Pitt | Swanson Engineering

Since its founding in 1893 by two legends, George Westinghouse and Reginald Fessenden, the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Pitt has excelled in education, research, and service.  Today, the department features innovative undergraduate and graduate programs and world-class research centers and labs, combining theory with practice at the nexus of computer and electrical engineering, for our students to learn, develop, and lead lives of impact.





Oct
18
2018

University of Pittsburgh Scientist Receives $1.2 Million NSF Grant to Find Big Data Solutions for Complications from Anesthesia

Electrical & Computer

PITTSBURGH (October 18, 2018) … The National Science Foundation awarded $1,182,305 to the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering to support research into using machine learning and Big Data to analyze electronic anesthesia records and prevent postoperative complications and death.Heng Huang, John A. Jurenko Professor in Computer Engineering at Pitt, is principal investigator on the study titled “SCH: INT: New Machine Learning Framework to Conduct Anesthesia Risk Stratification and Decision Support for Precision Health” (Award No. 1838627). Dr. Huang will analyze more than two million cases of anesthesia data taken from 303 UPMC clinics and treatment centers.“A human doctor uses guidelines from manuals in combination with subjective experience to determine patients’ risk factors and needs,” says Dr. Huang. “We are using artificial intelligence and machine learning to develop an objective way to predict surgical outcomes based on historical patient data.”Dr. Huang is collaborating with University of Pittsburgh co-principal investigators Dan Li, assistant professor in the School of Nursing, and Fei Zhang, certified registered nurse anesthetist in the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine. The research team will design new deep learning algorithms and software to mine patient data and identify common risk factors in patients about to receive anesthesia. They will then develop a “decision support system” to better inform doctors when patients are at high risk for post-operative complications and in-hospital mortality.Dr. Huang explains, “Many patients come in to the hospital with so much information about them on file that doctors don’t have a comprehensive way to consider all the variables and their interactions. With a computer, you really can do a better job than a human of determining how all that data is going to predict patient outcomes.” To create a large-scale, machine learning framework capable of predicting patient outcomes, Dr. Huang will employ several emerging computational technologies including deep learning, semi-supervised learning, and large-scale optimization.Dr. Huang has been creating new machine learning techniques to address biomedical applications throughout his career. Some of his past projects involved analyzing big imaging genomic data to help identify Alzheimer’s disease at earlier stages, data mining electronic medical records to personalize patient treatment, integrating histopathological images and cancer genomics for personalized medicine and building interactive gene expression databases. “I’ve focused on applying computational techniques to biomedical applications for about the past 15 years because you can really make a big impact on improving people’s quality of life and benefiting humanity with A.I. in ways humans cannot achieve alone,” says Dr. Huang. ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Oct
16
2018

New Design Education Lab Sparks Next Generation of Electrical and Computer Engineers

Electrical & Computer

PITTSBURGH (October 16, 2018) … Sometimes a learning environment needs to not only be inspiring, but also “electrifying.”The Swanson School of Engineering’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering opened its Design Education Laboratory at the beginning of the fall semester 2018. The space combines cutting-edge technology with a sleek, contemporary design to reflect the modernization of the department, which has been taking place over the past few semesters.“The new lab is the showcase of the ECE department, not just for its looks but also the functionality,” says James Lyle, ECE department technology lead. “The space brings together everything an electrical and computer engineer can do. It provides an environment for our students to gain the knowledge and experience to build things on their own.”Located on the 12th floor of Benedum Hall, the lab serves as a classroom, a meeting place for workshops and study space. It’s open 24 hours and gives students access to a variety of tools and equipment. Features include: Custom-designed work benches Testing equipment (soldering stations, power supplies, multimeters, oscilloscopes, etc.) Five smart TVs Clean, wireless workspaces Professors and instructors can use the smart TVs during their lessons and demonstrations, and students can use them to facilitate group projects. They are fully accessible by students for wireless pairing with their smart phones, laptops or other devices. Pitt ECE alumni Thomas Cook and Corey Weimann led the design of the "work benches" while undergraduate students. Credit: Swanson School of Engineering/Ric Evans Photography “Students today embrace technology, and they know how this stuff works. It only makes sense to give them access to it,” says William McGahey , ECE department technology lead. Pitt ECE alumni Thomas Cook and Corey Weimann led the design of the room’s “work benches” while they were still undergraduate students. Instead of a typical, austere work bench, the lab’s benches are topped with butcher block to provide a non-conductive, durable surface for working on electronic projects. Cook and Weimann also designed the benches to complement the room’s aesthetics. “Since the room is entirely glassed in, we designed the benches to look appealing to people walking past the lab, especially prospective students who are on tours with family,” says Cook. “Another goal of the room and desks was to make students comfortable and give them lots of space to learn and work on their projects without being confined to a small area.” Dr. Alan George , who joined the Swanson School as chair of the ECE department in January 2017, has encouraged students and the department to undertake projects that are large in scope and require a range of skills to complete. “The lab provides students with a space to design and test hardware. It was common for students to develop software for their senior design projects in the past, now we’re seeing a lot more complex projects with software and hardware components,” says Samuel Dickerson , assistant professor and undergraduate director of computer engineering. For example, Dr. Dickerson and ECE Assistant Professor Dr. Ahmed Dallal advised a team of electrical engineers for the Swanson School’s Spring 2018 Design Expo . The team, called SoleSense, designed an IoT-enabled shoe with biometric capabilities and won the prize for Best Overall Project. “The Design Education Laboratory is another valuable asset for providing our students with the resources and knowledge they need to take on these complex projects,” says Dr. Dickerson. “I think we’re going to see a lot more ECE students winning design competitions like the SoleSense team, and I really look forward to the caliber of Senior Design project in upcoming semesters.” ### Prof. Dickerson (right) with ECE student Jennifer Gingerich (left). ECE 1895: Junior Design course. ECE Department Technology Leads William McGahey (left) and James Lyle (right). The ECE Design Education Laboratory. *All photo credits: Swanson School of Engineering/Ric Evans Photography
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Oct
9
2018

