7/29/09

A Wi-Fi World


It’s everywhere. From reading email in coffee shops to watching YouTube on the couch, there’s no doubt WiFi has permeated our lives. At 35,000 feet, it's even starting to convert airline seats to remote offices.

This technological innovation saw its early days here at Carnegie Mellon. Fifteen years ago, Wireless Andrew was started as a research network to support Carnegie Mellon’s wireless research initiative.

Originally used only by wireless research team, Wireless Andrew provided coverage in seven campus buildings in 1994. But as the demand for anytime, anywhere high speed Internet grew, so did Wireless Andrew’s reach.

By 1999, the network was expanded to serve all 65 residential, academic and administrative buildings on the Pittsburgh campus – reaching a total floor area of approximately 3-million-square-feet plus outside areas.

It was Alex Hills, a distinguished professor and founding director of Carnegie Mellon's Information Networking Institute, who began the wireless research initiative that ultimately helped lay the foundation for today's Wi-Fi computing environment — a wireless network that connects laptops and PDAs to the Internet.

Over the coming decades, the Wireless Andrew infrastructure created at Carnegie Mellon will continue to be the research seedling that helped pave the way for wireless networking for everything.

7/24/09

Real-World Experience. In Tanzania.


Each year, hundreds of Carnegie Mellon students participate in summer internships around the globe. One striking example includes six Carnegie Mellon students and recent alumni from the university’s Pittsburgh and Doha campuses who are taking part in the innovative iSTEP internship program.

iSTEP – innovative Student Technology ExPerience – is a unique internship program launched this summer by Carnegie Mellon’s TechBridgeWorld Research Group.

So what makes this program different from a traditional 9-5 office job?

For starters, the location puts true meaning in the phrase “real-world experience.” Five interns are based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania while one intern is supporting the project from Pittsburgh. All are applying the knowledge and skills they acquired in the classroom in order to do some creative problem-solving in an unfamiliar setting.

The team is working closely with local partners in developing communities and contributed technical expertise by inventing new tools and customizing existing technology. Their three projects include literacy tools for primary school students, a mobile phone application for social workers and Braille tutor for visually-impaired students.

To learn more about the interns’ day-to-day experiences, follow them on Twitter, visit their Facebook page or read their blog.

7/16/09

Keepon Assists Autism Research


Keepon is only five inches tall and has no arms or legs. Yet his simple figure doesn’t keep him from dancing – with the help of Marek Michalowski, that is.

Michalowski, a Ph.D. student at Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute working at a robotics lab in Japan, was told to “do something” with the little yellow robot. So he turned on the music and put the little guy to a good cause.

Keepon’s dance-oriented play is helping children with autism and other development disorders.

How?

Michalowski studies how children interact socially through Keepon’s “eyes” (a camera) and “ears” (a microphone). When a child approaches Keepon and interacts with him, Keepon is able to respond to the child with lifelike movements. His range of motion includes turning side to side, rocking side to side, nodding front to back, and bobbing up and down. All while researchers and parents are watching and listening to the child behind the scenes.

Since 2003, Keepon has been used to study behaviors such as eye contact, joint attention, touching, emotion and imitation in children of different ages and levels of social development.

Michalowski is the co-founder of BeatBots LLC, a company dedicated to the development of “robotic characters that defy entrenched notions of robots as impersonal mechanical tools.”

For more of Keepon’s moves, check out “Keepon Auditioning” or “Keepon: Friend or Foe” on YouTube or watch Keepon and Michalowski on the Today Show.

7/1/09

Solutions for an Energy Dependent Society


You’ve probably heard of light emitting diodes (LEDs) – but have you ever considered using them?

Solid-state lighting provides an environmentally friendly option with an added bonus: it’s cheaper in the long run.

A study conducted by Engineering and Public Policy researchers at Carnegie Mellon found that LED technology efficiently converts electricity to visible light, which reduces the emission of greenhouse gases. In addition, solid-state lighting is mercury free, unlike traditional fluorescent tubes. Every year, more than 500 million fluorescent tubes are discarded in the U.S., releasing about four tons of mercury into the environment.

Carnegie Mellon Professor M. Granger Morgan, Ines Margarida Lima De Azevedo (E’09) and Fritz Morgan (MS’96) recognize that despite the benefits of LEDs, consumers are likely to stick with what they know. Therefore, smart policy systems will be needed to help people transition to more sustainable illumination systems. The team also recommends the development of nationwide illumination standards for new residential and commercial construction projects.

The study was published in the March 2009 edition of IEEE Spectrum Magazine. Read the press release for more information.