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Engineers show off inventions, ingenuity

Tony Zhang and Daniel Coombe won the Best Project Award for developing a live video system that allows users to remotely access and see video footage of a location before they visit it.

A class of engineering students recently offered visitors to Packard Lab a glimpse into the future applications of software, hardware, wireless communications and optical technologies.

The occasion was the annual presentation of posters by students in ECE/CREG 257-258, a two-semester, senior-level lab required of electrical engineering and computer engineering majors.

Inside the lobby of Packard Lab, 22 student teams displayed the devices that they had invented, ranging from a Tonalyzer and a Digital Soil Analyzer to a smart shopping cart and a “quadcopter” that streams video images of a location to users who are planning to visit it.

The Best Project Award, given by a panel of faculty judges, went to Daniel Coombe, an electrical engineering major, and Tony Zhang, a bioengineering major, for their project, “System for Supplying Live Video on Request Implemented with a Multi-Wii Quadcopter.” The students were advised by Richard Decker, professor of electrical and computer engineering.

The Peers’ Choice Award, given by students, went to Ian Miller and Stephanie Gordon, both electrical engineering majors, for their project, “Aerial Multirole Platform.” This team was advised by John Spletzer, associate professor of computer science and engineering.

Miller and Gordon also won first place for their project at the annual IEEE Morton Student Paper Contest, which was held earlier in the spring. This was the eighth straight year Lehigh students have taken first in the IEEE event.

Alex Merenstein and Adam Schaub, both computer engineering majors, won third place at the IEEE Morton Student Paper Contest for their project, “Phone-Key Access Control.” This team was advised by Liang Cheng, associate professor of computer science and engineering.

The course is taught by Cheng and William Haller, professor of practice in the department of electrical and computer engineering.

A peek ahead at your destination

The live video system developed by Coombe and Zhang allows users to remotely access and see video footage of a location before they visit it. Such a system, the students said, would be useful for learning in advance the travel condition of a road or the degree to which a mall or other public place is crowded. The video would be streamed to users in real time by an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) equipped with a camera that users could control.

After conducting a user survey, Coombe and Zhang determined that a quadcopter, or multirotor helicopter, built with a MultiWii Pro microcontroller board, would provide the simplest means for users to control such a UAV.

Merenstein and Schaub sought in their project to improve upon current Bluetooth and other NFC (near field communication) technology that allows homeowners to automate the access to their residences. The students’ Phone-Key utilizes Magnetic Induction Communication (MIC) “to add an additional layer of security and usefulness to a private residence access-control system through more controllable and well defined proximity detection and higher penetration through a wider range of materials.”

Toward smarter shopping

Ekomobong Uko and Kevin Bergen, both electrical engineering majors, developed a smart cart that directs shoppers where they need to go to find the items they want to buy. Users log into a store’s wireless network and upload a list of the products they wish to buy to a module on the cart. The module cross-references the list with the store’s database and determines the optimum route to take to pick up all the items a user wants.

Attached to the handlebar of the shopping cart is an LED display that tells a user what direction to push the cart. A scanner on the device adds up the bill, enabling shoppers to swipe their credit cards and pay for goods without having to wait in line.

“This gets you in and out of the store faster,” said Uko. Bergen added that the team has work to do to improve the connection between the module and the store database. The students, who were also advised by Decker, are planning to equip the cart with sensors that weigh produce.

Quantifying the color of a tone

Dan Y. Shin, an IDEAS (integrated degree in engineering, arts and sciences) major, and Reeve Groman, a computer engineering major, developed “Tonalyzer: A Visual Representation of Tone.” They were advised by Xiaolei Huang, associate professor of computer science and engineering.

“Whenever I try to explain what fascinates me with the color of a tone, most people don’t understand,” said Shin, who sings in the Lehigh University Choir. “There’s a mathematical aspect of tone. We want this device to demonstrate the concept to friends.”

Singers, said Shin, must learn to sing in a variety of languages and to make distinctions between tones that are similar but not identical, such as the German o and the American English o. People who play stringed and other acoustical instruments also strive to produce different sound qualities and colors.

“Our device can be very useful for string players struggling with tone, especially those in their first two years of playing,” said Shin. “It can also be useful for setting up electronic instruments on a stage and determining the most effective placing of amplifiers.”

Tying everything together

Kyle Meredith, an electrical engineering major major, and Dion Ross, a computer engineering major, developed X-watch, a device with an LED screen that is strapped to a user’s arm and keeps track of repetitions, heart rate and other data during workouts. Smartphones are often used for this purpose, said the students, who were advised by Meghanad Wagh, professor of electrical and computer engineering.

“A lot of users damage their smartphones,” said Meredith. “X-watch eliminates that. It tallies the results of your workout and sends them to your phone.”

“This project taught me a lot about being a professional engineer, about integrating engineering concepts into very different aspects of education,” said Ross. “It really tied together my whole Lehigh experience.”

“This was a great experience,” said Meredith. “All of it was rich and rewarding. It provided project experience and deadlines, and enabled us to build something original.”

David Dobrowski, a double major in electrical engineering and integrated business and engineering, and Andrew Smyth, a computer engineering major, developed a Digital Soil Analyzer that uses near infrared light to measure nitrogen content in soil. Gardeners and farmers, said Dobrowski, require varying levels of nitrogen in soil depending on what they are growing. The students were advised by Douglas Frey, professor of electrical and computer engineering.

“In terms of our education,” said Smyth, “this class was very helpful. It teaches you to go outside your limits and apply what you learn in class to make a product that’s useful.”

Story by Kurt Pfitzer

Posted on Wednesday, July 02, 2014

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