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.





Nov
21
2019

Eight Receive Mascaro Faculty Program in Sustainability Awards

Civil & Environmental, Electrical & Computer, MEMS

PITTSBURGH (Nov. 21, 2019) — The University of Pittsburgh’s Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation (MCSI) named eight faculty awardees for the 2020 John C. Mascaro Faculty Program in Sustainability. The one-year awards, created to enhance the University’s mission of interdisciplinary excellence in sustainability research and education, go to faculty members from all disciplines, who may apply as faculty fellows, scholars or lecturers. “From proposing ways to give students more hands-on experience with sustainability to the incorporation of arts- and humanities-based approaches to sustainability discourse, this year’s award recipients demonstrate the interdisciplinary work we strive for,” says Gena Kovalcik, co-director of administration and external relations at MCSI. “We’re excited to see the great work they will do.” John C. Mascaro Faculty Fellow in Sustainability: David Finegold, Graduate School of Public Health John C. Mascaro Faculty Scholars in Sustainability: Tony Kerzmann, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science Sara Kuebbing, Department of Biological Sciences John C. Mascaro Faculty Lecturers in Sustainability: Joshua Groffman, Division of Communication and the Arts, Pitt Bradford Katherine Hornbostel, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science Robert Kerestes, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering Pamela Stewart, Department of Anthropology Andrew Strathern, Department of Anthropology
Maggie Pavlick
Nov
20
2019

Pitt STRIVE Program Receives UPSIDE Award

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Civil & Environmental, Electrical & Computer, Industrial, MEMS, Diversity, Student Profiles, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs

This article was originally published on @Pitt. Reposted with permission. PITTSBURGH (November 20, 2019) ... The Swanson School of Engineering’s Pitt Success, Transition, Representation, Innovation, Vision and Education (STRIVE) Program was recognized with the 2019 University Prize for Strategic, Inclusive and Diverse Excellence (UPSIDE) Award by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. The goal of the Pitt STRIVE Program is to improve transitions of underrepresented minority (URM) students into doctoral engineering programs at the University. Using evidence-based strategies, the program aims to foster student and faculty engagement to ensure students’ successful completion of the PhD in engineering. "It has been an honor be a part of the leadership team of this extraordinarily great program,” said Sylvanus Wosu, associate dean for diversity affairs at the Swanson School. Wosu acknowledged the support and commitment from the U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering James R. Martin II and the Office of the Dean. “The Pitt STRIVE Program has been transformational in increasing URM PhD enrollment from less than 5% to over 7.5%, enhancing the academic culture and community that have contributed to 13 URM PhDs in the last four years, and significantly increasing the number of faculty with a shared vision for the school’s diversity and inclusion goals,” Wosu said. Under the direction of Wosu and Steven Abramowitch, associate professor of bioengineering, the program—which has been recognized and funded by the National Science Foundation—has focused on such areas as: Improving faculty engagement with URM students Improving faculty awareness of the impediments to URM success in doctoral programs Promoting a shared vision among vested faculty regarding the success of URM students within the Pitt community Achieving a systemic inclusive academic culture and climate that support the success of URM doctoral students “The Pitt STRIVE Program’s implementation is informed by research and practices that positively impact the culture and experiences of the faculty, students and community,” said David Gau, the Pitt STRIVE Program director of University engagement and communication. Chancellor Patrick Gallagher will recognize the Swanson School of Engineering with the UPSIDE Award at a Senate Council meeting in December. ###

