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  COVID-19 Information and Resources for ECE Students, Faculty, and Staff

A professor’s long career and vision for the future leaves an ongoing legacy

On June 6, 2020, UW ECE Professor Emeritus Robert (Bob) Albrecht passed away at the age of 85. He had a hopeful vision of the future that was demonstrated by his 40-year career at the UW. His legacy continues today in the lives of those he touched, both nearby and far away.

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UW students thrive online, engineering devices to assist people with disabilities

Despite ongoing pressures from the novel coronavirus pandemic, students in the Neural Engineering Tech Studio designed and engineered devices to assist people with conditions such as paralysis, autism, blindness and Parkinson’s disease.

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UW students thrive online, engineering devices to assist people with disabilities Banner

ENGINE Showcase's Top 3 winning teams announced!

Learn more about our winning teams and the outstanding projects they worked on with industry sponsors Realwear, the UW College of Engineering, and Microsoft!

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ENGINE Showcase's Top 3 winning teams announced! Banner

WiBotic raises $5.7M to boost wireless systems for charging up robots and drones

WiBotic is a UW ECE spin-off company co-founded by Professor Joshua Smith and alum, Ben Waters.

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Teaching Computers to Recognize Human Actions in Videos

UW ECE team of researchers present their unique 'unsupervised' approach to action recognition this week at major Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) 2020 conference.

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Coronavirus pandemic upends research plans

UW ECE Assistant Professor Brian Johnson was recently featured in IEEE Spectrum's article on how the coronavirus has disrupted fieldwork and lab experiments at various institutions across the country.

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Coronavirus pandemic upends research plans Banner

News + Events

https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/albrecht/
https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/nets2020/
https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/engine2020/
https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/teaching-computers-to-recognize-human-actions-in-videos/
https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/wiboticraises/
https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/coronavirus-disrupts-research/
Coronavirus pandemic upends research plans

Coronavirus pandemic upends research plans

UW ECE Assistant Professor Brian Johnson was recently featured in IEEE Spectrum's article on how the coronavirus has disrupted fieldwork and lab experiments at various institutions across the country.

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                    [post_content] => Story by Wayne Gillam | UW ECE News

[caption id="attachment_19160" align="alignright" width="325"]A man standing next to an airplane UW ECE Professor Emeritus Robert (Bob) Albrecht was known for his long-standing commitment to higher education and his love of flying. He is shown here standing next to a Beechcraft Bonanza he piloted as a member of the Lynn Air Flying Club.[/caption]

On June 6, 2020, University of Washington Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering (UW ECE) Professor Emeritus Robert (Bob) Albrecht passed away at his Seattle home from complications arising from inclusion body myositis. He was 85 years old.

[caption id="attachment_19178" align="alignleft" width="233"]headshot of Robert Albrecht UW ECE Professor Emeritus Robert (Bob) Albrecht[/caption]

Albrecht joined the UW in 1961, as a professor of nuclear and electrical engineering. In 1984, the Nuclear Engineering Department was dissolved, and Albrecht’s focus shifted to teaching electrical engineering full-time. In 1989, he became the Associate Chair of Research and Development in the UW Department of Electrical Engineering (UW EE). During his 40-year career, Albrecht mentored many graduate students, taught classes at all levels, and consulted at nuclear plants and research facilities around the world. In his last decade teaching at the UW, he created an autonomous robotics lab to do early work on mobile robotic control, navigation and integration of artificial intelligence. He was known for being visionary, bold, frank and straightforward.

“One of Bob’s mobile robots was recruited to lead a UW ECE graduation ceremony in Husky stadium back in the 1990s, and one of his robots also brought out the ball for the first pitch at a Husky baseball game,” UW ECE Professor Bruce Darling said. “I was so sorry to hear about Bob’s passing. It’s more than just losing a friend and colleague; it feels like losing an institution.”

