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

Christos Dimitrakopoulos, a professor in the Chemical Engineering (ChE) Department, has achieved a scholarly feat rarely reached by any researcher. According to the Google Scholar (http://scholar.google.com/citations?user=_9ZuIhkAAAAJ&hl=en) website, Dimitrakopoulos has just sped past the 12,000 mark in publication citations. “My colleague Professor Christos Dimitrakopoulos has achieved a unique milestone in his career,” noted ChE Department Head T.J. Lakis Mountziaris. “It’s now over 12,000 citations and counting!” Before joining the College of Engineering in September of 2013, Dimitrakopoulos had spent the past 17 years as a research staff member at IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York.

On March 4, the Engineering Career and Student Development Center staged its first Startup Fair to connect a full house of 115 engineering students with seven new startup companies. The seven startups are touring college campuses together as members of a group named ThinkB1g (ThinkB1G.com), coordinated by Michael Gaiss, ThinkB1G’s founder and currently an entrepreneur in residence at the UMass Boston Venture Development Center. This first-time event on the crowded calendar of the Career Center was started by director Cheryl Brooks and assistant director Sally Darby because “There is a growing groundswell of interest within the College of Engineering for startup companies,” as Brooks said.

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).

Justin Calderara, an undergraduate in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department, figured prominently in a video about Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III, chairman of Gov. Deval L. Patrick’s STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) Advisory Council, when the congressman toured the recently completed University of Massachusetts Amherst Life Science Laboratory and Integrated Sciences Building. Calderara took part in lively student discussions with Congressman Kennedy concerning the university’s STEM Diversity Institute and its Integrated Concentration in Science (ICONS) program. After trading observations with Calderara and a tableful of other UMass undergrads, Congressman Kennedy called the group “tremendously impressive.” View the video at http://www.umass.edu/newsoffice/article/congressman-joseph-p-kennedy-iii-tours.

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.

On Wednesday, March 6, the American ideal of upward mobility went on exhibit. About 80 students and faculty members from at least four of the Commonwealth’s community colleges gathered in room 163C of the Lincoln Campus Center for a day of orientation, recruitment, communication, and financial advice about attending the University of Massachusetts Amherst College of Engineering or Department of Computer Science. The event, the 39th annual Community College Day, was a showcase for young people in Massachusetts pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps.

Ryan Wade, a five-year-old from Northampton, was recently featured in a story on WGGB-TV 40 about how a team of UMass Amherst students from the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Department and College of Nursing helped him by designing a mechanical arm to aid with routine tasks such as feeding himself. Ryan has a condition that doesn’t allow him to bend his arms, so the four engineering students and one nursing student created the mechanical arm with help from faculty members. The team is made up of MIE seniors Brian Cormier, Andrew Friedlieb, Catherine Paquin, and Kyle Morrell, and School of Nursing student Emily Gardner. Watch WGGB-TV 40 video.

The Civil and Environmental Engineering Department has embarked on a progressive $100,000 campaign to upgrade the “Strength of Materials Lab,” the key component of the CEE 241 Strength of Materials course, required for all CEE students as part of the department’s core curriculum. The course teaches students how to determine stresses and deformations of structural members subjected to axial loads, torsion, and bending of beams, behavior of columns, and transformation of stress and strain. Professor Sergio Breña, the coordinator of the Structural Engineering & Mechanics group in the CEE department, explained that the two main goals in the lab upgrade are to make the testing equipment more accessible for hands-on usage by all students in the course and to modernize the instrumentation.