Friday, May 18, 2018

NanoDay 2018

Nanome had demos of their VR tool at NanoDay.
 Nathan Tong, a fourth-year nanoengineering student at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering, was tired of getting the same question over and over again: what is nanoengineering?

“I wanted to raise awareness about what the major is, what we do at UC San Diego, and also the potential future that could happen using nanoengineering,” Tong said.

So he and the Nanoengineering and Technology Society (NETS) at UC San Diego resurrected NanoDay, a celebration of all things nanoengineering that hadn’t been held in at least the last four years. The student organization plans to make the event an annual occurrence to highlight all that’s going on in the department, and provide undergraduate students with tangible ideas of what a career in nanoengineering could look like.

Professors Darren Lipomi and Sheng Xu shared their insight.
UC San Diego was the first in the nation to create an official academic Department of Nanoengineering in 2007 and began offering it as an undergraduate degree program in fall 2010. In its simplest form, nanoengineering draws on all disciplines of engineering to create devices at the nano, or sub-micron, scale. It’s an interdisciplinary science relating biochemistry, engineering and physics to create structures smaller than bacteria with complex functions.

As Darren Lipomi, a professor of nanoengineering and one of four professors on a panel about academic life in nanoegineering put it, nanoengineering principles underpin all of the concepts and phenomena we understand on a larger scale.

“I think the challenge is to identify something that’s not nanoengineering,” Lipomi said.

Professors David Fenning and Shaochen Chen answered
questions about their career path and gave advice to students.
He was joined on the panel by nanoengineering professors Shaochen Chen, David Fenning and Sheng Xu.

For a taste of post-grad life in industry, students heard from a panel of speakers from large companies like General Atomics, to small startups like GrollTex, and nanoparticle manufacturer nanoComposix, all of which have nanoengineering-specific positions.

Joseph Wang, chair of the Department of Nanoengineering, gave opening remarks at NanoDay about the wide scope of research underway at UC San Diego—from needle-free tattoo-like glucose sensors, to micromotors for drug delivery, stretchable batteries and flexible ultrasound patches, it’s a diverse field.

Representatives from General Atomics and Grolltex
 shared their perspectives on nanoengineering in industry.
Nanoengineering alumnus Steve McCloskey, who founded virtual reality company Nanome, shared his post-grad story and advice with students. Nanome allows users to experience and manipulate atoms and molecules in a 3D environment, making it easier to visualize and design new medicines or chemicals, for example. The startup was one of seven companies honored with a Best of Show award at the Bio-IT World conference.

Maternal Depression Awareness Month: a day of advocacy

Tomorrow: Saturday May 19, 2018 UC San Diego bioengineering major Julie Yip is co-hosting a Day of Advocacy in recognition of May as Maternal Depression Awareness Month. The free event is here at UC San Diego at The Basement.

When: Saturday, May 19, 2018 from 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM
Where: The Basement (Mandeville Center B202) at UC San Diego
Register for free

Bioengineering in Action

Julie Yip is one of three UC San Diego bioengineering undergraduates, along with Niranjanaa Jeeva and Ella Stimson, who are the co-founders of hapty hearts. These bioengineering students are developing haptic technologies with the goal of helping postpartum mothers better connect with their babies. The idea is a blanket technology that allows a mother to feel her child’s heartbeat in real time. Learn more about their project at: and read about the team’s participation in this 2017 UC Health Hack event. The team also won an award at the 2017 Social Innovation Challenge at University of San Diego. Here is a video they prepared for this competition.

Day of Advocacy Details
In recognition of May as Maternal Depression Awareness Month
Introduction to Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders
Community Resources and Engagement Panel
Including representatives from Headway Therapy, Nutrition Instincts, Postpartum Health Alliance, Prokreate, San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition 
Open Group Discussion
Including a personal story from Monica Mo, Founder and CEO of WellSeek, Inc. (a UC San Diego alumna)
When: Saturday, May 19, 2018 from 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM
Where: The Basement (Mandeville Center B202) at UC San Diego
Register for free

Monday, May 7, 2018

Meet Mark Liu: EnVision Maker Studio lab manager

By Kritin Karkare
Mark Liu in the EnVision Arts and Engineering Maker Studio
First the EnVision Arts and Engineering Maker Studio doubled in size, and now it’s expanding its full time staff to better support students. Undergraduate engineering and visual arts students using the space to build, tinker and design projects are in for a treat: Mark Liu joined the studio as the new lab manager in April. He’ll be providing students with support as they work on projects requiring tools like laser cutters, 3D printers, soldering irons and more.

