Pitt | Swanson Engineering
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Jul

Jul
16
2018

A Foundation for Future Founders: The Swanson School Empowers a New Generation of Entrepreneurs

All SSoE News, Chemical & Petroleum, Electrical & Computer, MEMS, Student Profiles

.pullquote-feature { width: 50%; border-top: 1px solid #151414; border-bottom: 1px solid #151414; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; display: block; } With a 95–97 percent job placement rate for graduates over the past three years1, the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering provides a well-manicured path for those traveling from Benedum Hall to the halls of Fortune 500 companies. At an increasing rate, students who embrace risk and uncertainty for the sake of innovation are also finding the tools they need at the Swanson School to carve their own paths to success. Aspiring entrepreneurs can attend networking opportunities, compete for seed money, and receive one-on-one mentoring from experienced entrepreneurs and educators right on campus. There were 23 startups originating from the University of Pittsburgh in the 2017-18 fiscal year, a 53 percent increase from the previous year. In the spring of 2017, two of those companies—one with a tomato-picking robot and the other with nanoparticle-filled oxygen tanks—took their first steps off the Pitt campus and into the startup world. “Engineering students are adept at solving real-world problems. That is why so many of the students we have participating in our entrepreneurship programs and competitions come from the Swanson School. They want to see their ideas translated into new products and services that advance the state of the art and improve people’s lives,” said Babs Carryer, Director of the Big Idea Center for student entrepreneurship at the Pitt Innovation Institute. “We know we’re undertaking a good amount of risk, but knowing that there is a whole industry that needs the product we are building helps mitigate that. At the end of the day, there always is risk, but for me, to not do this would lead to regrets. We are all about solving the problem.” --Brandon Contino, CEO at Four Growers, Pitt ECE ‘17 Four Growers team: Brandon Contino (left) and Dan Chi (right). Instead of taking a traditional route upon graduation, two recent University of Pittsburgh graduates have taken a risk on a project cooked up during their undergraduate studies in the Swanson School of Engineering. Brandon Contino (ECE ‘17) and Dan Chi (MEMS ‘18) have spent the past year tirelessly promoting their startup, Four Growers, in a series of competitions, and their most recent success will take them to Silicon Valley where they will be among the leading minds of innovation and technology. Brandon and Dan met while working in the lab of David Sanchez, an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Pitt. The two collaborated on different projects involving hydroponics, a method of growing plants in a water-based, nutrient rich solution. Growing increasingly interested in this method of farming, the pair visited a hydroponic tomato greenhouse in Chicago where they learned of a pressing problem facing the industry. Brandon explained, “More than 50% of the tomatoes consumed in the US are grown in greenhouse farms, but the industry is facing an issue with labor. After talking to the farmers, we discovered that there are shortages in the availability and reliability of the labor force, and we wanted to find a solution through robotics and automation.” This spurred the creation of Four Growers. Brandon and Dan planned to develop a product that provides reliable harvesting year-round for greenhouse farms. Creating a startup is a high risk, high reward endeavor, but Brandon and Dan had faith in their idea. “After speaking with other greenhouses about the industry, we learned that labor was a common problem, and when you have a strong need, clearly defined from your future customer, it really helps to lower the risk,” said Brandon. Confident in their mission, the Four Growers team developed a robotic tomato harvesting device for commercial greenhouses that can efficiently find and pick ripe tomatoes off the vine. The robot’s decision making is controlled by an algorithm that uses cameras and a neural network trained to find the proper fruit. A robotic arm and custom gripper enable the robot to harvest the tomatoes without damaging them. Additionally, their device provides analytics to the growers to help improve profitability. Creating the product is only one step towards entrepreneurial success; getting your product to market requires a bit of business acumen. Brandon and Dan believe they have benefitted from their past experiences at Pitt. During Brandon’s undergraduate years, he served as president of multiple organizations including Pitt Engineering Student Council, the Robotics and Automation Society, and the Panther Amateur Radio Club. Dan created the Hydroponics Club in Dr. Sanchez’s lab, was a member of Engineers for a Sustainable World, and acted as fundraising director of the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers. These experiences have introduced them to aspects of leadership and management applicable to their new executive roles. The Four Growers team has also taken advantage of various entrepreneurial programs and resources like Pitt’s Innovation Institute and Carnegie Mellon University’s Project Olympus, which have both provided valuable mentorship and contacts. Brandon said, “The connections we’ve made along the way have played a large role in our success. We’ve been able to discuss business aspects of the company with our mentors and advisors, and their expertise and guidance have refined our ability to operate both the technical and business sides of Four Growers.” Hydroponic tomato greenhouse. Photo credit: Shutterstock. The journey, however, has not been entirely smooth sailing. “Creating and running a business has a steep learning curve, and Dan and I have been drinking from the fire hose for a while now,” said Brandon. “One of our biggest hurdles has been financing. While Dan finished his degree, we decided to bootstrap and as a hardware company, it takes money to iterate on a product. Initially, we just didn’t have much funding so we had to spend a lot of time searching for lower cost options or workarounds, which slowed some of our technical development.” To overcome this setback, Brandon and Dan have spent the past year trying to raise funds through a series of competitions. Their first success was with Pitt’s Randall Family Big Idea Competition where they won first place and $25,000 to help launch their idea. Then they took second place and $10,000 against some of the most innovative students from the 15 Atlantic Coast Conference schools at the ACC InVenture Prize competition. Their last event took them to Texas where they became one of the first two Pitt teams to compete in the prestigious Rice Business Plan Competition and made it to the semi-finals. With funds starting to accumulate and Dan’s graduation imminent, they looked for the next step towards success and applied to Y Combinator, a highly competitive startup accelerator in Mountain View, California whose alumni include Airbnb, Dropbox and reddit. Four Growers was accepted as one of 90 teams and will receive $120,000 in exchange for 7 percent equity position in their company. Brandon and Dan will travel back and forth between greenhouse farms, Pittsburgh, and Silicon Valley for three months during the summer and receive intensive training to refine their business and prepare pitches to investors. Four Growers has successfully completed autonomous tomato harvesting inside greenhouses with their device and plan to have a beta prototype in operation by December 2018. Brandon and Dan’s entrepreneurial spirit and passion for sustainable farming helped lead them down this career path. The team looks forward to the challenges ahead and hopes to reap the harvest of a successful business. Brandon said, “We know we’re undertaking a good amount of risk, but knowing that there is a whole industry that needs the product we are building really helps mitigate that. At the end of the day though there always is risk, but for me, to not do this would lead to regrets. We are all about solving the problem.” “I don’t think this could have happened at another university without these kind of resources. Once I dug into something and realized someone at my age could actually do this and find the support—all the support that’s out there—it really propelled the business into reality, and it became the thing I knew I wanted to do.” --Blake Dubé, CEO and Co-Founder at Aeronics Inc., Pitt ChemE ‘17 Aeronics team: Alec Kaija (left), Blake Dubé (middle), Mark Spitz (right). With his sophomore year at the University of Pittsburgh nearing an end, the last thing Blake Dubé (ChemE ’17) was looking to do was start a business. “I didn’t just breeze through the first two years of college,” he recalls. “It took a lot of work focusing on my classes and learning about chemical engineering. It wasn’t like I decided to start a business because I was looking for a bigger challenge.” Nearly three years later, Blake has won about a dozen startup competitions, he has a product scheduled to go to market this year, and he works full-time as CEO of the company he co-founded, Aeronics, Inc. Back in the spring of 2015, the only thing Blake was looking for was a lab to do summer research. After a visit to the ninth floor of Benedum Hall, Blake started research in the lab of Chris Wilmer, assistant professor of chemical engineering and himself an entrepreneur. Dr. Wilmer and his team were researching ways to use nanomaterials to improve gas storage, transportation, and safety in the many industries kept aloft by gas. Blake spent his time in the lab running computer simulations to find the best nanomaterial configurations for maximizing gas storage without the high levels of heat and pressure caused by putting too much gas into too small a container. “I realized gas storage was such a broad field and started wondering where I could make a difference in the three months I would be working in the lab,” says Blake. “Most of the focus seemed to be on energy sources like methane and hydrogen, and there wasn’t as much work being done with oxygen. I started to think about how better oxygen storage could make an impact.” The following semester, Blake enrolled in ChE 314: Taking Products to Market taught by Eric Beckman, Distinguished Service Professor of Chemical Engineering and co-director of the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation at Pitt. Dr. Beckman, who had co-founded his own business for commercializing technology, guided students through the process of turning ideas into marketable products. When Blake showed an interest in applying his lab research to the class, Dr. Wilmer suggested he enter the Randall Family Big Idea Competition, a university-wide innovation challenge. Everyday Oxygen prototype. The Randall Family competition takes place from February to March each year and awards $100,000 in prizes to Pitt students working on interdisciplinary teams to bring product ideas to market. Blake recruited teammates Alec Kaija, a PhD candidate in Dr. Wilmer’s lab, and Mark Spitz, a kinesiology and exercise science student and long-time friend of Blake from their hometown of York, Pa. Dr. Wilmer served as the team’s faculty advisor. “We started the Randall Family competition with the idea of fitting oxygen and the materials from Dr. Wilmer’s lab in a soda can. By the end of it, we actually had plans for a viable product, and since we won the grand prize, we had money to get started,” says Blake. The team won first place and the grand prize of $25,000 to get their company up and running. Blake, Mark, and Alec became co-founders of the startup Aeronics and went on to win several more competitions. By the spring of 2017, Aeronics had claimed more than $120,000 in prize money. While Blake and Mark were getting fitted for their graduation robes, they were measuring up the odds of successfully running their own business. “BASF, the largest chemical producer in the world, offered me a full-time job before I graduated. It would have been a great way to start my career. Around the same time, Aeronics was incorporated,” he says. “When you’re an entrepreneur at the university, before you graduate is different than after you graduate. Now you better make it work. The pressure is on.” Fortunately, Aeronics handles pressure well. Their prototype could store about three times as much oxygen as a standard portable oxygen tank at the same pressure. Still considering a more traditional career path, Blake consulted with Steve Little, the chair of the chemical engineering department, for advice. Dr. Little had been helping Aeronics navigate some of the issues with starting a private company at a university. “I remember asking Dr. Little for advice because he had experience starting his own business. He helped us a lot throughout the beginning stages, but he said to me, ‘I can give you all the advice you want, but sooner or later you’re just going to have to do it to find out if it will work,’” says Blake. One year later, Aeronics has completed two startup accelerator cohorts, found its own lab space to operate, and developed a product called Everyday Oxygen, which stores three times the oxygen as competitors’ cans. Everyday Oxygen is available for pre-order on their website and will be ready to ship in the fall. Looking back, Blake says he liked most of his experiences with research, internships, and studying chemical engineering at Pitt in general. He didn’t dream of becoming an entrepreneur as a kid, but now that he’s running his own business, it’s hard to imagine doing anything else. “I don’t think this could have happened at another university without these kind of resources. Once I dug into something and realized someone at my age could actually do this and find the support—all the support that’s out there—it really propelled the business into reality, and it became the thing I knew I wanted to do,” he says. ### 195 to 97 percent job placement rate over the past three years, http://www.engineering.pitt.edu/Friends-Giving-Administration/Office-of-the-Dean/Quick-Facts/
Leah Russell (Four Growers feature) and Matt Cichowicz (Aeronics feature)