Nov
12
2019

Excellence in Electrical Engineering

Electrical & Computer, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (Nov. 12, 2019) — The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Power and Energy Society (PES) selected Nathan Carnovale, a senior studying electrical engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, for the John W. Estey Outstanding Scholar Award. Carnovale is one of six Pitt students selected for the IEEE PES Scholarship Plus Award this year. The John W. Estey Outstanding Scholar Award is given to the top PES Scholar in each of the six IEEE U.S. regions. Region 2, Carnovale’s region, covers Delaware, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, northern Virginia, southern New Jersey, West Virginia, and Washington, DC. It serves more than 25,000 of IEEE’s estimated 400,000 members. Carnovale was first awarded the IEEE PES Scholarship Plus Award in the 2017-2018 academic year and again in 2018-2019. “In his four years at Pitt, Nate’s proven to be an outstanding student and role model,” says Robert Kerestes, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Pitt. “We’re proud of this honor and look forward to the amazing things he will achieve beyond the University.” Eli Brock (’22), Sabrina Nguyen (’20), Anthony Popovski (’21), Elizabeth Rager (’20) and Nolan Scanlon (’19) were also among the 135 high-achieving undergraduate students in electrical engineering from the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico to be recognized as 2019-2020 PES Scholars. With six awardees, Pitt has the second highest number of recipients out of the 78 universities represented. PES Scholars receive a financial award, one year of IEEE PES student membership, and mentorship from leading professionals in the power and energy industry. The John W. Estey Outstanding Scholar Award is selected by industry and academic representatives in their region based on academic preparation, extra-curricular activities and leadership, interest in power and energy engineering, technical quality and overall assessment of career potential in power and energy engineering. The award includes $5,000 for school expenses, 12 months of IEEE and IEEE PES Student Membership, and up to $1,000 in travel honorarium to attend the IEEE PES General Meeting. The award was named for John W. Estey, one of the three Chief Executive Officers in S&C Electric Company’s 100-year history. About Nathan (Nate) Carnovale: Nate Carnovale is scheduled to graduate from the University of Pittsburgh in December 2019 with a bachelor of science in electrical engineering and a concentration in electric power, and plans to pursue an M.S. degree in electric power engineering at Pitt starting in spring 2020. During his undergraduate career, he interned with Eaton for two summers, working at Eaton’s Power Systems Experience Center and in Eaton’s Power Systems Automation services group in Warrendale, PA. There he gained experience in power systems metering and monitoring, as well as experience installing, wiring, and programming Eaton demos at the Experience Center. He will be working in Eaton’s Power Systems Controls group this summer working with microgrids. For four semesters at Pitt, Carnovale has been a teaching assistant for the Art of Making, an introductory engineering course to hands-on systems design. He is currently working to develop an adapted physical education learning tool for students with physical and mental challenges at the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children in Pittsburgh, a project he started during his time as a student in the Art of Making course.
Maggie Pavlick
Nov
6
2019

ASL-to-Text Translator Wins Bronze in InnovateFPGA 2019 Global Contest’s Regional Finals

Electrical & Computer, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (Nov. 6, 2019) — Technology that translates spoken languages in real time is a boon to travelers and the hearing impaired alike. But what about a language that isn’t spoken? That problem inspired a team of students from the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering to create a program that translates American Sign Language (ASL) to voice using machine learning. The project recently won the Bronze Award at the InnovateFPGA 2019 Global Contest Regional Final. The sign language reader uses a camera and AI to identify the hand gestures used in ASL and translates them into sentences, which would benefit the hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. who rely on ASL to communicate. The program could run on a smartphone, for example. “The idea for an ASL translator was formed when our team was researching what kind of embedded AI applications can improve the experience of communication among different groups of people,” says Haihui Zhu, a student studying computer engineering and member of the team. Zhu notes that the Americans with Disabilities Act requires places like hospitals and other public services to provide human ASL interpreters. “Now imagine that a software that translates ASL into English can be deployed on a smartphone and executed real-time in an FPGA hardware accelerator. We believe that such a solution can improve the service of public facilities.” In addition to being a useful tool for the hard of hearing, a key feature of the program is its scalability. “I think the biggest challenge in this project was to design a fast and scalable machine-learning pipeline. On the input side, it is the video stream from the camera. On the output side, it is the English text,” explains Zhu. “To solve this problem, our strategy was to divide it into multiple stages: hand detection, hand keypoint detection, keypoint-to-alphabet, and finally, construct lexicons from the alphabet stream. To add a new sign to the ‘vocabulary,’ we just need to encode the hand motion of that sign.” The team included Zhu, Christopher Pasquinelli, and Roman Hamilton, all undergraduates in computer engineering at Pitt. Though the competition is over, Zhu says they plan to continue their work. “There are several challenges that have not been solved yet: one, our solution only looks at the hand motion, but to truly understand the sign language, we must look at facial expressions and hand motion simultaneously; and two, we want to improve the performance of the machine learning model. There are lots of exciting research and development tasks that we can further work on.” Students who are interested in machine learning, speech processing, or the project will be welcome to join the team. The InnovateFPGA 2019 Global Contest invited students, professors, makers and industry to showcase their idea of how field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) can be used to develop cutting edge smart devices. The team’s Bronze Award in the Regional Finals includes a certificate, a cash award of $800, and the Max 10 Plus FPGA main board.
Maggie Pavlick
Oct
21
2019

