Skip to main content
  COVID-19 Information and Resources for ECE Students, Faculty, and Staff

Sam Burden receives NSF CAREER award to advance human-machine collaboration and broaden participation of underrepresented students in STEM

UW ECE assistant professor Sam Burden has received a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER award, one of the most prestigious awards in the nation for early-career faculty.

Learn More

Sam Burden receives NSF CAREER award to advance human-machine collaboration and broaden participation of underrepresented students in STEM Banner

UW ECE Professor Bruce Darling discusses mobility and transportation engineering

As lead faculty adviser for the UW Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition (AVTC) team, Darling oversees a group of students competing in the EcoCAR Mobility Challenge, a rigorous four-year-long endeavor.

Learn More

UW ECE Professor Bruce Darling discusses mobility and transportation engineering Banner

The impact of neurotechnology

UW ECE senior postdoctoral researcher Dr. Fatma Inanici (left) applies electrical stimulation patches to the neck of research study participant Jessie Owen (right). Owen, who has a spinal cord injury, spoke at a recent roundtable about her decision to participate in this study and how neurotechnology has changed her life.

Learn More

The impact of neurotechnology Banner

UW ECE spinout WiBotic wins European seals of approval for its wireless robot charging systems

WiBotic has developed battery charging systems that can power autonomous drones and robots on either land or sea wirelessly, without human intervention. Two of the wireless charging systems have won safety approvals in Europe, marking a major milestone for the company.

Learn More

UW ECE spinout WiBotic wins European seals of approval for its wireless robot charging systems Banner

Quantum Leap - in quantum computing, UW scientists see the building blocks of the next technological revolution

Associate Professor Kai-Mei Fu featured in UW Magazine on exciting quantum computing collaborations in the Pacific Northwest.

Learn More

Quantum Leap - in quantum computing, UW scientists see the building blocks of the next technological revolution Banner

New system that uses smartphone or computer cameras to measure pulse, respiration rate could help future personalized telehealth appointments

A UW-led team has developed a method that uses the camera on a person’s smartphone or computer to take their pulse and breathing rate from a real-time video of their face.

Learn More

New system that uses smartphone or computer cameras to measure pulse, respiration rate could help future personalized telehealth appointments Banner

News + Events

https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/sam-burden-nsf-career-award/
https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/the-impact-of-neurotechnology/
The impact of neurotechnology

The impact of neurotechnology

UW ECE senior postdoctoral researcher Dr. Fatma Inanici (left) applies electrical stimulation patches to the neck of research study participant Jessie Owen (right). Owen, who has a spinal cord injury, spoke at a recent roundtable about her decision to participate in this study and how neurotechnology has changed her life.

https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/mobility/
https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/wiboticseals/
https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/quantum-leap/
https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/smartphone-pulse/
755uweeViewNews Object
(
    [_showAnnouncements:protected] => 
    [_showTitle:protected] => 
    [showMore] => 
    [_type:protected] => spotlight
    [_from:protected] => newsawards_landing
    [_args:protected] => Array
        (
            [post_type] => spotlight
            [meta_query] => Array
                (
                    [0] => Array
                        (
                            [key] => type
                            [value] => news
                            [compare] => LIKE
                        )

                )

            [posts_per_page] => 6
            [post_status] => publish
        )

    [_jids:protected] => 
    [_taxa:protected] => Array
        (
        )

    [_meta:protected] => Array
        (
            [0] => Array
                (
                    [key] => type
                    [value] => news
                    [compare] => LIKE
                )

        )

    [_metarelation:protected] => AND
    [_results:protected] => Array
        (
            [0] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 21878
                    [post_author] => 27
                    [post_date] => 2021-04-28 16:19:04
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2021-04-28 23:19:04
                    [post_content] => Story by Wayne Gillam | UW ECE News

[caption id="attachment_21881" align="alignright" width="550"]Sam Burden sitting in a chair and smiling UW ECE assistant professor Sam Burden was recently named as a recipient of a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER award, one of the most prestigious awards in the nation for early-career faculty. 2017 photo by Mark Stone[/caption]

UW ECE assistant professor Sam Burden was recently named as a recipient of a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER award, one of the most prestigious awards in the nation for early-career faculty. The award will fund research by Burden that seeks to build fundamental knowledge related to human-machine interaction as well as education and outreach initiatives aimed at broadening participation of underrepresented students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

“I am thrilled and honored to have my proposal selected for funding,” Burden said. “The award holds special significance for me, as it will merge two disparate threads of research I started while working on my doctoral degree, and it will expand opportunities for students to be exposed to and involved in this research.”

The NSF selects award recipients who are faculty members at the beginning of their careers with the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization. The intent of the NSF CAREER program is to provide stable support, enabling awardees to develop their careers not only as outstanding researchers, but also as educators demonstrating commitment to teaching, learning and dissemination of knowledge. The award spans five years, and it will enable Burden to integrate his research and education goals, contributing to his stated long-term career goal of enhancing human interaction with the physical world through machines.

Building foundational knowledge for human-machine interaction

[caption id="attachment_21883" align="alignleft" width="550"]Sam Burden talking to a group of people in the AMP Lab Burden at the opening of the UW AMP Lab, where research supported by the award, experiments involving human/machine interaction, will take place. 2017 photo by Mark Stone[/caption] A remotely operated airplane, a self-driving car on a smooth road, or a Roomba cleaning the floors in your house are all examples of machinery that function well in an unchanging environment where contact with the surroundings is continuously maintained. But what happens when contact with the environment is intermittent or conditions change? Programming a robot or a machine, whether remotely operated by a human or operating independently, to handle “contact-rich dynamics” such as this is much more difficult to do. For example, making a legged robot walk up and down stairs or travel over rough, unpredictable terrain in natural environments has proven to be a very tough problem for engineers. “Every time a robot or machine touches something new, more constraints are introduced into the system and the dynamics change abruptly,” Burden said. “That’s a fundamentally challenging problem for systems that function independently, let alone systems that combine human and machine intelligence.” Burden seeks to address this challenge. In the research supported by the award, he is aiming to build a better understanding of how humans control remotely operated robots and machinery when the system makes intermittent contact with its environment under variable conditions. The knowledge gained can be applied to both remotely operated and autonomous systems. This will help to inform development of useful devices such as robots and machinery that could efficiently deliver packages and move around a city, assist with disaster recovery or remote surgeries, or even operate as caregivers in people’s homes. “Through our experiments we’ll learn more about what a person’s control strategy is while they are tele-operating a robot or machinery,” Burden said. “We’ll learn what information is useful to them, what information is irrelevant for that task, and then we’ll adapt the machine interface to improve performance, with the human still in the loop.” There is a wide range of potential applications for this knowledge, but Burden said that he sees this work being particularly useful for neural engineering in assistive devices, enabling better two-way communication between brain and machine, and with rehabilitation after bodily injury. “To put a finer point on it, this research could help inform development of an active leg brace for when you sprain your ankle, or a neuroprosthetic for when you lose a limb, or a rehabilitation robot to help take care of you after an accident,” Burden said. Burden and his team will build and test mathematical models for contact-rich dynamics both in theory and with human test subjects interacting with machines. The real-life experiments will take place at the AMP Lab on the UW campus, where Burden’s robotic testbed is located.

