ECE Professor Larry Coldren receives The International Conference on Indium Phosphide & Related Materials (IPRM) Award

July 1st, 2015

photo of larry coldren
Coldren receives the IPRM Award in recognition of his leading contributions to the development of InP-based semiconductor lasers and photonic integrated circuits for optical fiber communications

Professor Coldren received the award on June 30th at the 2015 Compound Semiconductor Week (June 28 – July 2) held at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

About the IPRM Award
The International Conference on Indium Phosphide and Related Materials (IPRM) has a long tradition of recognizing individuals who made significant contributions to the success of previous IPRM conferences through technical and/or organizational accomplishments by presenting the IPRM Award (formerly Michael Lunn Memorial Award). It is intended to continue this tradition also in 2015.

The nomination and selection procedures are taken care of by the International Steering Committee of IPRM. The 2015 award will be presented to the winner at the CSW ISCS/IPRM Award Ceremony.

About Professor Coldren
Larry A. Coldren is the Fred Kavli Professor of Optoelectronics and Sensors and holds appointments in Materials and Electrical & Computer Engineering. In addition, Coldren is a leading researcher with the Institute for Energy Efficiency’s Electronics and Photonics Solution Group. Coldren received his Ph.D. degree in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University in 1972. After 13 years in the research area at Bell Laboratories, he joined UC Santa Barbara in 1984 and is Director of the Optoelectronics Technology Center. In 1990 he co-founded Optical Concepts, later acquired as Gore Photonics, to develop novel VCSEL technology; and in 1998 he co-founded Agility Communications, later acquired by JDSU, to develop widely-tunable integrated optical transmitters. Coldren has authored or co-authored over a thousand papers, 8 book chapters, 2 textbooks, and has been issued 65 patents. He is a Fellow of the IEEE, OSA, and IEE, the recipient of the 2004 John Tyndall Award, the 2009 Aron Kressel Award, and a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

2015 Compound Semiconductor Week

The Coldren Group

Professor Chris Palmstrom named by the DoD as a National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellow (NSSEFF)

June 30th, 2015

photo of chris palmstrom
ECE and Materials Professor Christopher Palmstrom selected in the topic area of functional materials for his project titled “Engineered Heusler Compound Heterostructures and Superlattices”

The Department of Defense (DoD) recently announced the selection of seven distinguished university faculty scientists and engineers forming the next new class of National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellows (NSSEFF). The NSSEFF program awards grants to top-tier researchers from U.S. universities to conduct long-term, unclassified, basic research of strategic importance to DoD. These grants engage the next generation of outstanding scientists and engineers in the most challenging technical issues facing the Department.

Up to $3 million of research support will be granted to each NSSEFF Fellow for up to five years. The fellows conduct basic research in core science and engineering disciplines that underpin future DoD technology development. This year’s topics included quantum information science, engineering biology, neuroscience, nanoscience, novel engineered materials, and applied mathematics and statistics. In addition to conducting this unclassified research, the NSSEFF Program includes opportunities for fellows to participate in the DoD research enterprise and share their knowledge and insight with DoD military and civilian leaders, researchers in DoD laboratories, and the national security science and engineering community.

The National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellowship (NSSEFF) program is sponsored by the Basic Research Office, Office of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (ASD (R&E)). NSSEFF supports basic research that may lead to extraordinary outcomes such as: revolutionizing entire disciplines, creating entirely new fields, or disrupting accepted theories and perspectives. It is the Defense Department’s largest single-investigator program.

Professor Chris Palmstrom, one of the world’s leading researchers of electronic materials, joined the ECE faculty at UCSB in the Fall of ’07. Palmstrom received his PhD in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from the University of Leeds (England) in 1979. After five years of research on semiconductor materials and contact techonologies at Cornell, he joined Bellcore in 1985. There, he did groundbreaking research on semiconductor surfaces, semiconductor doping, polymer/polymer diffusion and the molecular beam epitaxial growth of metal/semiconductor heterostructures. In 1994, Dr.Palmstrom went to the University of Minnesota, where he soon became a leading researcher in several fields, including new spintronic materials that combine the functions of electronic and magnetic manipulation and storage on information.

