News

On Saturday, April 5, the UMass Amherst chapter of the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) held its inaugural, 24-hour “HackUMass, the IEEE Embedded Systems Hackathon” in the M5 maker space on the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus. A hackathon (also known as a hack day, hackfest, or codefest) is an event in which computer programmers and others involved in software development collaborate intensively on software projects, often with hardware components. “We’re holding this hackathon because we want to give students the opportunity to learn something new,” explains Andrew Sousa, an undergraduate in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department and the vice chair of the UMass IEEE chapter.

The March 16 edition of the Boston Sunday Globe included a long feature article on PERCEPT, the brainchild of Professor Aura Ganz (Electrical and Computer Engineering Department) that will be installed in Boston’s Arlington Metro Station to help the visually impaired navigate the complicated building and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) system. The new technology designed at the University of Massachusetts Amherst will make subway orienteering easier for blind people by offering step-by-step instructions on how to get to their destinations inside a T station. The electronic navigation system uses a smartphone application to help people detect landmarks inside a station and provides verbal directions for moving from one spot to another. Go to Globe article: http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2014/03/16/new-technology-for-visually-impaired-debut-arlington station/3f78woRN794pBjee3LCFcL/story.html

A student from the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department, David Joy, has been invited to present a paper on his team’s senior capstone project at the eighth annual Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers International Conference on RFID (http://2014.ieee-rfid.org), being held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, from April 8 to 10. The title of the paper is "RFID Solution to Fighting Handicap Parking Abuse," which describes a capstone project being developed by Joy, Redwan Alzain, Andrew Baraby, and Mark Page. Their faculty advisor is Professor David McLaughlin, and the team is named Team HP-ID (for Handicap Parking ID).

Professor Ramakrishna Janaswamy of the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department has been named the 2013-2014 College of Engineering Outstanding Teacher. “Rama's effectiveness as a classroom instructor and dedication to the overall teaching mission of the college are truly appreciated by our students,” said Dean Tim Anderson and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Dave Ford in making the announcement. Among other accomplishments, Janaswamy was nominated for the UMass Distinguished Teaching Award in 2011, served as the ECE graduate program director for three years, developed four new graduate courses that were highly rated by students from 2003 to 2012, and has received a very high average of 4.44 out of a maximum 5 for his Student Response to Instruction rating from student evaluations over the last 10 years.

A new radar network offering higher resolution data and potentially earlier warning of severe weather goes live this month in the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) metroplex as government, university, and industry partners, led by the University of Massachusetts Amherst, begin operating a network that could become a national model. A key radar was installed on Feb. 11 in Addison, Texas. The DFW area thus becomes the first in the nation to host this next generation of small, near-surface, fine-scale, rapidly updating weather radar developed by researchers at the Center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere (CASA) at UMass Amherst, Colorado State University, and the University of Oklahoma.

Two College of Engineering graduate students were among the 10 UMass recipients of the Spring 2014 Eugene M. Isenberg Scholarships. The engineering awardees were Michael Prokle, studying Industrial Engineering and Operations Research in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department, and Akshaya Shanmugam of the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department. This gift was established by Eugene M. Isenberg, a 1950 graduate of UMass Amherst and the retired CEO of Nabors Industries, Inc., and his wife Ronnie Isenberg.

Imagine being blindfolded and then turned loose to navigate the complex Boston subway system. Your plight might recall The Man Who Never Returned, that classic Kingston Trio song about a guy named Charlie whose fate on the subway was to “ride forever ‘neath the streets of Boston.” Now imagine you can never take off that blindfold. That’s the real-life predicament of any visually impaired person who enters a busy subway station, and University of Massachusetts Amherst Professor Aura Ganz has a brilliant solution.

On January 6, the Colorado State University Coloradoan carried a feature article about the $2.8-million National Science Foundation project in the Dallas-Fort Worth area being run by the Engineering Research Center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere (CASA). Brenda Philips is the director of industry, government, and end-user partnerships for CASA and the principal investigator for the NSF project. The story focused on the development of new emergency transponders, using a technology called “geocasting,” which can be used to warn people about severe weather on their mobile telephones. “With geocasting, we can turn mobile phones into emergency communication devices,” Philips explained. “It’s also resilient and can operate in challenging conditions.”

Joseph Bardin of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has received a five-year grant of approximately $400,000 from the prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program. Bardin’s research will greatly improve the cryogenic electronics used in scientific instruments, thereby enabling new and more powerful experimental tools for scientific researchers.

On December 6 in the Campus Center Auditorium, 170 junior and senior students in the ECE 361 Fundamentals of Electrical Engineering course showed off some 40 model “smart cars” they had designed during the course as collision-avoiding vehicles. This course is intended to provide non-electrical engineering majors, in this case students from the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Department, with the relevant electrical and electronic engineering concepts and device knowledge to work effectively in multi-disciplined design, development, and manufacturing teams. View You Tube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1tJwOuOdzlQ.