Broadening participation of underrepresented students in STEM

[caption id="attachment_21885" align="alignright" width="550"]Three students sitting at a desk and working on laptops Education and outreach initiatives are also important components of the work supported by the award. Burden stated that he feels a strong commitment to these efforts as a first-generation college student who benefited in high school from a UW summer institute for mathematics. The initiatives also connect well with his role as UW ECE Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Coordinator. 2016 photo by Mark Stone, courtesy of the Center for Neurotechnology[/caption] Education and outreach initiatives are also important components of the work supported by the award. Burden stated that he feels a strong commitment to these efforts as a first-generation college student who benefited in high school from a UW summer institute for mathematics. The initiatives also connect well with his role as UW ECE Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Coordinator. “There’s so much scientific advancement and technological innovation that we are missing out on because of systemic exclusion and marginalization of large groups of people,” Burden said. “I’m certain that I wouldn’t be here in this job if that door hadn’t been opened for me, and so, I’m eager to open as many of those doors as I can for other people.” Burden is already heavily involved in UW College of Engineering K–12 outreach programs such as Engineering Discovery Days and outreach tailored specifically for underrepresented students such as the STARS program. And at UW ECE, he has co-led efforts to expand diversity, equity and inclusion with colleagues such as Niveditha Kalavakonda. The support he receives from the award will allow him to take this work even further over the next five years. “I was very deliberate in putting together the education and outreach component supported by the award,” Burden said. “I chose initiatives that were evidence-based, that have proven successful in other contexts, and that build-up or expand on existing programs.” [caption id="attachment_21887" align="alignleft" width="550"]A man demonstrates a device in front of a group of K–12 students Engineering Discovery Days at the UW College of Engineering. The award will enable Burden and his research team to expand their ability to regularly exhibit and present at public events such as these. 2018 photo by Sam Burden[/caption] The award will enable Burden and his research team to expand their ability to regularly exhibit and present at public events involving large numbers of students, families and teachers, such as Engineering Discovery Days and UW Math Day. It also will provide resources for Burden to create a new site for an alternative spring break program run by Riverways, a K–12 outreach program that connects UW undergraduate students with educational and service opportunities. The organization is part of the Community Engagement & Leadership Education Center at the UW, and it has relationships with a number of middle schools and high schools in Latinx and tribal communities across the state. “One thing I like about the NSF award is that it’s not draining resources from Riverways,” Burden said. “It’s providing an external source of additional funding to help expand the program.” In the STARS program, Burden has already coordinated a faculty mentorship network, which matches students with UW faculty who are from departments the students have expressed an interest in. He is planning to use support from the award to help some of these students be placed in research labs within their first two years at the UW. This will give STARS students an immersive, hands-on educational experience right at the start of their academic journey. Burden has placed a strong focus on cooperating across campus to create, improve and build upon existing outreach programs. And when talking about the NSF CAREER award, the research it supports and the education and outreach initiatives it enables, he repeatedly emphasizes the importance of working together to achieve mutually agreed upon goals. “None of my work would be possible without the mentorship and leadership provided by my advisers and teachers, nor without the support and structure provided by UW ECE, nor without the creativity and energy provided by my students and collaborators,” Burden said. “I am simultaneously deeply humbled and proud to be a part of such a diverse, intellectual community.” To learn more about the research, education and outreach programs supported by this NSF CAREER award or to discuss ongoing work expanding diversity, equity and inclusion at UW ECE, contact Sam Burden. [post_title] => Sam Burden receives NSF CAREER award to advance human-machine collaboration and broaden participation of underrepresented students in STEM [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => sam-burden-nsf-career-award [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-04-28 16:23:00 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-04-28 23:23:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=21878 [menu_order] => 1 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 21757 [post_author] => 27 [post_date] => 2021-04-19 09:58:05 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-04-19 16:58:05 [post_content] => Story by Wayne Gillam | UW ECE News [caption id="attachment_21762" align="alignright" width="600"]Fatma Inanici applies a patch to the back of Jessie Owen's neck Jessie Owen (right), who has a spinal cord injury, spoke at a recent roundtable about her decision to participate in a research study led by UW ECE senior postdoctoral researcher Dr. Fatma Inanici in the lab of UW ECE associate professor Chet Moritz. This study was funded by the Center for Neurotechnology, which Moritz co-directs and of which Dr. Inanici is a member. Owen described what the experience was like and how neurotechnology has impacted her life. In this photo, Dr. Inanici is applying small patches that will deliver electrical currents on the surface of the skin, over the injured area in Owen’s neck. This electrical stimulation helps the brain to reestablish connections with nerves in the spinal cord. 2018 photo by Marcus Donner[/caption] At the age of 27, Jessie Owen was in a devastating car accident that left her with a severe spinal cord injury. She lost much of the function in her hands, arms and legs, and she was diagnosed with central spinal cord syndrome. Her brain’s ability to send and receive signals to and from the parts of her body below her neck was severely impaired. She had to take a leave of absence from her job as a teacher, and she has since been dependent on a wheelchair and caregivers for day-to-day living. In 2018–19 she participated in a groundbreaking research study led by UW ECE senior postdoctoral researcher Dr. Fatma Inanici in the lab of UW ECE associate professor Chet Moritz. This study was funded by the Center for Neurotechnology, which Moritz co-directs and of which Dr. Inanici is a member. In the study, the research team used a device provided by the Center’s industry affiliate Onward to apply noninvasive, electrical stimulation to the site of Owen’s spinal cord injury. This was aimed at improving her hand and arm function. Owen experienced significant functional gains as a result of participating in the study, which enabled her to live much more independently. Owen spoke at the Spring 2021 CNT End-user Roundtable, which is a space for CNT students, faculty and staff to learn from people with disabilities and potential end users of neurotechnology. The event was organized by CNT Associate Director of Diversity Scott Bellman and moderated by Moritz. Owen took questions from the audience about her decision to participate in the study, what the experience was like for her and how it has impacted her life. Below this video, which shows how Owen benefited from participating in the study, are some questions from the Roundtable audience and Owen’s responses, lightly edited for clarity. Welcome to the CNT End-user Roundtable, Jessie! We appreciate you taking the time today to be with us. Thank you! I’m happy to be here. So, let me tell you a little bit about how I got to be here. At the very end of December 2012, I was in a car accident going over Highway 2 here in Washington. A tree fell on our car, and I sustained a severe spinal cord injury. I broke my neck at the C3 / C4 level. I went to Harborview Medical Center, and I was at Harborview for three to four months. By the time I left, I still had not gained enough function back to drive a power wheelchair with my hand. I was still driving it with my chin. And then, I got into a skilled nursing facility because I had some broken bones, and I had some other things that needed to heal. For about two years after that time, I did exercise therapy the best I could. I was able to go from a chin drive to a hand drive on my wheelchair. And I did learn to stand, to get up from chairs and transfer [from one seat to another], but my hand function was still pretty low. I have central spinal cord syndrome, so my legs tend to work a little bit better than my arms, which was great in some ways but frustrating in others. So, I was living with a friend at the time as I continued exercise therapy. I stayed stagnant in my recovery for about two years. I learned to walk a little bit with crutches, but I was definitely using my power wheelchair all the time because it’s not like I could open a door, or grab things, or cook or any of those things. [caption id="attachment_21768" align="alignright" width="500"]Chet Moritz and Dr. Inanici watch study participant Jon Schlueter complete a grip-test Moritz (left) and Dr. Inanici (center) observe as Jon Schlueter (right), a participant who took part in the same study as Owen, measures grip strength by squeezing the device in his hand. Schlueter has sensors on his arms (black cases) to measure his arm muscle activity during the task. 2019 photo by Marcus Donner[/caption] What brought you to the study? I strongly believe that if we want to see change in the spinal cord community and in science, I need to be an active participant. And so over the years, I participated in some studies whenever they came up. When this one with Chet and Fatma came up, I met with them, and they said I might be a good candidate because I had some function in my hands, even though I didn’t have great function. What did you expect from the study? Honestly, I didn’t expect a lot out of it. We just don’t know enough scientifically about how to treat spinal cord injuries, so I thought that it was just going to be a “feel good” experience for me because I was doing my part to help advance science. It was about two years ago when I participated in this study, and I experienced way more results than I anticipated. In that time, I was able to go from living with a friend to buying my own house, to living independently, to receiving at least 50% less caregiving. My hand function is still not 100%, it’s not, but it has improved enough to allow me to do a lot of different things, and it has made a significant impact in my life, and that is why I’m here. [caption id="attachment_21771" align="alignleft" width="500"]A woman works on fine motor skills using children's blocks while an undergraduate researcher oversees Owen practices her fine motor skills by using children’s blocks while UW undergraduate researcher Megan Knoernschild reviews data on the electrical stimulation device provided by Center for Neurotechnology industry affiliate Onward. 2018 photo by Marcus Donner[/caption] Could you give us some examples of some things that you couldn’t do before the study but that you can do now? Yeah, you know, there are so many of them. One is that I can cook now. I still don’t take anything out of the oven (that’s pretty scary), but I can do just about anything on the stovetop. I feel much more comfortable using a knife to cut something because even though my right hand is still pretty ridiculous, it’s open enough that I can stabilize an onion, while I carefully cut on the other side. I can tie my shoes. I can walk my dog easier because I can clip the leash on him. I can take pictures on my phone. I can actually open my hand and take pictures on my phone without it being a huge struggle. I started a journal, and now I write in it every day, about three to five sentences. That’s something that I could maybe do before the study, but it was so tedious. It still takes me longer than the average person, but it’s not so painful that it’s not enjoyable. I take my time, and I like writing. Another big one is that I’m a teacher, and before the study, I really struggled with figuring out how to teach without being able to write very well or use the technology because my fingers weren’t working. Now, I can point to things better, I can pick stuff up and write more quickly. I feel more confident as a teacher because I have just that little bit more hand function that allows me to do more. Do you still receive spinal stimulation? If not, were you able to keep the functional gains you made in the study? I haven’t received any additional stimulation in the two years since the study. I would say that about 90% of my functional gains remain. I have a lot more hand function in my left hand. I can still keep my right hand open, and I can carefully grasp something with it. The progress I’ve made has sustained. I definitely haven’t gone down significantly, maybe a tiny bit right after the study ended, but I still have enough function for me to live as independently as possible. I’m still receiving 50% less care than I was before. I’ve honestly just been a lot happier. You’re happier when you have independence. When you start out with very little function, even regaining 30% more function at a very low level means a huge deal, so it’s been really meaningful for me to be able to keep the gains that I’ve made. [caption id="attachment_21773" align="alignright" width="500"]Three woman sitting around a table talking Owen, Dr. Inanici and Knoernschild discuss research data and electrical stimulation levels for the study. 2018 photo by Marcus Donner[/caption] What advice would you give to those considering enrolling in study similar to this one? (Read this UW News article for a more complete description of the study.) Honestly, I would say to do it. There’s no downside to this. It seems that the side effects are so minimal. I had super success with it, but even if you don’t, you’re not going to get worse. This is a huge opportunity, and it’s simple, it’s easy, and it doesn’t take a lot of time to set up. Do you have any closing thoughts? I’m really honored to be in a room with such hardworking and smart and dedicated individuals who are willing to spend time in their careers to make people’s lives better, and you do. You made a big impact on my life and how I get to live. I’m really grateful for the work that you do, and I’m happy to help. I really hope that this technology expands and becomes available to everyone and that we continue to take this as a stepping-stone and go even further with it. Learn more about Owen’s personal experience in the research study in this article. More information about the study is available at UW News, on the Restorative Technologies website and in this associated research paper. [post_title] => The impact of neurotechnology [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => the-impact-of-neurotechnology [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-04-19 09:58:05 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-04-19 16:58:05 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=21757 [menu_order] => 2 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 21696 [post_author] => 25 [post_date] => 2021-04-26 10:38:43 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-04-26 17:38:43 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_21698" align="alignright" width="235"] UW ECE Professor Bruce Darling, who took over as lead faculty adviser for the UW Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition (AVTC) team in 2019.[/caption] For almost a century, automotive engineering has fallen squarely within the purview of the mechanical engineering field. However, today’s automotive industry has evolved with the increasing need for top talent from a wide range of engineering disciplines including electrical, computer science and software engineering to develop advanced propulsion systems, electrification, autonomous technologies, vehicle connectivity and more. This is just one of the reasons why it made perfect sense for University of Washington Electrical & Computer Engineering (UW ECE) Professor Bruce Darling to take over as lead faculty adviser for the UW Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition (AVTC) team in 2019. Having been involved with previous competitions, Darling jumped at the chance to lead the team competing in The EcoCAR Mobility Challenge. “Mobility, and transportation engineering in general, is one of the most pressing needs of our time. It plays a large role in the impact of our species on the planet, and it is a fundamental aspect of our lives that enables social connection, essential services, recreation and commerce,” said Darling. “Vehicle electrification is one of those, along with the increased automation and connectivity that is essential for creating new systems for getting people where they want to go. The key factor here are systems and the need to tie it all together.” It’s no secret that participating in EcoCAR is a demanding undertaking for students, teams and faculty. It takes a multi-disciplinary team of talent with a wide array of engineering expertise to even compete. Students are tasked with completely re-engineering a vehicle to exacting standards in terms of handling, acceleration and fuel economy. It must be fully street legal and compliant with all government safety requirements and be able to withstand the many driving conditions a normal consumer would encounter.
"It is such a pleasure to be immersed in a group of students who are destined to have a real impact on the world.” -Bruce Darling
“Our car has more computing power under the hood than most workstations, and that software must be extremely reliable and run without any interruptions since it controls many of the advanced driver-assist functions like advanced cruise control, lane-keeping and early collision warnings,” he said. “Those systems are not like video games or toys or cell phone apps; they must work infallibly with 100 percent uptime because they are part of the life-safety envelope the vehicle provides and for which the driver and passengers count on.” In fact, many past UW grads who participated in EcoCAR have gone on to work at top software and IT companies. According to Darling, “EcoCAR alumni are some of the most sought-after graduates because they can come up to speed on new projects of this scale within only a few months, whereas new graduates without this experience might typically require several years. It makes a huge difference in one’s initial employment prospects, and once on the job, that experience accelerates one’s career by several years.” [caption id="attachment_21699" align="aligncenter" width="1163"] Darling with the EcoCAR Mobility Challenge team[/caption] Darling’s varied background, from working with start-ups to forensic engineering for NASA in the wake of the Columbia disaster, provides his students the benefit of working with someone who is keenly aware of how and why complicated systems fail and how to engineer systems able to withstand failures when they do happen. He also serves on the competitions Faculty Advisory Board, a position selected by his peers, to help organizers develop the appropriate challenges for students. “These days I spend about 10 percent of my time worrying about how everything should work right and about 90 percent of the time worrying about what happens when things go wrong and how to design systems to gracefully handle those failures,” said Darling. So, with two and a half years into this four-year competition, what impresses him most about his team? “Without a doubt, it has been working with a team of student volunteers who put enormous time and dedication into the project. These are not the type who put in only the minimum effort to get by, they are the ones who are making every effort to maximize their education and achieve the most possible,” said Darling. “That’s an attitude which cultivates success, and it is such a pleasure to be immersed in a group of students who are destined to have a real impact on the world.” To learn more about Professor Darling and EcoCAR, visit: EcoCAR Mobility Challenge