National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellowship (NSSEFF)

Palmstrom Research Group

ECE Professor Umesh Mishra’s Gallium-nitride technology and startup Transphorm featured in The Wall Street Journal

June 23rd, 2015

photo of Umesh Mishra

“Energy-Saving Material Gets a Boost” (WSJ) — KKR leads funding round with $70 million to Transphorm, a startup developing an alternative to silicon

Gallium-nitride (GaN) a material used to make power-saving light bulbs is gaining momentum in the world of semiconductors. KKR & Co. is the latest to place a bet. “This is a multibillion-dollar market,” said David Kerko, a senior adviser to KKR. “This technology has extremely broad applicability.”

Umesh Mishra, Transphorm’s chairman and co-founder, estimates that 10% of all power used in the U.S. stems from losses during power conversion in electric motors and other products. Shifting entirely to gallium-nitride technology could save $20 billion annually in the country, his company estimates.

Transphorm is developing electronic components using gallium nitride rather than silicon, hoping to save energy in products that include solar panels, electric motors and power supplies for server systems. Other large and small companies are also developing semiconductors based on the material, which is used to make light-emitting diodes for light bulbs that consume less power and last longer than conventional bulbs.

The effort to take advantage of GaN is partly a response to technical and economic factors that have slowed improvements in silicon-based chips. While companies are still finding ways to fabricate smaller transistors in silicon, reductions in cost and power consumption have been more difficult to achieve.

Gallium-nitride technology is at a much earlier stage of development. Where some conventional chips now have billions of tiny transistors, companies such as Transphorm are fabricating individual transistors.

GaN circuits can switch on and off much more quickly than silicon and handle higher voltages, said Alex Lidow, Efficient Power Conversion’s chief executive — another startup using GaN. That makes the material particularly good for chores that involve power conversion, such as shifting from alternating to direct current or from high to low voltage.

Dr. Mishra doubles as a professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara, a longtime center for gallium-nitride research. His colleagues there include Shuji Nakamura, who won the 2014 Nobel Prize in physics for his work in perfecting the use of the material in lighting.

The Wall Street Journal — "Energy-Saving Material Gets a Boost" (full article)

ECE Assistant Professor Katie Byl and lab featured in The UCSB Current article about the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) and their entry “Robosimian”

June 18th, 2015

robosimian in action and team photo
UCSB and Caltech/JPL’s RoboSimian takes a top spot at the recent DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals

Drive up, get out of the car, make your way to the front door, open said door, step inside. We humans have performed this sequence of maneuvers countless times: going to work in the morning, coming home after a night of partying, in various kinds of weather and locations and at different hours of the day. For the most part, it’s effortless and unconscious.

But, that same set of movements is a huge challenge for robots, as UC Santa Barbara professor Katie Byl and her robotics team can attest. RoboSimian, a collaboration between Byl’s team and researchers from the California Institute of Technology and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Caltech, completed the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Robotics Challenge Finals in early June and came in fifth out of about two dozen teams from across the country and around the globe.

“I’m really happy with how we did,” said Byl, professor of electrical and computer engineering and of mechanical engineering at UCSB. “JPL designed and built RoboSimian, and my students — Brian Satzinger and Chelsea Lau — and I at UCSB have been helping JPL to write the software to control how the robot moves for the DARPA Robotics Challenge.” The DARPA contest’s overarching theme was to have competitors produce a robot that could eventually handle unpredictable terrain and manipulate tools for use in conditions inhospitable to humans. Think Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown or other disaster-response situations.

But first, the competitors had to figure out how to get their robots — many of them upright and bipedal — to drive the car proficiently, get out of the vehicle without losing balance and travel to the door and open it without keeling over. Proprioception, the ability of humans and animals to sense their positions relative to the environment and adjust their bodies’ reactions and movements to maintain balance under varying conditions, still has some way to go before it can be replicated in machines.

