Friday, August 11, 2017

UC San Diego at RoboCup 2017

Darren Chen, a Ph.D. student in computer science at UC San Diego, had just landed in Japan when he saw ads in the subway for the competition he was going to take part in. "I realized it was a big deal," he said. He might even have panicked a little, he admitted.
In fact, the competition, called the RoboCup, brought more than 10,000 spectators and competitors to Nagoya, Japan at the end of July. The event, which is broadcast on Japanese TV, was celebrating its 20th anniversary. 
Chen was part of a team of Ph.D. students from the Contextual Robotics Institute here at the Jacobs School that was taking part in the event's RoboCup @ Home challenge. It was UC San Diego's first time taking part in the competition.
In the @ Home challenge, 10 universities from around the world compete to complete a series of tasks by programming and training a Toyota Human Support Robot. The UC San Diego team had to sort groceries and help a person carry grocery items.
 In addition, they faced a task to qualify. On the fly, they had to program the Toyota robot to autonomously navigate and map out a room without bumping into people and objects. The robot also had to be able to obey verbal commands in a noisy environment.
But the team's worst foe turned out to be the venue's WiFi. When 10,000 people were using the same radio band, it became difficult for the robot to communicate with other computers quickly.
The researchers enjoyed the experience of participating in the competition, and look forward to continuing to build assistive robots in the future.
In addition to Chen, the team working on the RoboCup @ Home challenge included   Angelique Taylor, Priyam Parashar  and Ruffin White as well master's student Jaskaran Virdi from the research groups of computer science professors Laurel Riek and Henrik Christensen. Christensen is the director of the Contextual Robotics Institute.
More info:
Two of the UC San Diego Ph.D. students taking part in the competition, as seen by the Toyota robot.

Darren Chen, center, and Angelique Taylor, right, are two Ph.D. students in the research group of Professor Laurel Riek. 

Taylor has some fun with the robots on exhibit at RoboCup.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Alum demos 3D avatar from just one 2D picture

Watch Jacobs School alum Iman Sadeghi demonstrating how you can build a 3D avatar from just one 2D picture by using software from Pinscreen, the company where Sadeghi is VP of engineering.
The technology is powered by neural networks and GPUs.
The Pinscreen demo starts around the 50:30 mark.
The 3D avatar can be used in VR environments. It is expressive and reflects different light conditions.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Smart Glove Turns Sign Language Into Text


Engineers at the University of California San Diego have developed a smart glove that wirelessly translates the American Sign Language alphabet into text and controls a virtual hand to mimic sign language gestures. The device, which engineers call “The Language of Glove,” was built for less than $100 using stretchable and printable electronics that are inexpensive, commercially available and easy to assemble.

The glove was created in the lab of nanoengineering professor Darren Lipomi. The lead graduate student on the project, Timothy O'Connor, spoke to 10 News - ABC San Diego about the work. Check out the video clip above.

In addition to decoding American Sign Language gestures, researchers are developing the glove to be used in a variety of other applications ranging from virtual and augmented reality to telesurgery, technical training and defense.

The glove also made an appearance in KPBS, Newsweek, Popular Mechanics, IEEE Spectrum and various other news outlets.

Click here for the full story on the glove -- read more on how it was built, how it works and what's next.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

One Imaging Agent to Rule Them All

by Heather Buschman, UC San Diego Health

When you have a medical scan, it’s usually an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), CT (computed tomography) or more recently, PL imaging (photoluminescence). Sometimes it’s all three as your care team works to determine what’s ailing you. That means three different appointments and three different imaging agents — typically nasty-tasting stuff you have to drink in order to sufficiently enhance the imaging signal so that diseased tissue can be distinguished from healthy tissue. Each comes with its own side effects and potential risks.
“What the medical field has long needed is a single imaging agent that will work across multiple imaging systems,” said Adah Almutairi, PhD, associate professor in the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at UC San Diego.
Almutairi is always one to take up a challenge like that. Her bioresponsive materials lab is known for designing and developing smart polymers, nanoparticles and hydrogels for many innovative medical and research applications. One of Almutairi’s pet interests is in lanthanides, a family of naturally occurring chemicals that intrigued 19th century chemists because, among many other interesting properties, they burn easily in air, fluoresce under UV light and react with most nonmetals.
Inexplicably, scientific interest in lanthanides waned in the 1970s. A couple of years ago, Almutairi took up the mantle to explore how lanthanides do one special thing: convert low energy light into high energy light. She has long believed that her team could take advantage of that property for medical applications.
Almutairi and her team recently developed a new nanoparticle with a lanthanide-based core-shell-shell architecture. The nanoparticle emits light for optical imaging, but also relaxes water molecules for MRI and attenuates X-rays for CT simultaneously. 
Inexplicably, scientific interest in lanthanides waned in the 1970s. A couple of years ago, Almutairi took up the mantle to explore how lanthanides do one special thing: convert low energy light into high energy light. She has long believed that her team could take advantage of that property for medical applications.
Almutairi and her team recently developed a new nanoparticle with a lanthanide-based core-shell-shell architecture. The nanoparticle emits light for optical imaging, but also relaxes water molecules for MRI and attenuates X-rays for CT simultaneously. 