[caption id="attachment_19167" align="alignright" width="250"]An old, crumpled pilot's license A photo of Albrecht’s pilot license. Albrecht always carried it with him in his wallet, even after having to give up flying because of health reasons.[/caption]

“Bob used to push for us to pursue telepresence as the next big research area for electrical engineering. Most faculty members groaned in response. But Bob was prescient,” UW ECE Professor Les Atlas recalled. “His examples of telepresence anticipated teleconferencing, which is an integral part of our lives now.”

“I was always impressed (and a bit intimidated) by the breath of his knowledge and also his curiosity,” said UW Mechanical Engineering Professor Emeritus Norman McCormick. “He was a practical engineer-scientist-educator who thought both inside and outside the box, all the while injecting a little humor when possible.”

A love for engineering, and for flying

[caption id="attachment_19176" align="alignleft" width="350"]Two people standing in front of an airplane Albrecht often took graduate students and colleagues on sightseeing flights. He is shown here next to his wife, Mary, in front of the Beechcraft Bonanza he flew.[/caption] Albrecht’s long career at the UW demonstrated his passion for engineering, and he loved to fly. In fact, he fell in love with his wife while both were working at Boeing the summer before they graduated with their Bachelor of Science degrees in engineering from Purdue University in 1957. That summer, Albrecht also had the opportunity to work in flight-testing for the Boeing 367-80 jet aircraft. After earning his Master of Science and doctoral degrees in nuclear engineering from the University of Michigan in 1958 and 1961, he earned his private pilot license and flew whenever he had a chance. “One thing that Dad’s colleagues will remember about him is his love of flying,” Albrecht’s daughter Liz Behlke said. “He often would fly graduate students out to see the Hanford Site or take visiting colleagues on sightseeing trips around the Puget Sound.” Albrecht enjoyed flying Beechcraft Bonanzas as a member of the Lynn Air Flying Club for many years. He continued to carry his pilot’s license in his wallet long after his medical condition forced him to give up flying.