Story by Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions [post_title] => UW ECE Professor Bruce Darling discusses mobility and transportation engineering [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => mobility [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-04-26 10:39:39 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-04-26 17:39:39 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=21696 [menu_order] => 3 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 21690 [post_author] => 25 [post_date] => 2021-04-14 11:25:12 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-04-14 18:25:12 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_21693" align="alignright" width="571"] UW ECE spinout WiBotic has developed battery charging systems that can power autonomous drones as well as robots on land or sea wirelessly, without human intervention. Two of the wireless charging systems have won safety approvals in Europe, marking what UW ECE alum and the startup’s CEO and co-founder Ben Waters calls a major milestone. (photo: Wibotic)[/caption] Two of the wireless charging systems made by UW ECE spinout WiBotic have won safety approvals in Europe, marking what the startup’s CEO calls a major milestone. The chargers and transmitters now have CE Mark approval, which means they meet the safety, health and environmental protection requirements for the European Economic Area. What’s more, the systems have been found to comply with the International Electrotechnical Commission’s directives for the European Union and Canada’s CSA Group standards organization. “We also recently completed FCC approval in the U.S., so our systems are compliant with reputable regulatory agencies within many countries around the world,” WiBotic CEO and UW Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering (UW ECE) alum Ben Waters said today in a news release. “This, in turn, opens several exciting partnership and deployment opportunities for us across Europe, Canada and beyond.” WiBotic, which was spun out from the University of Washington in 2015, has developed battery charging systems that can power up autonomous drones as well as robots on land or sea wirelessly, without human intervention. The company’s power management software, known as Commander, can work with the hardware to optimize battery use for an entire fleet of robots. There’s even a project aimed at charging up future robots on the moon. The latest regulatory approvals apply to two of WiBotic’s systems, both of which use the company’s TR-301 high-power transmitter. One system uses the OC-301 onboard charger, operating at 300 watts; the other uses the OC-251 onboard charger, operating at 250 watts. Such systems are typically used to charge up larger drones, mobile robots and marine vehicles from a landing pad or a wall station. As part of the certification process, the systems were tested for radiation emissions, radio-frequency exposure and overall product safety. Waters noted that requirements for robot safety standards and certifications have evolved significantly over the past few years. “We hope that these certifications help our partners and the entire robotics industry scale up quickly to avoid the complex and costly bottlenecks of pursuing certifications on their own,” he said. Last year, WiBotic announced that it secured $5.7 million in fresh financial backing, thanks to a Series A funding round that brought total investment to nearly $9 million. In an update filed last week with the Securities and Exchange Commission, WiBotic reported that the funding round has grown to $7.2 million. “This was just finishing the Series A,” Waters explained in an email to GeekWire. “We had allocated all of the shares, but due to COVID some of the investment took some time to come in. It had taken long enough that we needed to re-file with SEC.” ________ Story adapted from: Alan Boyle - Geekwire [post_title] => UW ECE spinout WiBotic wins European seals of approval for its wireless robot charging systems [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => wiboticseals [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-04-14 11:26:18 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-04-14 18:26:18 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=21690 [menu_order] => 4 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 21618 [post_author] => 26 [post_date] => 2021-04-07 12:04:43 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-04-07 19:04:43 [post_content] => Article by Andrew Engleson |  UW Magazine

Quantum physics is weird. Many an undergrad has been baffled by Schrödinger’s cat in a box which could be both dead and alive until the box is opened. Some of us ponder how light exists as both a wave and particle. And our pandemic quarantine might give us time to work on understanding the notion of action at a distance in which two entangled particles, separated by a great distance, change state instantaneously if one is observed.

[caption id="attachment_18688" align="alignleft" width="250"]Jim Pfaendtner Jim Pfaendtner[/caption] It turns out these and other bizarre components of quantum physics are the foundation for a new kind of computer, one that promises to be substantially faster and more powerful than any that exists today. And UW researchers in physics, computer science, chemistry, engineering and materials science are training leaders in the burgeoning field of quantum information science and technology, or QIST. QIST offers radically new advances in a variety of fields as well: ultrasensitive sensors to one day measure the firing of individual neurons in the brain, or completely secured encrypted communication. Jim Pfaendtner, chemical engineering professor and chair of UW’s Chemical Engineering Department, notes that quantum computing could force us to jettison Moore’s Law, the dependable rule of thumb that asserts computing power tends to double every two years. “You’ll have a radical change in the type of a certain class of calculations—the scaling is massively higher,” Pfaendtner says. “So the number, the extent of calculations that you can begin to conceive of doing will really change overnight if this technology comes to pass.”

“Today’s crypto-keys will not be secure when quantum computing is realized. Because the computers will be exponentially faster.” - JIM PFAENDTNER, UW CHEMICAL ENGINEERING PROFESSOR

Calculations that would take thousands of years on classical computers could conceivably take just a few hours. The benefits are many, but there’s one striking potential impact: current security and encryption would be obsolete. “Today’s crypto-keys will not be secure when quantum computing is realized,” Pfaendtner says. “Because the computers will be exponentially faster.” [caption id="attachment_19925" align="alignright" width="280"] Kai-Mei Fu[/caption] Not surprisingly, the U.S. government has taken notice, dedicating more than a billion dollars in 2020 to research efforts. In the past four years, UW has received $30 million in funding for QIST research, says Kai-Mei Fu, associate professor of physics and electrical and computer engineering as well as a researcher with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). Fu helps lead a lineup of regional quantum collaborations including Northwest Quantum Nexus, a research partnership among UW, Microsoft and PNNL. She’s also a leader of the Quantum X initiative, which brings together UW researchers across disciplines. “Quantum X is a very typical bottom-up University of Washington endeavor,” Fu says. “We realized there are a lot of people doing quantum on campus. Our main goal is to connect everyone.” Quantum X brings together principal investigators at UW in materials science, physics, electrical and computer engineering, and other disciplines integral to creating a quantum computer. “Building up connections between these disparate groups of people is not easy,” says Nathan Wiebe, a senior scientist at PNNL and until recently a UW affiliate associate professor of physics. “I think the hardest part about building a quantum computer is going to be trying to figure out how to get everybody able to talk to each other. We all need to be involved to get this to work.”

A fascination with diamonds

What makes a quantum computer different from a standard computer is the qubit. A classical computer works using bits, which represent information as a string of values of either 0 or 1. Qubits store information in a single atom or particle. But rather than using a solid value of 0 or 1, the qubit stores a range of possibilities. Wiebe explains it as the difference between looking at which side of a coin is face up on a table (a bit of either heads or tails), versus a flipped coin that’s covered by your hand; you know the probability of it, but don’t actually know for certain if it’s heads or tails. Pfaendtner likes the analogy of a 3-D maze to describe qubits. “Every time you come to a junction, classically, you’d pick one direction and go until you reach the dead end. You’d keep a map of that in your mind, or your memory. Then you would go back when you reached a dead end. You’re never going to guess the maze the first time correctly, but you will eventually solve the maze. “In a quantum computer, in a qubit, instead of picking one direction, you pick both directions. So you simultaneously explore both paths. Every time you come to a junction there is the ability to not have one state, but have multiple states. This is the fundamental paradox of quantum physics that’s difficult for everybody to understand.” The power of qubits comes from their ability to add these probabilistic wave-functions of information together, creating an exponentially more powerful and much faster way to do calculations. But it turns out that creating a working qubit is fiendishly difficult. You need to manipulate a single atom or particle, which isn’t easy. Atoms interfere with one another, making precise measurements difficult unless you can isolate them. “We want to build a big, powerful, thick box to secure our quantum information,” Wiebe says. “But we don’t want it to be so secure that we can’t read it.” That why Kai-Mei Fu is fascinated with diamonds. “Part of the allure of a diamond isn’t that it’s a beautiful material,” she says. “It has nice properties, has very extreme properties. Part of it is more mundane—it’s pure enough that I can work with it without interference from a noisy environment.”

What’s really key is we’re bringing together students from different departments.- KAI-MEI FU, PHYSICS AND ELECTRICAL & COMPUTER ENGINEERING PROFESSOR

Fu and her colleagues specialize in creating minuscule defects in otherwise perfectly pure diamonds to manufacture qubits. Inside the lattice of carbon atoms that make up a diamond, you can sneak in two nitrogen atoms. This creates tiny flaws, or “vacancy centers,” that can, when brought down to super-cold temperatures, be manipulated to store information. The trick is integrating those tiny empty spaces into an actual circuit. Much ballyhoo surrounded the Google announcement in 2019 that it had built a rudimentary 53-qubit quantum computer that achieved “supremacy”—quickly solving a problem that classical computers would take much longer to figure out. Then last year, IBM announced it had constructed its own 64-qubit processor. But the results of these efforts are still tenuous, and just how successful these first efforts have been is hotly debated among scientists. One big problem with qubits is their relatively high error rate. Even after the atoms are isolated and manipulated, one concern is decoherence—a quantum effect that’s essentially a random change in the atom’s state, which can be caused by an electric or magnetic field, stray radiation or other environmental factors. What Fu and her UW colleagues have focused on is creating improved interfaces between those tiny defects and a larger circuit that can manipulate the information contained in them. Working with UW’s Nanofabrication Facility, Fu says, “We can make devices that couple these defects to these photons. That’s huge.” Three of Fu’s colleagues in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering (UW ECE), Mo Li, Arka Majumdar and Karl Böhringer, received a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant last fall to work on developing a microchip-sized steering system that coordinates multiple laser beams—which could eventually link more than 1,000 qubits. “It’s a huge engineering challenge controlling all these beams,” Fu says. In another multidiscipline effort, Fu is leading a $3 million traineeship program also funded by the NSF that brings together UW graduate students across different fields to collaborate on QIST research. Fu says, “What’s really key is we’re bringing together students from different departments.”

The architecture of a revolution

For Martin Savage, a professor of physics at the UW’s Institute for Nuclear Theory, one missing puzzle piece is imagining how to actually use quantum computers. “One of the things that we need to understand especially is how to use a quantum computer to solve problems,” says Savage. “We kind of don’t know how do that at the moment.” Using existing supercomputers or even just standard laptops, Savage and his colleagues are trying to simulate how quantum computers might be applied to unsolved problems in fundamental physics. He and UW colleagues Silas Beane and David Kaplan have created the InQubator for Quantum Simulation (IQuS), which is beginning the work of figuring out which research questions quantum computers would be best applied. Imagining those uses can sometimes expose current limitations. Fu notes this in her work with diamonds. “To give you a scope of the problem, even though we’ve removed one atom from a crystal, actually simulating how that crystal should behave is hard. That’s a quantum mechanical problem, one that you practically need a quantum computer to do.” Wiebe estimates that it may be as long as 20 years before a truly functional quantum computer is operational. And that’s even allowing for the rapid pace the technology has advanced at in the past 10 years. Wiebe sums up the challenge this way. To do useful calculations, a million-qubit chip would be required. With existing technology, he says, we “would need at present to make a chip that’s about 1-meter square and stored at like 10 to 30 millikelvin [near absolute zero]. The control electronics would take up several football fields and cost over a billion dollars.”