Jun

Jun
20
2018

ECE’s Aryana Nakhai Wins Society of Women Engineers Scholarship

Electrical & Computer, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (June 20, 2018) … The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) has selected Aryana Nakhai, an undergraduate electrical engineering student, as the recipient of its 2018 Lockheed Martin Corporation Scholarship totaling $2,500 for the 2018-19 academic year. “This award is recognition of Aryana’s incredible passion for power systems and electrical engineering, and it speaks to the engineering community’s confidence that she will contribute great things during her professional career,” said Gregory Reed, professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Swanson School of Engineering and director of Pitt’s Center for Energy and the Energy GRID Institute.SWE Scholarships recognize outstanding academic achievement and strong engineering potential, according to the SWE website. Recipients must be women admitted to accredited baccalaureate or graduate programs in preparation for careers in engineering, engineering technology, and computer science. The SWE Scholarship Selection Committee chose 2018 award recipients from a pool of more than 1,800 applicants.Aryana has been a member of Pitt SWE since her freshman year in 2014. She said, “SWE is an organization that has always stood out to me. I strongly believe in the importance for a female support system and everything that SWE stands for.”“I am especially excited since Lockheed Martin has been one of my biggest inspirations for pursing a degree in electrical engineering,” Aryana continued. “As an engineer, I very much enjoy being part of a team to develop solutions to exciting and new, complex challenges.”Aryana is studying electrical engineering with a concentration on power systems. She is scheduled to graduate in December 2018 and plans to pursue a master’s degree at Pitt after graduation.While an undergraduate student, Aryana completed three co-op rotations as a Process Planning Engineer at BMW U.S. Manufacturing Co. She also represents the University of Pittsburgh on the Student Innovation Board for the Foundations for Engineering Education for Distributed Energy Resources (FEEDER) Consortium. In this role, Aryana addresses and explains power related topics on campus.“My goal is to inspire students to gain interest in power engineering, allow them the opportunity to learn about distributed technology, and express the need for power engineers in industry,” she said. ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Jun
18
2018

Swanson School professors capture award to improve engineering instruction and learning

Electrical & Computer, Industrial

PITTSBURGH (June 18, 2018) … When imagining a college classroom, one might imagine a professor standing at a podium and lecturing a room full of students taking notes. A pair of professors from the University of Pittsburgh want to reimagine this simplistic approach with a more interactive experience. Renee Clark, research assistant professor of industrial engineering, and Sam Dickerson, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, hope to impact education at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering through widespread propagation of active learning. In an effort to strengthen the role of teaching at Pitt, the Provost’s Advisory Council on Instructional Excellence (ACIE) created the Innovation in Education Awards Program to support faculty proposals which aim to reinvent traditional classroom instruction. Clark and Dickerson received one of eight awards this year for their project. “With active learning, we ask students to do something in the classroom beyond just listening to a lecture and taking notes,” explained Clark. “Students should be engaged and interacting with class content. Whether through brainstorming solutions to a problem, solving calculations in a group, or writing a one-minute reflection at the end of class, the goal is to have professors take a step back from lecturing and allow students to participate in the lesson. This promotes critical thinking and improves knowledge retention” Clark began working with Dickerson in July 2016 after they attended a Swanson School active learning workshop. They decided that they wanted to take their experience a step further and coach other instructors in how they can implement what they learned from this workshop in their classrooms. Clark and Dickerson’s project will begin this summer with a cohort of nine professors. This pilot group will work to implement simple active learning activities for their courses in two engineering departments (IE and ECE). Clark said, “We want to create a supportive learning community where we can exchange ideas and plans for the use of active learning.” Clark and Dickerson will coach each of the professors throughout the school year by observing their classrooms and giving feedback. At the end of the year, they will reunite the professors for a focus group to further improve their model for future participants. While there are many useful advanced active learning techniques, Clark and Dickerson plan to start simple. Dickerson’s implementation of the “think, pair, share” activity in his classroom demonstrates the success of this approach. He explains, “Rather than starting a class with an example and running through it, you give the students a problem, allow them to individually think about it, then ask them to come up with a solution as a group.” He discovered that using this activity changed the dynamic of his classroom. He said, “It became completely normal for students to speak up when they didn’t understand a concept or offer help to peers who were struggling with certain topics.” The ease of execution is a selling point for instructors who may debate changing their classroom structure. “Many professors do not have the time for more-involved active learning so we are sharing simple activities that require little preparation,” Clark said. “Instructors can introduce these methods on the fly or in response to a lack of classroom interaction. It is easy to stop a lecture and allow students to think about what they’re learning.” Dickerson has found that using these activities has been beneficial to more than just the students. He said, “Using active learning has helped me reflect on the way I teach; what I thought were easy concepts, were not. This strategy has allowed me to reevaluate my lessons and improve student comprehension.” Clark and Dickerson have had positive feedback on their efforts and found that students quickly become comfortable in this kind of environment. Based on data collected over the past two years, simple active learning has also positively impacted exam scores. This response encouraged them to apply to the Innovation in Education program and adapt their experience into a school-wide effort. Dickerson said, “Although these types of teaching techniques work well, the number of adopters is low. We want to change that.” The overall goal of this project is to have other Swanson School professors adapt this successful model to their classrooms. They hope to enhance student engagement, increase information retention, and improve students’ ability to use gained knowledge. “We want to make classrooms more learner-centered. In a teacher-centered environment, the focus is on content delivery. With a learner-centered classroom, we switch the spotlight to the student,” said Clark. “With simple active learning, class may still be lecture based, but you add some elements to make the students more active and turn the focus on them.” ###

Jun
7
2018

Capturing light in a waveguide array

Electrical & Computer

Originally published by Penn State University Eberly College of Science. Reposted with permission. UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Cheaper and more efficient photonic devices, such as lasers, optical fibers and other light sources, may be possible with confined light that is unaffected by imperfections in the material that confines it, according to new research. A team of physicists and engineers from Penn State, the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Illinois have demonstrated in a proof-of-concept experiment that they can contain light in such a way that makes it highly insensitive to defects that might be present in a material. The results of the research appeared online on June 4 in the journal Nature Photonics (DOI: 10.1038/s41566-018-0179-3). “Photonic technology involves the generation, transmission and manipulation of light, and it is used ubiquitously across industries,” said Mikael Rechtsman, the Downsbrough Early Career Assistant Professor of Physics at Penn State and the leader of the research team. “It underlies the fiber optic network that forms the skeleton of the internet; solar cells used in the generation of sustainable energy; and high-power lasers used in manufacturing, among many other applications. Finding a way to confine and manipulate light so that it is insensitive to defects could have a huge impact on this technology. To confine the light, the researchers used a complex lattice structure composed of “waveguides” precisely carved in glass. These waveguides act like wires, but for light instead of electricity. In this structure, light enters at one end of the waveguide and gets trapped and confined as it propagates forward through the wires. There, the trapped light becomes immune to imperfections in the positions of the waveguides, and thus significant imperfections in the structure can be tolerated. “The light becomes insensitive because of the phenomenon of ‘topological protection,'” said Rechtsman. “This concept has been used extensively in the context of solid-state electronic physics. The waveguide structure is a photonic analogue of the so-called ‘topological crystalline insulators,’ and this form of topological protection can potentially be used across a range of photonic devices, including in nano-scale lasers, specialized nonlinear optical fibers, and for robustly and precisely coupling between photons and electrons for manipulating quantum information.” "From the perspective of photonic engineers, this is an wonderful learning opportunity to see the connections between lightwave engineering at length scale of micrometers, and quantum mechanics that typically deals with electron waves at length scale 10,000 times smaller," noted Kevin P. Chen, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering. "It's also a fine example of precision laser manufacturing that took three generations of graduate students to perfect." Confining light in this way could make many photonic devices both more efficient and cheaper to produce. Beyond that, this is an example of the potentially cross-disciplinary — uniting photonics and solid-state electronics — use of topological protection and demonstrates the broad applicability of this phenomenon beyond its conception in electronic solid-state physics. “In photonics, it is extremely important to be able to trap light and confine it to very small spaces,” said Rechtsman. “It compresses the maximum amount of optical power into the smallest area or volume inside a material, making it interact more strongly with the material, and thus it is more efficient at whatever it is meant to do. A major difficulty with doing this has been that strong confinement brings with it extreme sensitivity to any imperfections in the material, which can often either inhibit efficiency or make the device very expensive to fabricate. Our results suggest that we can overcome this difficulty.” In addition to Rechtsman, the research team includes Jiho Noh and Matthew J. Collins at Penn State; Wladimir A. Benalcazar and Taylor L. Hughes at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and Sheng Huang and Kevin Chen at the University of Pittsburgh. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the Penn State Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and the Office of Naval Research Young Investigators Program. ###
Sam Sholtis, Penn State University

Apr

Apr
24
2018

Pitt’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering appoints two alumni as new undergraduate program directors