Three in one: the lanthanide nanoparticles can be used for photoluminescence (PL), computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) simultaneously.
In a study published in Nano Letters, the researchers tested these nanoparticles in “phantom” tissue — a hydrogel system that mimics living tissue in the laboratory. Not only does the nanoparticle work for each imaging type, it works better than each individual imaging agent on its own.
The team is now working to reduce the size of their new imaging nanoparticle so a patient’s kidneys can clear it more easily from the bloodstream.
“The main point of this study is that we overcame an engineering challenge,” said Sha He, a graduate student in the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego and first author of the new study. “Now we will tweak the design so we can advance this technology to pre-clinical and clinical testing. Our goal is that one day this nanoparticle, or one like it, will allow a patient to complete his or her imaging all at once, reducing the risk and toxicity associated with separate administration of multiple imaging agents.”

Friday, July 14, 2017

Mechanical engineering alumus honored for work on autonomous amphibious vehicle

UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering mechanical engineering alumnus Aaron Burmeister (B.S. mechanical engineering 2001) has been selected as one of the nation’s top scientists and engineers of the year by the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research Development and Acquisition.

Burmeister is an engineer for Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific (SSC Pacific). He won the prestigious Dr. Delores M. Etter Top Scientists and Engineers award, in the individual engineer category, for his work developing an autonomous amphibious vehicle.

“It’s challenging because perception, navigation, and control strategies have to change as the vehicle transitions from sea to surf zone to land domains. We have started the effort by developing an autonomy system that can control a commercially available amphibious manned vehicle capable of going up to 45 mph on land or water,” explained Burmeister, in a statement. 

He goes into more detail on the project in a US Navy video by Aaron Lebsack (embedded below).  

Friday, July 7, 2017

Institute for the Global Entrepreneur Hosted First Annual Innovation Award

C:\Users\mej029\Downloads\Image-1 (4).jpg
Audrey Olsen
On June 14, the Center on Global Transformation (CGT) in partnership with the Institute for the Global Entrepreneur (IGE) hosted the UC San Diego Application Student Innovation Contest for undergraduate students at the Jacobs School of Engineering. Contest submissions were judged by industry experts, including Qualcomm executives and serial tech entrepreneurs. The winning product, by Audrey Olson, was called MatchRest.  It is a mutual accountability software application that matches people with comparable habits and sleep goals and rewarded them for staying and keeping one another on track. For example, a person with the sleep goals of falling asleep before midnight and turning off her computer an hour beforehand would check in with her partner nightly before doing each, and vice versa.  Each user would also have a virtual bedroom showcasing the status of his or her virtual avatar, which could be upgraded or customized more thoroughly as more goals were reached. Audrey won $5,000 in prize money. Second and third place students received $2,000 and $1,000 respectively.
Jesse Ren
Audrey’s partner in developing the product is Jesse Ren, acomputer science student and a 2016 NSF I-Corps participant. The Institute of Global Entrepreneur’s I-Corps program teaches lean start-up principles that are focused on product/market fit and customer discovery. Next up for the team, they plan on doing initial customer interviews in the fall to help in the development of their minimum viable product (MVP). They are currently working on personal projects (one such project is for UC San Diego's Project-in-a-Box initiative) while studying, applying, and interviewing for full-time post-graduate positions in the software industry.
We reached out to Elizabeth Lyons, Professor at the School of Global Policy, to talk about the contest.
IGE - What is the innovation contest and why hold it now?
EL - The UC San Diego Student Innovation Contest is a contest for undergraduates at the Jacobs School of Engineering (JSoE), who are interested in working on a real-world problem that has not yet been solved; second, expanding their knowledge and capabilities through a hands-on project; and third, the opportunity to win some money. We held the contest for the first time this year because of the important role innovation plays in economic growth and our interest in understanding whether it’s possible to encourage more innovation through contests like this. We also wanted to give JSoE students the opportunity to grow as innovators, and to build more links between the School of Global Policy and Strategy, JSoE, and the Institute for the Global Entrepreneur (IGE).