A regional hub for quantum research

Just what quantum computers will be applied to is a fascinating and potentially controversial question. Wiebe notes one surprising application: fertilizer production. The chemical process for creating ammonia-based fertilizer has been around for over a hundred years. It’s fairly simple process, but one that consumes close to 1% of the world’s total energy use. But now we know that bacteria have evolved to make ammonia at room temperature using an enzyme called nitrogenase. Using that enzyme on a large scale could significantly reduce global energy consumption. But the process isn’t well understood and can’t be replicated beyond a single cell. “Despite 100 years of trying,” Wiebe says, “nobody has actually been able to crack the problem of how exactly this kind of molecular knife that bacteria have discovered actually works.” The complex chemistry—which includes heavy metals such as iron and molybdenum—can’t be modeled using existing computers. It would potentially take thousands to millions of years. But with a fully functional quantum computer, Wiebe predicts “we could actually simulate it in the span of a few hours.” Savage points to another application on a much larger scale. “Take for instance, colliding neutron stars,” he says. “What happens in the densest part of that? Using a classical computer, we still don’t have answers with the precision we need.” The potential to create a computer that can bypass existing cryptographic encryption is driving governments in the U.S. and China to massively scale up QIST funding. Wiebe says having a strategy now will help mitigate future security risks. “Twenty years is enough time for us to develop some good tools. We really need to build up and make sure these things are reliable and can hold up against ordinary hackers in addition to the quantum hackers we’re going to be worried about in 20-plus years.” Strangely enough, QIST also allows for the creation of perfectly secure communication networks. Based on quantum principles such as entanglement and the impossibility of copying a quantum state, quantum keys are packets of information that always bear a trace if observed. “What makes [quantum keys] completely secure is that as soon as someone tries to copy, disturb, or see the message, it leaves an imprint on the message that’s detectable,” says Fu. Even a quantum computer wouldn’t help overcome this perfectly secure key. At the moment, the implications are merely theoretical. But as QIST researchers like those at UW advance and refine the technology, hard decisions will have to be made about who can use these tools. “We have to decide when we want to use this,” says Fu, “and when do we not want to use this?” For now, the researchers are focused on advancing the technology, bolstered by a vibrant quantum research community in the Pacific Northwest. The UW, Microsoft, Amazon, and Intel, as well as PNNL and a host of quantum startups such as D-Wave Systems and 1QBit (both in British Columbia) are all making Cascadia a magnet for QIST research. “One of the things that really attracted me to UW and the Pacific Northwest for quantum is the amazing synergies that are possible between all of these different organizations,” says Wiebe. “We’ve got an amazingly strong computer science department at UW. We’ve got very strong chemistry, as well as electrical engineering and physics departments—and surrounded by a wonderful collection of industrial partners.” In a decade or two, we’ll know if computers are ready to take the next quantum leap.

[post_title] => Quantum Leap - in quantum computing, UW scientists see the building blocks of the next technological revolution [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => quantum-leap [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-04-08 15:28:23 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-04-08 22:28:23 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=21618 [menu_order] => 5 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 21556 [post_author] => 26 [post_date] => 2021-04-06 10:13:09 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-04-06 17:13:09 [post_content] => Story by   |  UW News [caption id="attachment_21572" align="alignright" width="599"] A UW-led team has developed a method that uses the camera on a person’s smartphone or computer to take their pulse and breathing rate from a real-time video of their face.[/caption] Telehealth has become a critical way for doctors to still provide health care while minimizing in-person contact during COVID-19. But with phone or Zoom appointments, it’s harder for doctors to get important vital signs from a patient, such as their pulse or respiration rate, in real time. A University of Washington-led team has developed a method that uses the camera on a person’s smartphone or computer to take their pulse and respiration signal from a real-time video of their face. The researchers presented this state-of-the-art system in December at the Neural Information Processing Systems conference. Now the team is proposing a better system to measure these physiological signals. This system is less likely to be tripped up by different cameras, lighting conditions or facial features, such as skin color. The researchers will present these findings April 8 at the ACM Conference on Health, Interference, and Learning. “Machine learning is pretty good at classifying images. If you give it a series of photos of cats and then tell it to find cats in other images, it can do it. But for machine learning to be helpful in remote health sensing, we need a system that can identify the region of interest in a video that holds the strongest source of physiological information — pulse, for example — and then measure that over time,” said lead author Xin Liu, a UW doctoral student in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering. “Every person is different,” Liu said. “So this system needs to be able to quickly adapt to each person’s unique physiological signature, and separate this from other variations, such as what they look like and what environment they are in.”
Try the researchers’ demo version that can detect a user’s heartbeat over time, which doctors can use to calculate heart rate.
The team’s system is privacy preserving — it runs on the device instead of in the cloud — and uses machine learning to capture subtle changes in how light reflects off a person’s face, which is correlated with changing blood flow. Then it converts these changes into both pulse and respiration rate. The first version of this system was trained with a dataset that contained both videos of people’s faces and “ground truth” information: each person’s pulse and respiration rate measured by standard instruments in the field. The system then used spatial and temporal information from the videos to calculate both vital signs. It outperformed similar machine learning systems on videos where subjects were moving and talking. But while the system worked well on some datasets, it still struggled with others that contained different people, backgrounds and lighting. This is a common problem known as “overfitting,” the team said. The researchers improved the system by having it produce a personalized machine learning model for each individual. Specifically, it helps look for important areas in a video frame that likely contain physiological features correlated with changing blood flow in a face under different contexts, such as different skin tones, lighting conditions and environments. From there, it can focus on that area and measure the pulse and respiration rate. [caption id="attachment_21578" align="aligncenter" width="1131"] Pictured: A multi-task temporal shift convolutional attention network for camera-based physiological measurement.[/caption]   While this new system outperforms its predecessor when given more challenging datasets, especially for people with darker skin tones, there’s still more work to do, the team said. “We acknowledge that there is still a trend toward inferior performance when the subject’s skin type is darker,” Liu said. “This is in part because light reflects differently off of darker skin, resulting in a weaker signal for the camera to pick up. Our team is actively developing new methods to solve this limitation.” The researchers are also working on a variety of collaborations with doctors to see how this system performs in the clinic.
“It’s exciting to see academic communities working on new algorithmic approaches to address this with devices that people have in their homes.” -Shwetak Patel, UW Electrical & Computer Engineering / Paul G. Allen School professor
“Any ability to sense pulse or respiration rate remotely provides new opportunities for remote patient care and telemedicine. This could include self-care, follow-up care or triage, especially when someone doesn’t have convenient access to a clinic,” said senior author Shwetak Patel, a professor in both the Allen School and the electrical and computer engineering department (UW ECE). “It’s exciting to see academic communities working on new algorithmic approaches to address this with devices that people have in their homes.” Ziheng Jiang, a doctoral student in the Allen School; Josh Fromm, a UW graduate who now works at OctoML; Xuhai Xu, a doctoral student in the Information School; and Daniel McDuff at Microsoft Research are also co-authors on this paper. This research was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Google and the University of Washington. This software is open-source and available on Github: For more information, contact Liu at xliu0@cs.washington.edu and Patel at shwetak@cs.washington.edu. [post_title] => New system that uses smartphone or computer cameras to measure pulse, respiration rate could help future personalized telehealth appointments [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => smartphone-pulse [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-04-06 10:13:27 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-04-06 17:13:27 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=21556 [menu_order] => 6 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [_numposts:protected] => 6 [_rendered:protected] => 1 [_classes:protected] => Array ( [0] => view-block [1] => block--spotlight-robust-news ) [_finalHTML:protected] =>
https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/sam-burden-nsf-career-award/
https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/the-impact-of-neurotechnology/
The impact of neurotechnology

The impact of neurotechnology

UW ECE senior postdoctoral researcher Dr. Fatma Inanici (left) applies electrical stimulation patches to the neck of research study participant Jessie Owen (right). Owen, who has a spinal cord injury, spoke at a recent roundtable about her decision to participate in this study and how neurotechnology has changed her life.

https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/mobility/
https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/wiboticseals/
https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/quantum-leap/
https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/smartphone-pulse/
[_postID:protected] => 184 [_errors:protected] => Array ( ) [_block:protected] => [_db:protected] => WP_Query Object ( [query] => Array ( [post_type] => spotlight [meta_query] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [key] => type [value] => news [compare] => LIKE ) ) [posts_per_page] => 6 [post_status] => publish ) [query_vars] => Array ( [post_type] => spotlight [meta_query] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [key] => type [value] => news [compare] => LIKE ) ) [posts_per_page] => 6 [post_status] => publish [error] => [m] => [p] => 0 [post_parent] => [subpost] => [subpost_id] => [attachment] => [attachment_id] => 0 [name] => [pagename] => [page_id] => 0 [second] => [minute] => [hour] => [day] => 0 [monthnum] => 0 [year] => 0 [w] => 0 [category_name] => [tag] => [cat] => [tag_id] => [author] => [author_name] => [feed] => [tb] => [paged] => 0 [meta_key] => [meta_value] => [preview] => [s] => [sentence] => [title] => [fields] => [menu_order] => [embed] => [category__in] => Array ( ) [category__not_in] => Array ( ) [category__and] => Array ( ) [post__in] => Array ( ) [post__not_in] => Array ( ) [post_name__in] => Array ( ) [tag__in] => Array ( ) [tag__not_in] => Array ( ) [tag__and] => Array ( ) [tag_slug__in] => Array ( ) [tag_slug__and] => Array ( ) [post_parent__in] => Array ( ) [post_parent__not_in] => Array ( ) [author__in] => Array ( ) [author__not_in] => Array ( ) [orderby] => menu_order [order] => ASC [ignore_sticky_posts] => [suppress_filters] => [cache_results] => 1 [update_post_term_cache] => 1 [lazy_load_term_meta] => 1 [update_post_meta_cache] => 1 [nopaging] => [comments_per_page] => 50 [no_found_rows] => ) [tax_query] => WP_Tax_Query Object ( [queries] => Array ( ) [relation] => AND [table_aliases:protected] => Array ( ) [queried_terms] => Array ( ) [primary_table] => wp_posts [primary_id_column] => ID ) [meta_query] => WP_Meta_Query Object ( [queries] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [key] => type [value] => news [compare] => LIKE ) [relation] => OR ) [relation] => AND [meta_table] => wp_postmeta [meta_id_column] => post_id [primary_table] => wp_posts [primary_id_column] => ID [table_aliases:protected] => Array ( [0] => wp_postmeta ) [clauses:protected] => Array ( [wp_postmeta] => Array ( [key] => type [value] => news [compare] => LIKE [compare_key] => = [alias] => wp_postmeta [cast] => CHAR ) ) [has_or_relation:protected] => ) [date_query] => [request] => SELECT SQL_CALC_FOUND_ROWS wp_posts.ID FROM wp_posts INNER JOIN wp_postmeta ON ( wp_posts.ID = wp_postmeta.post_id ) WHERE 1=1 AND ( ( wp_postmeta.meta_key = 'type' AND wp_postmeta.meta_value LIKE '{71527e68c0f0f7122f99d42254bae3c1e4392b4364333a7d5fe51e599c7437db}news{71527e68c0f0f7122f99d42254bae3c1e4392b4364333a7d5fe51e599c7437db}' ) ) AND wp_posts.post_type = 'spotlight' AND ((wp_posts.post_status = 'publish')) GROUP BY wp_posts.ID ORDER BY wp_posts.menu_order ASC LIMIT 0, 6 [posts] => Array ( [0] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 21878 [post_author] => 27 [post_date] => 2021-04-28 16:19:04 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-04-28 23:19:04 [post_content] => Story by Wayne Gillam | UW ECE News [caption id="attachment_21881" align="alignright" width="550"]Sam Burden sitting in a chair and smiling UW ECE assistant professor Sam Burden was recently named as a recipient of a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER award, one of the most prestigious awards in the nation for early-career faculty. 2017 photo by Mark Stone[/caption] UW ECE assistant professor Sam Burden was recently named as a recipient of a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER award, one of the most prestigious awards in the nation for early-career faculty. The award will fund research by Burden that seeks to build fundamental knowledge related to human-machine interaction as well as education and outreach initiatives aimed at broadening participation of underrepresented students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). “I am thrilled and honored to have my proposal selected for funding,” Burden said. “The award holds special significance for me, as it will merge two disparate threads of research I started while working on my doctoral degree, and it will expand opportunities for students to be exposed to and involved in this research.” The NSF selects award recipients who are faculty members at the beginning of their careers with the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization. The intent of the NSF CAREER program is to provide stable support, enabling awardees to develop their careers not only as outstanding researchers, but also as educators demonstrating commitment to teaching, learning and dissemination of knowledge. The award spans five years, and it will enable Burden to integrate his research and education goals, contributing to his stated long-term career goal of enhancing human interaction with the physical world through machines.