Electrical & Computer, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs

PITTSBURGH (April 24, 2018) … The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering announced new leadership for its undergraduate programs. Samuel J. Dickerson, assistant professor and associate director of computer engineering, was promoted as the program’s full director. Robert Kerestes, assistant professor, was named director of the electrical engineering program. Dr. Dickerson succeeds Alex K. Jones, professor of computer engineering, who last year was appointed associate director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Center for Space, High-performance, and Resilient Computing (SHREC) at Pitt. Dr. Kerestes succeeds Irvin Jones Jr., who will continue in the department as assistant professor. Both Dickerson and Kerestes are triple alumni of the Swanson School, each having earned a bachelor’s, master’s and PhD in electrical and computer engineering. “Professors Dickerson and Kerestes are two of the finest teachers in our department, two of our most active in education research, and they bring a deep commitment to guiding students in the COE and EE undergraduate programs in ECE,” explained Alan George, the R&H Mickle Endowed Chair and Department Chair, and SHREC Director. “Each is an alumnus of the program that he now directs, with a special perspective on the needs of our students and how best to support their academic growth and success. “They are both taking over from the strong leadership of Alex and Irvin, who have helped to shape the undergraduate programs and nurture them through incredible expansion. I cannot thank them enough for their continued dedication to our students, as well as their contributions to our research programs.”About Dr. DickersonDr. Dickerson’ research focuses on electronics, circuits and embedded systems and, in particular, technologies in those areas that have biomedical applications. He has published in several journals research on the design and simulation of mixed-signal integrated circuits and systems that incorporate the use of both digital and analog electronics, in particular optics, microfluidics and devices that interface to the biological world. Prior to joining the faculty in 2015, he was a co-founder and the president of Nanophoretics LLC, where he led the research and development of a novel dielectrophoresis-based “lab-on-chip” technology for rapidly detecting drug-resistant bacteria strains. He has received three patents based on the technology, and in 2013 received the Pitt Innovator Award for his research. Because of his focus on undergraduate engineering education, he was one of 48 innovative engineering faculty members invited to the National Academy of Engineering’s 2016 annual Frontiers of Engineering Education (FOEE) symposium. The FOEE engages young engineering faculty who are developing and implementing innovative educational approaches in a variety of engineering disciplines where they can share ideas, learn from research and best practice in education, and leave with a charter to bring about improvement at their home institution.Dr. Dickerson received his B.S. in computer engineering (2003) and M.S. (2007) and PhD (2012) in electrical engineering from Pitt. About Dr. KerestesDr. Kerestes’ research is balanced between the classroom and the laboratory: engineering education and stem curricula, mathematical modeling and simulation of physical systems, power systems control & stability, electric machinery, power quality and renewable energy technologies. Prior to his appointment as assistant professor in 2016, he was an adjunct professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Senior Engineer at Emerson Process Management, where he was project lead for the dynamic simulation of thermal power plants, electrical power systems and microgrids. He is a veteran of the United States Navy (Active Duty and Naval Reserve), having served as Third Class Petty Officer, and has published research on medium voltage DC architecture and infrastructure, and energy storage systems. He received his bachelor’s (2010), master’s (2011) and PhD (2014) in electrical engineering from Pitt. ###

Apr
16
2018

ECE Chair Alan George presents Inaugural Lecture

Electrical & Computer

In celebration of his appointment as the Ruth and Howard Mickle Endowed Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Pittsburgh Provost Patricia Beeson hosted Alan George's Inaugural Lecture on Thursday, April 5.

Apr
9
2018

Request your tutor

Electrical & Computer

Read the full story at Pittwire. University of Pittsburgh administrators traditionally thought that student success was reflected primarily in graduation rates, said Patricia E. Beeson, Pitt’s provost and senior vice chancellor. They later found, she said, that measuring student success required a multifaceted approach that considered experiences — for example, internships and study abroad — that catered to students’ individual preferences. With this perspective in mind, Beeson and her colleagues in the Office of the Provost launched the Personalized Education Initiative to encourage faculty, staff and students to personalize the academic experience. The first recipients of grants from the Personalized Education Grants Program were recognized by Beeson at a March 26 reception. “As the higher education landscape and the needs of our students continue to evolve, our efforts to transform the student experience are setting a new standard,” said Beeson. “Through innovative uses of technology and novel approaches to teaching, advising and mentoring, Pitt is ideally positioned to provide national leadership in the area of personalized education.” According to Beeson, the initiative received 42 proposals; 17 projects were selected for funding ranging from $1,000 to $26,000 each. Request your tutor In his research on geographic information systems (GIS), Swanson School of Engineering faculty member Robert Kerestes has seen how programs like Google Maps and Yelp can match people to what they are looking for based on location. Kerestes, director of the electrical engineering undergraduate program and assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, wondered if GIS was applicable to academics, too. He partnered with his colleagues Samuel Dickerson, director of the computer engineering undergraduate program and assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Anita Persaud, director of retention. Together, they drafted a proposal for a real-time tutor sourcing application. The app, similar to ride-sharing apps like Lyft or Uber, would allow students to locate and request tutors near them that have academic expertise in a particular subject. At first, students would have access to a hand-picked pool of tutors, but the app would eventually allow people who are interested in serving as tutors to offer their services. Kerestes hopes to use the grant to allow students to use the app at no charge. In the initial phase of the project, the app’s use will be limited primarily to members of the Swanson School. Kerestes imagines expanding the project to other parts of the University and even outside Pitt at a later phase.
Katie Fike, University Communications
Apr
6
2018

Eleven Pitt Students Awarded 2018 National Science Foundation Fellowships

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Civil & Environmental, Electrical & Computer, MEMS, Student Profiles

University of Pittsburgh News Release PITTSBURGH – Eleven University of Pittsburgh students and four alumni were awarded the 2018 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. Eleven Pitt students and four alumni also received honorable mentions. The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program is designed to ensure the vitality and diversity of the scientific and engineering workforce in the United States. The program recognizes and supports outstanding students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees. Fellows receive a three-year annual stipend of $34,000 as well as a $12,000 cost-of-education allowance for tuition and fees. The fellowship program has a long history of selecting recipients who achieve high levels of success in their future academic and professional careers. The support accorded NSF Graduate Research Fellows nurtures their ambition to become lifelong leaders who contribute significantly to both scientific innovation and teaching. Among this year's Pitt cohort, eight undergraduate and graduate students were awarded fellowships, joined by two Swanson School alumni now in graduate school. Four undergraduate and graduate students and one alumnus received honorable mentions. Mary Besterfield-Sacre, the Swanson School’s Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, attributed this year's increase in winners from engineering to a strategically focused mentor-mentee program. “The program diversity among this year’s Swanson School NSF fellows is thanks in great part to Bioengineering Professor Pat Loughlin for working with each department to identify strong candidates and faculty mentors to help them build winning portfolios,” Dr. Besterfield-Sacre said. “The NSF Graduate Research Program is incredibly competitive and we’re especially proud that undergraduates make up half of our fellows.” Current Pitt students who were awarded the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship are seniors from: - Swanson School of Engineering: Abraham Charles Cullom (civil and environmental engineering), Vani Hiremath Sundaram (mechanical engineering and material science), Adam Lewis Smoulder (bioengineering) and Henry Phalen (bioengineering); and graduate students Megan Routzong (bioengineering), Monica Fei Liu (bioengineering), Angelica Janina Herrera (bioengineering) and Sarah Hemler (bioengineering). - Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences: Graduate students Brett Baribault Bankson (psychology), Stefanie Lee Sequeira (psychology) and Alaina Nicole McDonnell (chemistry). Current Pitt students who received honorable mentions are from: - Swanson School of Engineering: seniors Anthony Joseph O’Brian (chemical and petroleum engineering), Anthony Louis Mercader (mechanical engineering and material science), Zachary Smith (electrical and computer engineering); and graduate student Maria Kathleen Jantz (bioengineering). - Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences: graduate students Amy Ryan (chemistry), Kathryn Mae Rothenhoefer (neuroscience), Andrea Marie Fetters (biological sciences), Mariah Denhart, (biological sciences), Timothy Stephen Coleman (statistics), Hope Elizabeth Anne Brooks (biological sciences), Mary Elizabeth Rouse Braza (geology and environmental science). Alumni who were awarded the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship include Thomas Robert Werkmeister (engineering science) and Luke Drnach (bioengineering) from the Swanson School, and Julianne Griffith (psychology and sociology) and Aleza Wallace (psychology) from the Dietrich School. Alumni who received honorable mentions include Corey Williams (bioengineering) from the Swanson School, Sarah Elise Post (biological sciences), Hannah Katherine Dollish (neuroscience and Slavik studies) and Krista Bullard (chemistry), the latter three from the Dietrich School. Visit https://www.fastlane.nsf.gov/grfp/Login.do for a full list of fellows and honorable mentions and to learn more about the Graduate Research Fellowship Program. # # #
Amerigo Allegretto, University Communications
Apr
5
2018

Forecasting the “Whether” with Computer Modeling

Electrical & Computer

PITTSBURGH (April 5, 2018) … Can a computer tell whether El Niño affects famine in South Sudan? How about whether national currency devaluation affects refugee displacement? Whether flooding affects government upheaval? A comprehensive model explaining whether these factors relate would require far more data than even the most brilliant minds can imagine and far more imagination than even the most powerful computers can muster.Thanks to a $2.25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University researchers are looking to harmonize the power of computation with the insight of human intuition. The result would resemble models used by meteorologists to forecast the weather but include complex socioeconomic and geopolitical dynamics. “Our first challenge is to predict food shortages in South Sudan,” says Natasa Miskov-Zivanov, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. “We not only consider numerical data but textual data from news sources, reports, and databases to predict future crises.”Dr. Miskov-Zivanov leads as principal investigator on one of eight teams in DARPA’s World Modelers program, which will focus primarily on explaining world problems like famine in South Sudan. Her study, called STORM: Standardized Technology for Optimizing Data Modeling, will attempt to automate the design of computer models to describe complex, causal relationships between current events.“Computer models can synthesize vast amounts of data, but just because two data points are correlated doesn’t mean we know how one influences the other. We want to be able to have experts analyze and tweak the computer models, and therefore strengthen our overall understanding of how each node is related,” explains Dr. Miskov-Zivanov.In the discrete modeling approach taken by Dr. Miskov-Zivanov, the nodes are things that change over time, such as crop production and exchange rates. Edges of the model are connections between nodes and their influences on each other. The result is a model that can explain “how” two events are related beyond an observed correlation. Through the combination of human expertise and Big Data processing, the World Modelers aim to create a model that accurately describes cause and effect in the real world.Drs. Eduard Hovy, Michael Trick, and Cheryl Telmer from CMU join Dr. Miskov-Zivanov’s team on the World Modelers project. Dr. Telmer previously worked with Dr. Miskov-Zivanov during the 2014-2018 DARPA Big Mechanism program aimed at creating models of cancer pathways from automated reading of research papers. Dr. Miskov-Zivanov received $2.4 million of funding during Big Mechanism for a project called Automated Integration of Mechanisms in Cancer (AIMCancer), which took a similar approach to data modeling as the new World Modelers program but focused on understanding signaling pathways of cancer.“During Big Mechanism, we developed a framework for automating assembly and explanation of models, combining the information extracted by machine reading from published papers, experimental data, and expert knowledge. While the framework has been mostly used in biology, the technology was built to apply to other systems,” says Dr. Miskov-Zivanov.Big Mechanism had the advantage of extracting information from research papers, but World Modelers will attempt to build its models based on the much less consistent information extracted from the news and discussion of current events. By finding patterns in the causes and effects of significant events, the researchers hope to develop computer models describing complex networks that cause famines or create economic trends.“The computer does not know the difference between molecules, people, or nations,” says Dr. Miskov-Zivanov. “If we collect enough information, verify how data points relate to each other with expert opinion, and model networks to describe these relationships, we will get a more accurate picture than ever before of what triggers major events.” ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Apr
4
2018

