Pitt | Swanson Engineering

The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh emphasizes educational programs that combine theory with practice in the electrical engineering field. Whether students want a broad understanding of electrical engineering, or want to place specific emphasis on interests like computers, signal processing, power, or electronics, the department offers the education that sparks great careers.





Jul
16
2017

How secure is the nation's power grid?

Electrical & Computer

Gregory Reed, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Director of Pitt's Center for Energy, joined PJM President and CEO Andy Ott with KDKA's Jon Delano on the Sunday Business Page to discuss the security of the nation's power grid. (Original airdate: July 16, 2017) View the Sunday Business Page at KDKA TV.

Jul
12
2017

From Schenley Place to Outer Space

Electrical & Computer

Reposted with permission of PittWire. Space is not a welcoming environment for computers. Cosmic radiation, solar winds and the vacuum of space itself all threaten the reliability of space computers and can even kill their processes entirely.Yet computing is deeply intertwined with space technology. Vast distances, perpetual orbits and conditions unsuitable for humans all suggest the future of space technology lies in computing. The question that remains is how to make a better space computer.In January 2017, the National Science Foundation Center for High-Performance Reconfigurable Computing — CHREC, pronounced “shreck” — and its founder Alan George found a new home at the University of Pittsburgh. The lab researches reconfigurable, high-performance space computing. Picture these processors like Legos — super durable and able to break apart and reassemble into many different shapes. The lab's aim is to develop advanced computers that can remain reliable even amidst a harsh, extraterrestrial environment.“Computers are the future astronauts and at the heart and soul of anything you do in space,” said George, who also became the Mickle Chair Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering when he came to Pitt. “At CHREC, we develop and test ways to increase performance, reduce power consumption and meet the demands of space computing.” Operational since 2007, CHREC comprises more than 30 industrial, governmental and academic partners, including Lockheed Martin SSC, BAE Systems and Harris Corporation; the Air Force Research Laboratory, the Office of Naval Research and NASA; and a four-university collaboration of Brigham Young University, Virginia Tech and the University of Florida — with Pitt serving as the lead institution. George said he hopes CHREC can partner with more local and national organizations as well.“We realize that we need a broad group of people to succeed,” he said. “We can really take the initiative in a place like Pittsburgh and stick our neck out to help the community, particularly those interested in new, esoteric space technology.”This past March, the U.S. Department of Defense deployed a payload to the International Space Station with two experimental CHREC space processors and a high-resolution camera. The CHREC processors are the basis for a variety of studies in resilient, reconfigurable computing in orbit. They are remotely operated from the new facility at Pitt located in Schenley Place, an office building less than a half of a mile from the Cathedral of Learning.Christopher Wilson, a PhD student and visiting scholar in the CHREC lab, operates the ground station controlling the processors from Schenley Place when the space station schedule permits. He and the other members of his team are reconfiguring the computers, which means they are using a technology called switching fabric to actually restructure the computer’s hardware.Wilson specializes in space systems research and balances his own dissertation research with his responsibilities as a CHREC group leader. Organizing his schedule based on NASA’s timetable can be demanding, he said, but the opportunity is well worth the hassle.“Our research at CHREC never needs to be some intangible, theoretical project that will never have any practical use because we have the opportunities to put our research to use in space,” said Wilson. “I can wake up in the morning and send commands to space computers on the International Space Station that we developed in our lab.”Wilson is one of four doctoral students who came to Pitt to finish their studies under George. They will graduate with degrees from the University of Florida, CHREC’s first home. Ten other graduate students came as well, and they will graduate with degrees from the University of Pittsburgh. One of these students, Bradley Shea, is pursuing his master's degree in electrical and computer engineering and is the hardware lead at CHREC. Shea works on high-speed, printed-circuit-board design for space flight, particularly for missions involving a small box-shaped satellite called CubeSat. Universities, companies and governments use the standardized CubeSat design to explore new applications for space technology.“Our lab is defining the future of scientific and payload processing for CubeSat missions with lower cost and power,” Shea said. “With our scalable designs, we can potentially save millions of dollars by doing real science processing with a small CubeSat rather than with a much larger satellite payload.”CHREC’s move to Pitt also has introduced space computing to undergraduate students curious about applying their education to topics in space. The inaugural class of the Summer Space Group launched on May 12, 2017. The group includes 17 students majoring in a variety of engineering fields as well as computer science, physics and economics.“Space technology applies to most of the engineering disciplines, so we are looking to be accessible to anyone interested in learning more about the field, from our own undergraduate students to the broader Pittsburgh community,” said George.The Summer Space Group will spend all summer working with Pitt faculty and CHREC graduate student mentors to explore topics in space technology firsthand. Their work will have a significant impact on the next International Space Station processor project, called STP-H6, which CHREC will deliver to the station in 2018. The Spacecraft Supercomputing for Image and Video Processing mission on STP-H6 will increase the number of space computer processors commanded from Pitt on the space station from two to eight and explore more advanced processes in the hybrid computing system. ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Jun
28
2017