However, RoboSimian is ahead of the curve. It was one of only two robots (the other one is called CHIMP) that didn’t require human intervention to reset during either day of competition. The most common failure mode for other robots was falling down.

“RoboSimian has a phenomenal track record,” said Byl, whose research focuses on robot agility, reliability and response in variable conditions. “It’s fallen down maybe once in the past year of testing.” Even the creators of the winning robot, a humanoid designed by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, had to take advantage of the grace period built into the competition that allows the robots’ handlers to reset their machines on the first day of testing, said Byl.

Videos selected Byl and her comments:

More information:

The UCSB Current — "Future Simian" (full article)

DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC)

Byl's UCSB Robotics Lab

Seniors Saili Raje (CE), Alexander So (ECE) and Shuan Chen (CE) honored at the 2015 College of Engineering “Senior Send-Off”

June 18th, 2015

photo of alexander m. so and hsuan chen
College of Engineering (CoE) celebrates the undergraduate class of 2015 on June 12th at their annual “Senior Send-Off” event

The event program and reception included honoring seniors, teaching assistants and faculty members. The following Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE) and Computer Engineering (CE) seniors received recognition:

  • Hynes/Wood Award — presented annually by the Engineering Student Council in recognition of outstanding contributions to student activities
    • Saili Raje (CE)
  • Outstanding Seniors (major highest GPA)
    • Alexander M. So (ECE) and Hsuan Chen (CE)
  • College of Engineering Honors Program Academic Excellence
    • ECE — Jason Farkas
    • CE — Hsuan Chen, Joel Dick, Metehan Ozten, Jocelyn Ramirez, Jonathan Simozar, Duncan Sommer, Eric Taba, and Oliver Townsend

Lee (ECE) and Johnson (CE) receive “Outstanding Faculty” honors at the 2015 College of Engineering “Senior Send-Off”

June 17th, 2015

photos of hua lee and john johnson

College of Engineering (CoE) celebrates the undergraduate class of 2015 on June 12th at their annual “Senior Send-Off” event

The event program and reception included honoring seniors, teaching assistants and faculty members.

The following Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE) and Computer Engineering (CE) faculty received “Outstanding Faculty” recognition by the graduating seniors in their program:

  • Hua Lee (ECE) — instructs Circuits, Devices, & Systems (ECE 2A) and Signal Analysis & Processing (ECE 130B)
  • John Johnson (CE) — instructs Senior Computer Systems Project (ECE 189A/B) and Sensor & Peripheral Interface Design (ECE 153B)

Bluestone and Zakhary receive “Outstanding Teaching Assistant” honors at the 2015 College of Engineering “Senior Send-Off”

June 16th, 2015

photos of bluestone and zakhary
College of Engineering (CoE) celebrates the undergraduate class of 2015 on June 12th at their annual “Senior Send-Off” event

The event program and reception included honoring seniors, teaching assistants and faculty members.

The following graduate students received “Outstanding Teaching Assistant (TA)” recognitions from the graduating seniors in their program:

  • Aaron Bluestone — Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE)
  • Victor Zakhary — Computer Engineering (CE)

Associate Professor Yasamin Mostofi’s WiFi research featured in UCSB The Current article

June 9th, 2015

robots with wireless counting people in Harold Frank Hall courtyard
UCSB researchers use a common wireless signal to count the number of people in a designated space without relying on them to carry personal devices

Researchers in UC Santa Barbara professor Yasamin Mostofi’s lab are proving that wireless signals can do more than provide Internet access. They have demonstrated that a WiFi signal can be used to count the number of people in a given space, leading to diverse applications, from energy efficiency to search-and-rescue.vv

“Our approach can estimate the number of people walking in an area, based on only the received power measurements of a WiFi link,” said Mostofi, a professor of electrical and computer engineering. This approach does not require people to carry WiFi-enabled telecommunications devices for them to be counted, Mostofi emphasized.

To accomplish this feat of people-counting, the researchers put two WiFi cards at opposite ends of a target area, a roughly 70-square-meter space. Using only the received power measurements of the link between the two cards, their approach can estimate the number of people walking in that area. So far, they have successfully tested with up to and including nine people in both indoor and outdoor settings. The findings of Mostofi’s research group are scheduled for publication in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Journal on Selected Areas in Communications’ special issue on location-awareness for radios and networks.