Swanson School’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering Presents Mike Gazarik with 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award

Electrical & Computer, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs

PITTSBURGH (April 4, 2018) … This year’s Distinguished Alumni from the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering have worked with lesson plans and strategic plans, cosmetics and the cosmos, brains and barrels and bridges. It’s a diverse group, but each honoree shares two things in common on their long lists of accomplishments: outstanding achievement in their fields, and of course, graduation from the University of Pittsburgh.This year’s recipient for the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering is Mike Gazarik, PhD, BSEE ’87, Vice President of Engineering at Ball Aerospace & Technology Corporation.The six individuals representing each of the Swanson School’s departments and one overall honoree representing the entire school gathered at the 54th annual Distinguished Alumni Banquet at the University of Pittsburgh’s Alumni Hall to accept their awards. Gerald D. Holder, US Steel Dean of Engineering, led the banquet for the final time before his return to the faculty this fall.“One of Mike’s many awards from NASA is the ‘Silver Snoopy Award,’” said Dean Holder. “An astronaut always presents the Silver Snoopy because it is the astronaut’s own award for outstanding performance, contributing to flight safety, and mission success. Less than one percent of the aerospace program workforce receives it annually, making it a special honor to receive.”About Mike GazarikMike Gazarik earned a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh in 1987. He earned a master’s degree in 1989 and PhD in 1997 – both in Electrical Engineering – from the Georgia Institute of Technology.Dr. Gazarik joined Ball Aerospace & Technology Corporation in March 2015 as Vice President of Engineering. He provides overall strategic and operational leadership of the organization, which includes all engineering disciplines as well as manufacturing, test, supply chain management, facilities, independent research and development, and intellectual property. Prior to this position, he served as Technical Director and worked to align Ball’s technology development with business development and growth strategies.  Before joining Ball, Dr. Gazarik worked at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C. as Associate Administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate. He has more than 25 years of experience in the design, development, and deployment of spaceflight systems, and he has contributed to the development of technology with applications to NASA’s exploration, space operations, and science missions. While overseeing the Space Technology Mission Directorate at NASA headquarters, he led the rapid development and incorporation of transformative technologies that enable missions and address the nation’s aerospace community’s most difficult challenges.Earlier in his career, Dr. Gazarik served as Deputy Director for programs at NASA’s Langley Research Center in the Engineering Directorate. He led the development of an infrared camera for the Space Shuttle that allowed the astronauts to inspect the Shuttle while in orbit and led the development of entry, descent, and landing instrumentation on the Mars Science Laboratory that made the first measurements of flying and landing on Mars. Prior to joining NASA, he served as Project Manager for the Geosynchronous Imaging Fourier Transform Spectrometer project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory. In the private sector, he worked on software and firmware development for commercial and government applications, including telecommunications and signal processing.Dr. Gazarik is an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and a member of the Engineering Advisory Board for the University of Colorado Aerospace Sciences Department and the University of Arizona’s College of Engineering. He has received numerous awards including NASA’s Outstanding Leadership Medal and a Silver Snoopy Award, one of NASA’s highest honors. ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Apr
4
2018

Pitt's Alexis Kwasinski Visits Recent Natural Disaster Sites for Insight on Infrastructure Improvements

Electrical & Computer

Originally published in Pittwire. Reposted with Permission. While some people visit faraway places to relax and enjoy the sights, Alexis Kwasinski has had different reasons to travel in the past year. Kwasinski, the Richard King Mellon Faculty Fellow in Energy and an associate professor at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, has been visiting disaster-stricken areas to research how infrastructure such as bridges and power lines performs during extreme events like earthquakes and hurricanes. The goal is to find out ways to supply power during lengthy outages and while primary energy sources are being repaired. "We’re doing practical analysis to develop models to anticipate how an infrastructure would perform in these events, as well as looking at solutions to improve performance,” he said. Last year, Kwasinski took a trip to Central Mexico, the site of a deadly earthquake that killed about 370 people and caused the collapse of more than 40 buildings in September 2017. He also visited Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico — all of which were heavily damaged in 2017 by Hurricanes Irma, Harvey and Maria, respectively. Kwasinski visited downed high-voltage towers and power lines, destroyed substations, windmills with damaged blades and demolished solar farms, all caused by these extreme weather events. Most of the hurricane damage to power distribution grids, Kwasinski said, occurs on the coasts where storm surges ravage the shores. He found little damage done to high voltage lines, power generation plants, substations or distribution lines located inland. During earthquakes, however, damage to substations is more common. “The issues there (in earthquakes) are with transformers that are not properly anchored, insufficient slack in connections and excessive bent to underground cables in liquefiable areas,” Kwasinski said. “You have to dig to get to these cables (to fix them), which takes more time.” When it comes to the hurricane disaster sites, he said the damage caused to Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria was by far the worst. “The damage I saw in Puerto Rico is fairly uncommon,” he said. “I have never seen any other hurricane damage like I saw in Puerto Rico.” Kwasinski said that while 1 or maybe 2 percent of power distribution lines or towers are damaged under regular hurricane conditions, about 10 to 15 percent of lines and poles in all of Puerto Rico were damaged by Hurricane Maria. He also noted that all but one of the five large solar farms in Puerto Rico were damaged in the storm, with many panels either cracked by debris or completely stripped off their mounts. Maintenance and repair of these power lines is difficult due to the island’s thick, natural vegetation and the mountainous terrain, as compared to sites where power infrastructure is more easily accessible by road. And other statistics seem to prove his point as to Hurricane Maria’s devastating effects. Compared to the 134 deaths in the U.S. and Caribbean caused by Hurricane Irma and the 90 deaths in the U.S. caused by Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Maria may have caused well over 1,000 deaths, though the official count is only 64. There are several approaches to improving infrastructures to withstand these catastrophic events, but microgrids are Kwasinski’s main focus. “Microgrids are self-contained and small-scale power grids of up to a few megawatts that are powered by local sources,” he said. “Preferably these sources should be renewable sources, because renewable sources do not require another infrastructure called a ‘lifeline’ to be fueled.” These lifelines usually use natural gas to operate, whereas microgrids use batteries and can operate connected to another power grid or independently for lengthy power outages. Kwasinski is working to learn more lessons like these with other researchers, including colleagues at the American Society of Civil Engineers for earthquake disaster areas, and with the IEEE Power Electronics Society and the International Communications Energy Conference for hurricane disaster sites. ###
Amerigo Allegretto, University Communications
Apr
4
2018

“Steel City:” Using HOMER Pro to Help Create a Resilient Energy Future for Pittsburgh

Electrical & Computer

Microgrid technology is set to play a big role in the continued revitalization of the rust-belt city of Pittsburgh, according to Dr. Gregory Reed, professor of engineering at the Electrical & Computer Engineering Department in the Swanson School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. Reed is also the Director of the Pitt Center for Energy and the Grid Institute, as well as the Electric Power Systems Laboratory. And HOMER Pro™ is playing a small, but crucial, part in that transformation. Once famous for its heavy industry and noxious pollution, the former steel town is aiming to become a leader in the clean tech economy. Since Pittsburgh has always been a nexus for engineering and technology expertise, they may well succeed. As a small city, it’s well suited for innovation: large enough to face the same issues as the bigger cities of the world, but still small enough to implement positive changes and model them for other communities. Dr. Reed, who appears to have a hand in many of the interesting changes that are afoot in Pittsburgh’s planned energy transformation says, “Listen. Pittsburgh used to be this smoke belching industrial center. We’re going to turn that legacy around and become one of the cleanest cities in the modern world. If we can do it, anybody can.” Read the full article at Homer Microgrid News & Insight.
Lili Francklyn, Homer Microgrid News and Insight
Apr
3
2018

Pitt students building one of the most powerful computers to go into space

Electrical & Computer, Student Profiles

One of the fastest space computers ever launched into orbit will head to the International Space Station next year. It has the University of Pittsburgh written all over it. Well, at least on the top of it. A team of Pitt students at the Center for Space, High-performance, and Resilient Computing built a computer that will be among the fastest and most powerful ever designed to operate in space. “We're super pumped about it,” said Christopher Wilson, manager of the lab in Schenley Place in Oakland. Read the full story at the Tribune-Review.
Aaron Aupperlee, Tribune-Review
Apr
2
2018

Swanson School students capture top prize and more at tenth annual Randall Family Big Idea Competition

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Electrical & Computer, Industrial, MEMS, Student Profiles