Building foundational knowledge for human-machine interaction

[caption id="attachment_21883" align="alignleft" width="550"]Sam Burden talking to a group of people in the AMP Lab Burden at the opening of the UW AMP Lab, where research supported by the award, experiments involving human/machine interaction, will take place. 2017 photo by Mark Stone[/caption] A remotely operated airplane, a self-driving car on a smooth road, or a Roomba cleaning the floors in your house are all examples of machinery that function well in an unchanging environment where contact with the surroundings is continuously maintained. But what happens when contact with the environment is intermittent or conditions change? Programming a robot or a machine, whether remotely operated by a human or operating independently, to handle “contact-rich dynamics” such as this is much more difficult to do. For example, making a legged robot walk up and down stairs or travel over rough, unpredictable terrain in natural environments has proven to be a very tough problem for engineers. “Every time a robot or machine touches something new, more constraints are introduced into the system and the dynamics change abruptly,” Burden said. “That’s a fundamentally challenging problem for systems that function independently, let alone systems that combine human and machine intelligence.” Burden seeks to address this challenge. In the research supported by the award, he is aiming to build a better understanding of how humans control remotely operated robots and machinery when the system makes intermittent contact with its environment under variable conditions. The knowledge gained can be applied to both remotely operated and autonomous systems. This will help to inform development of useful devices such as robots and machinery that could efficiently deliver packages and move around a city, assist with disaster recovery or remote surgeries, or even operate as caregivers in people’s homes. “Through our experiments we’ll learn more about what a person’s control strategy is while they are tele-operating a robot or machinery,” Burden said. “We’ll learn what information is useful to them, what information is irrelevant for that task, and then we’ll adapt the machine interface to improve performance, with the human still in the loop.” There is a wide range of potential applications for this knowledge, but Burden said that he sees this work being particularly useful for neural engineering in assistive devices, enabling better two-way communication between brain and machine, and with rehabilitation after bodily injury. “To put a finer point on it, this research could help inform development of an active leg brace for when you sprain your ankle, or a neuroprosthetic for when you lose a limb, or a rehabilitation robot to help take care of you after an accident,” Burden said. Burden and his team will build and test mathematical models for contact-rich dynamics both in theory and with human test subjects interacting with machines. The real-life experiments will take place at the AMP Lab on the UW campus, where Burden’s robotic testbed is located.

Broadening participation of underrepresented students in STEM

[caption id="attachment_21885" align="alignright" width="550"]Three students sitting at a desk and working on laptops Education and outreach initiatives are also important components of the work supported by the award. Burden stated that he feels a strong commitment to these efforts as a first-generation college student who benefited in high school from a UW summer institute for mathematics. The initiatives also connect well with his role as UW ECE Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Coordinator. 2016 photo by Mark Stone, courtesy of the Center for Neurotechnology[/caption] Education and outreach initiatives are also important components of the work supported by the award. Burden stated that he feels a strong commitment to these efforts as a first-generation college student who benefited in high school from a UW summer institute for mathematics. The initiatives also connect well with his role as UW ECE Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Coordinator. “There’s so much scientific advancement and technological innovation that we are missing out on because of systemic exclusion and marginalization of large groups of people,” Burden said. “I’m certain that I wouldn’t be here in this job if that door hadn’t been opened for me, and so, I’m eager to open as many of those doors as I can for other people.” Burden is already heavily involved in UW College of Engineering K–12 outreach programs such as Engineering Discovery Days and outreach tailored specifically for underrepresented students such as the STARS program. And at UW ECE, he has co-led efforts to expand diversity, equity and inclusion with colleagues such as Niveditha Kalavakonda. The support he receives from the award will allow him to take this work even further over the next five years. “I was very deliberate in putting together the education and outreach component supported by the award,” Burden said. “I chose initiatives that were evidence-based, that have proven successful in other contexts, and that build-up or expand on existing programs.” [caption id="attachment_21887" align="alignleft" width="550"]A man demonstrates a device in front of a group of K–12 students Engineering Discovery Days at the UW College of Engineering. The award will enable Burden and his research team to expand their ability to regularly exhibit and present at public events such as these. 2018 photo by Sam Burden[/caption] The award will enable Burden and his research team to expand their ability to regularly exhibit and present at public events involving large numbers of students, families and teachers, such as Engineering Discovery Days and UW Math Day. It also will provide resources for Burden to create a new site for an alternative spring break program run by Riverways, a K–12 outreach program that connects UW undergraduate students with educational and service opportunities. The organization is part of the Community Engagement & Leadership Education Center at the UW, and it has relationships with a number of middle schools and high schools in Latinx and tribal communities across the state. “One thing I like about the NSF award is that it’s not draining resources from Riverways,” Burden said. “It’s providing an external source of additional funding to help expand the program.” In the STARS program, Burden has already coordinated a faculty mentorship network, which matches students with UW faculty who are from departments the students have expressed an interest in. He is planning to use support from the award to help some of these students be placed in research labs within their first two years at the UW. This will give STARS students an immersive, hands-on educational experience right at the start of their academic journey. Burden has placed a strong focus on cooperating across campus to create, improve and build upon existing outreach programs. And when talking about the NSF CAREER award, the research it supports and the education and outreach initiatives it enables, he repeatedly emphasizes the importance of working together to achieve mutually agreed upon goals. “None of my work would be possible without the mentorship and leadership provided by my advisers and teachers, nor without the support and structure provided by UW ECE, nor without the creativity and energy provided by my students and collaborators,” Burden said. “I am simultaneously deeply humbled and proud to be a part of such a diverse, intellectual community.” To learn more about the research, education and outreach programs supported by this NSF CAREER award or to discuss ongoing work expanding diversity, equity and inclusion at UW ECE, contact Sam Burden. [post_title] => Sam Burden receives NSF CAREER award to advance human-machine collaboration and broaden participation of underrepresented students in STEM [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => sam-burden-nsf-career-award [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-04-28 16:23:00 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-04-28 23:23:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=21878 [menu_order] => 1 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 21757 [post_author] => 27 [post_date] => 2021-04-19 09:58:05 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-04-19 16:58:05 [post_content] => Story by Wayne Gillam | UW ECE News [caption id="attachment_21762" align="alignright" width="600"]Fatma Inanici applies a patch to the back of Jessie Owen's neck Jessie Owen (right), who has a spinal cord injury, spoke at a recent roundtable about her decision to participate in a research study led by UW ECE senior postdoctoral researcher Dr. Fatma Inanici in the lab of UW ECE associate professor Chet Moritz. This study was funded by the Center for Neurotechnology, which Moritz co-directs and of which Dr. Inanici is a member. Owen described what the experience was like and how neurotechnology has impacted her life. In this photo, Dr. Inanici is applying small patches that will deliver electrical currents on the surface of the skin, over the injured area in Owen’s neck. This electrical stimulation helps the brain to reestablish connections with nerves in the spinal cord. 2018 photo by Marcus Donner[/caption] At the age of 27, Jessie Owen was in a devastating car accident that left her with a severe spinal cord injury. She lost much of the function in her hands, arms and legs, and she was diagnosed with central spinal cord syndrome. Her brain’s ability to send and receive signals to and from the parts of her body below her neck was severely impaired. She had to take a leave of absence from her job as a teacher, and she has since been dependent on a wheelchair and caregivers for day-to-day living. In 2018–19 she participated in a groundbreaking research study led by UW ECE senior postdoctoral researcher Dr. Fatma Inanici in the lab of UW ECE associate professor Chet Moritz. This study was funded by the Center for Neurotechnology, which Moritz co-directs and of which Dr. Inanici is a member. In the study, the research team used a device provided by the Center’s industry affiliate Onward to apply noninvasive, electrical stimulation to the site of Owen’s spinal cord injury. This was aimed at improving her hand and arm function. Owen experienced significant functional gains as a result of participating in the study, which enabled her to live much more independently. Owen spoke at the Spring 2021 CNT End-user Roundtable, which is a space for CNT students, faculty and staff to learn from people with disabilities and potential end users of neurotechnology. The event was organized by CNT Associate Director of Diversity Scott Bellman and moderated by Moritz. Owen took questions from the audience about her decision to participate in the study, what the experience was like for her and how it has impacted her life. Below this video, which shows how Owen benefited from participating in the study, are some questions from the Roundtable audience and Owen’s responses, lightly edited for clarity. Welcome to the CNT End-user Roundtable, Jessie! We appreciate you taking the time today to be with us. Thank you! I’m happy to be here. So, let me tell you a little bit about how I got to be here. At the very end of December 2012, I was in a car accident going over Highway 2 here in Washington. A tree fell on our car, and I sustained a severe spinal cord injury. I broke my neck at the C3 / C4 level. I went to Harborview Medical Center, and I was at Harborview for three to four months. By the time I left, I still had not gained enough function back to drive a power wheelchair with my hand. I was still driving it with my chin. And then, I got into a skilled nursing facility because I had some broken bones, and I had some other things that needed to heal. For about two years after that time, I did exercise therapy the best I could. I was able to go from a chin drive to a hand drive on my wheelchair. And I did learn to stand, to get up from chairs and transfer [from one seat to another], but my hand function was still pretty low. I have central spinal cord syndrome, so my legs tend to work a little bit better than my arms, which was great in some ways but frustrating in others. So, I was living with a friend at the time as I continued exercise therapy. I stayed stagnant in my recovery for about two years. I learned to walk a little bit with crutches, but I was definitely using my power wheelchair all the time because it’s not like I could open a door, or grab things, or cook or any of those things. [caption id="attachment_21768" align="alignright" width="500"]Chet Moritz and Dr. Inanici watch study participant Jon Schlueter complete a grip-test Moritz (left) and Dr. Inanici (center) observe as Jon Schlueter (right), a participant who took part in the same study as Owen, measures grip strength by squeezing the device in his hand. Schlueter has sensors on his arms (black cases) to measure his arm muscle activity during the task. 2019 photo by Marcus Donner[/caption] What brought you to the study? I strongly believe that if we want to see change in the spinal cord community and in science, I need to be an active participant. And so over the years, I participated in some studies whenever they came up. When this one with Chet and Fatma came up, I met with them, and they said I might be a good candidate because I had some function in my hands, even though I didn’t have great function. What did you expect from the study? Honestly, I didn’t expect a lot out of it. We just don’t know enough scientifically about how to treat spinal cord injuries, so I thought that it was just going to be a “feel good” experience for me because I was doing my part to help advance science. It was about two years ago when I participated in this study, and I experienced way more results than I anticipated. In that time, I was able to go from living with a friend to buying my own house, to living independently, to receiving at least 50% less caregiving. My hand function is still not 100%, it’s not, but it has improved enough to allow me to do a lot of different things, and it has made a significant impact in my life, and that is why I’m here. [caption id="attachment_21771" align="alignleft" width="500"]A woman works on fine motor skills using children's blocks while an undergraduate researcher oversees Owen practices her fine motor skills by using children’s blocks while UW undergraduate researcher Megan Knoernschild reviews data on the electrical stimulation device provided by Center for Neurotechnology industry affiliate Onward. 2018 photo by Marcus Donner[/caption] Could you give us some examples of some things that you couldn’t do before the study but that you can do now? Yeah, you know, there are so many of them. One is that I can cook now. I still don’t take anything out of the oven (that’s pretty scary), but I can do just about anything on the stovetop. I feel much more comfortable using a knife to cut something because even though my right hand is still pretty ridiculous, it’s open enough that I can stabilize an onion, while I carefully cut on the other side. I can tie my shoes. I can walk my dog easier because I can clip the leash on him. I can take pictures on my phone. I can actually open my hand and take pictures on my phone without it being a huge struggle. I started a journal, and now I write in it every day, about three to five sentences. That’s something that I could maybe do before the study, but it was so tedious. It still takes me longer than the average person, but it’s not so painful that it’s not enjoyable. I take my time, and I like writing. Another big one is that I’m a teacher, and before the study, I really struggled with figuring out how to teach without being able to write very well or use the technology because my fingers weren’t working. Now, I can point to things better, I can pick stuff up and write more quickly. I feel more confident as a teacher because I have just that little bit more hand function that allows me to do more. Do you still receive spinal stimulation? If not, were you able to keep the functional gains you made in the study? I haven’t received any additional stimulation in the two years since the study. I would say that about 90% of my functional gains remain. I have a lot more hand function in my left hand. I can still keep my right hand open, and I can carefully grasp something with it. The progress I’ve made has sustained. I definitely haven’t gone down significantly, maybe a tiny bit right after the study ended, but I still have enough function for me to live as independently as possible. I’m still receiving 50% less care than I was before. I’ve honestly just been a lot happier. You’re happier when you have independence. When you start out with very little function, even regaining 30% more function at a very low level means a huge deal, so it’s been really meaningful for me to be able to keep the gains that I’ve made. [caption id="attachment_21773" align="alignright" width="500"]Three woman sitting around a table talking Owen, Dr. Inanici and Knoernschild discuss research data and electrical stimulation levels for the study. 2018 photo by Marcus Donner[/caption] What advice would you give to those considering enrolling in study similar to this one? (Read this UW News article for a more complete description of the study.) Honestly, I would say to do it. There’s no downside to this. It seems that the side effects are so minimal. I had super success with it, but even if you don’t, you’re not going to get worse. This is a huge opportunity, and it’s simple, it’s easy, and it doesn’t take a lot of time to set up. Do you have any closing thoughts? I’m really honored to be in a room with such hardworking and smart and dedicated individuals who are willing to spend time in their careers to make people’s lives better, and you do. You made a big impact on my life and how I get to live. I’m really grateful for the work that you do, and I’m happy to help. I really hope that this technology expands and becomes available to everyone and that we continue to take this as a stepping-stone and go even further with it. Learn more about Owen’s personal experience in the research study in this article. More information about the study is available at UW News, on the Restorative Technologies website and in this associated research paper. [post_title] => The impact of neurotechnology [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => the-impact-of-neurotechnology [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-04-19 09:58:05 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-04-19 16:58:05 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=21757 [menu_order] => 2 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 21696 [post_author] => 25 [post_date] => 2021-04-26 10:38:43 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-04-26 17:38:43 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_21698" align="alignright" width="235"] UW ECE Professor Bruce Darling, who took over as lead faculty adviser for the UW Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition (AVTC) team in 2019.[/caption] For almost a century, automotive engineering has fallen squarely within the purview of the mechanical engineering field. However, today’s automotive industry has evolved with the increasing need for top talent from a wide range of engineering disciplines including electrical, computer science and software engineering to develop advanced propulsion systems, electrification, autonomous technologies, vehicle connectivity and more. This is just one of the reasons why it made perfect sense for University of Washington Electrical & Computer Engineering (UW ECE) Professor Bruce Darling to take over as lead faculty adviser for the UW Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition (AVTC) team in 2019. Having been involved with previous competitions, Darling jumped at the chance to lead the team competing in The EcoCAR Mobility Challenge. “Mobility, and transportation engineering in general, is one of the most pressing needs of our time. It plays a large role in the impact of our species on the planet, and it is a fundamental aspect of our lives that enables social connection, essential services, recreation and commerce,” said Darling. “Vehicle electrification is one of those, along with the increased automation and connectivity that is essential for creating new systems for getting people where they want to go. The key factor here are systems and the need to tie it all together.” It’s no secret that participating in EcoCAR is a demanding undertaking for students, teams and faculty. It takes a multi-disciplinary team of talent with a wide array of engineering expertise to even compete. Students are tasked with completely re-engineering a vehicle to exacting standards in terms of handling, acceleration and fuel economy. It must be fully street legal and compliant with all government safety requirements and be able to withstand the many driving conditions a normal consumer would encounter.
"It is such a pleasure to be immersed in a group of students who are destined to have a real impact on the world.” -Bruce Darling
“Our car has more computing power under the hood than most workstations, and that software must be extremely reliable and run without any interruptions since it controls many of the advanced driver-assist functions like advanced cruise control, lane-keeping and early collision warnings,” he said. “Those systems are not like video games or toys or cell phone apps; they must work infallibly with 100 percent uptime because they are part of the life-safety envelope the vehicle provides and for which the driver and passengers count on.” In fact, many past UW grads who participated in EcoCAR have gone on to work at top software and IT companies. According to Darling, “EcoCAR alumni are some of the most sought-after graduates because they can come up to speed on new projects of this scale within only a few months, whereas new graduates without this experience might typically require several years. It makes a huge difference in one’s initial employment prospects, and once on the job, that experience accelerates one’s career by several years.” [caption id="attachment_21699" align="aligncenter" width="1163"] Darling with the EcoCAR Mobility Challenge team[/caption] Darling’s varied background, from working with start-ups to forensic engineering for NASA in the wake of the Columbia disaster, provides his students the benefit of working with someone who is keenly aware of how and why complicated systems fail and how to engineer systems able to withstand failures when they do happen. He also serves on the competitions Faculty Advisory Board, a position selected by his peers, to help organizers develop the appropriate challenges for students. “These days I spend about 10 percent of my time worrying about how everything should work right and about 90 percent of the time worrying about what happens when things go wrong and how to design systems to gracefully handle those failures,” said Darling. So, with two and a half years into this four-year competition, what impresses him most about his team? “Without a doubt, it has been working with a team of student volunteers who put enormous time and dedication into the project. These are not the type who put in only the minimum effort to get by, they are the ones who are making every effort to maximize their education and achieve the most possible,” said Darling. “That’s an attitude which cultivates success, and it is such a pleasure to be immersed in a group of students who are destined to have a real impact on the world.” To learn more about Professor Darling and EcoCAR, visit: EcoCAR Mobility Challenge