"Counting People with WiFi" — UCSB The Current (full article)

Head Counting with WiFi (YouTube)

Yasamin Mostofi (website)

RoboSimian Drives, Walks and Drills in The DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) Finals

June 9th, 2015

robosimian getting into a car
RoboSimian finishes in fifth place — the robot is a collaborative partnering effort between the Jet Propulsion Laboratory / Caltech and UCSB’s Robotics Lab led by ECE Assistant Professor Katie Byl and her graduate students

Showing off its robustness and versatility, the ape-like RoboSimian robot, developed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, took fifth place in the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) Finals, held June 5 through 6 in Pomona, California. RoboSimian squared off against 22 other robots in the international robotics competition, which promoted the development of robots that could respond to disaster scenarios too dangerous for humans.

RoboSimian and its competitors faced a variety of complex tasks during the tournament. Each robot had one hour to:

• Drive a vehicle through a slalom course and then exit the vehicle
• Open a door
• Turn a wheel to open a valve
• Cut a hole in a half-inch-thick panel of drywall using a cordless power drill
• Cross a field of debris or walk over uneven terrain
• Walk up a set of stairs

In addition to the tasks known in advance, DARPA officials gave competitors an additional surprise task each day. These included throwing a switch on an electrical panel and pulling a plug from an electrical socket and reinserting it.

Making the challenge even more difficult, the JPL group and the other teams faced degraded communications as they tried to control their robots. DARPA officials had planned this element of the competition to mimic the disorientation of a disaster scenario.

The DRC Finals are the culmination of a nearly three-year program to develop robots capable of assisting humans in responding to natural and man-made disasters. The challenge was launched in the wake of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated the Tohoku region of Japan, with the goal of better preparing humans to confront the threats posed by future disasters. Through two preliminary rounds of competition, DARPA and the DRC teams redefined what is possible in supervised autonomy, physical adaptability and human-machine control interfaces.

JPL / Caltech News (full release)

DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC)

UCSB Robotics Lab — Assistant Professor Katie Byl

Three teams given top prizes at the 2015 ECE 188, ECE 189 and CS 189 Senior Capstone Project Presentation Day

June 8th, 2015

Open Sesame, inferno, and Struct By Lightning teams given awards at the 2015 Senior Capstone Project Presentation event held on June 4th, 2015 in the Engineering Science Building and Courtyard.

During their senior year, all Computer Engineering (ECE & CS 189A/B) and some Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE 188A/B) students take a multiple quarter Senior Project course also know as the Senior “Capstone” Project.

The Capstone project gives students the opportunity to put their education into practice. Students, working in small teams, design and engineer innovative hardware and software systems. At the end of the Spring quarter the final projects are presented at a full-day, industry-sponsored event where student groups publicly present their projects and participate in an outdoor lunchtime project demonstration and poster event.

This year’s project team awardees:

photo of inferno team
Best Electrical & Computer Engineering ECE188A/B Capstone Project

inferno: a wireless hands-free thermal imager for firefighting / search & rescue.

Team: Jason Farkas and Sean Tauber
photo of open sesame team
Best Computer Engineering ECE188A/B Capstone Project
Open Sesame:a portable door security accessory that can unlock doors remotely w/ WiFi via an android or iOS app.

Team: Eric Taba, Grant Apodaca, Jeffrey Bolin, Richie Agpaoa, Evin Sellin
photo of struct by lightning team
Best Computer Engineering CS189A/B Capstone Project

Struct By Lightning: smart assistant integrated with video-conferencing that observes the stream and provides real-time assistance and info.

Team: Trevor Frese (lead), Evan Crook, Britt Christy, Kevin Malta

You can learn more about the other amazing projects at the following webpages:

2015 Capstone Senior Project Presentation Day
Electrical and Computer Engineering Senior Projects
Computer Engineering and Computer Science Senior Projects