Innovation Institute News Release With a blast of confetti falling from above the stage at the Charity Randall Theater, the participants in the 2018 Randall Family Big Idea Competition celebrated the culmination of two months of extra-curricular work on ideas for new products ranging from a software platform to connect hunters to landowners to a new insulin pump for diabetics, to a wearable earbud for helping disabled people control devices with eye movement. And 13 of the 40 finalist teams celebrated sharing the $100,000 in prize money. This year’s competition was the largest yet, with more than 300 students of all levels, from freshman to doctoral, participating in the initial round comprising more than 100 teams. Teams led by Swanson School of Engineering students captured at least one win in every place. The winner of the $25,000 top prize was Four Growers, an interdisciplinary group of students led by Dan Chi of the Swanson School of Engineering. They are developing a robotic system for harvesting tomatoes in commercial greenhouses. Next up for Four Growers will be representing Pitt as its entrant in the ACC InVenture Prize competition April 4-6, 2018, at Georgia Tech University, where each university in the Atlantic Coast Conference competes against each other in an innovation pitch competition. Four Growers is one of two Pitt teams that have been accepted into the prestigious Rice Business Plan Competition the same weekend, meaning they will have to split the team to compete both in Atlanta and Houston. The other Pitt entrant is FRED, which has developed a flexible platform for dynamic social science modeling. “This is the first time Pitt has had a team accepted in the Rice competition in its 17-year history, so having not one but the maximum allowed of two teams from the university accepted is a big deal,” said Babs Carryer, Director of Education and Outreach for the Innovation Institute, who oversees the Big Idea Competition. This years’ competition marked the 10th anniversary and it included the announcement that Pitt trustee Bob Randall and his family are donating $2 million to establish the Big Idea Center at the Innovation Institute to support student entrepreneurship. See that full story here. Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher credited Bob Randall’s vision for embedding entrepreneurship into the fabric of the university with bringing about a culture change that has witnessed a dramatic increase in the experiential learning opportunities in entrepreneurship that have been built around the Big Idea Competition in the past four years. “Bob’s vision has transformed this campus in so many powerful ways. We thank you and your family for not only being a great friend and a generous benefactor but for being a catalyst for change,” he said. Chancellor Gallagher said the crucible of the Big Idea competition will serve the participants well in whatever career route they take, whether it’s launching a startup or leading new initiatives in a larger organization. “If you think about the experience of being an entrepreneur, there’s almost nothing like it. Conversion of a thought into something that’s tangible and real and of value is the magic of entrepreneurship, and to do it is a seminal learning experience,” he said. The Big Idea prize winners will proceed into the Blast Furnace student accelerator beginning in May to further develop their ideas with the goal for some of creating startup companies around their ideas. The winning Swanson School of Engineering teams include: 1st place: $25,000Four GrowersTeam: Brandon Contino (ECE), Daniel Chi (MEMS), Daniel Garcia (Neuroscience), Jiangzi Li (Katz), Rahul Ramakrishnan (CMU)Idea: Automation of tomato harvesting in commercial greenhouses 2nd place: $15,000 (1 out of 3 winners)Re-VisionTeam: Yolandi van der Merwe (BioE), Mark Murdock (Pathology/Badylak Lab)Idea: Therapeutic platform to promote ocular tissue healing after injury 3rd place: $5,000 (2 out of 4 winners) Aqua Bio-Chem DiamondTeam: Mohan Wang (ECE), Jingyu Wu (ECE)Idea: Environmentally friendly removal of pollutants from contaminated waste water PCA BuddyTeam: Akhil Aniff (BioE), Patrick Haggerty (BioE), Sarah Cummings (Nursing), Tyler Martin (BioE)Idea:  Pump that gives children the ability to self-administer medication 4th place: $2,000 (2 out of 4 winners) Steeltown RetractorTeam: Chris Dumm (MEMS), Jack Bartley (MEMS)Idea: Allows surgeons to operate more efficiently and naturally by simplifying surgical tool placement and adjustment GlucaglinTeam: Shane Taylor (ChemE), Evan Sparks (ChemE), Jake Muldowney (ChemE)Idea: Multifunctional pump for diabetics Best Video Award EXG H+TechnologiesTeam: Ker Jiun Wang (BioE), Nicolina Nanni (IE), Yu Liu, Yiqiu Ren (ECE), Kaiwen You (ECE), Xiangyu Liao (ECE), Quanbo Liu (ECE)Idea: System to use eye movement for control of a powered wheelchair, cell phone, or other Internet of Things (IoT) devices
Michael C. Yeomans, Marketing and Special Events Manager, Innovation Institute

Mar

Mar
30
2018

ECE’s Robert Kerestes Awarded Provost’s Grant for Tutor Sourcing App

Electrical & Computer

PITTSBURGH (March 30, 2018) … Taxis, fast-food, and coming soon, tutors. Adding to the list of things your smartphone can have delivered to you in real-time, a new award from the University of Pittsburgh Office of the Provost is funding the development of a tutoring app for matching students with nearby tutors based on availability, qualifications, and distance.“There is a very high concentration of potential tutors and tutees on Pitt’s campus, and the benefits of peer tutoring are well documented. The challenge is making the right connection between them. It would be a shame to waste such a valuable resource simply because the current technology is limited and outdated,” says Robert Kerestes, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. The grant is part of the 2018 Provost’s Personalized Education Grant Program awarded by University Provost Patricia Beeson. The grants are awarded to projects with student-centered approaches to “enhancing education through tailored engagement in educational activities that reflect each student’s unique identities, experiences, interests, abilities, and aspirations,” according to the call for proposals.“Many tutoring services operate under standard business hours, but it isn’t realistic to expect students’ study habits to follow the same schedule,” Dr. Kerestes explains. “If you’re cramming for a test or trying to squeeze study time into a packed schedule, it’s helpful to know that a tutor is within a five-minute walk and will be available for the next hour and a half.”Dr. Kerestes will serve as director of the project titled “Development and Implementation of a Real-Time Tutor Sourcing Application.” It will include four areas of project development for students to work on under the direction of Dr. Kerestes, including creating a real-time geographic information system (GIS), a merchant service for safely exchanging currency, data optimization, and algorithm interfacing and testing.The grant totals $16,220 and runs from February 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019.About Dr. KerestesDr. Kerestes is an assistant professor in the electrical and computer engineering department and the director of the electrical engineering undergraduate program. His research is balanced between the classroom and the laboratory: engineering education, innovative stem curricula development, mathematical modeling and simulation of physical systems, power systems control and stability, electric machinery, power quality, renewable energy technologies, and smart grid technology. Prior to his appointment as assistant professor in 2016, he was an adjunct professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and a Senior Engineer at Emerson Process Management, where he was the project lead for the dynamic simulation of thermal power plants, electrical power systems, and microgrids.He is a veteran of the United States Navy (Active Duty and Naval Reserve), having served as Third Class Petty Officer, and has published research on medium voltage DC architecture and infrastructure and energy storage systems. He received his bachelor’s degree (2010), master’s degree (2011), and PhD (2014) in electrical engineering from Pitt. ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Mar
20
2018

City of Pittsburgh, Pitt and Danish government announce agreement to collaborate on energy planning and research

Chemical & Petroleum, Electrical & Computer

PITTSBURGH (March 20, 2018) … The City of Pittsburgh enjoyed three “renaissance” periods in the 20th century that transformed its environment, architecture, and quality of life. Following that legacy of innovation, a new working group announced today seeks to create an energy renaissance for Pittsburgh in the 21st century. The University of Pittsburgh and the Danish Energy Agency are joining forces to collaborate on designing and demonstrating smart energy systems in the City of Pittsburgh. The partnership will focus on: Energy planning for renewables (e.g., wind, solar, thermal, biomass) District heating planning and microgrid feasibility assessments Socioeconomic (community net benefit) analysis of district energy projects Energy infrastructure investments Policy and regulatory structures for district-scale energy approaches The Danish government is globally recognized for its energy leadership, whose objectives include creating security of energy supply, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and whilst furthering economic development. Through these initiatives, Denmark expects to be the first country in the world to be independent of fossil fuels by 2050, yet is simultaneously attracting technology companies interested in building power-dense data centers like Facebook, Google, and Apple by virtue of Denmark’s clean energy. Pittsburgh is the first city the Danish government chose to collaborate with under this program in the United States, and will join the DEA in celebrating and discussing energy and innovation. The Danish ambassador to the US, Lars Gert Lose, is optimistic about the possible outcomes of the cooperation. “Denmark is proud to work with an American city undergoing such rapid change. I hope this cooperation can help Pittsburgh replicate the clean energy initiatives we have established in Denmark, and create economic growth that supports sustainability and resiliency.” In its agreement with the University of Pittsburgh, the Danish Energy Agency will develop workshops for regional entities from the public and private sectors, as well as a familiarization tour for stakeholders to experience successful energy initiatives in Denmark. “Large-scale energy projects are logistically challenging for American cities like Pittsburgh, which unlike peer cities and countries in Europe, lack an overarching environmental- or energy-specific entity that both regulates and finances such ventures,” explained Rebecca Bagley, Vice Chancellor for Economic Partnerships at Pitt. “But in partnership with the Danish Energy Agency (DEA) and Danish utilities, we can develop a roadmap toward next-generation energy leadership and infrastructure priorities for Pittsburgh to benefit residents, businesses, government entities and utilities.” The University will provide faculty expertise through its Center for Energy, housed in the Swanson School of Engineering, and the Energy Grid Research and Infrastructure Development (GRID) Institute. “This melding of international expertise across diverse energy sectors will help to advance a new “smart cities” concept for Pittsburgh, one based in philosophical experience yet backed up by hard data,” noted Gregory Reed, director of the Center for Energy and the Energy GRID Institute. “In the end, we hope that this endeavor will not only benefit Pittsburgh’s energy renaissance, but provide a baseline for other American cities to follow.” “Like our past city renaissances, Pittsburgh has benefited tremendously from strong public-private partnerships that can see past the red tape and politics to develop transformative change,” noted Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto. “Pittsburgh already has a head start with the creation of the District Energy Initiative to address Pittsburgh’s challenge of creating 21st century energy systems,” the Mayor added. “But now by collaborating with Denmark, we can combine their international success with our own domestic expertise and establish more sustainable energy policies that help reduce our carbon footprint, and at the same time, increase the affordability and accessibility of our energy supplies here in Pittsburgh. Together we will show combining energy and environmental planning can provide a win-win for the economy.” ###

Mar
19
2018

Swanson School faculty and STEM program among 2018 Carnegie Science Award honorees