A lifelong support for education

[caption id="attachment_19172" align="alignleft" width="350"]Two people standing next to each other in graduation caps in front of a stadium Albrecht and his daughter, Liz Behlke, at her graduation from the UW.[/caption] Albrecht was known to have had an unflagging support for higher education and for being an optimistic, engaging storyteller with a big heart. He remained intellectually active after retiring in 2001, establishing the Wednesday Lunch Bunch (WLB), which welcomed retired UW faculty and all-comers for weekly discussions and camaraderie at the University of Washington Club. He presided over these lunches for 20 years, with a sense of humor, as the self-appointed “Grand Poobah.” He also wrote and published a book, “Introduction to the Beauty of Calculus,” at the age of 81. His friends and colleagues remember him as someone who was always intellectually sharp, well-read and never afraid to engage in a friendly debate. “Bob was a well-respected member of UW ECE, and he was well-loved by many in our community,” said UW ECE Professor and Chair Eric Klavins. [caption id="attachment_19170" align="alignright" width="350"]A Zoom screenshot showing several people in an online meeting The Wednesday Lunch Bunch (WLB), which welcomed all-comers for weekly discussions and camaraderie at the University of Washington Club. After he retired, Albrecht presided over these lunches for 20 years, as the self-appointed “Grand Poobah.”[/caption] “He had one of the most inquiring and original minds I have ever encountered, and he was a nice guy to boot — always courteous and appreciative of others,” said Charles Sleicher, Professor Emeritus and former Chair of UW Chemical Engineering. Albrecht was a person unafraid of new, big ideas. His hopeful vision of the future encompassed forward-thinking technologies and his legacy continues today in the lives of those he touched, both nearby and far away. “I was personally inspired by Bob and challenged to make new things happen in the future,” Atlas said. “As I think about it, that’s likely why I pursued certain research projects, which over time ended up as what are now my most-cited papers.” [caption id="attachment_19174" align="alignleft" width="350"]Three men squatting around a mobile robot Albrecht (center) with two students, next to “Miss Marple,” a mobile robot designed and engineered in 1992.[/caption] “He introduced me to the idea of mobile robotics in the courses I took from him in the early 1990s,” said Jesus Savage, one of Albrecht’s former graduate students. “This gave me a foundation for the work I currently do as a robotics professor at the School of Engineering of the National Autonomous University of Mexico. I’m very grateful for this knowledge.” Albrecht is survived by his wife, Mary; his son, Robert Albrecht Jr., with daughters Renee and Amelia; and his daughter, Liz Behlke with her daughter Aurora. The Albrecht family will hold a memorial service at a later date. Sympathy cards, gifts and well-wishes to the family can be sent care of Bruce Darling. [post_title] => A professor’s long career and vision for the future leaves an ongoing legacy [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => albrecht [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-07-02 10:58:33 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-07-02 17:58:33 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=19158 [menu_order] => 1 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 19104 [post_author] => 27 [post_date] => 2020-06-26 15:13:34 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-06-26 22:13:34 [post_content] => Story by Wayne Gillam | UW ECE News [caption id="attachment_19105" align="alignright" width="650"]photo of students with engineering prototype Tian Wang (left) is shown wearing a device he and his classmates (right [top to bottom] Samuel Broadwell, Katriel Looney and Kenny Lu) designed and engineered in the Neural Engineering Tech Studio. The team’s prototype, Haptic Vision, could replace navigation canes for people who are visually-impaired.[/caption]When the University of Washington (UW) moved all courses online last quarter in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, instructors across campus were faced with an immediate challenge — how to quickly re-purpose lectures, lessons and experiences designed for in-person classes into something that would work well for students in an online, virtual learning environment. This challenge was particularly acute for courses designed to give students hands-on experience, such as the Neural Engineering Tech Studio, a cross-disciplinary course in the UW Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering (UW ECE) and UW Bioengineering, facilitated by the Center for Neurotechnology (CNT) and taught by UW ECE faculty members Chet Moritz, Azadeh Yazdan, and instructor Scott Ransom. They were assisted by Lars Crawford, a UW Bioengineering graduate student and co-founder of MultiModal Health, a startup company that grew out of an idea Crawford and his classmates developed in an earlier version of the course. Crawford noted the difficulty of moving a curriculum online that was traditionally taught in-person. “I’m a very hands-on learner myself, so I benefited directly from the structure of this course when I was a student,” Crawford said. “There’s a level of camaraderie and rhythm that occurs when you and your partners are all working at the same table with your sleeves rolled up that is difficult to emulate purely through a screen.” Also, in prior years the course had been supported by CNT industry affiliates, who provided students with supplies, tools and equipment such as 3D printers and laser-cutters used for building engineering prototypes. But because of the pandemic, companies simply didn’t have the capacity to provide the same level of support, and students weren’t able to physically access the equipment like they had in the past. Instructors had to be creative in regard to facilitating class discussions, using Zoom breakout rooms to provide a virtual space for students to connect with each other and checking-in periodically with each student team online to gauge and assist with student progress. “We were faced with a lot of challenges, and the teaching team was meeting for several hours a week to discuss how to implement different classes and aspects of the course online,” Yazdan said. “A lot of the class activities that are so trivial to do in-person required hours of careful discussions and Zoom tests to evaluate before class.” Despite these obstacles, students in this team-oriented, 10-week Spring quarter class not only coped with the new learning environment, they flourished in it. Working together online in groups of four or five, the students designed and engineered device prototypes aimed at assisting people with a wide range of neurological conditions, such as paralysis, autism, blindness and Parkinson’s disease. “The technology the students came up with was amazing, especially what they were able to do while physical distancing, not being able to be near their team members,” Moritz said. “I was so impressed by their final presentations. It was clear that a lot of thought went into their virtual demonstrations, and it was brilliant work.”