IGE -  What was it that made the winning team stand out?

EL - The winner of the contest did an outstanding job of building a commercially viable and technologically functional product. All the judges agreed that her application was user-friendly and that her revenue model was compelling. She stood out in how well she took into consideration all aspects of the innovative process. We received a number of submissions that were technologically very compelling or that had the potential to be commercially successful, but only a few that scored well in both areas.

IGE - When is the next challenge and how do teams sign up?

EL - We are currently working on how to proceed with the contest going forward. Our options for the next challenge will depend on the lessons we’re now compiling from the first contest. We’ve received very helpful feedback from many of our contest participants, and we’re also trying to analyze what led some participants to exert more effort than others in the hopes that we can improve on our contest design going forward. We will be sure to announce any upcoming challenges as soon as we’ve finalized the details!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

UC Health Hack Expands Opportunities for Students, Builds Partnerships for the Future

By Jacquelyn Lim  

A few months after UC Health Hack 2017, organizers are still buzzing from the success of the hackaton's first partnerships with Southern California health institutions- UC San Diego Health, UC Irvine Heath and Rady's Children's Hospital- prompting event coordinators to start planning early for the annual event next year.

Health Hack was hosted in 2015 and 2016 solely by Engineering World Health (EWH)- the UCSD chapter of a nationally-backed organization dedicated to improving medical health and living standards in underdeveloped communities around the world.

This year was the biggest yet.

New partnerships with the three health systems doubled the amount of participants of what the event had previously.  It provided the opportunity for engineering and medical students to collaborate for the first time, to address the mission of EWH and current problems within partnered institutions.

The results were creative and innovative solutions to this year's most pressing topics: refugee healthcare, healthy aging, home care, and patient experience.

"We already had participation from UC Berkeley and are looking to partner with UCSF, UCLA and all of the other UCs next year," said Tracy Magee, Integrative Health Coordinator and Systems Information Project Manager.

Student prototypes thrilled event organizers, health experts and industry professionals.

"It's been a week and we are surprised, so impressed, we are deciding on where to go from here," Magee said.

Participants were divided into two tracks over two days to keep teams organized.  

One was the Integrative Health Systems Track, where teams developed solutions for domestic problems in clinical settings. The other was the Global Health Track, where teams developed solutions for international public health issues.

First, second and third place prizes were awarded to teams in both tracks after a panel of judges- experts in health and industry leaders- decided which prototypes stood out. Team members are awarded mentorship from the Von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center and are given lab space from the Pepper House, two incubators involved in the event.

Winning teams from the Integrative Health Systems Track will be able to apply their prototypes to in UC San Diego’s and UC Irvine’s health systems immediately, which is the next step in enhancing their projects.

“They will be able to incorporate items that are built into the UCSD and UCI health systems and will try real-world solutions to these problems already, that we see in our institutions; in Thornton and Jacobs Medical Centers,” said Magee.

Off the Wall, the team placing first in the Integrative Health Systems Track, created a project called "Incentivizing Patient Mobility Through Augmented Reality Art Therapy," which helps reduce delayed discharge and lack of mobility of inpatients using mobile technology to connect them to art. The pilot study was done at Jacobs Medical Center.

Global Health Track winning teams will also have the opportunity to further work on their prototypes.

“ Our goal is to ensure that the projects that are developed during UC Health Hack are pursued beyond the weekend,” said Niranjanaa Jeeva, EWH Health Hack Co-Director.

Awesome, the team placing first in the Global Health Track created a project called "Blueprints for Life: Design Solutions for Refugee Health," where international refugee communities lacking basic needs are connected to engineers through a website, to create blueprints for local infrastructure.  

In addition to having more participants, the hackathon drew larger sponsorships from leading companies.

“Amazon Web Service and Epic, were two proprietary software companies that got involved this year and we are wanting to expand the numbers of companies and incubators that get involved [next year],” said Magee.

EWH coordinators are identifying  goals they want to reach next year and plans have already taken shape. Jeeva says the event gained significant exposure this year and organizers are working on leveraging what was gained into the coming year.

" We want participants from all over California to come and attend. We will be aiming for over 500 participants!"

UC San Diego’s Virtual Reality Club Sees Success in 2016-2017

The Virtual Reality (VR) Club at UC San Diego is a student organization that connects students with the VR industry through networking, workshops, and projects. Their mission is to foster a multi-disciplinary community dedicated to exploring and creating VR experiences. Two years since it’s founding, the club and it’s members are making themselves known around UC San Diego and the region.