Electrical & Computer, MEMS, Diversity

PITTSBURGH (March 19, 2018) – Two professors and a long-standing STEM program at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering are among the 2018 Carnegie Science Award honorees, presented by Carnegie Science Center. The recipients are among honorees in 17 categories announced at a reception on March 13 at Carnegie Science Center on the North Shore. Winners and honorable mentions will be honored May 4 during the Carnegie Science Awards Celebration at Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland.  Albert To, PhD, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science, is the recipient of the Advanced Manufacturing and Materials Award. Dr. To was recognized for his research in design optimization for additive manufacturing, multiscale methods, and computational mechanics. He is actively working on developing “Lattice Structure Design Optimization” software for generating optimal lightweight design for 3D printing. Gregory Reed, PhD, professor of electrical and computer engineering and Director of Pitt’s Center for Energy and the Energy GRID Institute, was one of two honorable mention recipients in the Innovation in Energy category. Dr. Reed is recognized internationally for his research in advanced electric power grid and energy generation, transmission, and distribution system technologies; micro-grids and DC infrastructure development, renewable energy systems and integration; and smart grid technologies and applications. The Swanson School’s Investing Now program received an honorable mention in the Leadership in STEM Education category. Created in 1988, Investing Now a college preparatory program created to stimulate, support, and recognize the high academic performance of pre-college students from historically underrepresented groups in science, technology, engineering and mathematics majors and careers. (Pictured from left: Justyce Hill, Kayla Ray, Nara Hernandez and Charlie Partlow) The Carnegie Science Awards champion efforts to strengthen science and technology in our region. This year’s winners range from a culinary arts teacher whose coursework extends beyond the conventional kitchen into food-science research and career exploration, to a tech start-up that secured $1 billion from Ford Motor Company. A committee of peers— past awardees and industry leaders— who rigorously reviewed nominations and selected the most deserving winners, selected winners. For more information about the awards celebration, go to CarnegieScienceCenter.org/Awards.“The Carnegie Science Awards applaud some of the most exciting leaders and innovators in our region’s science community,” said Ron Baillie, Henry Buhl, Jr., Co-Director of Carnegie Science Center. “They helped make Pittsburgh the technology hub it has become and inspire the young people who will become the next generation of professionals in the STEM fields of science, engineering, technology, and math.”Ann Metzger, Henry Buhl, Jr., Co-Director of Carnegie Science Center, said the awards are an integral part of the mission of promoting STEM education, which will be energized later this year when the Science Center’s PPG Science Pavilion opens in June and provides additional state-of-the-art classroom space. “Winners of the Carnegie Science Awards represent the pinnacle of excellence in STEM fields and STEM education,” Metzger said. “We are thrilled to recognize our amazing awardees and expect them to continue to do us proud with their accomplishments in the future.”Through the support of committed sponsors, the Carnegie Science Awards program has honored the accomplishments of more than 550 individuals and organizations. Eaton is the presenting sponsor for the Carnegie Science Awards. Chevron is the prime sponsor. ### About Carnegie Science Center Carnegie Science Center is dedicated to inspiring learning and curiosity by connecting science and technology with everyday life. By making science both relevant and fun, the Science Center’s goal is to increase science literacy in the region and motivate young people to seek careers in science and technology. One of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, the Science Center is Pittsburgh’s premier science exploration destination, reaching more than 700,000 people annually through its hands-on exhibits, camps, classes, and off-site education programs.

Mar
5
2018

The Final Frontier’s Final Frontier

Electrical & Computer, MEMS

PITTSBURGH (March 5, 2018) … In T minus 8,760 hours, or roughly one year, the Space Test Program-Houston 6 (STP-H6) hybrid and reconfigurable space supercomputer will board the International Space Station. The newest mission to the ISS featuring research and technology from the University of Pittsburgh’s NSF Center for Space, High-performance, and Resilient Computing (SHREC) will bring an unprecedented amount of computing power into space and invaluable research opportunities from the ground station on Pitt’s Oakland campus. “Computer engineering for space is the ultimate challenge,” says Alan George, SHREC founder and the Mickle Chair Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. “Space computing has become a principal challenge in all spacecraft, since remote sensing and autonomous operation are the main purposes of spacecraft and both demand high-performance computing.” This new mission experiment is the work of an outstanding team of graduate and undergraduate students studying at Pitt, led by Chris Wilson.Earlier this month, the Pitt system for STP-H6 completed its 1,400-mile earth journey from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. to NASA Johnson Space Flight Center in Houston. Its next much shorter trip is scheduled for February 2019 when it will travel 240 miles skyward from NASA Kennedy to the ISS. The new space supercomputer is nearly three times more powerful than its predecessor launched last year and contains dual high-resolution cameras capable of snapping 2.5K by 2K pixel images of Earth.“Our new system has a similar goal to perform in space and evaluate our new kind of space computer featuring an unprecedented combo of high performance and reliability with low power, size, weight, and cost,” Dr. George explains. “The big difference is that our STP-H6 system is more powerful in computing and sensing capability and arguably the fastest computing system ever deployed in space.” The new system for STP-H6 passed extreme environmental testing at NASA Goddard and recently completed initial integration and testing at NASA Johnson. It will remain at NASA for a year of integration and verification. When all systems are go, STP-H6 will travel to the ISS on a SpaceX rocket, marking the second time that Pitt has had a payload on SpaceX technology.“We think it’s a perfect match since SpaceX is an industry leader in launch vehicles and SHREC is the leading academic group in space computing,” says Dr. George.Another first for SHREC is collaboration with the Swanson School of Engineering’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science (MEMS). Assistant Professors Dave Schmidt and Matthew Barry led the MEMS department’s contributions by designing and verifying the system chassis to meet the demands of STP-H6.“Dr. Schmidt worked on mechanical design and validation of the system so it fit the new additions to the H6, and I worked thermal modeling so the system had the capacity to dissipate heat from the electronics within,” says Dr. Barry. “An excellent group of volunteer students were fully engaged and committed to make sure the project succeeded.”Dr. George intended academic, industrial, and governmental collaborations like the one between the ECE and MEMS departments when he brought the NSF Center for High-Performance Reconfigurable Computing (CHREC) from the University of Florida to Pitt in 2017 and later reorganized it as SHREC. It is the first interdepartmental partnership on a space mission in Swanson School history.“Our first ISS experiment entirely focuses upon R&D topics in computer and electrical engineering, so it was handled entirely in SHREC and ECE. However, our second mission brought additional challenges in mechanical design, thermal analysis, and safety analysis – challenges that we as electrical and computer engineers couldn’t tackle alone – so we reached out to colleagues in the mechanical engineering department,” says Dr. George.The full name of the new payload is the STP-H6/SSIVP or the Space Test Program – Houston 6, Spacecraft Supercomputing for Image and Video Processing. Its predecessor on STP-H5 is the CHREC Space Processor or STP-H5/CSP. The H5 system will remain on the ISS, working separately and together with the H6 system on a dynamic set of space technology experiments. “After one year in space, the H5 system is proving highly successful in the harsh environment of space, and researchers are using it as a sandbox for a growing list of experiments uploaded from the Pitt campus. When a new technology is deployed in space, the first and biggest question is whether it will operate well there, and ours continues to impress,” says Dr. George. ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Mar
1
2018

Pitt Alumnus and Veteran Energy Research Leader Named Acting Director of NETL

Chemical & Petroleum, Electrical & Computer, MEMS, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs

NETL News Release. Posted with permission. Pittsburgh, Pa. – Sean I. Plasynski, Ph.D., a 28-year veteran of federal fossil energy research, has been named acting director of the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL). Plasynski was named to the leadership post by U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy Steven Winberg following the retirement of Grace Bochenek, Ph.D., who served as director for three years. “This Laboratory has a long history of helping to provide energy security for the people of the United States,” he said. “It is a history accentuated by bold research and solid contributions that have had long-lasting impacts. It is an honor to have the privilege of working with a roster of talented researchers and administrators who have the skills and expertise to continue moving our nation forward.” Plasynski comes to the assignment after having served as the executive director of NETL’s Technology Development and Integration Center where he was responsible for overseeing NETL’s national programs with sister DOE National Laboratories, universities and industrial partners. In the role, he led integrated technical and business teams in managing federally sponsored, extramural research in coal, oil, and gas, and energy technology development. He has held numerous management and technical positions over his NETL career, including acting deputy director and chief operating officer, director of the Strategic Center of Coal, director of the Office of Coal and Power R&D, and Sequestration Technology manager. He has been involved in a wide spectrum of energy technology development, including advanced power and environmental systems, solids transport, biomass co-firing, and carbon capture and storage. Plasynski holds a B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of Pittsburgh, and an MBA from the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz Graduate School of Business. NETL, part of DOE’s national laboratory system, supports the DOE mission to advance the energy security of the United States. The Laboratory implements a broad spectrum of energy and environmental research and development programs. NETL, with research sites in Pittsburgh, Morgantown, W.Va., and Albany, Ore., has expertise in coal, natural gas, and oil technologies; contract and project management; analysis of energy systems; and international energy issues. The Laboratory had an FY 17 federal budget of $927 million with a research portfolio that includes more than 900 projects and activities in all 50 states, with a total value that exceeds $7 billion. More than 1,200 employees work at NETL. In addition to research conducted onsite, NETL’s project portfolio includes R&D conducted through partnerships, cooperative research and development agreements, financial assistance, and contractual arrangements with universities and the private sector. Together, these efforts focus a wealth of scientific and engineering talent on creating commercially viable solutions to national energy and environmental problems. NETL’s current mission is to discover, integrate, and mature technology solutions to enhance the nation’s energy foundation and protect the environment for future generations. NETL is the only national lab dedicated to fossil energy. Over the past 20 years, NETL’s scientists have earned 46 R&D 100 Awards, and 33 regional and national awards from the Federal Laboratory Consortium. These awards, along with the many other individual awards won by NETL scientists and research partners, recognize NETL’s contribution to the nation’s energy future. ###
Shelley Martin, DOE National Energy Technology Laboratory
contact.publicaffairs@netl.doe.gov

Feb

Feb
23
2018

Swanson School’s Ervin Sejdic among 2018 Chancellor’s Award winners

Bioengineering, Electrical & Computer

PITTSBURGH (February 23, 2018) … The Swanson School of Engineering’s Ervin Sejdić is among eleven University faculty members to be recognized with the University of Pittsburgh’s Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching, Research and Public Service Awards at the annual Honors Convocation on Feb. 23. Dr. Sejdić, associate professor in the Swanson School’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, will receive the Chancellor’s Distinguished Research Award in the Junior Scholars category and receive a $2,000 prize and $3,000 grant to support research. Dr. Sejdić, who also has a faculty appointment in the Swanson School’s Department of Bioengineering, was selected for his work establishing the field of signal processing for swallowing accelerometry, and for significant contributions to multisystem quantification of the human gait. Chancellor Patrick Gallagher noted that this “groundbreaking work has earned you international standing in your field,” including more than $7.4 million for his research. “I am incredibly honored to be recognized by the Chancellor and the Pitt community for my research,” Dr. Sejdić said. “The strong collaboration between the Swanson School, the School of Medicine, and UPMC is a rarity among universities and has helped me to further my research. This award is a recognition of how those partnerships have established Pitt as one of the top research universities in the U.S.” In February 2017, Dr. Sejdić was among five Swanson School junior faculty to receive a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation, the organization’s most prestigious award for junior faculty who exemplify outstanding research, teaching, and their integration.  The five-year, $549,139 award would further his research using high-resolution vibration and sound recordings that would help doctors diagnose dysphagia and assist patients in improving how to properly swallow while eating or drinking. “This is a well-deserved award for Ervin and is a testament to his passion for life-changing research,” noted Alan George, Department Chair and R&H Mickle Endowed Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “He is an inspiration for our faculty and students alike, and I look forward to his future success at the Swanson School.” ### About Dr. Sejdić Dr. Sejdić’s research interests include biomedical signal processing, gait analysis, swallowing difficulties, advanced information systems in medicine, rehabilitation engineering, assistive technologies, and anticipatory medical devices. During his undergraduate studies at the University of Western Ontario, Dr. Sejdić specialized in wireless communications, while his PhD project focused on signal processing. These two areas would influence his postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Toronto’s Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering, where he focused on rehabilitation engineering and biomedical instrumentation. He was also a research fellow in medicine at Harvard Medical School cross-appointed at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where he focused on cardiovascular and cerebrovascular monitoring of older diabetic adults. Dr. Sejdić has co-authored more than 90 publications in the last five years and is the co-holder of seven patents. In 2016, he was one of four Pitt faculty and 105 researchers nationwide to receive the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. Government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.