Bringing Attention to Visual Neglect in Stroke

Electrical & Computer

PITTSBURGH (October 23, 2019) … Imagine struggling to see, listen, or make movements in half of your environment. This is typical for individuals who suffer from unilateral spatial neglect, a common post-stroke deficit of attention to objects or events on the side opposite of the brain injury. The condition has a major impact on the everyday lives of stroke survivors and has shown to be a strong predictor of disability. Unilateral spatial neglect affects 29 percent of stroke survivors, yet detection and rehabilitation of this condition are lacking. A team of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and Northeastern University received a combined $1,181,757 from the National Science Foundation to develop a brain-computer interface (BCI) system that will be implemented in augmented reality, allowing for better detection, assessment, and rehabilitation of unilateral spatial neglect. “Current detection methods are limited and do not account for changes in severity over time, and while rehabilitation may help reduce neglect, it less effective at reducing neglect-related disability,” said Murat Akcakaya, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering in the Swanson School of Engineering. “Incorporating everyday tasks with effective rehabilitation strategies may be the best way to improve the quality of life for this population.” Overview of the neglect detection, assessment and rehabilitation system. A Starry Night scheme (green and yellow dots will appear and disappear at random times in random locations of the visual field in order to assess the region and extent of visual neglect) is presented to the patient while the patient's EEG signal is recorded. When visual neglect is detected using EEG-driven features, the multimodal feedback unit triggers the combination of visual, auditory, and haptic feedback to the patient. The research team plans to focus on visual neglect and address the shortcomings of current rehabilitation by reaching beyond the clinical setting and taking activities of daily living into account. They will develop a noninvasive, portable, and cost-effective tool that can be used to help guide rehabilitation programs in real-time. Akcakaya will lead a $787,594 award in collaboration with Pitt colleagues Elizabeth Skidmore, chair and professor of occupational therapy, and George Wittenberg, professor of neurology. Sarah Ostadabbas, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Northeastern University, received a $394,163 award for her contribution to the project. “Our BCI system will monitor brain activity in real-time through electroencephalography (EEG), which will be used to detect when visual extra-personal space is neglected,” said Wittenberg. “The system will be integrated into an augmented reality environment, which allows testing in real-world situations with relevance to everyday tasks. According to the research team, evidence suggests that high-intensity repetition with progression in the task skill level may be the most effective strategy for stimulating attention to the neglected side of the body. “Our system, which includes haptic, auditory, and visual stimulation, will expand on current rehabilitation by using EEG monitoring to automatically detect neglect and apply stimulation repetitively as soon as it is identified,” said Skidmore, who is also associate dean of research in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. “This personalized intervention strategy, incorporated with activities of daily living, will be a more precise and cost-effective tool for clinicians to use with these patients.” Unilateral spatial neglect can be a costly side effect of stroke. It is associated with longer stays in the hospital, extensive therapy, and other disadvantages related to long-term disability. Akcakaya said, “We hope that this system, which uniquely couples augmented reality technology with EEG monitoring, will improve the rehabilitative process, decrease the financial burden, and ultimately, provide more independence to stroke survivors.” ###

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