ECpE Senior Design teams win big

1st Place: Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) based Sensing System for Soil Conditions Monitoring

David Severson, Kyle Kehoe, Nathan Coonrod, Sok Yan Poon, Jacob Verheyen

Advisor: Shuo Yang & Dr. Yang Zhang

Currently, measuring changes and gathering data on soil moisture and temperature is not only expensive, but also occasionally unreliable. But this senior design team has formulated a device and plan to allow data-retrieval for soil moisture and temperature to be both affordable and trustworthy. The team has designed a sensor to observe the soil’s moisture levels and temperature throughout the course of a month. This sensor analyzes soil by measuring capacitance between the two plates on the PCB, and measures temperature by using a thermistor on the PCB, both read as a voltage.


2nd Place: High-Resolution ADC Using Delta-Sigma Architectures

Caroline Alva, Tyler Archer, Caleb Davidson, Mahmoud Gshash, Josh Rolles

Advisor: Randall Geiger

According to the team’s abstract, “Analog to digital converters (ADCs) are widely used to convert analog signals to the digital domain. There are dominantly two major classes of data converters. One is termed Nyquist Rate converters, and the other is termed Over-Sampled Data Converters or Delta-Sigma Data Converters. With Nyquist rate converters, samples of the input are converted to a Boolean signal when each sample is taken. In Over-sampled Data Converters, a large number of low resolutions are made with each sample, and the large number of low resolution outputs are then combined (decimated) into a higher-resolution output. Over-sampled data converters invariably have a low effective conversion rate but can achieve very high resolution. For example, over-sampled converters can readily achieve an effective resolution of 20-bits or more with a low sample rate and with relatively simple circuits. This project will involve the design of a slow-speed over-sampled data converter and the use of this data converter to provide a high-resolution digital output of an on-chip temperature sensor.”


3rd Place: 360 Web Cams for Zoos and Aquariums

Nathan Cool, Ian Jamieson, Zach Newton, TJ Yacoub, Alan Negrete, Sam Abdetlawab

Advisor: Henry Duwe

According to the team’s final report, “True 360 hopes to provide solutions to three major problems/needs. First, zoos and aquariums do not have access to an easy-to-use 360-degree webcam solution for their exhibits. No solution currently exists to act as a centralized (remote) connection and control hub for all of their webcams. Second, zoos and aquariums are always looking for ways to boost their social media presence and improve their marketing techniques. Finally, zookeepers, animal health professionals and other staff members are currently required to visit each exhibit on a regular basis in order to monitor the animals. This process is time-consuming, which means staff members have less time to focus on other important responsibilities.

By developing a system that allows zoo and aquarium staff members to connect to and remotely control multiple 360-degree webcams, the necessity of physically interacting with each webcam on a regular basis will be removed. The system will allow for webcams to be installed in both above-ground (indoor and outdoor) and underwater exhibits and controlled via a central web application. Conveniently, this application will help us solve the aforementioned marketing need and animal monitoring problem. With our system, zoos and aquariums will be able to constantly capture 360-degrees of animals, which can be extracted for use in educational live streams, promotional content, monitoring animal activity and even archival purposes.”


Honorable Mention: IoT Remote Monitoring Mobile App for Commercial Appliances

Hongyi Bian, John Fleiner, casey Gehling, Thomas Stackhouse, Ben Young, Yuanbo Zheng

Advisor: Goce Trajcevski

According to the team, “The purpose of our project is to find a method that mitigates scheduling conflicts between customers who want to access washing machines and dryers in a shared environment. To do so, our team will be utilizing the concept of IoT – Internet of Things. The internet of things consists of a network of physical hardware devices that can be controlled remotely.

Our proposed solution consists of two components: An IoT cloud service and a mobile application. An IoT cloud service will be used to register a set of washing machine and dryer control boards that can be controlled remotely. A multi-platform mobile application will be developed to connect to an IoT cloud service so that users may monitor, reserve, and control devices remotely. A reservation system on the mobile application will allow users to reserve a device for a set period of time. Once reserved, a time-stamped code will be generated for the user. During the reservation time, the reserved machine will be locked until the time-stamped code has been entered by the user, essentially gives users the opportunity to use a machine without it being taken. This will help prevent customers from traveling to a shared-appliance room only to find all of the machines in use.”