Check out some of the highlights from 2016-2017 below:

  • Early Fall quarter, the VR Club started the year by hosting one of the biggest VR spaces ever to exist at a hackathon at SD Hacks. Complete with 10 HTC Vives, 12 VR-ready computers, two Oculus Rifts, and many more Google Cardboards, the VR Club achieved the most HTC Vive projects ever submitted to a hackathon, the most-attended workshop at SD Hacks, and tied for the highest rated workshop at the event. Read about the hackathon here.

  • On April 5th, the VR Club offered students the chance to try out new augmented reality innovations in partnership with Red Bull. Check out the video here.

  • April 7th-9th, UC San Diego engineering and archaeology students that teamed up for the world’s first cyber-archaeology hackathon. The hackathon was hosted by the VR Club in partnership with the Center for Cyber-Archaeology and Sustainability, which is housed in UC San Diego’s Qualcomm Institute. The marriage of archaeology, computer science, engineering, and the natural sciences, cyber-archaeology enlists the help of technology to safeguard the past for future generations. During the event, undergraduate students were given access to “virtual remains” from at-risk archaeological sites excavated by UC San Diego archaeology teams. The students faced the challenge of weaving this digital data, over the course of a weekend, into an engaging virtual reality experience that would help draw more people to the stories and lessons that history has to tell. Read more here.

  • VR Club President Connor Smith spoke at the Link2 event on May 22nd a showcase started by the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation to inspire local young people to innovate and pursue careers in technology.

  • On May 25th, the VR Club won the Outstanding Student Organization of the Year, which displays outstanding effort in many areas. Organizations that win this award make contributions to both the University and the local community, have great leadership, support member development, and show commitment to diversity.

  • Smith was interviewed by ABC San Diego also on May 25th. He showed reporter Jessica Chen his “Sensory” project, that the VR Club created in TreeHacks, a 36-hour Hackathon at Stanford. The technology helps people understand disorders, cultivating empathy. Sensory won two awards at TreeHacks, for “Most Creative,” and “Best Education.”

  • HackXX, UC San Diego’s all-female hackathon, took place for 24 straight hours from June 3rd-4th in the Qualcomm Room at the Jacobs Engineering School. This event empowers female women in tech to make their technological goals come to life. The VR Club was there as a sponsor, providing 24-hour mentorship. Three of the teams competing were also affiliated with the club. Their “Escape from Wonderland” team won first place for their 3D video game in the style of Alice in Wonderland. Another team, “Zenga,” won the Northrop Grumman’s Excellent UX Design Challenge.

  • To cap off the 2016-2017 school year, the club held their Spring Project Showcase on June 9th. 10 teams demonstrated projects, including six HTC Vive demos, two Google Cardboard demos, and one Google Daydream demo.

In addition to these highlights, the club also offered workshops in partnership with companies like Microsoft, and sponsored events like Sun God and the Triton 5K, and participated in outreach to local junior high and high schools. Interested in joining? Check them out on Facebook!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering is meeting employer needs in STEM

At the U.S. News STEM Solutions 2017 conference, UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering Dean Albert P. Pisano participated in the closing keynote session. Pisano shared the stage with Rep. Scott Peters; Debra Reed, Chairman, President and CEO of Sempra Energy; Francis deSouza, President and CEO of Illumina; and Mark Dankberg, Chairman of the Board and CEO of ViaSat.

The high-powered group discussed the importance of meeting the STEM challenges in San Diego and beyond, as well as the key roles that community colleges play in filling the STEM pipeline.

“I spend a lot of time listening to corporate executives to learn from them exactly what their workforce needs are, so that we at the Jacobs School can be preparing students to the best of our ability,” said Pisano.

Increasing and supporting STEM-related degree programs at institutions of higher education is crucial, but it’s the not whole picture, Pisano noted. If students don't know what types of STEM jobs are available to them, how will they know to choose a STEM field of study?

Pisano highlighted the need to introduce to students at a young age the various types of STEM careers that are available to them.

The Jacobs School of Engineering helps in this important task through a variety of outreach programs, some of which are run by the Jacobs School’s IDEA Engineering Student Center. In addition, the Jacobs School administers UC San Diego’s instantiation of the California State Summer School for Mathematics and Science, or COSMOS.

COSMOS is a four-week residential program for high school students with demonstrated achievements in math and science that gives this kind of introduction to a career in engineering. COSMOS is offered at four University of California campuses and aims to encourage high school students interested in science, technology, engineering and math to continue pursuing these fields in college.

At UC San Diego, COSMOS has been in place for 12 years. Students who are admitted to the program select from nine clusters depending on their interests, which range from computers in everyday life and the amazing red blood cell, to tissue engineering and robot inventors.

Learn how to apply to COSMOS here.