Story by Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions [post_title] => UW ECE Professor Bruce Darling discusses mobility and transportation engineering [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => mobility [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-04-26 10:39:39 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-04-26 17:39:39 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=21696 [menu_order] => 3 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 21690 [post_author] => 25 [post_date] => 2021-04-14 11:25:12 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-04-14 18:25:12 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_21693" align="alignright" width="571"] UW ECE spinout WiBotic has developed battery charging systems that can power autonomous drones as well as robots on land or sea wirelessly, without human intervention. Two of the wireless charging systems have won safety approvals in Europe, marking what UW ECE alum and the startup’s CEO and co-founder Ben Waters calls a major milestone. (photo: Wibotic)[/caption] Two of the wireless charging systems made by UW ECE spinout WiBotic have won safety approvals in Europe, marking what the startup’s CEO calls a major milestone. The chargers and transmitters now have CE Mark approval, which means they meet the safety, health and environmental protection requirements for the European Economic Area. What’s more, the systems have been found to comply with the International Electrotechnical Commission’s directives for the European Union and Canada’s CSA Group standards organization. “We also recently completed FCC approval in the U.S., so our systems are compliant with reputable regulatory agencies within many countries around the world,” WiBotic CEO and UW Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering (UW ECE) alum Ben Waters said today in a news release. “This, in turn, opens several exciting partnership and deployment opportunities for us across Europe, Canada and beyond.” WiBotic, which was spun out from the University of Washington in 2015, has developed battery charging systems that can power up autonomous drones as well as robots on land or sea wirelessly, without human intervention. The company’s power management software, known as Commander, can work with the hardware to optimize battery use for an entire fleet of robots. There’s even a project aimed at charging up future robots on the moon. The latest regulatory approvals apply to two of WiBotic’s systems, both of which use the company’s TR-301 high-power transmitter. One system uses the OC-301 onboard charger, operating at 300 watts; the other uses the OC-251 onboard charger, operating at 250 watts. Such systems are typically used to charge up larger drones, mobile robots and marine vehicles from a landing pad or a wall station. As part of the certification process, the systems were tested for radiation emissions, radio-frequency exposure and overall product safety. Waters noted that requirements for robot safety standards and certifications have evolved significantly over the past few years. “We hope that these certifications help our partners and the entire robotics industry scale up quickly to avoid the complex and costly bottlenecks of pursuing certifications on their own,” he said. Last year, WiBotic announced that it secured $5.7 million in fresh financial backing, thanks to a Series A funding round that brought total investment to nearly $9 million. In an update filed last week with the Securities and Exchange Commission, WiBotic reported that the funding round has grown to $7.2 million. “This was just finishing the Series A,” Waters explained in an email to GeekWire. “We had allocated all of the shares, but due to COVID some of the investment took some time to come in. It had taken long enough that we needed to re-file with SEC.” ________ Story adapted from: Alan Boyle - Geekwire [post_title] => UW ECE spinout WiBotic wins European seals of approval for its wireless robot charging systems [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => wiboticseals [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-04-14 11:26:18 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-04-14 18:26:18 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=21690 [menu_order] => 4 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 21618 [post_author] => 26 [post_date] => 2021-04-07 12:04:43 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-04-07 19:04:43 [post_content] => Article by Andrew Engleson |  UW Magazine

Quantum physics is weird. Many an undergrad has been baffled by Schrödinger’s cat in a box which could be both dead and alive until the box is opened. Some of us ponder how light exists as both a wave and particle. And our pandemic quarantine might give us time to work on understanding the notion of action at a distance in which two entangled particles, separated by a great distance, change state instantaneously if one is observed.