ECpE Distinguished Lecture

Reza Iravani
Reza Iravani

Integration and Operation of Microgrids in the Smart Grid

Speaker: Reza Iravani, Founder and Coordinator of the Centre for Applied Power Electronics and Professor, The Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Toronto

Date: December 5, 2011

Time: 1:10 p.m.

Location: Alliant Energy – Lee Liu Auditorium, Howe Hall

Abstract: Environmental issues of central power plants, aging infrastructure, rapid technological developments of renewable resources, and the potential proliferation of plug-in electric vehicles have created the conditions for the utility power industry to consider the concept of “smart grid” to address the challenges of electric power systems. The smart grid integrates information and communication technologies, and advances control, protection, and power management strategies to improve grid performance, reduce address environmental impacts, respond to the rising electricity demand based on sustainability, and enable interactions among stakeholders.

This presentation provides a new perspective for migration from the conventional grid to the smart grid, and elaborates on the concepts, technologies, and R&D requirements, with an emphasis on the microgrid as a building block. This view of smart grid virtually divided the grid into multiple zones where the majority of zones are of “smart microgrid” type. The microgrids and the other zones within the smart grid can interact with each other and collectively respond to the operational needs of the encompassing smart grid. This talk provides definitions of smart grid, microgrid, and intelligent microgrid; elaborates on the technologies and concepts to realize such entities; describes operational bphilosophy, control, and energy management strategies for their realization; and highlights some of the barriers.

Speaker biography: Iravani received his Bachelor of Science degree in 1976 in Tehran, Iran, and worked as a consultant for the power utility industry until 1979. He received his master’s and PhD degrees from the University of Manitoba, Canada. Iravani currently serves as a professor in The Edward S. Rogers, Sr. Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Toronto, Canada. Iravani is the founder and coordinator of the Centre for Applied Power Electronics at the University of Toronto, through which he leads R&D activities for a group of 25 research engineers, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows, related to grid integration of wind and solar-photovoltaic power plants, grid integration of distributed energy resources, and control and operation of high-voltage direct-current converters.

ECpE Faculty Seminar

Omar Smadi
Omar Smadi

Seminar: TBA

Speaker: Omar Smadi, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering; and Research Scientist, Center for Transportation Research and Education, Iowa State University

Date: November 28, 2011

Time: 1:10 p.m.

Location: 3043 ECpE Building Addition

Abstract: Information coming soon

Speaker bio: Information coming soon

Summer Research Opportunities Informational Meeting

Event: Summer Research Opportunities Informational Meeting

Date: November 17, 2011

Time: 5:10 to 6 p.m.

Location: Gold Room, Memorial Union

Details: Learn about the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program and other summer research opportunities at Iowa State and elsewhere. A panel of faculty and students who participated in summer research programs will talk about finding positions, application processes and other topics related to undergraduate research.

Software Engineering Distinguished Lecture

Seminar: Digital Archaology

Speaker: Audris Mockus, Avaya Labs

Date: November 17, 2011

Time: 3:40 p.m.

Location: 2432 Food Science Building

Abstract: Measurement is the essence of science. Many professional and social activities become software mediated, thus generating vast digital remains that represent projections of collective and individual activities. The reconstruction and quantification of the behavior of an individual, an organization, or a society from these projections is the main challenge of digital archeology. I will illustrate the approach in the context of current software development practice. Software development is experiencing a radical change driven by the open source movement and the business needs to move development to low-cost locations. I will discuss ways to measure mentor-follower relationships in succession (the transfer of code ownership), and the aspects of succession that impact productivity and quality. I will introduce measures of relative sociality (the ratio of social and technical competencies), illustrate how they evolve over time, and quantify how the initial project environment is associated with the probability that a developer will become a long-term contributor.

In conclusion, I will discuss how digital archeology offers new ways to understand software development and human nature.