Feb
20
2018

Allderdice Senior Adam Moritz to Present Research Paper at Biomedical Conference

Electrical & Computer, Student Profiles

***UPDATE March 19, 2018 *** Adam Moritz won an "Outstanding Achievement in Biomedical Health Informatics" award after presenting his project titled "Material Viscosity Prediction under Normal Swallowing Conditions Via High Resolution Cervical Auscultation" at the BHI/BSN 2018 conference earlier this month. PITTSBURGH (February 20, 2018) … Pittsburgh-area high school students have an opportunity to contribute breakthrough medical research, train for careers in STEM fields, and on rare occasion, present their work at international forums for leading researchers and professionals.Adam Moritz, a senior at Taylor Allderdice High School in Squirrel Hill, is presenting his research from the University of Pittsburgh Computer Science, Biology and Biomedical Informatics (CoSBBI) program to the Biomedical and Health Informatics 2018 (BHI ’18) conference in Las Vegas, Nev. this March.“Adam worked on writing machine learning algorithms to interpret data about patients’ swallowing mechanisms,” said Ervin Sejdić, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. “There are more than 100 neuro-muscular events taking place during each swallow, which typically lasts less than a second, so it’s a fairly complex mechanism.” Dr. Sejdić holds a secondary appointment in bioengineering and studies swallowing difficulties called “oropharyngeal dysphagia.” He and his team use accelerometers and microphones placed outside the throat to collect data about what’s going on inside.People with dysphagia risk inhaling food or liquid and developing an infection called aspiration pneumonia. The potentially fatal condition is prevalent in up to 75 percent of patients in acute care and nursing homes; affects half of the annual 800,000 U.S. citizens who suffer from stroke; and adds nearly $500 million to U.S. health care costs per year.“Adam’s research shows a machine can make distinctions between thick and thin liquids based on our recordings of patients swallowing. His work contributes greatly toward our understanding of dysphagia and how different variables affect the data from the recordings,” said Dr. Sejdić.Dr. Sejdić supervised Moritz during the program and advised Moritz to submit his research to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) BHI ’18 conference.“It’s not very common for a high school student to have a research paper accepted at a conference like BHI,” said Dr. Sejdić. “He may be the first one.”The CoSBBI program is part of the larger UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Summer Academy, which provides high school seniors with eight weeks of research-focused learning at six laboratory sites. At the end of the program, participating scholars present their projects as oral presentations and in a poster session. “The UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Academy gives a diverse group of students the opportunity to participate in authentic and impactful research under the mentorship of University faculty and trainees, like Dr. Sejdić, who are the champions of the Academy and give selflessly of their time, effort, and resources,” said Dr. David Boone, executive director of the Academy and assistant professor of biomedical informatics at Pitt. “We are proud of Adam and all of our students. In addition to presenting at national symposia, many students have also published research papers in peer-reviewed journals, have won prestigious science fairs, awards, and scholarships, and have continued research as they enter college.”Moritz joined CoSBBI after his AP Physics teacher Janet Waldeck introduced him to the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Academy.“I knew I wanted to do something academically last summer. When my teacher told me about the summer academy, it really caught my eye as a unique opportunity,” said Moritz. “I didn’t really have a lot of experience in research, but I knew I wanted to try it.”Moritz continues to work with Dr. Sejdić and explore how machine learning can benefit dysphagia research as part of his AP Research course at Allderdice. After graduation, Moritz plans to study computer science and math in college. In the meantime, he is taking advantage of how research helps him prepare for college and a future in STEM.“There are a lot of times when the next step of the research isn’t clearly mapped out for me, so I have to teach myself how to continue. It’s more of a fluid learning experience than typical classroom learning,” said Moritz. ###
Matt Cichowicz and Leah Russell
Feb
16
2018

Undergraduate Students Awarded at the Engineers’ Society of Western PA Annual Banquet

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Electrical & Computer, MEMS, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (February 16, 2018) … Last night as engineers from across the region gathered to attend the 134th Annual Engineering Awards Banquet of the Engineers’ Society of Western Pennsylvania (ESWP), the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering announced its recipients of the George Washington Prize. This year’s recipient is Le Huang, an undergraduate student in bioengineering and an active member of the Swanson School community during her time at Pitt. Huang works as a research assistant in the Cardiovascular Systems Laboratory where she is developing a MATLAB-based mathematical model of the human cardiovascular system. Prior to that, she worked in the Cognition and Sensorimotor Integration Laboratory and has been a teaching assistant for several bioengineering and chemistry courses. Additionally, Huang is involved in Pitt’s Society of Women Engineers (SWE) where she serves on the executive board, co-chairs the Women in STEM Conference, and acts as an outreach activity leader for K-12 students. Pitt’s award-winning SWE chapter organizes events around the city of Pittsburgh to young women to explore STEM opportunities. Finalists for the George Washington Prize are Isaac Mastalski (Chemical Engineering) and Adam Smoulder (Bioengineering). Semi-finalists are Jennifer Cashman (Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science) and Sean Justice (Electrical and Computer Engineering). “The Swanson School is proud to recognize Le and the other finalists for their outstanding accomplishments at Pitt,” said Gerald D. Holder, U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering at Pitt. “Le and her colleagues are very deserving of this competitive award, and we think they will be successful Pitt Engineering alumni.” The George Washington Prize, founded in 2008, honors the first President of the United States and the country’s first engineer. Its mission is to reinforce the importance of engineering and technology in society, and the enhance the visibility of the profession across the Swanson School’s engineering disciplines. The annual award recognizes Pitt seniors who display outstanding leadership, scholarship and performance as determined by a committee of eight professional engineers and Swanson School faculty. Winners receive a $2500 Dean’s Fellowship and award plaque. An additional $7,500 is awarded to the winner if he or she attends graduate school at the University of Pittsburgh. Founded in 1880, ESWP is a nonprofit association of more than 850 members and 30 affiliated technical societies engaged in a full spectrum of engineering and applied science disciplines. Now in its 134th year, the annual Engineering Awards Banquet is the oldest award event in the world - predating the Nobel Prize (1901), the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal (1907), and the Pulitzer Prize (1917).

Feb
14
2018

Action! Pitt ECE graduate student Santino Graziani appears in newest Eaton Power Systems Experience Center video

Electrical & Computer, Student Profiles

Santino Fiorello Graziani, a graduate student in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is the latest University of Pittsburgh student to appear in a video highlighting the Power Systems Experience Center (PSEC) at Eaton. In the video, Mr. Graziani uses a water systems analogy to explain how electrical systems work to young Kendra Carnovale. "Eaton’s Power Systems Experience Center is the ideal place to learn about electrical power systems in a safe controlled environment, and both Kendra and Santino do a wonderful job of explaining a very technical subject in a simple manner," explained Daniel Carnovale, PSEC manager. "The PSEC’s goal is to help take the mystery out of electrical power systems spanning from utility substation equipment to the receptacle in your home, making them come to life. If you can't explain the technology to a young child, then you don't really understand the technology." As an undergraduate in 2015, Mr. Graziani was one of three IEEE PES Scholarship Plus recipients in the Department. .video-container { position:relative; padding-bottom:56.25%; padding-top:30px; height:0; overflow:hidden; } .video-container iframe, .video-container object, .video-container embed { position:absolute; top:0; left:0; width:100%; height:100%; }

Jan

Jan
31
2018

Pitt and INSA Lyon Joint Paper Wins Best Student Paper Award at BIODEVICES 2018

Electrical & Computer

PITTSBURGH (January 31, 2018) … Recognizing an effort to advance personalized and mobile healthcare, a joint paper by engineers at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering and the National Institute of Applied Science of Lyon (INSA Lyon) won the Best Student Paper award at the BIODEVICES 2018 conference. The paper, “Building IoT-Enabled Wearable Medical Devices: an Application to a Wearable, Multiparametric, Cardiorespirator Sensor,” describes a sensor capable of remotely collecting and processing data about a patient’s electrocardiogram-based activity and monitoring heart rate variability (HRV) in real-time. “Heart rate is simply the measurement of how many times your heart beats per minute, but heart rate variability measures the time between heart beats. A high HRV is a good sign of cardiovascular health and means your body is adapting well to slow-beating, calm situations as well as fast-beating, intense situations throughout the day,” explained Ervin Sejdić, associate professor with appointments in the Pitt’s departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Bioengineering, and the paper’s co-author. Joining Dr. Sejdić was lead author Arthur Gatouillat, who studied at Pitt while pursuing his master of science degree in electrical and computer engineering. Gatouillat is now a PhD student at INSA Lyon and continues to collaborate with Dr. Sejdić. Bertrand Massot, Youakim Badr, and Claudine Gehin from INSA Lyon were also co-authors of this work. The complete sensor system weighs less than an ounce and uses an Android phone to store data locally and transmit it over the internet. Three electrodes attach to the patient’s right arm, left arm, and the center of the chest. The sensor can measure heart rate, HRV, and the respiration waveform, which provides insight into a patient’s breathing patterns. “We currently plan to use the proposed sensor to investigate gait instabilities in older adults and to understand how we can use the interaction between the cardiovascular system and walking to infer about falls,” said Dr. Sejdić. “However, the proposed sensor can be used for various medical conditions that require monitoring of heart rate variability.” Other sensor systems that are worn on the wrist indirectly measure vital signs with metrics such as motion data or pulse. The authors’ sensor directly calculates HRV with an electrocardiogram signal (ECG) similar to tests done at a doctor’s office or in a hospital. The remote capabilities of the new sensor help avoid unnecessary hospital trips yet continue to monitor patients in case rapid medical response is required. “Based on preliminary analysis, it seems that the proposed sensor is very reliable in comparison to well-established monitoring systems,” said Dr. Sejdić. “We plan to conduct more tests to establish the accuracy of the senor, then later introduce more wireless sensors that can monitor gait.” The BIODEVICES 2018 conference, January 19 – 21, 2018 in Funchal, Portugal, focuses on innovative materials, devices, and systems inspired by biological systems to meet biomedical needs. Decision criteria for paper awards included both the paper quality and an oral presentation at the conference. ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Jan
29
2018