Improving Nuclear Sensor Tech

Electrical & Computer

PITTSBURGH (June 28, 2017) … The United States Department of Energy (DOE) announced the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering will receive $1.275 million for collaborative research that includes the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Reactor Laboratory, Westinghouse Electric Corporation, and the National Energy Technology Laboratory. The award is part of $66 million awarded by DOE to advance innovative nuclear technologies.Kevin Chen, the Paul E. Lego Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Pitt, will lead the collaborative study to develop radiation-hard, multi-functional, distributed fiber sensors, and sensor-fused components that can be placed in a nuclear reactor core to improve safety and efficiency. The grant is from the Nuclear Energy Enabling Technologies (NEET) program, part of the DOE’s Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP).“This NEET grant will allow our lab to continue its partnerships with leading technological companies and national laboratories to develop solutions to some of the most pressing issues affecting nuclear energy production,” said Dr. Chen. “Advances in sensor technology can greatly enhance the sensitivity and resolution of data in harsh environments like a nuclear reaction, thereby improving safety operations.”The research will focus on the fabrication of the optic sensors using additive manufacturing and advanced laser fabrication techniques. The group will develop both high-temperature stable point sensors and distributed fiber sensors for high spatial resolution measurements in radiation-hardened silica and sapphire fibers, according to the funding report by the DOE.In 2014, Dr. Chen received a $987,000 grant from the NEET program to study high sensitivity, high accuracy sensor networks. These fiber optical sensor networks allow nuclear engineers to be much more responsive to problems in the nuclear power reactors and fuel cycle systems, increasing safety and reducing operating cost.“The networks we developed contain up to 100 sensors per meter and can be placed in critical locations to quickly relay information to the plant operators and isolate problems before they spread to other areas,” Dr. Chen explained.In addition to the NEET grants, the University of Pittsburgh has received $2.8 million in funding from the DOE NEUP program between 2009 and 2016:• General Scientific Infrastructure funding: $300,000• Two research and development projects: $1,676,422• Five fellowships: $770,000• 11 scholarships: $70,000Dr. Chen’s research into fiber optical sensing technology also earned him a 2017 Carnegie Science Award. The “Innovation in Energy Award” recognized Dr. Chen’s contributions to improving efficiency of energy production and safety of transportation infrastructures in the energy industry. ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Jun
20
2017