ECE’s Ervin Sejdic to Participate in the Arab-American Frontiers of Science, Engineering, and Medicine Symposium

Bioengineering, Electrical & Computer

PITTSBURGH (October 9, 2018) … Ervin Sejdić, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, will participate in the sixth annual Arab-American Frontiers of Science, Engineering, and Medicine symposium. The meeting is presented by the US National Academy of Sciences and the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences. The symposium brings together a multidisciplinary group of young scientists, engineers, and medical professionals from across the US and the 22 Arab League countries. It aims to foster a collaborative and open dialogue amongst industry leaders and program participants. It will be held at the Kuwait National Library in Kuwait City on November 4-6, 2018. The program’s organizing committee selects and chairs session topics and suggests speakers who are experts in their field. This year’s topics include big data, water systems, the microbiome, air quality, and next generation buildings and infrastructure. Sejdić will be presenting a talk on the use of modern data analytics tools to develop computational biomarkers to track diseases during the big data session on Tuesday afternoon. “A human body is comprised of several physiological systems that carry out specific functions necessary for daily living,” said Sejdić. “Traumatic injuries, diseases, and aging negatively impact human functions, which can cause a decreased quality of life and many other socio-economical and medical issues. “Accurate models of human functions are needed to propose interventions and treatments that can restore deteriorated human functions,” continued Sejdić. “Therefore, our research aims to develop novel data analytics and instrumentation approaches that can accurately assess changes in swallowing, and gait functions by focusing on dynamical interactions between musculoskeletal and other physiological systems.” For the Arab-American Frontiers of Science, Engineering, and Medicine symposium, Sejdić will present some of his lab’s recent contributions dealing with both engineering and clinical aspects of their work as well as future research goals and strategies. Sejdić leads the Innovative Medical Engineering Developments (iMED) laboratory in the Swanson School of Engineering with a core expertise in signal processing, instrumentation, and physiological monitoring. ###