[caption id="attachment_18688" align="alignleft" width="250"]Jim Pfaendtner Jim Pfaendtner[/caption] It turns out these and other bizarre components of quantum physics are the foundation for a new kind of computer, one that promises to be substantially faster and more powerful than any that exists today. And UW researchers in physics, computer science, chemistry, engineering and materials science are training leaders in the burgeoning field of quantum information science and technology, or QIST. QIST offers radically new advances in a variety of fields as well: ultrasensitive sensors to one day measure the firing of individual neurons in the brain, or completely secured encrypted communication. Jim Pfaendtner, chemical engineering professor and chair of UW’s Chemical Engineering Department, notes that quantum computing could force us to jettison Moore’s Law, the dependable rule of thumb that asserts computing power tends to double every two years. “You’ll have a radical change in the type of a certain class of calculations—the scaling is massively higher,” Pfaendtner says. “So the number, the extent of calculations that you can begin to conceive of doing will really change overnight if this technology comes to pass.”

“Today’s crypto-keys will not be secure when quantum computing is realized. Because the computers will be exponentially faster.” - JIM PFAENDTNER, UW CHEMICAL ENGINEERING PROFESSOR

Calculations that would take thousands of years on classical computers could conceivably take just a few hours. The benefits are many, but there’s one striking potential impact: current security and encryption would be obsolete. “Today’s crypto-keys will not be secure when quantum computing is realized,” Pfaendtner says. “Because the computers will be exponentially faster.” [caption id="attachment_19925" align="alignright" width="280"] Kai-Mei Fu[/caption] Not surprisingly, the U.S. government has taken notice, dedicating more than a billion dollars in 2020 to research efforts. In the past four years, UW has received $30 million in funding for QIST research, says Kai-Mei Fu, associate professor of physics and electrical and computer engineering as well as a researcher with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). Fu helps lead a lineup of regional quantum collaborations including Northwest Quantum Nexus, a research partnership among UW, Microsoft and PNNL. She’s also a leader of the Quantum X initiative, which brings together UW researchers across disciplines. “Quantum X is a very typical bottom-up University of Washington endeavor,” Fu says. “We realized there are a lot of people doing quantum on campus. Our main goal is to connect everyone.” Quantum X brings together principal investigators at UW in materials science, physics, electrical and computer engineering, and other disciplines integral to creating a quantum computer. “Building up connections between these disparate groups of people is not easy,” says Nathan Wiebe, a senior scientist at PNNL and until recently a UW affiliate associate professor of physics. “I think the hardest part about building a quantum computer is going to be trying to figure out how to get everybody able to talk to each other. We all need to be involved to get this to work.”

A fascination with diamonds

What makes a quantum computer different from a standard computer is the qubit. A classical computer works using bits, which represent information as a string of values of either 0 or 1. Qubits store information in a single atom or particle. But rather than using a solid value of 0 or 1, the qubit stores a range of possibilities. Wiebe explains it as the difference between looking at which side of a coin is face up on a table (a bit of either heads or tails), versus a flipped coin that’s covered by your hand; you know the probability of it, but don’t actually know for certain if it’s heads or tails. Pfaendtner likes the analogy of a 3-D maze to describe qubits. “Every time you come to a junction, classically, you’d pick one direction and go until you reach the dead end. You’d keep a map of that in your mind, or your memory. Then you would go back when you reached a dead end. You’re never going to guess the maze the first time correctly, but you will eventually solve the maze. “In a quantum computer, in a qubit, instead of picking one direction, you pick both directions. So you simultaneously explore both paths. Every time you come to a junction there is the ability to not have one state, but have multiple states. This is the fundamental paradox of quantum physics that’s difficult for everybody to understand.” The power of qubits comes from their ability to add these probabilistic wave-functions of information together, creating an exponentially more powerful and much faster way to do calculations. But it turns out that creating a working qubit is fiendishly difficult. You need to manipulate a single atom or particle, which isn’t easy. Atoms interfere with one another, making precise measurements difficult unless you can isolate them. “We want to build a big, powerful, thick box to secure our quantum information,” Wiebe says. “But we don’t want it to be so secure that we can’t read it.” That why Kai-Mei Fu is fascinated with diamonds. “Part of the allure of a diamond isn’t that it’s a beautiful material,” she says. “It has nice properties, has very extreme properties. Part of it is more mundane—it’s pure enough that I can work with it without interference from a noisy environment.”

What’s really key is we’re bringing together students from different departments.- KAI-MEI FU, PHYSICS AND ELECTRICAL & COMPUTER ENGINEERING PROFESSOR

Fu and her colleagues specialize in creating minuscule defects in otherwise perfectly pure diamonds to manufacture qubits. Inside the lattice of carbon atoms that make up a diamond, you can sneak in two nitrogen atoms. This creates tiny flaws, or “vacancy centers,” that can, when brought down to super-cold temperatures, be manipulated to store information. The trick is integrating those tiny empty spaces into an actual circuit. Much ballyhoo surrounded the Google announcement in 2019 that it had built a rudimentary 53-qubit quantum computer that achieved “supremacy”—quickly solving a problem that classical computers would take much longer to figure out. Then last year, IBM announced it had constructed its own 64-qubit processor. But the results of these efforts are still tenuous, and just how successful these first efforts have been is hotly debated among scientists. One big problem with qubits is their relatively high error rate. Even after the atoms are isolated and manipulated, one concern is decoherence—a quantum effect that’s essentially a random change in the atom’s state, which can be caused by an electric or magnetic field, stray radiation or other environmental factors. What Fu and her UW colleagues have focused on is creating improved interfaces between those tiny defects and a larger circuit that can manipulate the information contained in them. Working with UW’s Nanofabrication Facility, Fu says, “We can make devices that couple these defects to these photons. That’s huge.” Three of Fu’s colleagues in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering (UW ECE), Mo Li, Arka Majumdar and Karl Böhringer, received a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant last fall to work on developing a microchip-sized steering system that coordinates multiple laser beams—which could eventually link more than 1,000 qubits. “It’s a huge engineering challenge controlling all these beams,” Fu says. In another multidiscipline effort, Fu is leading a $3 million traineeship program also funded by the NSF that brings together UW graduate students across different fields to collaborate on QIST research. Fu says, “What’s really key is we’re bringing together students from different departments.”

The architecture of a revolution

For Martin Savage, a professor of physics at the UW’s Institute for Nuclear Theory, one missing puzzle piece is imagining how to actually use quantum computers. “One of the things that we need to understand especially is how to use a quantum computer to solve problems,” says Savage. “We kind of don’t know how do that at the moment.” Using existing supercomputers or even just standard laptops, Savage and his colleagues are trying to simulate how quantum computers might be applied to unsolved problems in fundamental physics. He and UW colleagues Silas Beane and David Kaplan have created the InQubator for Quantum Simulation (IQuS), which is beginning the work of figuring out which research questions quantum computers would be best applied. Imagining those uses can sometimes expose current limitations. Fu notes this in her work with diamonds. “To give you a scope of the problem, even though we’ve removed one atom from a crystal, actually simulating how that crystal should behave is hard. That’s a quantum mechanical problem, one that you practically need a quantum computer to do.” Wiebe estimates that it may be as long as 20 years before a truly functional quantum computer is operational. And that’s even allowing for the rapid pace the technology has advanced at in the past 10 years. Wiebe sums up the challenge this way. To do useful calculations, a million-qubit chip would be required. With existing technology, he says, we “would need at present to make a chip that’s about 1-meter square and stored at like 10 to 30 millikelvin [near absolute zero]. The control electronics would take up several football fields and cost over a billion dollars.”

A regional hub for quantum research

Just what quantum computers will be applied to is a fascinating and potentially controversial question. Wiebe notes one surprising application: fertilizer production. The chemical process for creating ammonia-based fertilizer has been around for over a hundred years. It’s fairly simple process, but one that consumes close to 1% of the world’s total energy use. But now we know that bacteria have evolved to make ammonia at room temperature using an enzyme called nitrogenase. Using that enzyme on a large scale could significantly reduce global energy consumption. But the process isn’t well understood and can’t be replicated beyond a single cell. “Despite 100 years of trying,” Wiebe says, “nobody has actually been able to crack the problem of how exactly this kind of molecular knife that bacteria have discovered actually works.” The complex chemistry—which includes heavy metals such as iron and molybdenum—can’t be modeled using existing computers. It would potentially take thousands to millions of years. But with a fully functional quantum computer, Wiebe predicts “we could actually simulate it in the span of a few hours.” Savage points to another application on a much larger scale. “Take for instance, colliding neutron stars,” he says. “What happens in the densest part of that? Using a classical computer, we still don’t have answers with the precision we need.” The potential to create a computer that can bypass existing cryptographic encryption is driving governments in the U.S. and China to massively scale up QIST funding. Wiebe says having a strategy now will help mitigate future security risks. “Twenty years is enough time for us to develop some good tools. We really need to build up and make sure these things are reliable and can hold up against ordinary hackers in addition to the quantum hackers we’re going to be worried about in 20-plus years.” Strangely enough, QIST also allows for the creation of perfectly secure communication networks. Based on quantum principles such as entanglement and the impossibility of copying a quantum state, quantum keys are packets of information that always bear a trace if observed. “What makes [quantum keys] completely secure is that as soon as someone tries to copy, disturb, or see the message, it leaves an imprint on the message that’s detectable,” says Fu. Even a quantum computer wouldn’t help overcome this perfectly secure key. At the moment, the implications are merely theoretical. But as QIST researchers like those at UW advance and refine the technology, hard decisions will have to be made about who can use these tools. “We have to decide when we want to use this,” says Fu, “and when do we not want to use this?” For now, the researchers are focused on advancing the technology, bolstered by a vibrant quantum research community in the Pacific Northwest. The UW, Microsoft, Amazon, and Intel, as well as PNNL and a host of quantum startups such as D-Wave Systems and 1QBit (both in British Columbia) are all making Cascadia a magnet for QIST research. “One of the things that really attracted me to UW and the Pacific Northwest for quantum is the amazing synergies that are possible between all of these different organizations,” says Wiebe. “We’ve got an amazingly strong computer science department at UW. We’ve got very strong chemistry, as well as electrical engineering and physics departments—and surrounded by a wonderful collection of industrial partners.” In a decade or two, we’ll know if computers are ready to take the next quantum leap.

