This way, if the speed of the shuttle is zero, we are not going to send out the GPS position, because that means it's not moving. This will save on airtime because we are using the Verizon Wireless service."

Under the guidance of Calit2 mentor John Zhu, the students also designed and wrote a BREW application for the shuttle tracking process, and are looking forward to full-scale deployment. "Next quarter we are going to design the website so students can actually use it," said Romabiles. "We are also trying to set up a kiosk for the campus loop so that you can actually see where the bus is at any given time." To do so, they plan to pitch companies in the wireless industry on sponsorship funding.

A team of students sponsored by the UCSD School of Medicine was also a holdover from the previous quarter and has proposals out for $150,000 in further funding. The students are developing a system to let nurses directly observe their tuberculosis patients taking their medication - remotely. "If you don't take your medication, you can be very contagious and a public health risk, and even worse, the disease can mutate and the drugs become useless," said student Vinit Modi. "So what direct observed therapy does is, a nurse visits the patient, and watches the patient take about 15 pills a day!"


        Remote video 'direct observed therapy' for
      tuberculosis patients is demonstrated by the 
          team's mentor, SOM's Brian Catanzaro

The students' solution is a system called Video-DOT (DOT stands for Direct Observed Therapy). It consists of a camera with CMOS image sensor; an MPEG encoder; and a transmitter with the ability to transmit about 10 minutes of video over a wireless data network. For high-quality video, they established full-screen video (640x480 pixels) at 20 frames per second as the minimum requirement. During the winter quarter, the team analyzed two types of MPEG compression, one that is software-based, the other that is hardware-based. In the end, they are recommending the latter which is a slightly more expensive option, but provides better image quality.

The system -- to be built into a handheld or portable device -- could then be used by the patient to record him or herself taking pills three times a day, and sending them automatically to nurses at a health care facility for review. The students showed a demo with their School of Medicine mentor Brian Catanzaro, and noted that even further resolution may be required to ensure that nurses can clearly make out that the patient is taking the proper medication "and not M&M's or Goldfish." "The benefit of this is that instead of one nurse being able to monitor ten patients a day," said Chris Khosravi, "now they can monitor 50 or 100."

The team is sticking together and has nearly $150,000 in funding proposals in the pipeline. "That is going to give us the funding we need to keep this project going next quarter and into the future," said Chris Khosravi. His team-mate James Biskey added that "future plans include developing an application for video transfer, building a prototype of these devices, and putting them out into the field in field trials."

Another project sponsored by the School of Medicine (mentored by Dr. Gerry Boss) had students developing control software for automating the process of measuring RAS activation. "RAS is a type of protein that can be linked to cancer," said senior David Lieberman. "By detecting and measuring this particular protein, we can target a more specific treatment rather than general, chemotherapy-type treatment."

 Broadband Poster
       Industry mentor visits with a team supported by the
                  Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Calit2's associate director at UCSD, Bill Hodgkiss, mentored two teams of students funded by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO), where he is a professor. One team developed a broadband dual channel arbitrary function generator, while the other tackled wireless sensor networks. The latter group did testing and signal analysis on MICAz wireless sensor platforms (motes) that are designed for use in harsh environments, as well as so-called 'geophones' -- small, cheap instruments for measuring ground motion (e.g., during earthquakes). Explained student Omar Rahman: "The ultimate goal of our project is to take external sensors such as the geophone and transmit that data across a wireless sensor network."

SPAWAR - which also participates in the Jacobs School's summer Team Internship Program - assigned different mentors to three ECE 191 projects: circuit design and layout of RFIC bias generators; a remote signal processor field programmable gate array; and testing device performance by measuring inter-modulation distortion using Matlab.

Among the projects sponsored by corporations, Rancho Bernardo-based Holowave Inc. asked a team to work on "holographic radio" - advanced holographic signal processing that looks like noise on a spectrum analyzer. "There are many applications for holographic radio," said student Wenting (Cicie) Wang. "It can be used by the military and for homeland security, but it can also have commercial applications in satellite TV and consumer electronics."

Northrop Grumman sponsored a project to design, construct and evaluate a high-power amplifier hybrid for cellular phone applications. Concluded team member Danny Yu: "Our main goal this quarter was to produce a fully functional 8-watt power amplifier, and as you can see we've met all of our specifications."

 General Atomics team

         Lana Chow (second from left) explains the team's
         poster about railgun energy recovery systems as 
        team-mates I-Jung Liu, Toby Ling and Yik-Jong Lam
           on the General Atomics-backed project look on.

General Atomics supported three teams and mentor Joel Drake tasked each of them to work on different aspects of the R&D company's high-power 'railguns' under development for both military applications and fusion power. One team assessed energy recovery systems. "With 80 megajules of energy stored in the capacitor, this leaves a significant amount of energy left to be wasted in the form of heat and light," pointed out Lana Chow. "Our mission for this project was to design one or more energy recovery techniques for the railgun." Another team looked at energy storage options for railguns aboard the U.S. Navy's proposed DD(X) Destroyer all-electric warship.

Of more immediate benefit to rescue workers would be a device to help avoid accidents when a first responder is lowered from a helicopter to retrieve someone on the ground or in the water. The project was sponsored by Anokiwave Inc. with San Diego Fire & Rescue. The students came up with a simple solution: a new hoist incorporating a rangefinder. As the rescue worker gets closer to the ground, the distance would be automatically calculated and begin sending an alert to the operator. "This device will signal the hoist operator to slow the descent of the cable line when the rescuers are within ten feet of the ground," said Chris Dilay. The students proposed both an audible warning as well as a visual cue such as a light that would begin flashing faster the closer the hoist gets to the ground.

The Best Poster prize will be awarded at ECE's Undergraduate Research Konference & Assembly (EUREKA) on April 18. Meanwhile, Pankaj Das and professor Charles Tu will teach another crop of 70 or more students enrolled in ECE 191 for the spring quarter. The undergraduates will split into 17 or 18 teams, including four sponsored and mentored by Calit2. The new students will build on previous teamwork to develop further the wireless pulse-oximeter, man-down detection device, ZIGZAG sense-of-touch guiding system, and the cell phone-based home automation system, as well as ongoing projects mentored by other sponsors.

Media Contacts

Doug Ramsey
Jacobs School of Engineering