News Release

Hands-on Engineering Design Course Presentations: Monitoring Heart Rate Variability and More

heart rate monitor
Heart Monitor Device

San Diego, CA, December 15, 2008 --  Students in the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) department's hands-on team design course recently made their final presentations.

ECE 191, Engineering Group Design Project, is an upper-division class that provides undergraduate students with hands-on experience working in a team to design, build, demonstrate and document an open-ended engineering project. It is part of the design requirement for ECE undergraduates and is typically taken by seniors.

ECE 191 projects are funded and mentored by campus organizations and by corporate affiliates of the Jacobs School of Engineering. Project sponsors this quarter were longtime supporter Raytheon and new sponsors Spirit AeroSystems and UC San Diego's Center of Excellence for Advanced Materials (CEAM). The course instructor is ECE professor Pankaj K. Das.

Projects include two sponsored by Calit2, one to develop an optical device to monitor heart rate variability and another to design and build a tiled-display wall for a local community learning center.

There is increasing interest within the medical community in studying an individual's heart rate variability (HRV) because, among other possibilities, it shows great promise in controlling stress. Current systems available for gathering HRV data are cumbersome and require a laptop computer as part of the data collection process. More convenient commercial solutions exist, but they report only heart rate, and not the precise details of each beat by beat variation.

"We're looking at the flow of blood through the veins," Paul Blair, a Calit2 project scientist, explained, "We are seeing the effect of the heart pumping, the characteristics of the flow."

ece 191 dec 2008 group shot
(left to right) Matt Chandrangsu, Calit2's Paul Blair, Kari Nip and Jeffrey Chi
[Photo Gallery]
Blair mentored three students on the "Optical Heart Monitor / Jump Drive" project. Matt Chandrangsu, Jeffrey Chi, and Kari Nip worked on developing a small, inexpensive, low-power device capable of recording and conveniently reporting a person's heart rate variability (HRV) for hours.

The three were friends before the course and despite all the hard work, they all enjoyed the experience. "It's cool working closely with friends on something that's pretty challenging," Jeffrey Chi said, "We are learning all these new things, improving our programming and working together towards a common goal."

"It was nice doing something outside the classroom," noted Kari Nip, "You have to learn differently, you have to be more creative and imaginative."

"Working with Paul was great," said Matt Chandrangsu, "He tries to get you thinking for yourself, to solve problems on your own. When we got stuck, he gave us new ideas to try out on our own."

It was important that the device they created be more convenient and less obtrusive. Therefore, it is designed to be attached to the hand or finger and has a jump drive (aka key chain drives) which many people are familiar with. Users will wear the device, then plug it in via USB to PC or laptop to download the data. "The students did an excellent job all quarter," declared Blair, "Their dedicated teamwork was the strongest I have seen in some time."

As is true of most ECE 191 projects, they leveraged the work of past 191 groups and built a foundation for the next groups. Blair has mentored many ECE 191 projects over the years. "My goal ultimately is to provide an open, customizable platform upon which different health monitors can be built," he explains, "Here we have USB storage capability and signal capture for optical that can be extended into other sensors, such as a pulse oximeter or a  detector of arrhythmias."

Another longtime mentor, Michael D. Deshler of Raytheon, worked with Joshua Wang on "Service-oriented Situational Awareness (SOSA)." Wang developed a prototype system of devices, whereby a remote unit records its identity video, audio, and location. The system then needs to be able to relay the recorded data to a remote center where it is then broken down, simplified, and made easy to display or understand.

First-timers Spirit AeroSystems and UC San Diego's Center of Excellence for Advanced Materials (CEAM) cosponsored two projects. Both groups were mentored by the team of Farhad Tadayon, Sia Nemat-Nasser and Jon Isaacs. Nemat-Nasser is a mechanical and aerospace engineering (MAE) professor at UC San Diego and the director of UCSD's Center of Excellence for Advanced Materials. Tadayon is a science and technology advisor at Spirit AeroSystems (formerly Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Wichita, KS Division) and an adjunct professor at Wichita State University. Isaacs is a senior development engineer in the MAE department.

Isaacs worked with Hourieh Fakourfar, Gavrilinos Gavrielides and Yi Charles on "Wireless Sensor Module for Structural Health Monitoring of Composite Structures in Aircraft." They designed and implemented a wireless sensor network that monitors the physical conditions of different parts on an aircraft. The system detects and localizes potential material fractures using acoustic sensors, microcontrollers, and reports the problem using a wireless sensor module via ZigBee.

Hector Aranda, Jean S. Fan and Ken Yu worked on the other Spirit AeroSystems/CEAM project, "Energy Harvesting for Self-contained Wireless Sensor Module." Also working directly with MAE's Isaacs, they investigated methods to provide sufficient DC power (via energy harvesting) to wireless sensor modules in order to make them fully self-contained. In addition, they designed and developed a functioning energy storage circuit to properly store the harvested energy.

Also presenting alongside the ECE 191 students, will be Billy Dzuy Nguyen, an independent course student in the Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) department. His advisor is Sukumar Srinivas, Calit2's community program manager. The project, "Multi-panel Tiled Display," is part of a Teams in Engineering Service (TIES) project, (Dzuy Nguyen wanted more technical experience, so he added the independent study units).

With the help of Calit2 researchers and staff, Dzuy Nguyen investigated and designed a multi-screen tiled display that will be albe to run various applications for both entertainment and learning purposes. It will be placed at the Town and Country Learning Center in southeast San Diego (the TIES client). The current prototype is four screens in a 2x2 design. One of its functions over time will be to display different measures of the community's well-being.

"We're creating an infrastructure element with the tiled display," Sukumar described, "It will be in place for a long time. It is new and exciting technology and attractive, so people will come and use it." It will be directly connected to UCSD via a broadband link, so that both UCSD-driven and local content will be available on the display.

Dzuy Nguyen will be working on the project for another quarter, when he will build the real thing (3x3, nine panel tiled wall). "Billy is very conscientious and versatile," said Sukumar, "He has impressed us and Prof. Das."

This TIES project itself is part of a program called the Diamond District Collaboratory in which Calit2 is involved with several departments and organizations on campus, as well as organizations in the community, which will address multiple education, health and social needs and other aspects of community well-being.

TIES is an academic program at UCSD's Jacobs School of Engineering that offers partnerships between engineering students and nonprofit organizations in the local community leading them to identify, address and solve engineering problems.



Media Contacts

Maureen C. Curran
Calit2 Communications