[post_title] => Quantum Leap - in quantum computing, UW scientists see the building blocks of the next technological revolution [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => quantum-leap [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-04-08 15:28:23 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-04-08 22:28:23 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=21618 [menu_order] => 5 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 21556 [post_author] => 26 [post_date] => 2021-04-06 10:13:09 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-04-06 17:13:09 [post_content] => Story by   |  UW News [caption id="attachment_21572" align="alignright" width="599"] A UW-led team has developed a method that uses the camera on a person’s smartphone or computer to take their pulse and breathing rate from a real-time video of their face.[/caption] Telehealth has become a critical way for doctors to still provide health care while minimizing in-person contact during COVID-19. But with phone or Zoom appointments, it’s harder for doctors to get important vital signs from a patient, such as their pulse or respiration rate, in real time. A University of Washington-led team has developed a method that uses the camera on a person’s smartphone or computer to take their pulse and respiration signal from a real-time video of their face. The researchers presented this state-of-the-art system in December at the Neural Information Processing Systems conference. Now the team is proposing a better system to measure these physiological signals. This system is less likely to be tripped up by different cameras, lighting conditions or facial features, such as skin color. The researchers will present these findings April 8 at the ACM Conference on Health, Interference, and Learning. “Machine learning is pretty good at classifying images. If you give it a series of photos of cats and then tell it to find cats in other images, it can do it. But for machine learning to be helpful in remote health sensing, we need a system that can identify the region of interest in a video that holds the strongest source of physiological information — pulse, for example — and then measure that over time,” said lead author Xin Liu, a UW doctoral student in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering. “Every person is different,” Liu said. “So this system needs to be able to quickly adapt to each person’s unique physiological signature, and separate this from other variations, such as what they look like and what environment they are in.”
Try the researchers’ demo version that can detect a user’s heartbeat over time, which doctors can use to calculate heart rate.
The team’s system is privacy preserving — it runs on the device instead of in the cloud — and uses machine learning to capture subtle changes in how light reflects off a person’s face, which is correlated with changing blood flow. Then it converts these changes into both pulse and respiration rate. The first version of this system was trained with a dataset that contained both videos of people’s faces and “ground truth” information: each person’s pulse and respiration rate measured by standard instruments in the field. The system then used spatial and temporal information from the videos to calculate both vital signs. It outperformed similar machine learning systems on videos where subjects were moving and talking. But while the system worked well on some datasets, it still struggled with others that contained different people, backgrounds and lighting. This is a common problem known as “overfitting,” the team said. The researchers improved the system by having it produce a personalized machine learning model for each individual. Specifically, it helps look for important areas in a video frame that likely contain physiological features correlated with changing blood flow in a face under different contexts, such as different skin tones, lighting conditions and environments. From there, it can focus on that area and measure the pulse and respiration rate. [caption id="attachment_21578" align="aligncenter" width="1131"] Pictured: A multi-task temporal shift convolutional attention network for camera-based physiological measurement.[/caption]   While this new system outperforms its predecessor when given more challenging datasets, especially for people with darker skin tones, there’s still more work to do, the team said. “We acknowledge that there is still a trend toward inferior performance when the subject’s skin type is darker,” Liu said. “This is in part because light reflects differently off of darker skin, resulting in a weaker signal for the camera to pick up. Our team is actively developing new methods to solve this limitation.” The researchers are also working on a variety of collaborations with doctors to see how this system performs in the clinic.
“It’s exciting to see academic communities working on new algorithmic approaches to address this with devices that people have in their homes.” -Shwetak Patel, UW Electrical & Computer Engineering / Paul G. Allen School professor
“Any ability to sense pulse or respiration rate remotely provides new opportunities for remote patient care and telemedicine. This could include self-care, follow-up care or triage, especially when someone doesn’t have convenient access to a clinic,” said senior author Shwetak Patel, a professor in both the Allen School and the electrical and computer engineering department (UW ECE). “It’s exciting to see academic communities working on new algorithmic approaches to address this with devices that people have in their homes.” Ziheng Jiang, a doctoral student in the Allen School; Josh Fromm, a UW graduate who now works at OctoML; Xuhai Xu, a doctoral student in the Information School; and Daniel McDuff at Microsoft Research are also co-authors on this paper. This research was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Google and the University of Washington. This software is open-source and available on Github: For more information, contact Liu at xliu0@cs.washington.edu and Patel at shwetak@cs.washington.edu. [post_title] => New system that uses smartphone or computer cameras to measure pulse, respiration rate could help future personalized telehealth appointments [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => smartphone-pulse [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-04-06 10:13:27 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-04-06 17:13:27 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=21556 [menu_order] => 6 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post_count] => 6 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 21878 [post_author] => 27 [post_date] => 2021-04-28 16:19:04 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-04-28 23:19:04 [post_content] => Story by Wayne Gillam | UW ECE News [caption id="attachment_21881" align="alignright" width="550"]Sam Burden sitting in a chair and smiling UW ECE assistant professor Sam Burden was recently named as a recipient of a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER award, one of the most prestigious awards in the nation for early-career faculty. 2017 photo by Mark Stone[/caption] UW ECE assistant professor Sam Burden was recently named as a recipient of a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER award, one of the most prestigious awards in the nation for early-career faculty. The award will fund research by Burden that seeks to build fundamental knowledge related to human-machine interaction as well as education and outreach initiatives aimed at broadening participation of underrepresented students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). “I am thrilled and honored to have my proposal selected for funding,” Burden said. “The award holds special significance for me, as it will merge two disparate threads of research I started while working on my doctoral degree, and it will expand opportunities for students to be exposed to and involved in this research.” The NSF selects award recipients who are faculty members at the beginning of their careers with the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization. The intent of the NSF CAREER program is to provide stable support, enabling awardees to develop their careers not only as outstanding researchers, but also as educators demonstrating commitment to teaching, learning and dissemination of knowledge. The award spans five years, and it will enable Burden to integrate his research and education goals, contributing to his stated long-term career goal of enhancing human interaction with the physical world through machines.

Building foundational knowledge for human-machine interaction

[caption id="attachment_21883" align="alignleft" width="550"]Sam Burden talking to a group of people in the AMP Lab Burden at the opening of the UW AMP Lab, where research supported by the award, experiments involving human/machine interaction, will take place. 2017 photo by Mark Stone[/caption] A remotely operated airplane, a self-driving car on a smooth road, or a Roomba cleaning the floors in your house are all examples of machinery that function well in an unchanging environment where contact with the surroundings is continuously maintained. But what happens when contact with the environment is intermittent or conditions change? Programming a robot or a machine, whether remotely operated by a human or operating independently, to handle “contact-rich dynamics” such as this is much more difficult to do. For example, making a legged robot walk up and down stairs or travel over rough, unpredictable terrain in natural environments has proven to be a very tough problem for engineers. “Every time a robot or machine touches something new, more constraints are introduced into the system and the dynamics change abruptly,” Burden said. “That’s a fundamentally challenging problem for systems that function independently, let alone systems that combine human and machine intelligence.” Burden seeks to address this challenge. In the research supported by the award, he is aiming to build a better understanding of how humans control remotely operated robots and machinery when the system makes intermittent contact with its environment under variable conditions. The knowledge gained can be applied to both remotely operated and autonomous systems. This will help to inform development of useful devices such as robots and machinery that could efficiently deliver packages and move around a city, assist with disaster recovery or remote surgeries, or even operate as caregivers in people’s homes. “Through our experiments we’ll learn more about what a person’s control strategy is while they are tele-operating a robot or machinery,” Burden said. “We’ll learn what information is useful to them, what information is irrelevant for that task, and then we’ll adapt the machine interface to improve performance, with the human still in the loop.” There is a wide range of potential applications for this knowledge, but Burden said that he sees this work being particularly useful for neural engineering in assistive devices, enabling better two-way communication between brain and machine, and with rehabilitation after bodily injury. “To put a finer point on it, this research could help inform development of an active leg brace for when you sprain your ankle, or a neuroprosthetic for when you lose a limb, or a rehabilitation robot to help take care of you after an accident,” Burden said. Burden and his team will build and test mathematical models for contact-rich dynamics both in theory and with human test subjects interacting with machines. The real-life experiments will take place at the AMP Lab on the UW campus, where Burden’s robotic testbed is located.

Broadening participation of underrepresented students in STEM

[caption id="attachment_21885" align="alignright" width="550"]Three students sitting at a desk and working on laptops Education and outreach initiatives are also important components of the work supported by the award. Burden stated that he feels a strong commitment to these efforts as a first-generation college student who benefited in high school from a UW summer institute for mathematics. The initiatives also connect well with his role as UW ECE Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Coordinator. 2016 photo by Mark Stone, courtesy of the Center for Neurotechnology[/caption] Education and outreach initiatives are also important components of the work supported by the award. Burden stated that he feels a strong commitment to these efforts as a first-generation college student who benefited in high school from a UW summer institute for mathematics. The initiatives also connect well with his role as UW ECE Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Coordinator. “There’s so much scientific advancement and technological innovation that we are missing out on because of systemic exclusion and marginalization of large groups of people,” Burden said. “I’m certain that I wouldn’t be here in this job if that door hadn’t been opened for me, and so, I’m eager to open as many of those doors as I can for other people.” Burden is already heavily involved in UW College of Engineering K–12 outreach programs such as Engineering Discovery Days and outreach tailored specifically for underrepresented students such as the STARS program. And at UW ECE, he has co-led efforts to expand diversity, equity and inclusion with colleagues such as Niveditha Kalavakonda. The support he receives from the award will allow him to take this work even further over the next five years. “I was very deliberate in putting together the education and outreach component supported by the award,” Burden said. “I chose initiatives that were evidence-based, that have proven successful in other contexts, and that build-up or expand on existing programs.” [caption id="attachment_21887" align="alignleft" width="550"]A man demonstrates a device in front of a group of K–12 students Engineering Discovery Days at the UW College of Engineering. The award will enable Burden and his research team to expand their ability to regularly exhibit and present at public events such as these. 2018 photo by Sam Burden[/caption] The award will enable Burden and his research team to expand their ability to regularly exhibit and present at public events involving large numbers of students, families and teachers, such as Engineering Discovery Days and UW Math Day. It also will provide resources for Burden to create a new site for an alternative spring break program run by Riverways, a K–12 outreach program that connects UW undergraduate students with educational and service opportunities. The organization is part of the Community Engagement & Leadership Education Center at the UW, and it has relationships with a number of middle schools and high schools in Latinx and tribal communities across the state. “One thing I like about the NSF award is that it’s not draining resources from Riverways,” Burden said. “It’s providing an external source of additional funding to help expand the program.” In the STARS program, Burden has already coordinated a faculty mentorship network, which matches students with UW faculty who are from departments the students have expressed an interest in. He is planning to use support from the award to help some of these students be placed in research labs within their first two years at the UW. This will give STARS students an immersive, hands-on educational experience right at the start of their academic journey. Burden has placed a strong focus on cooperating across campus to create, improve and build upon existing outreach programs. And when talking about the NSF CAREER award, the research it supports and the education and outreach initiatives it enables, he repeatedly emphasizes the importance of working together to achieve mutually agreed upon goals. “None of my work would be possible without the mentorship and leadership provided by my advisers and teachers, nor without the support and structure provided by UW ECE, nor without the creativity and energy provided by my students and collaborators,” Burden said. “I am simultaneously deeply humbled and proud to be a part of such a diverse, intellectual community.” To learn more about the research, education and outreach programs supported by this NSF CAREER award or to discuss ongoing work expanding diversity, equity and inclusion at UW ECE, contact Sam Burden. [post_title] => Sam Burden receives NSF CAREER award to advance human-machine collaboration and broaden participation of underrepresented students in STEM [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => sam-burden-nsf-career-award [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-04-28 16:23:00 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-04-28 23:23:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=21878 [menu_order] => 1 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [comment_count] => 0 [current_comment] => -1 [found_posts] => 755 [max_num_pages] => 126 [max_num_comment_pages] => 0 [is_single] => [is_preview] => [is_page] => [is_archive] => 1 [is_date] => [is_year] => [is_month] => [is_day] => [is_time] => [is_author] => [is_category] => [is_tag] => [is_tax] => [is_search] => [is_feed] => [is_comment_feed] => [is_trackback] => [is_home] => [is_404] => [is_embed] => [is_paged] => [is_admin] => [is_attachment] => [is_singular] => [is_robots] => [is_posts_page] => [is_post_type_archive] => 1 [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => c64914061c8ecf9b16abe746203f6ad7 [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => 1 [thumbnails_cached] => [stopwords:WP_Query:private] => [compat_fields:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => query_vars_hash [1] => query_vars_changed ) [compat_methods:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => init_query_flags [1] => parse_tax_query ) ) )
More News
More News Electrical Engineering Kaleidoscope Electrical Engineering eNews