EnVision supports the Jacobs School of Engineering’s Experience Engineering Initiative to ensure all students have a hands-on or experiential engineering course or lab every year — starting freshman year. There are engineering and visual arts courses held in EnVision’s classroom space, and students are able to use the studio for class assignments or projects of their own on weekdays from 9 am to 8 pm. 

Liu will help students with questions about the tools available in the studio, provide input and guidance when requested, and serve as a resource to the more than 1,000 students who use the studio each quarter.

Get to know Mark in this Q&A, edited for clarity.

Q: You have a background in mechanical engineering. What drew you to that?

ML: I always liked building stuff-- as a kid I played with Legos, built little robots, and have done FIRST robotics competitions for the last 10 years of my life as a student and then mentor. FIRST Robotics, which organizes youth robotics competitions around the world, is where I got experience running a lab, since I’m a mentor and run a FIRST team. I helped build the machine shop the team uses, and help the students use the tools.

Q: Is that what you’ll be doing at EnVision?

ML: I’ll be helping Jesse DeWald (EnVision Maker Studio Staff Director) with keeping everything running. In particular, I’ll be working with our students, staff and faculty to ensure that all of our classes have everything they need to be successful.

Q: How many different tools and technologies can students use at EnVision?

ML: We have 15 3D printers, laser cutters, CO2 laser cutters, a vacuum-former, and a printed circuit board oven. There are soldering irons, microscopes, a drill press, 10 computers with software for analysis and design including: CAD, MatLab, Adobe Suite and more. There’s also a lot of bench space so students will come in here to work on homework or projects and even hold meetings. It’s a great general workspace for both engineers and artists.

Q: What do you like to do outside of the EnVision studio?

ML: I’m into BattleBots and aerial photography with drones and quad copters. Two years ago Battle Bots was new to me but some friends had been doing it and I decided to join them. The team that I joined had been doing it for 15 years. Battle Bots are basically robots that can be remotely controlled and have weapons to fight other robots in big televised competitions.

 And way back when I was a freshman in high school I took a video film class as an elective for art since I can’t draw for my life. I took the video class because a few of my friends were in it, but I picked up photography editing and really liked it. So now I enjoy drones and aerial photography. That’s part of the reason why I think it’s cool that arts students can use EnVision as well.

Q: What are you most excited to work on?

ML: I’m excited to expand the space. Over the summer, we’re going to knock one wall down to push into the room next door so we can rearrange the studio portion. We’re also trying to establish a components store—a lot of students come in and need a resistor or capacitor, and now I have to say I’m sorry you have to go find that. So we’d like to start a store that has arduinos and resistors and small components for students. That’s a project we’re working on.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Tritons-to-be get a taste of life at the Jacobs School

Admitted students pose for a photo during Triton Day. Photo by Erik Jepsen
By Kritin Karkare

UC San Diego was all blue and gold on Saturday, April 14th for the campus’s annual Triton Day— a day devoted to helping admitted undergraduate students figure out if UC San Diego is the right university for them.  This year, a record breaking 97,670 first-year students applied to UC San Diego, and more than 25,000 of those admitted showed up on Saturday to scope out their potential new home.

The Structural Engineering open house featured a variety of
hands-on projects. Photo by Kritin Karkare
The IDEA Engineering Student Center, which provides engineering students with academic support and social engagement to foster an inclusive and welcoming community, offered several programs to help admitted students get a taste of life at the Jacobs School of Engineering and learn about the various academic and extracurricular programs available to them. A record 124 admitted students participated in an Engineering Overnight Program, where they were paired up with a current Jacobs School student to see what a day-in-the-life is like. Students staying in the Engineering Overnight Program were treated to a breakfast hosted by Albert P. Pisano, dean of the Jacobs School of Engineering. Participants were also able to tour labs, talk to different faculty, and learn more about student life on campus, including student organizations and resources to help students succeed at college. The admitted students slept overnight in an engineering student’s residence hall to get a feel for living on campus. Other activities included a trivia night, faculty panel and an engineering organization fair.

Students at the IDEA Engineering Student Center table.
Photo by Kritin Karkare

In addition to the IDEA Center programs, all six of the Jacobs School of Engineering departments were in full swing on Saturday, with fully staffed tables to share information about their respective majors to declared and undeclared students. Global Teams in Engineering Service (TIES), a humanitarian engineering project program, also had students and staff on hand to highlight its classes and projects for students to join.