Speaker bio: Audris Mockus studies software developers’ culture and behavior through the recovery, documentation, and analysis of digital remains. These digital traces reflect projections of collective and individual activity. He reconstructs the reality from these projections by designing data mining methods to summarize and augment these digital traces, interactive visualization techniques to inspect, present, and control the behavior of teams and individuals, and statistical models and optimization techniques to understand the nature of individual and collective behavior.

Audris Mockus received B.S. and M.S. in Applied Mathematics from Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology in 1988. In 1991 he received M.S. and in 1994 he received Ph.D. in Statistics from Carnegie Mellon University. He works at Avaya Labs Research. Previously he worked at Bell Labs.

This lecture was made possible in part by the generosity of F. Wendell Miller, who left his entire estate jointly to Iowa State University and the University of Iowa. Mr. Miller, who died in 1995 at age 97, was born in Altoona, Ill., grew up in Rockwell City, graduated from Grinnell College and Harvard Law School and practiced law in Des Moines and Chicago before returning to Rockwell City to manage his family’s farm holdings and to practice law. His will helped to establish the F. Wendell Miller Trust, the annual earnings on which, in part, helped to support this activity.

Summer Undergraduate Research Opportunities Informational Meeting

Event: Summer Research Opportunities Informational Meeting

Date: November 16, 2011

Time: 12:10 to 1 p.m.

Location: Gold Room, Memorial Union

Details: Learn about the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program and other summer research opportunities at Iowa State and elsewhere. A panel of faculty and students who participated in summer research programs will talk about finding positions, application processes and other topics related to undergraduate research.

Society of International Engineers CAFÉ Informational Meeting

Event: Society of International Engineers CAFÉ (Creating a Fellowship of Engineers) Informational Meeting

Date: November 13, 2011

Time: 6 p.m.

Location: 114 Marston Hall

Details: Want to study abroad? The Society of International Engineers (SIE) is holding an informational meeting about studying abroad. The meeting is a great way for students to learn more about studying abroad and network with students who have studied or worked abroad.

IEEE Magnetics Society Distinguished Lecture

Oliver Gutfleisch
Oliver Gutfleisch

Magnetic Materials in Sustainable Energy

Speaker: Oliver Gutfleisch, Leibniz Institute for Solid State and Materials Research Dresden (IFW Dresden) and Distinguished Lecturer, IEEE Magnetics Society (2011-12)

Date: November 11, 2011

Time: 1:30 p.m.

Location: 3043 ECpE Building Addition

Abstract: A new energy paradigm, consisting of greater reliance on renewable energy sources and increased concern for energy efficiency in the total energy life cycle, has accelerated research in energy-related technologies. Due to their ubiquity, magnetic materials play an important role in improving the efficiency and performance of devices in electric power generation, conversion and transportation. Magnetic materials are essential components of energy applications (i.e. motors, generators, transformers, actuators, etc.) and improvements in magnetic materials will have significant impact in this area, on par with many “hot” energy materials efforts (e.g. hydrogen storage, batteries, thermoelectrics, etc.).

The lecture focuses on the state-of-the-art hard and soft magnets and magnetocaloric materials with an emphasis on their optimization for energy applications. Specifically, the impact of hard magnets on electric motor and transportation technologies, of soft magnetic materials on electricity generation and conversion technologies, and of magnetocaloric materials for refrigeration technologies, will be discussed.

The synthesis, characterization, and property evaluation of the materials, with an emphasis on structure-property relationships, will be examined in the context of their respective markets as well as their potential impact on energy efficiency.

Finally, considering future bottle-necks in raw materials and in the supply chain, options for recycling of rare-earth metals will be analysed.

Speaker bio: Information coming soon

Virtual Reality Experience

Date: November 11, 2011

Time: 1 to 2 p.m.

Location: Alliant Energy/Lee Liu Auditorium, Howe Hall

Details: The VRAC public tour offers participants a chance to learn about virtual reality (VR), the unique research facilities at Iowa State, how VRAC uses virtual reality as a research tool and a look at how computer graphics technology has improved in the past 25 years. In addition to the presentation, participants get to see several virtual reality applications that were developed at Iowa State. These demos typically include visiting the USS Ronald Reagan, a US Navy aircraft carrier, using VR for product conceptual design and exploring galaxies in the Virtual Universe.