Sep
25
2018

NSF Awards Pitt Engineers $200K to Study the Impact of Reflection on Learning

Electrical & Computer, Industrial

PITTSBURGH (September 25, 2018) … University of Pittsburgh professors Samuel Dickerson and Renee Clark received an NSF grant to help students in the Swanson School of Engineering start to think about thinking. The two-year, $200,000 award will support a project to improve learning and development by promoting the frequent use of reflection and “metacognition” among students in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Dickerson, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, believes that the Swanson School is perfect for this kind of project. “Engineering is different from other disciplines because this type of thought process isn’t inherent in our training,” he said. “Reflection and metacognition are not skills that are regularly cultivated or practiced in the engineering curriculum - in the classroom we are more focused on immediate problem-solving rather than pausing and looking at the big picture, which is more common in the engineering workplace.” They hope to change that standard at Pitt by first introducing these skills to electrical and computer engineering students in Dickerson’s ECE-0257 microelectronic circuits course. According to Clark, assistant professor of industrial engineering, it is easier for a student in a classroom environment to ask a professor or teaching assistant to help them solve a problem. Outside of college however, there may be fewer resources on which to rely. Dickerson and Clark want to encourage engineering students to develop lifelong learning skills that will help them independently learn how to find a solution and ultimately give them an advantage when they join the workforce. “When a student faces an obstacle in class or doesn’t perform to the level he/she should, we don’t typically ask them to critically reflect on how they got there, what they can do to solve it, or how they can perform better,” said Clark, who is  also director of assessment for the Engineering Education Research Center (EERC). “Our goal is to utilize frequent activities that prompt students to reflect and better understand their learning processes.” “Metacognition is a useful skill that helps students take a deeper look at their learning processes by simply thinking about their thinking,” said Dickerson. “Reflection is a closely related skill where students are asked to critically analyze something they have done. In this project, we want to encourage students to use both metacognition and reflection to guide their own learning during new tasks.” A unique aspect of their research is the use of SPICE simulation tools to drive students to analyze their work and gain insight into success as well as mistakes. “I will ask the students in my class to use engineering theory to complete a problem and then compare their answer to a computed result using SPICE, the standard simulation environment used by professionals to predict electronic circuit behavior,” explained Dickerson. “I want them to reflect on the gaps in their understanding, thereby taking a deeper look at their learning process and understanding.” Dickerson and Clark will examine the impact of frequent reflection using SPICE by looking at both quantitative and qualitative data. In addition to monitoring exam scores, they will distribute surveys, conduct interviews, and hold focus groups. They will be using a system to measure the depth of the students’ reflections and will evaluate the content to see if it is showing growth in students’ professional development. “The results we are looking for are not necessarily better exam scores,” said Clark. “We want to know if we have cultivated reflective and metacognitive skills in engineering students and if we have made an impact on their development.  We will be analyzing both the depth and content of their reflections using a systematic approach that has been working for us in our preliminary research.” With the use of these skills, Dickerson and Clark hope that ECE students will become better students, learners, and professionals by developing the ability to critically reflect on their own performance. These types of reflective activities are applicable across disciplines and can be easily implemented in any classroom at the University. Clark said, “We hope that these efforts will help our students develop lifelong learning skills that will make them better prepared for the professional world.” ###

Sep
18
2018

Pitt Robotics Club Lands Top Awards at Aerial Robotics Competition

Electrical & Computer, Student Profiles

ATLANTA (September 18, 2018) … The University of Pittsburgh Robotics & Automation Society (RAS) won three of six awards, including Highest Overall Score, at the American Venue of AUVSI Foundation’s International Aerial Robotics Competition. The collegiate competition challenges students to complete a mission described by founder Robert C. Michelson as “impossible at the time, but technically feasible.”“The competition gives you an excuse to explore the greatest things in technology applicable to drones today, and you also make new things to advance the field,” says Levi Burner, a Pitt RAS team leader. “It gives you a place to test out your ideas and see what you came up with compared to other people from all over the world.”The Georgia Institute of Technology hosted the competition for the American Venue, which took place between July 31 and August 2. A month later, the Asia/Pacific Venue held its competition in Beijing, China. This year, a team from Zhejiang University satisfied all the Mission 7 requirements and ended the mission.“The challenge was the same as last year, but the organizers changed the standards for who was allowed to compete. Last year there were 13 teams [at the American Venue], and this year there were five. In June, we had to send the judges a video demonstrating the basic capabilities you need to compete before getting invited back,” explained Aaron Miller, a Pitt RAS team leader.Mission 7 required teams to demonstrate several autonomous drone behaviors while attempting to herd ground robots out of a designated area. The ground robots, which resembled Roombas, moved around a gymnasium floor and changed direction when a drone blocked their path or touched a button on its back. Mission 7 first took place in 2014 and repeated for the past four years at the two venues.The Pitt team also took home awards for Best System Design and Best Technical Paper. The combination of the technical paper, a presentation to judges, the drone design, and in-flight performance contributed to the award for Highest Overall Score in the robotics competition. Credit: Pitt RAS The Pitt RAS team comprised about 35 members and was represented at the competition by (depicted above from left to right): Andrew Shehab Saba, computer engineering, senior Liam Berti, electrical engineering and computer science, graduated Levi Burner, electrical engineering, senior Aaron Miller, physics and computer science, graduated Ritesh Misra, computer engineering, senior Evan Becker, electrical engineering, sophomore Patrick Snyder, electrical engineering, junior A Pitt team competed in 2017 and consisted of many of the same members. They won the Best System Design and Highest Overall Score awards. Other competitors at the American Venue during Mission 7 included Georgia Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Purdue University, University of Louisville, University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, and University of Texas at Austin. The Pitt RAS team also received support from Samuel Dickerson, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering; Jim Lyle and Bill McGahey, co-founders of SERC (Student Electronic Resource Center); and the Swanson School of Engineering’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering under the direction of Dr. Alan George. They were provided a practice space by a local non-profit organization. “In exchange for us doing some demonstrations and volunteering in the community, the Northside Partnership Group agreed to let us use their space, which was very generous of them,” said Andrew Saba, Director of Outreach for Pitt RAS. “We practiced late at night on a basketball court in an old school building. It was an interesting experience, and we wouldn’t have been able to accomplish nearly as much as we did if it wasn’t for them and support from the electrical and computer engineering department.” ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer

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