Engineering Students' Group Design Projects Presented

San Diego, CA, December 9, 2005 -- Students from the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department's ECE 191 - Engineering Group Design Project - presented their course projects today. Calit2 sponsored five projects (two of which were co-sponsored by Scripps Institution of Oceanography [SIO]). There were 14 projects in all.

Cao simulink group, ECE 191
Calit2 Project Scientist Zhongren Arnold Cao (r) with team: Tina Pai-Lin Chin, Jeffrey Thoma, Nhi Y Bui, Ilhuicamina Aguilar, Nandan Das and Cao (l-r)  
[Photos by Barbara Haynor]

ECE 191 provides a rare opportunity for undergraduates to work as a group. Each group of students worked with faculty member and/or senior researcher mentors to design, build, demonstrate and document an engineering project. The students are not expected to produce a finished product; the primary goal is to have a real experience in engineering design from concept through building, development and testing, as well as to work within a group. Ryan Nishimura (student team member in Doug Palmer's group discussed below) particularly enjoyed the arc of the design process, "building and revising, working to a schedule, and especially as a team."

The projects were sponsored by industry and community partners (Northrop Grumman, Echelon, Raytheon and the San Diego Model Railroad Museum) and UCSD campus departments and research units (ECE, School of Medicine, SIO, as well as Calit2).

Industrial partners and academic sponsors also benefit. "It is an opportunity to explore design trade-offs, find the limitations, assess the technology, and see which look promising and worth further investigation," says Bill Hodgkiss, Calit2 Associate Director and Professor in the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO). Hodgkiss served as a mentor to two group projects this quarter, both were jointly sponsored by Calit2 and SIO.

Nandan Das and students, ECE 191
Nandan Das, ECE Ph.D. student and hardware engineer ViaSat, Inc. with undergraduate ECE majors Tina Pai-Lin Chin and Nhi Y Bui

The five projects sponsored by Calit2 included a group mentored by Zhongren Arnold Cao (Calit2 Project Scientist), Magnus Almgren (Calit2 and Ericsson Senior Researcher), and Nandan Das, who is a Ph.D. student under ECE Prof. Bhaskar Rao, as well as a Hardware Engineer at ViaSat Inc. The team, which included students Ilhuicamina Aguilar, Nhi Y Bui, Tina Pai-Lin Chin and Jeffrey Matthew Thoma, worked on "Simulink, System Generator and FPGA based Modeling and Testing for MIMO-OFDM System."

This was a new project for ECE 191, with the goal of implementing a transceiver on a Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA). They built a simulated MIMO/OFDM system using Xilinx/Simulink and implemented a simulated system in the real world using FPGA/DSP platform. The state-of-the-art FPGA/DSP testing platform is based on CalRadio. CalRadio is a Calit2 wireless transceiver research program. The platform they used was dubbed - CalRadio 1.5. The students enjoyed joining theory and practice and found it very exciting to "make something really work." Cao, who was a first time mentor, was quite pleased with the work of the team, "we are blessed with a very good group."

One of the projects Hodgkiss mentored was also new: "Energy Harvesting." The students in the group were: Stephen Jonghyuk Bak, Li Li Fang, Iwen B. Tsai and Clarence Lin. The objective of this initial investigation was to investigate and test one or more options for energy harvesting, including the appropriate energy storage and power management system. The goal is to determine how best to replace and/or recharge batteries in wireless sensor nodes for use in extended field deployments, such as 1 year or more.

The energy harvesting and storage work grew out of an ongoing project "Wireless Sensor Network" which is making good incremental progress with each successive ECE 191 team. The Fall 2005 team consisted of Kenny Choi, Enoch Wu, Phuong Ngoc Huynh and Sylvester Ku. The overall goal of confidently deploying sensors in the field, then collecting and returning the data to the home server for analysis is advancing.

Palmer bullhorn group ECE 191
Calit2 Prin. Development Engineer Doug Palmer (2nd from l) with Calit2 staffer Cuong Vu (l) and ECE 191 students Nicholas Andrade, Elissa Schoenmackers and Ryan Nishimura (l-r)

Doug Palmer, Calit2 Principal Development Engineer, and his team developed a "WiFi Remote Bullhorn System for Homeland Security."  Palmer greatly enjoys working with the students; "it is a joy and a lot of fun." The goal was to build a rugged WiFi enabled loudspeaker/bullhorn system that can be deployed in crisis situations to manage crowds and first responders. The student team members were Elissa Melor Schoenmackers, Ryan Steven Nishimura, Nicholas Einar Andrade and Hung-Chun Lin. Two additional Calit2 staff researchers helped mentor the team, Cuong Vu and Javier Rodriguez Molina. The students  successfully demonstrated their WiFi bullhorn during the recent San Diego Disaster Drill which was the latest and largest to be staged by San Diego's Metropolitan Medical Strike Team (MMST). Links to additional information can be found below. Elissa Schoenmackers found the disaster drill "a great experience, trying out opportunities is interesting and unlike anything else I have ever done."

Physics Professor Hans P. Paar mentored Wing Lok Szeto, Dominic Louis Cruz and Daniel Panlilio Elevado on an interesting community based project: "The San Diego Model Railroad Museum in Balboa Park---Computer Controlled Model Railroad Exhibition/Hardware." The goals were two-fold.  1)Hardware - Design a block detector that dynamically adjusts the threshold on conductivity of a block. 2)Software - Extend the “Dispatcher’ to avoid collision and enable looking ahead to avoid gridlock. Add multi-train operations and further development of the Graphics User Interface (GUI).

Other projects included a group mentored by Paul Blair, Calit2 Project Scientist, doing work on an ongoing project "Universal Access Keyboard." The goal is to create a keyboard whose physical layout can be customized to the needs of individual users.

ECE 191 is an upper division course which is part of the design requirement and is typically taken by seniors. Drs. Pankaj K. Das and Clark Guest of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department are the instructors.

Related Links
ECE 191 Course webpages 

Related Projects
Wireless Internet Information System for Medical Response in Disasters