ECE Department Names 2017 Outstanding Seniors

Electrical & Computer

PITTSBURGH, PA (June 20, 2017) … The Swanson School’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering chose recent University of Pittsburgh graduates Brandon Contino and Daniel Bednarczyk as its Outstanding Seniors for 2017. Contino represents the electrical engineering (EE) discipline, and Bednarczyk represents computer engineering (COE).“Brandon and Daniel excelled at balancing their engineering interests outside of the classroom with truly exceptional academic performances,” said Alan George, the Mickle Chair Professor and Department Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Pitt. “As the department continues to grow and explore new ways to provide our students with a comprehensive academic experience, these two outstanding seniors set the tone for student performance.” Assistant Professor and EE Undergraduate Program Director Irvin R. Jones Jr. and other faculty members are responsible for electing the Outstanding Senior in Electrical Engineering. Selection criteria are based on students’ academic standing; demonstration of character and leadership; and service to the EE discipline, ECE department, School of Engineering, and the community.A small committee consisting of undergraduate program leaders and chairs selects the Outstanding Senior in Computer Engineering. The committee evaluates students on the basis of their technical and professional accomplishments as well as their contributions to the discipline of computer engineering.About Brandon ContinoContino graduated this spring with a BS in Electrical Engineering and a minor in economics. He was president of the Robotics and Automation Society, the Engineering Student Council, and the Panther Amateur Radio Club. He also represented Pitt, Carnegie Mellon University, Point Park University, and West Virginia University students as Student Representative Chair of the Pittsburgh Section of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.While pursuing his degree, Contino had several positions at Pitt as an Undergraduate Researcher working alongside Electrical and Computer Engineering Associate Professor Guangyong Li; Civil and Environmental Engineering Assistant Professor David Sanchez; and Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science (MEMS) Department’s Professor William Clark and Professor and Vice Chair Jeffrey Viperman. He also took a position as Power Systems Automation Engineering Intern at Eaton Corporation during the summer of 2015.For his senior design project, Contino worked with three mechanical engineering students to design an autonomous laundry folding robot. “Foldie” won first place at the MEMS Symposium and both second in MEMS and second in ECE at the Pitt Design Expo in Fall 2016. Along with classmate and friend Dan Chi, Contino is now pursuing a venture applying technological innovation to greenhouse farming, beginning with the development of a tomato harvesting robot for greenhouse tomato production.“The ECE Department has assisted me as a student immensely through not only providing the courses to learn the required knowledge to function as an electrical engineer, but it has also provided numerous opportunities and outside the classroom learning,” said Contino. “The faculty and staff have been incredibly helpful in assisting in projects. A lot of the work and hands on learning I acquired would not have been possible without Jim Lyle and Bill McGahey in SERC (Student Electronics Resource Center).”About Daniel BednarczykBednarczyk graduated this spring with a BS in Computer Engineering. He interned with The Bank of New York Mellon Corporation and Bentley Systems, where he now works full-time as a Software Engineer. He recently received second place in his department at the Pitt Design Expo for his senior project ‘Augmented Reality Dashboard,’ an Android application sponsored by Eaton. He also received the Best Computer Engineering Paper award at the Freshmen Engineering Conference. Bednarczyk received the Buick Engineering Achievers Scholarship and the Pittsburgh Italian Scholarship in 2013.During his time as a student, Bednarczyk joined many clubs, including Engineers for a Sustainable World Hydroponics Team, Engineering Student Council, and the Music Engineering Laboratory. He was also involved in non-engineering clubs such as WPTS Radio, the Pitt Program Council, and Residence Life.Bednarczyk is a first-generation college student, which he was able to afford through a combination of scholarships, paid internships, and service as a Resident Assistant in the First-Year Engineering Living Learning Community. An avid singer/songwriter, Bednarczyk frequented the Swanson School’s new Music Engineering Laboratory and recording studio. He has also done graphic design work for both the university and Swanson School.“The ECE Department has dedicated, personable staff who worked with me closely in many courses. I was encouraged to develop challenging projects and experiment with new technologies,” said Bednarczyk. “It allowed me to have a flexible curriculum built around my particular interests in both hardware and software, and the department continues to offer new courses on exciting topics.” ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Jun
12
2017

Pitt Senior Vice Chancellor Rob A. Rutenbar to continue his computational research in Swanson School of Engineering

Electrical & Computer

PITTSBURGH (June 12, 2017) … To continue his research in computational engineering, Rob A. Rutenbar, the University of Pittsburgh’s new senior vice chancellor for research, has accepted a research position in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. According to an announcement by Alan D. George, Department Chair and R&H Mickle Endowed Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering, the appointment will enable Dr. Rutenbar to expand his computational problem research while contributing to the breadth and depth of the Department’s expertise. “Rob’s research in developing solutions for challenging computational problems is a perfect fit for our computer engineering program in particular, as well as laboratories such as our NSF Center for High-Performance Reconfigurable Computing,” Dr. George said. “We’re proud to have him as a member of the Department and look forward to his contributions to our research portfolio.” Dr. Rutenbar’s research focuses on custom hardware accelerator architectures in both reconfigurable logic and directly in silicon, and his recent work targets machine learning (ML) tasks and their unique computational and memory requirements.“I am hoping to extend these efforts to problems at the intersection of ML and bioinformatics, leveraging Pitt’s unique strengths in the biomedical domain, and especially the strong partnership between its schools of Engineering and Medicine,” Dr. Rutenbar said. “I’m looking forward to recruiting new students and partnering with my colleagues on the Computer Engineering faculty to work on very tough computational problems, as well as to collaborate with Alan on the Department’s research initiatives.” Dr. Rutenbar is a fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery, and has twice won the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ coveted Donald O. Pedersen Best Paper Award. In 2002, he was named Carnegie Mellon’s Stephen J. Jatras Chair in Electrical and Computer Engineering, an endowed professorship position he held until leaving that university in 2010. He earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at Wayne State University and master’s and doctorate degrees in computer, information and control engineering at the University of Michigan, and is a Distinguished Alumnus of both institutions. ###

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