Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Triton Tables With a View

Engineering graduate students and alumni who mingled during the Aug. 26 Triton Tables event here on campus enjoyed some spectacular sunset views from the 11th floor of Tioga Hall. They also enjoyed great conversations and great food.

The event is designed to give students and alumni an opportunity to meet and mingle, as well as get career advice. The Aug. 26 Triton Table was hosted by Sam Knight, who graduated from UC San Diego in 1973 with a bachelor's in what was then applied physics and information science. He currently serves as vice president, carrier and industry relations, at Location Smart and also serves on the Jacobs School's Alumni Council.

"I believe the evening was a hit," Knight wrote alumni participants after the event. "The students expressed a real appreciation for the breadth of experiences shared by you all."

The gorgeous sunset  was courtesy of the remnants of tropical storm Ivo, according to UT San Diego.

For more information on Triton Tables, or to host a Triton Table, contact Tatis Cervantes at

Monday, August 26, 2013

Jacobs School Student Writes From Beirut

We love to hear from our students who are traveling and working around the world this summer. So we were thrilled when we got an email from Hani Daou, an electrical engineering major, who is working as an intern in Beirut, Lebanon. More specifically, he is working for Multilane, a company that provides high-speed, high-value turnkey test solutions for the networking, semiconductor, signal integrity and datacom systems industries.

He writes:

My duties in this internship included understanding the functionality of various Multilane products, mainly Bit Error Rate Testers and Digital Sampling Oscilloscopes. Recently, I have been getting hands on in helping Multilane product development engineers in developing an Active Optical Cable testing solution, which is designed to carry out a variety of quality and signal integrity tests for Active Optical Cables. I have attached a picture taken of me working in the lab, observing eye measurements sampled by a Digital Sampling oscilloscope after passing through an AOC cable.
If you have a cool internship story, email us at  ipatrin AT ucsd DOT edu or post pictures and info on our Facebook page at

Friday, August 23, 2013

Chancellor Khosla Visits TIP Team

From left: Graduate students Nick Morozovsky and Daniel Yang, TIP team members Kaylee Feigum, Parry Wilcox, Victor Balcer, Kevin Katz, Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla and  graduate student Yuncong Chen.
Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla visited Aug. 22 with students who are part of the Jacobs School's Team Internship Program and work at the Sorrento-Valley-based Brain Corporation. TIP brings together teams of students from different majors who get real-world engineering experiences at companies around the world. The Brain Corp. interns got to build a drone and experimented with various robot prototypes.

Brain Corporation is a pioneer in developing novel algorithms that model the functionality of the nervous system and can be applied to robotics, computer vision, motor control and autonomous navigation. The TIP team aren't the only Jacobs School employees at the company. It also employs part-time two Jacobs School graduate students, Daniel Yang and Nick Morozovsky, who are part of the research group of Thomas Bewley, a professor in mechanical and aerospace engineering. The group connected with Brain Corporation via Jacobs School alum Marius Buibas, who is a scientist at the company.

Bewley, Morozovsky and Yang are household names here at the Jacobs School. In Bewley's lab, Morozovsky designed SkySweeper, a robot for power line inspection, and Switchblade, an agile robot that can balance and climb stairs. Yang is the designer of a fire-fighting robot known as FFR. Both robots have received ample media coverage and FFR's technology was recognized at this year's Student Infrared Imaging Competition, bringing $10,000 home for the Bewley lab.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Alum Yoshi Kohno featured on NOVA Science Now

A--very belated--kudos for alum Yoshi Kohno, who appeared in an episode of NOVA Science NOW in October 2012. We found out about the show while talking to a NOVA crew during a test at the Englekirk Structural Engineering Center this past weekend.

Before joining the faculty at the University of Washington, Kohno was a graduate student in the research group of Mihir Ballare here at the Jacobs School. During his almost two-decade long academic career, he has hacked into cars, voting machines and even chips that expert runners insert into their shoes, among other exploits. The show retells his life since childhood when he was, of course, a computer wiz interested in cryptography.

"Thanks goodness that Yoshi is on our side," his wife, Taryn, says at one point during the show.

You can watch the show here (the segment on Kohno begins around 41:00).

You can also read about his work to hack into cars' electronic components in conjunction with Stefan Savage's research group  here at the Jacobs School in this New York Times story.

A couple of Jacobs School press releases about Kohno's work: on hacking into Diebold voting machines, which led to a testimony in front of Congress; and on a free software he helped develop to track lost or stolen laptops.

 In 2007, he landed on the MIT Technology Review's prestigious list of innovators under 35

Monday, August 19, 2013

Bringing the House Down

It took four tries, but engineers at the Englekirk Structural Engineering Center at UC San Diego finally brought down at four-story structure they had been testing since July on the world's largest outdoor shake table. Led by John van de Lindt, a professor of Colorado State University, they were trying to understand how to make structures with wood frames and first-floor garages better equipped to withstand earthquakes.