How the course functions

The Neural Engineering Tech Studio is designed to help teach students entrepreneurship skills, as well as a patient-centric thought process. Instructors teach students how to better connect, engage and collaborate with each other, and students learn from biomedical industry leaders. In fact, an unexpected benefit to bringing the class online this year was that the instructors were able to connect students with industry leaders around the country such as Nick Terrafranca at GTX Medical and Erika Ross at Abbott Neuromodulation. Students were also encouraged to talk with potential end-users and physicians as they developed their prototypes to ensure what they built aligned strongly with real-world needs. “Taking a customer focus perspective in design development and thinking about the patient at the core of technology development is a relatively new thing,” Ransom said. “We want to develop a generation of engineers who instinctively put the patient and end-user’s needs at the center of their work.” The course itself is set-up as a competition. Students are divided into five teams, and each group is responsible for coming up with an engineering prototype that uses neural engineering principles to address health issues. The teams iterate their creations throughout the course, culminating in presentations of their final prototypes to a panel of academic and industry experts. Projects are judged on technical and scientific merit, as well as how easy the prototype is to use and any ethical considerations the invention may generate. The winning team receives five free hours of consultation with the Washington Entrepreneurial Research Evaluation and Commercialization Hub (WE-REACH), as well as mentorship and support from the CNT geared toward shaping the team’s prototype and winning idea into a real-world startup. Last year’s winning team, PanicAway, engineered a smartphone app designed to help users mitigate the symptoms of a panic attack. The team was featured in GeekWire, New Day Northwest and recently received a $50K grant from the National Science Foundation to further develop their idea.

Descriptions of student-engineered prototypes

This year’s winning team was made up of students from UW ECE, UW Bioengineering and UW Chemical Engineering. Samuel Broadwell, Katriel Looney, Kenny Lu and Tian Wang’s winning prototype, Haptic Vision, was designed to replace canes for those who are visually-impaired, and it provided a unique way to help people navigate their surroundings. Creation of the device was inspired by a broader idea. “I was walking down the street one day, and I saw a blind person walking toward me, using a navigation cane,” Broadwell said. “At that moment, I came up with the idea of developing a full-body suit that could give haptic [touch-sensitive, felt] feedback all over a person’s body, based on proximity of an obstacle to part of the suit, kind of like Spiderman’s “spidey-sense.” Obviously, that was overkill, but it was the start of Haptic Vision.” Haptic Vision discreetly wraps around the user’s ankle like a sweatband, and it can detect and identify objects that may be ahead of the user’s walking path. Using adjustable auditory feedback, Haptic Vision lets the user know what’s up ahead — for example, “There is a chair to your left, and a television in front of you.” — and when the device comes close to an object blocking the user’s path, it buzzes and vibrates, providing immediate haptic feedback through the user’s ankle. The team envisions future versions of the device where it could be embedded in a person’s shoes and provide information as to how far away objects are from the user. “The Neural Engineering Tech Studio is a fantastic class and a wonderful learning experience,” Broadwell said. “It was amazing being able to flex our creative muscles and really create something from nothing, especially with all the help and support that the instructors and expert consultants provided.” Other prototypes developed and demonstrated by class participants were:

Myobox: a surface EMG gaming controller

Myobox prototype illustration This video game controller facilitates at-home physical therapy for people impacted by peripheral nerve injury, stroke and limb amputation. By gamifying physical therapy, the team hopes to encourage better adherence to physical therapy regimens, making the process more enjoyable and less tedious for the user. The controller uses adjustable electromyographic (EMG) sensors placed on the surface of the skin to read electrical signals from the muscles. These signals are then sent through an amplifier board, Arduino microcontroller and Xbox Adaptive Controller to a game console or personal computer, allowing the user to play the video game by performing their physical therapy exercises.    