Swanson School Students Succeed at the Startup Blitz

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Electrical & Computer, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (January 29, 2018) … The University of Pittsburgh Innovation Institute hosted its biannual Startup Blitz where nearly 50 students from across the University presented their ideas and innovations to a panel of peers and entrepreneurial experts. The Swanson School of Engineering students had a strong showing and were represented in each of the top three teams. These teams demonstrated interdepartmental collaborations that proved successful in creating ideas that spoke to fellow entrepreneurs. The top prize went to a project that may look familiar to those who attended the School’s fall semester Design Expo. The Posture Protect team of bioengineering students Tyler Bray, Raj Madhani, Jacob Meadows, and Vaishali Shetty came out on top again. They pitched their prototype for a device that helps improve posture for individuals with Parkinson’s disease to the panel of judges and were presented the first place award of $1,500. The Beacone team pitching their idea. (Photo credit: Pitt Innovation Institute) “I am delighted this team of students and their project from our fall 2017 ENGR 1716 Art of Making class won 1st place at Startup Blitz,” said Joseph Samosky, assistant professor of bioengineering and course director of The Art of Making. “In our course we promote human-centered design, the ability to frame and innovatively solve real-world problems, and how to effectively communicate your ideas to others,” said Samosky. “The Posture Protect team pursued an outstanding design thinking process, and they richly deserve the accolades they’re getting. Their project has real potential to help people with Parkinson’s.” The first runner up team included chemical engineering and Pitt STRIVE student, Henry Ayoola and electrical and computer engineering student, Teddy Valinski. They created Beacone, a safety program for manufacturing plants and construction sites that utilizes a smart device. The team was awarded a prize of $1,000. The Four Growers team presented with their award. (Photo credit: Pitt Innovation Institute) The second runner up team included electrical and computer engineering student, Dan Chi and bioengineering student, Ruben Hartogs. They created Four Growers, an automated device for harvesting tomatoes in commercial greenhouses. They were awarded $500 for their innovation. The Innovation Institute encourages students with entrepreneurial aspirations to apply to the upcoming Randall Family Big Idea Competition. Applications are due February 5. Read the entire news release from the Innovation Institute.

Jan
19
2018

Engineers’ Society of Western Pennsylvania elects Pitt energy expert Dr. Gregory Reed to Board of Directors

Electrical & Computer

PITTSBURGH (January 19, 2018) … Gregory Reed, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, is among the 2018 cohort to join the Engineers’ Society of Western Pennsylvania (ESWP) Board of Directors. Dr. Reed is also Director of Pitt’s Center for Energy and the Energy GRID Institute. His research includes advanced electric power grid and energy generation, transmission, and distribution system technologies; power electronics and control technologies (FACTS, HVDC, and MVDC systems); micro-grids and DC infrastructure development, renewable energy systems and integration; smart grid technologies and applications; and energy storage. He earned his PhD in electric power engineering from the University of Pittsburgh (1997); his M.Eng. in electric power from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (1986), and his B.S.E.E. with electric power concentration from Gannon University (1985). “I am truly honored to join the ESWP Board, and I look forward to working with my board colleagues in advancing the organization’s mission,” Dr. Reed said. “ESWP and the Swanson School have shared nearly 140 years of advancing engineering in our region, and so I am humbled to be part of that legacy.” About ESWP The ESWP mission is to advance the professions of engineering, architecture, and applied sciences through technical activities, public service participation and social organizations. It also supports the needs of industries, communities and government in western Pennsylvania. Since its founding in 1880, ESWP has continually served as a focal point for the area’s engineering and technical community. Today the ESWP serves more than 800 members and 30 associated technical societies who reflect the richness of the full spectrum of engineering and applied science disciplines. ###

Jan
5
2018

The Good, Bad and Ugly of Vehicle-to-Grid Services

Electrical & Computer

Read the full story at Microgrid Knowledge. All eyes are on Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) as it tests the ability of EVs to help power homes during outages and provide demand response. Will vehicle-to-grid live up to its big promise? Industry insiders are both optimistic and cautious... ...Brandon Grainger, associate director, Electric Power Systems Laboratory at University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, says that large communities of EVs can be used to benefit the grid. If enough generation is available from such a “community,” starting up the grid after a large outage could be easier, he says. “One could coordinate specific electric vehicles to function as generation sources and those that can serve as a load. This thought may help to enhance system resiliency. This capability (acting as source or load) is dependent on the power flow that is exchanged between the car and the grid.” If the car receives electricity, it’s a load, but if it’s sending power to the grid or another vehicle, it’s a generation source, he explains. “This can all be done with the intelligent, high power dense power electronic systems built into the cars themselves,” he says. However, if car owners are expected to participate in such events, utilities need to provide incentives to compensate owners for the use of their vehicles and for discharging their batteries, he adds. “Similar to the tax credits for installing PV generation on homes to generate widespread adoption, an incentive for battery replacement will need to be crafted,” he says. If utility use leads to batteries being replaced more often, disposing of the batteries in an environmentally friendly fashion may be a challenge, he notes. In taking advantage of EVs, utilities need to figure out how to determine whether the batteries are charged enough to help when there is an outage. Systems need to be developed to provide this service, he says.
Llisa Cohn, Microgrid Knowledge
Jan
4
2018

A look into the fourth dimension

Electrical & Computer

Ever since Albert Einstein developed the special theory of relativity in Zurich in 1905, by «fourth dimension» one usually means time. But how can one visualize a fourth spatial dimension – in addition to top-bottom, right-left and front-back? In the arts Salvador Dalí tried that: his crucifixion scene painted in 1954 shows as cross consisting of the three-dimensional unfolding of a hypercube in four dimensions (similarly to the unfolding of a cube into squares). A completely different, but no less fascinating, look into the fourth spatial dimension was now obtained by two teams of scientists from Switzerland, USA, Germany, Italy and Israel. The ETH Zurich researcher Oded Zilberberg, professor at the Institute for Theoretical Physics, played a pivotal role in both publications, which were recently published in the scientific journal Nature (doi:10.1038/nature25000). He provided the theoretical basis for the experiments in which a four-dimensional physical phenomenon could be observed in two dimensions. ...A team of physicists led by Mikael Rechtsman at Penn State University and including Kevin Chen’s group at the University of Pittsburgh in the USA has realized Oded Zilberberg’s idea by burning a two-dimensional array of waveguides into a fifteen-centimeter-long glass block using laser beams. Those waveguides were not straight, however, but rather meandered through the glass in a snake-like fashion so that the distances between them varied along the glass block. Depending on those distances, light waves moving through the waveguides could jump more or less easily to a neighboring waveguide. Read the entire news release from ETH Zurich.
Author: Oliver Morsch, ETH
Jan
3
2018

Pittsburgh Steels Up for Microgrid Leadership

Electrical & Computer

Reposted from Energy Times. View article here. Beginning in 2015, the University of Pittsburgh’s Energy GRID Institute took the lead on defining the concept, and anchoring the research and development, for the city of Pittsburgh’s “District Energy Initiative: The Grid of Microgrids.”  The early work related to this concept has thus far centered on collaborating with the city, the U.S. Department of Energy, industry participants, and community partners to better understand how energy is produced, delivered, and consumed within the city and the broader region.  At the same time, Pitt’s technical research in electric power systems and technologies have focused on better understanding the operational, financial, and technical impacts of new energy systems designs – including microgrids – through applied demonstrations with community partners, while also analyzing the environmental, social, and economic aspects of these new demonstrations.The concept for a Grid of Microgrids brings together the strong value propositions of both independent energy eco-systems in harmony with a larger integrated energy network.  To-date, there are four major projects underway in which the GRID Institute is participating.They include an analysis for an energy baseline report as part of Pittsburgh’s Climate Action Plan 3.0, along with a broad energy planning analysis and strategy development for the broader Commonwealth of Pennsylvania;  the  development and successful implementation of a world-class test bed for Pitt’s direct current infrastructure research with the Pitt-Ohio Express trucking company at their Harmar distribution facility, through the country’s first all-DC-based renewable solar and wind) and storage integration; partnering with the local electric utility, Duquesne Light Company, on their Wood’s Run Complex microgrid project; and efforts on Pitt’s own campus through the support of the facilities management group on a long term energy and conservation plan.   Many other projects and demonstrations are in the concept and planning stages throughout the city and the region, including developments for local communities and neighborhoods, hospital networks, industrial and commercial facilities and parks, greenfield developments, and retrofits of existing infrastructure. All of these efforts are leading to an unprecedented sustainable energy transition in Pittsburgh, and have ensured that the diverse and innovative contributions of technical researchers is being translated into deployable projects across the city, while also understanding and identifying how project developers, technology providers, and broader utilities can better cooperate and demonstrate the creation of more sustainable, reliable, affordable, secure, and resilient energy infrastructures.In 2018, the efforts will focus on putting more of these plans into action. With the expected completion in early 2018 of the GRID Institute’s new utility-scale Electric Power Technologies Lab at the Pittsburgh Energy Innovation Center, more opportunities will be available to accelerate research and development of applicable technologies and designs for continuing the advancement of these important energy system demonstrations, with an even greater emphasis on industry participation and community engagement. By 2019 and beyond, it is envisioned that a truly integrated and intelligent energy network will begin to emerge that embraces more sustainable solutions with advanced technology architectures.
Gregory Reed and Katrina Kelly, Energy GRID Institute