Results so far were positive, van de Lindt told UT San Diego:

"We learned that these buildings can deform quite a bit before they collapse; that's a positive. And the ground has to move a lot."

Saturday, Aug. 17, van de Lindt and colleagues had removed the various retrofits that they had been testing for about a month. Their goal was to see how far they would have to push the building before it collapsed. It turned out to be quite a bit.

Researchers used the Englekirk Center's shake table to simulate the 1992 Cape Mendocino earthquake, a 7.2 magnitude temblor, the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, a 6.9 shaker also known as the World Series earthquake, and finally the Superstition Hills earthquake, a 6.7 temblor that caused $3 million in damage in Imperial County in 1987. That's when the house fell down.

"The first floor just pancaked," van de Lindt told UT San Diego.

In addition to UT San Diego, the test was also covered by:


10News, San Diego

CBS News 8, San Diego 

and other local TV stations. 

Learn more about the research project here

More info about the Englekirk Center here.

More pictures from Saturday's tests:

Friday, August 16, 2013

Brain-inspired Computer Architecture

Electrical engineering alumnus Dharmendra Modha is working on a brain-inspired computer architecture at IBM. It's part of the SyNAPSE project.

CNET covered the most recent update on this project which is "new software ecosystem was built to program silicon chips whose architecture is directly inspired by the brain's size, function, and minimal use of power."

Keep up with Modha's research on his blog "Dharmendra S Modha's Cognitive Computing Blog".

Check out the 2009 Pulse story celebrating the fact that the IEEE selected Modha as one of seven top minds to discuss how emerging technologies have the potential to change the world.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Flying Over the Fallen Star

Some of you may have wondered why a small blimp was hovering over the Warren Mall last week. It turns out a group of Jacobs School undergraduates were testing an aerial camera platform, attached to the blimp, which is in fact a balloon (we're told).

The project is part of Engineers for Exploration, a program that allows UC San Diego students to partner with the National Geographic Society, the Hubbs SeaWorld Research Institute and San Diego Zoo Global.
For their test flight, the undergraduates had redesigned the camera with new rigging and a new pivoting device called a gimbal. The set-up holds a DSLR camera. The balloon is also equipped with a GoPro video camera. In addition, students rewrote the code that helps the platform remain stable.

The test flight was a success and the students took some amazing pictures and video footage. They created a high resolution panoramic shot by stitching together individual pictures. They also have started working on 3D reconstructions from 2D photographs. The goal is to create photorealistic 3D models of the area the camera platform surveys, where a researcher could virtually "walk through."

In the past, the camera platform has been used to track whales off the San Diego Coast. Students are preparing to take to the sea again soon.

Related links:

Engineers for Exploration

Blog post: Balloon Test on Warren Mall

Photo Gallery: Balloon test


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Creating a Community for Incoming Freshmen

They learned slacklining on the beach. They built structures out of KNEX and got to test them on a miniature shake table. They built towers out of spaghetti and marshmallow. But more importantly, they met people who will become their best friends over the next four years.

Dozens of incoming freshmen who are IDEA Scholars took part in the Summer Pre-Engineering Program (PrEP) organized by the IDEA Student Center. The program's goals include fostering a sense of community; preparing incoming students academically; smoothing the transition between high school and college; building awareness of campus programs and resources; and inspiring students.

This year's program for incoming freshmen took place July 30 to Aug. 3. Some pictures of the fun below.
Next up are incoming transfer students, who will take part in a shorter program Aug. 14 to 16.

Monday, August 5, 2013

She Codes: Alumna Promotes Learning Computer Science for Girls, Minorities

Jacobs School alumna Jennifer Arguello will be in the spotlight Friday, Aug. 9 at the SheCodes conference in Mountain View, Calif. She earned her bachelor's of computer science at UC San Diego in 2000 and serves on the CSE Alumni Board.

She also is a co-founder of the Latino Startup Alliance and serves on the National Board of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. She worked on Microsoft's Xbox Kinect and for Mozilla. So she is a perfect fit for SheCodes, a conference that brings together the most talented women in tech from around the San Francisco Bay Area. Arguello will talk about working with youth and her passion for computer science education in kindergarten through 12th-grade.

Arguello also recently appeared in a video for Black Girls Code, an organization that aims to give women, and girls, of color the tools to become inventors, leaders and creators in the tech world. Here's a part of her story:
"I'm one of those freaks of nature that learned how to code at 6. I'm a self-taught coder. But here is the problem: I didn't see code until I was in high school. From 6 to 16, nothing."
"What's really important about Black Girls CODE, what's really important about having diversity in technology, is that if you don't have it, you will get products, you will have technology, that is built for the majority. And what is that in the U.S.? White males."
Learn more about SheCodes here:
Watch the Black Girls CODE video here:

News of the Week

Biosensing tattoos. Wireless electrodes. Fire fighting robots. It was a busy week in the news for the Jacobs School of Engineering.