E-Jam: A virtual reality eye-tracking device for autism spectrum disorder

E-Jam prototype illustration E-Jam is a device designed for use in clinical and school settings. It combines virtual reality and eye-tracking technologies to objectively measure a patient’s progress dealing with autism, a developmental disorder affecting communication and behavior. Through virtual reality, E-Jam creates a realistic, but controlled and safe environment for the user. While in the virtual world, the user is given opportunities to learn how to become comfortable with unfamiliar environments, build social and communication skills, and practice interpreting what characters in the virtual world are feeling. Eye tracking records what objects are being looked at and for how long. This helps identify what the user is focusing on and avoiding, which is feedback that can be used to help adjust therapy and further improve a patient's coping skills.    

Motus+: Remote patient monitoring for Parkinson’s disease

[caption id="attachment_19114" align="alignleft" width="350"]Motus+ prototype illustration Motus+[/caption] This smartphone app continuously collects data on tremors caused by Parkinson’s disease anytime the patient uses the phone. Data is uploaded automatically to the doctor’s office. The app takes advantage of technology that already exists within the smartphone, such as the camera, accelerometer and microphone, to measure tremors. Continuous monitoring like this gives care providers a quantitative data set that doesn’t rely on a patient’s recollection, enabling more informed decisions when it comes to developing treatment plans.        

(Th)ink: A hands-free art canvas and coloring book

(Th)ink prototype illustrationThis is an easy-to-use, hands-free art therapy tool for people with limited to no upper limb function, such as those impacted by spinal cord injury and limb amputation. The interface consists of a virtual canvas and “pen.” It uses an eye-tracking device and electrodes placed on the face to enable the user to control the pen with their eyes and facial muscles. Over two million people in the U.S. are currently experiencing limited to no upper limb function, which oftentimes leads to depression and other mental health disorders. The process of creating art through a device like this can help the patient gain a greater sense of control, which leads to improved mental and physical health.    

Support for future device development

After the course is over, all students have the option of taking their prototype further along the path toward becoming a real-world product. Not everyone exercises this option, but for those who do, support is available through the CNT, whether or not the student was a member of the winning team. “We’re happy to work with any student or team that wants to take their ideas forward to commercialization,” said Moritz, who is also co-director of the CNT. Regardless of which career path students choose after the course is over, the skills they gained, including this year’s unique experience of learning how to work with others in online teams, will likely prove invaluable. According to Ransom, most students who took the course will eventually become engineers. “People often see this as just a prototyping course, but it’s significantly more than that,” Ransom said. “It’s about understanding what people really need from an engineering solution and practice in discovering those needs and infusing them into a design. It’s about adopting an entrepreneurial perspective in developing a product and identifying and leveraging your skills in order to collaborate effectively with your team and others in completing that project. It’s about networking with industry and medical professionals in ways that not only make your project better but also position you for success in your future career. It’s about equipping UW engineers to make significant impacts in the world.” For more information about the Neural Engineering Tech Studio, contact Scott Ransom. [post_title] => UW students thrive online, engineering devices to assist people with disabilities [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => nets2020 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-06-26 15:47:53 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-06-26 22:47:53 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=19104 [menu_order] => 4 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 19018 [post_author] => 25 [post_date] => 2020-06-24 12:31:21 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-06-24 19:31:21 [post_content] =>

CONGRATULATIONS

to the 2020 ENGINE Showcase's Top 3 winning teams of RealWear, the UW College of Engineering, and Microsoft!

 
The UW Electrical & Computer Engineering’s ENGineering INnovation and Entrepreneurship (ENGINE) capstone program is the culmination of a student’s electrical and computer engineering education. The ENGINE program was created to enable students to work in teams on industry sponsored projects. At the end of the academic year, students present their projects to peers, industry professionals and faculty in our ENGINE Showcase event.
 

Infrared Camera for HMT-1 (project #3)

The RealWear team of Richard Burberry, Nicholas Mathews and Nathan McCown worked with industry mentor, Alex Rodriguez, and faculty advisor, Tai-Chang Chen, to design, develop and test an "Infrared Camera for HMT-1", a custom PCB and 3D-printed housing for a Lepton infrared camera to interface with RealWear’s HMT-1 headset, maintaining a low-profile and industrial design.
 

