Engineering students won big at this year’s $100K New Ventures Competition held, April 7-8, 2015.
Computer Science seniors Karan Singhal and Jaime Sanchez were part of the winning team for the high-tech track. SpotLight Parking is an on-demand service that brings valet parking to the user’s fingertips through a mobile app that enables a customer to drive directly to a destination and be met by a SpotLight-enabled valet able to accept pre-registered credit cards. SpotLight Parking received the Stephen and Geraldine Ricci Interdisciplinary Prize, awarded to a project that bests demonstrate interdisciplinary engineering design and entrepreneurial spirit, and the Audience Choice Award, given to the highest-potential project as voted by event attendees.
Dylan Wilks, who graduates this year with his masters of science in engineering management from Tufts Gordon Institute, also tied for first place in the $100K. Dylan developed a low-cost, portable chemical analysis platform with marketability in the cosmetics, petroleum, and tobacco industries, among others.
Doctoral recipient Chirag Sthalekar and his advisor Valencia Koomson took third place in the $100K life sciences track for the development of low-cost and lightweight silicon microchip technology that accurately monitors cerebral blood flow to prevent brain damage in premature babies.
Researchers from Tufts University and the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center (NSRDEC) are joining forces to advance our understanding of how people think, function, and interact in demanding environments. This new center represents a collaborative partnership in cognitive science research co-directed and co-managed by researchers from both institutions.
“We hope to increase understanding of how individuals and teams adapt and sustain performance in high-stakes environments,” says Holly A. Taylor, a professor of psychology at Tufts School of Arts and Sciences, an adjunct professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, and lead investigator from the Tufts team.
Matthias Scheutz, a professor of computer science at Tufts School of Engineering and co-principal investigator on the center grant, brings yet another dimension to the research when attempting to understand how people interact not only with each other in teams, but with potential robotic partners.
“In the same scenario of searching for an injured person, imagine now that a robot is the navigator,” says Scheutz, “and the rest of its human teammates are interacting with that robot from a safe distance out of the fray. How might that team work together in a high-stress environment? How could we improve that collaboration?” These questions need answering as robots become an ever-increasing presence on the battlefield and in everyday life, adds Scheutz who directs the Human-Robot Interaction Lab.
Diane Souvaine, the vice provost for research and a professor of computer science, has been reappointed to the National Science Board, the policymaking body for the National Science Foundation. The board also advises the president and Congress on science and engineering policy issues.
“I greatly appreciate this opportunity to continue serving with such fantastic colleagues to oversee the National Science Foundation’s portfolio in the behavioral, social, natural, mathematical and engineering sciences,” she says. Souvaine says the board will also be supporting the foundation’s education and training missions in those fields and conduct timely studies on related issues of importance to the country.
In an article published in MIT Tech Review, Professor Rob Jacob in the Department of Computer Science commented on a new 3D interface called “Leap Motion” that allows users to gesture to interact with their computers.
According to the company, since the launch of the product in late July, users have downloaded more than 1 million apps that connect with the technology.
MIT Tech Review reports, “Yet after one month and a raft of ‘meh’ product reviews citing problems like difficulty controlling apps and tired arms, the sardine-can-sized gadget—which connects to a computer’s USB port and tracks the movement of your hands and fingers as they move above its sensor—seems to have lost its steam.”
“Things involving human-computer interfaces often move extremely slowly. It may take a while before the Leap reaches its full potential,” Jacob, told Tech Review.
“[T]here’s a growing body of research indicating that multi-tasking cuts into performance. Videogamers, who might be expected to have highly developed attention-switching skills, perform worse when multitasking than they do otherwise, according to a study in the July issue of the research journal Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics. And a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that multitasking took a toll on the short-term memories of people between the ages of 60 and 80.”
Yoder references work conducted by Computer Science Professor Rob Jacob who has developed a wearable brain scanner that detects when workers are overwhelmed with multitasking and offloads some of the work to a computer. Jacob’s research in real-time measurement and machine learning classification of functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) brain data leads has allowed him to develop, use, and evaluate brain measurement as input to adaptable user interfaces for the larger population.