Geert Schmid-Schönbein, bioengineering professor and chair, was featured in a Voice of San Diego article on the philosophical and often practical question on the balance and, sometimes, the tension, between research and development. In the competition for limited research funding, is there too much pressure to focus on commercial applications? Do researchers have enough room to ponder more open-ended scientific problems that may take 20 or 30 years to develop a marketable idea, medical treatment or solution, assuming it ever does?

VOSD writer Kelly Bennett also interviewed Rosibel Ochoa, director of the Jacobs School of Engineering’s von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center, which provides seed funding and advisory services to faculty and students who want to examine whether there is a commercial market for their research.   
Ochoa said researchers have nothing to fear from the commercialization process.

“Most of the research that is being conducted is trying to address a problem somehow,” said Ochoa. “Even though you are in the very early stages of the discovery, or the learning process, you should always have in mind, ‘If I’m successful, what is the path to get that discovery into the hands of a patient?’”

Finding potential markets for his discoveries is exciting, said Schmid-Schönbein. But he’s still got a soft spot for his first love.

“Nothing is more exciting than sitting together with a student who’s just made a discovery,” he said. “It’s electrifying. There are no millions of dollars you can give me that would match that.”

Meanwhile, the LA Times featured biosensor tattoos developed in the nanoengineering lab of professor Joe Wang. The tattoos measure lactate in sweat to alter athletes when they are on the verge of overexertion. LA Times explains the science:  

Normally, aerobic metabolism supplies muscles with enough energy to keep them going. But they might not cut it during during intense physical activity. To compensate, muscles consume their stores of glycogen and release energy anaerobically. This process produces lactate, which then gets converted to lactic acid. Over time, lactic acid accumulates in the muscles, eventually triggering the intense exhaustion associated with hitting “the wall.”

Doctors and trainers often use lactate as an indicator of physical exertion, usually by measuring its levels in blood drawn every few minutes. UCSD nanoengineer Joseph Wang came up with a less invasive solution. He developed a sensor that monitors lactate levels in sweat instead of blood, so that athletes can apply it to their skin — much like a temporary tattoo.
UT San Diego science writer Gary Robbins featured UC San Diego startup Cognionics in an online interview this week.  Cognionics was founded by UC San Diego alumnus Mike Chi (Ph.D. '11), an electrical engineer who developed his technology while working in the laboratory of bioengineering professor Gert Cauwenberghs and launched his company with funding and advisory services from the Jacobs School's von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center. Cognionics' EEG headset is wireless and relies on dry electrode technology. These major advancements remove the long, messy setup required for conventional EEG and allow doctors and researchers to monitor their patients and subjects in more natural, real-world environments outside the hospital or laboratory. 

The Scientist featured Calit2 Director Larry Smarr in this video, where he explains his efforts to record data about his own body. Smarr talks about his fight with Crohn's disease, weight loss and getting a better understanding of your own body. His goal is to fend off future health problems.

KPBS, the local NPR affiliate in San Diego, has a story about how Jacobs School graduate student Sarah Meiklejohn helped foil a plot to frame an influential security blogger by the name of David Krebs. Russian hackers where planning to mail heroin to Krebs' house, then call the police on him. Meiklejohn helped Krebs determine that the hackers had indeed purchased the drugs. KPBS explains:

"I just helped confirm that the hacker who was boasting about doing this is likely the perpetrator," said Meiklejohn. Her insider knowledge of Bitcoin and clandestine online marketplaces like Silk Road helped her connect—with a reasonable degree of certainty—the Russian hackers with the heroin shipped to Krebs' house.
"The hacker posted, publicly, a Bitcoin address on a forum," she said, retracing the steps she took to verify Krebs' suspicions.

The website Government Technology featured a firefighting robot built in the lab of Jacobs School Professor Thomas Bewley. More from Gov Tech:

The vision for the project is for it to become common practice for every fire department to own a squad of cheap, semi-autonomous robots that can enter superheated situations and emerge unscathed. The student team of Yuncong Chen, Will Warren, and Daniel Yang recently won a $10,000 grand prize for their robot prototype at the Student Infrared Imaging Competition.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Video Game that Teaches Java now Available for Windows

An immersive, first-prson player vidoe game designed to teach students in elementary to high school how to program in Java is finally available for Windows. CodeSpells was released in April of this year, but it was only available for the iOS operating system on Apple computers.
When CodeSpells was originally released, Sarah Esper and Stephen Foster, the two graduate students who developed the game, received a torrent of emails asking if it was available for Windows. They were already working on a Windows version but sped up the process due to popular demand.
Check out the CodeSpells site here
Download the game, for iOS or for Windows, here
Original press release about CodeSpells here
Finally, check out a cool video about the game here