Administrative and Financial Web Portal (project #21)

The University of Washington College of Engineering's group members Jieling Wang, Haotian Yuan, Kalana Sahabandu, Batina Shikhalieva and Yimeng Li worked with industry mentors, Ted Hanson and Bridget Faherty, and faculty advisor, Payman Arabshahi, to develop a web application with a background database that can be used internally for College of Engineering departments to manage, process and track administrative and financial requests for both students and fiscal staff, including purchasing, reim­bursements, travel requests (booking and reimburse­ments), and procard document submission.

Automated Server Repair Workcell for Data Centers (project #9)

The Microsoft-sponsored team of Marcus Chu, Wichwong Premvuti, Ian Good and Khai Pham worked with industry mentors, Nicholas Keehn and Corina Arama, and faculty advisor, Howard Chizeck, to develop a computer vision-based platform to repair data center servers with variable pose using two collaborative robotic arms.

Congratulations to all of our excellent ENGINE teams this year and thank you for all of your hard work and ingenuity! View all of the 2020 ENGINE projects and learn more about the capstone program here! Thank you, Milt & Delia Zeutschel and John Reece for your continued support of the ENGINE program! [post_title] => ENGINE Showcase's Top 3 winning teams announced! [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => engine2020 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-06-24 12:40:58 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-06-24 19:40:58 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=19018 [menu_order] => 5 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 18954 [post_author] => 26 [post_date] => 2020-06-17 14:23:57 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-06-17 21:23:57 [post_content] => Identifying various movements and actions that people make with their bodies just from watching a video is generally considered to be a natural, simple task. For example, most people would easily be able to identify a subject in a video clip as, say, “jumping back and forth,” or “hitting a ball with their foot.” These sorts of actions are easy enough to recognize even if the subject shown in the video footage changes or is shown from a different angle.  But what if we would like a computer system or a gaming console like an Xbox, PlayStation or similar, to be able to do the same? Would that be possible?  For an artificial system, this seemingly basic task does not come naturally, and it requires several layers of artificial intelligence capabilities such as knowing which specific ‘features’ to track when making decisions, along with the ability to name, or label, a particular action. Research in visual perception and computer vision has shown that, at least for the human body, 3D coordinates of the joints, i.e. skeleton features, are sufficient for an artificially intelligent system to identify several different actions.  However, teaching a computer system to make predictive associations between collections of points and actions using these features turns out to be a much more challenging task than just selecting and identifying said features alone. This is because the system is programmed to group sequences of features into “classes” and subsequently associate these with names of the corresponding actions. Existing deep learning systems try to learn this type of association through a process called ‘supervised learning’, where the system learns from several given examples, each with an explanation of the action it represents. This technique also requires optical camera and infrared depth measurement inputs at each step. While supervised action recognition has shown promising advancement, it relies on annotation of a large number of sequences and needs to be redone each time another subject, viewpoint, or new action is being considered.
So, it follows that researchers are interested in creating systems that attempt to imitate the perceptual ability of humans, which learn to make these associations in a more efficient, unsupervised way.
In their recent research paper titled, “Predict & Cluster: Unsupervised skeleton based action recognition”, University of Washington Electrical & Computer Engineering (UW ECE) PhD student Kun Su and MSc student Xiulong Liu, along with their advisor, Eli Shlizerman, an assistant professor in UW ECE and Applied Mathematics, have developed such an unsupervised system. This week, they will be presenting their work virtually at CVPR 2020, a major annual conference in Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition, featuring keynote speakers Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, and Charlie Bell, Senior Vice President of Amazon Web Services.