Engineering organizations such as Engineers Without Borders (EWB), Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) and the Institute for Electronic and Electrical Engineers (IEEE) met accepted students as well. BMES demonstrated its “Build A Brain” project, developed by its outreach committee for the San Diego Festival for Science and Engineering, and talked to students interested in bioengineering about research opportunities on campus and the variety of ways students can be involved in the bioengineering community. IEEE invited students to learn about its different student-led project teams, such as MicroMouse and Grand PrIEEE, and some of its technical workshops, such as making Valentine Hearts using programmed, blinking LED hearts.

The Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department showed off several student projects from ECE classes. Students talked about their ECE 188 (LabVIEW Programming: Design and Applications) projects, which all centered around making elevators using the LabVIEW interface. After tabling finished, the demos moved to Jacobs Hall. There, more projects such as an interactive laser pinball machine, made by students in ECE 115 (Rapid Prototyping) and an autonomous motor vehicle, were on display.

Jasmine Chiang, an IDEA Scholar, welcomes potential students at
Triton Day. Photo courtesy of IDEA Center.
The Structural Engineering Department hosted its own open house for interested students at the Structural and Materials Engineering building. Not only did students hear from Structural Engineering Department Vice Chair Hyonny Kim about structural engineering classes, but they also engaged with graduate students who showed off various demos, like a short-range project launcher and structures made from wood sticks. Organizations like Tau Beta Pi (TBP), the Society for Civil and Structural Engineers (SCSE), and Society for Asian Scientists and Engineers (SASE) talked to students about their clubs’ activities.

Monday, April 16, 2018

HackXX aims to increase diversity at hackathons

HackXX, a women-centric hackathon run by UC San Diego students, held its inaugural project creation and development sprint in 2017. The second edition of the hackathon didn't disappoint: more than 100 undergraduate students spent 24 consecutive hours the weekend of April 7 honing their web development, computer-aided design, 3D printing, machine learning and virtual reality skills at HackXX.

The hackathon, open to undergraduate students from any academic background, gender and sexual identity, aims to provide a space where all innovators feel welcome.

“If you look at the data, it shows that only around 20 percent of hackathon participants happen to be women,” said Hamna Khan, an electrical engineering student and organizer of HackXX, which was hosted and run by the Triton Engineering Student Council. “That’s not OK. If technology is what’s making our world a better place, then everyone needs to be represented.”

In addition to workshops and time for teams to develop and build a project of their own, HackXX also featured remarks from Jayashree Atre, former senior director of product development at Intuit; an Acing your Phone Interview session hosted by Northrop Grumman; and a Deep Dive into Machine Learning forum held by Cisco.

After 24 hours, all the projects were judged by two panels: a group of engineers from Northrop Grumman awarded three prizes for the Best Communications Projects, and the second panel of judges awarded best beginner and best overall project awards.

Kathy Herring Hayashi, the IEEE Women Engineering Region Coordinator for the Western United States and an engineer at Qualcomm, was a general judge, along with Nisha Yerunkar, president of the UC San Diego VR Club.

The Grand Prize-winning team—Any-A— walked away with a BeatsX, BB8 Droid, Echo Spot, a Samsung Gear VR as well as an Echo Dot for each winning participant.

Any-A is a Java application that helps elementary school students practice basic math problems with a random math generator. The team’s goal was to empower girls in elementary school by helping them solve math problems and giving them early exposure to female role models in math in the form of an “Encouragement” feature where users receive encouragement from famous female mathematicians.

Northrop Grumman awarded their $500 first place gift card to team InfoPuppies, which created a website containing a centralized database for dog microchip information.

Aside from apps and websites, there were a variety of virtual and augmented reality projects, software development endeavors and even a blockchain project, all created in less than 24 hours.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

It's about empowering people; it's not about replacing people: The future of robotics

"It's about empowering people. It's not about replacing people."
That's the message that Henrik Christensen, director of the Contextual Robotics Institute at UC San Diego, has been trying to spread about robotics and automation.
He spoke to Per Sj√∂borg from Robohub in an extensive interview.

Some highlights and predictions from the video:

"Robots are going to be pervasive in our lives going forward." That means researchers will need to figure out how to make it easy for everyone to interact with robots. "I want people who have never used a computer to be able to use this technology."

"One day we'll have robotic beds that will make sure you get adequate sleep."

"By the time I retire, I will have a self-driving car."

"We might have food that has never been touched by humans [only by robots]."

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

"U Hack" and "Bog Love;" What happens when you train a neural network to write messages for Valentine's Day candy hearts

What happens when you train neural networks to write messages for candy hearts on Valentine's Day:

Here is Shane's original post:
And here are links to the news coverage:
Popular Science

For more on Shane's previous experiments on neural networks, read our story here:
When artificial intelligence is funny