    The UW team is proposing that, rather than teaching the computer to catalog the sequences associated with corresponding actions, their system will instead learn how to predict the sequences through ‘encoder-decoder’ learning. The researchers’ system is fully unsupervised, much like a human brain, operating with only inputs and not requiring labeling of actions at any stage. “This neural network system will learn to encode each sequence into a code, which the decoder would use to generate exactly the same sequence,” explains Kun Su, the first author of the paper on this novel approach to artificially-intelligent action recognition. Shlizerman adds, “It turns out that in the process of learning to encode and decode, the deep neural network we’re using self-organizes the sequences into distinct clusters. We developed a way to ensure that learning is optimal in order to create such an organization, and we also developed tools for reading this organization which then associate each cluster with an action.”
The researchers were able to obtain action recognition results that outperform both previous unsupervised and supervised approaches, and are confident that their findings pave the way to a novel type of learning of any type of actions using any input of features. This might include anything from recognizing actions of flight patterns of flying insects to identification of malicious actions in internet activity. 
The team’s next steps are to extend this approach to applications of activity recognition from various features, actions and of different entities. According to Shlizerman, “The generality of our approach allows us to consider various applications. We are currently further developing our approach to recognize behavioral actions in biological behavioral essays and work on providing automatic data-driven recognition and clustering of brain neural activity.” [caption id="attachment_18956" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]from left to right: UW ECE students Kun Su, Xiulong Liu, and ECE and Applied Mathematics Assistant Professor, Eli Shlizerman From left to right: 2nd year PhD student, Kun Su, MSc student, Xiulong Liu and ECE and Applied Mathematics Assistant Professor, Eli Shlizerman.[/caption]
Shlizerman’s laboratory acknowledges the support of AFOSR, the National Science Foundation (DMS-1361145), and the Washington Research Foundation (WRF) Innovation Fund. The authors would also like to acknowledge the support of the UW Departments of Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE) and Applied Mathematics, the Center for Computational Neuroscience (CNC), and the eScience Center at the University of Washington in conducting this research. Learn more about the CVPR conference here: http://cvpr2020.thecvf.com/. Originally scheduled to take place in Seattle, WA this week (June 14- 19), the conference has since moved online due to concerns from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).  Story by Ryan Hoover | UW ECE News [post_title] => Teaching Computers to Recognize Human Actions in Videos [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => teaching-computers-to-recognize-human-actions-in-videos [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-06-17 14:23:57 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-06-17 21:23:57 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=18954 [menu_order] => 6 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 18925 [post_author] => 25 [post_date] => 2020-06-22 09:24:04 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-06-22 16:24:04 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_18927" align="alignright" width="541"] WiBotic’s system is designed to charge up robots wirelessly. (WiBotic Photo)[/caption] Seattle-based Wibotic says it’s secured $5.7 million in fresh investment to ramp up development of its wireless charging and power optimization systems, five years after being spun out from the University of Washington. “We’re heading into our toddler phase here,” WiBotic CEO Ben Waters joked during an interview with GeekWire. Investors in the Series A funding round include Junson Capital, SV Tech Ventures, Rolling Bay Ventures, Aves Capital, The W Fund and WRF. The latest round brings WiBotic’s total investment to nearly $9 million. WiBotic was founded by Waters and Joshua Smith, a professor of computer science and electrical and computer engineering (UW ECE) who had Waters as a Ph.D. research assistant. The company’s charging stations take advantage of near-field antennas to beam power wirelessly to receivers that can be hooked up to batteries on robots, drones or other devices. Waters said the technology is well-placed to capitalize on current trends. “Our mission has always been to power the world of automation,” he said. “Over the last five years, we’ve seen big growth in companies doing proof-of-concept deployments of robots, testing things out, learning where there’s value. … In the last six to 12 months, that’s finally started to pivot to, ‘OK, how do we deploy these things at scale?'” WiBotic’s power management software can work with the hardware to optimize battery use for whole fleets of robots, without a human ever having to handle a plug. That’s an additional selling point in this age of COVID-19 and social distancing. [caption id="attachment_18930" align="alignleft" width="509"] Ben Waters is co-founder and CEO of WiBotic. (University of Washington Photo)[/caption] “For many businesses, the need for robots and automation has been placed right in front of their faces, because they’ve realized that if their employees aren’t able to come in to the warehouse or the office, or whatever, their business might not be able to get orders out the door,” Waters said. “Even Amazon, which has hundreds of thousands of robots, has faced this problem.” WiBotic already is working with an array of customers that include Waypoint RoboticsClearpath Robotics and Aero Corp. “We have customers in about 13 countries across five continents, from drones to mobile robots to unique battery-powered IoT applications.” Waters said. The fresh round of funding will help the company advance its technology, expand its sales team and accelerate its growth to answer customer demand. “We need to make sure that, as infrastructure in this robotics market, we’re one step ahead of our customers,” Waters explained. “They need to be able to have confidence in our product and our team and our company to move forward with an important piece of a robotic ecosystem.” Waters said WiBotic’s system is designed to play well with open-source platforms such as Robot Operating System, or ROS, which has won support from Microsoft and Amazon Web Services. “NVIDIA has a big plan for this space, too, so we’re working to make technical documentation and software source code available for customers to easily integrate our system,” he said. WiBotic’s team has grown to 12 full-time employees plus a few part-timers, Waters said. Earlier this year, the company moved into new offices. “We’ve officially graduated from the U District, and we’re now in Northgate, right by the light-rail development,” Waters said. There’s also a new board member: Mark Rogers, chief revenue officer at Coolfire Solutions, who previously served as senior vice president of business development at Mencix and held senior roles at Microsoft before that. “He’s got a lot of expertise when it comes to hardware, software, management and sales and marketing,” Waters said. For now, WiBotic is keeping its focus on business-to-business applications rather than consumer applications. “But with all that said, our goal is to be a leader in the U.S. and abroad in wireless charging and autonomous power in general for robotics and drones. Beyond that, I think we’ll certainly learn more about these industries,” Waters said. “We view that as our secret weapon,” he said. “We’ve gotten so much customer feedback and experience working with companies in this industry that we’re able to expand beyond just simply battery charging, to add more value when it comes to improving the uptime of a big robot fleet by optimizing the way that robots charge. These are really important problems that autonomous systems face, but might not be a problem that a consumer trying to charge one device on one pad might face.” In science-fiction stories, the rise of the robots is usually something to be feared — but Waters, for one, welcomes the robotic revolution.
“It’s an exciting time for robots, and they all have batteries, and they need to be charged up,” he said. “WiBotic is here to help.”
Story by Alan Boyle | GeekWire [post_title] => WiBotic raises $5.7M to boost wireless systems for charging up robots and drones [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => wiboticraises [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-06-22 09:24:04 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-06-22 16:24:04 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=18925 [menu_order] => 7 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 18906 [post_author] => 25 [post_date] => 2020-06-15 14:22:59 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-06-15 21:22:59 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_18908" align="alignright" width="657"] Brian Johnson continues his research from his home office. Photo: Amanda Johnson[/caption] The COVID-19 pandemic has affected virtually every facet of life, including scientific research carried out at companies and universities around the world. As biomedical researchers scramble to find a treatment or vaccine, other scientists and engineers try to continue their own work in the midst of a pandemic. In some cases, this means writing a paper or grant from home rather than at the office. But in many others, the disruption is more pronounced. Most academic, government, and corporate labs in the United States have scaled back operations or closed temporarily to comply with stay-at-home orders. The impacts of these changes can vary greatly from one field to the next, depending on the nature of the work. John Verboncoeur, a director of IEEE and associate dean for research and graduate studies at Michigan State University, says, “Our surveys indicate that theoretical research teams—my own included—are operating at around 80 to 90 percent efficiency, with the main challenge being the ability to explain complicated concepts without our traditional ‘waving hands about’ and interactive work at the white- or blackboard.” For experimentalists, the pandemic is more disruptive, although some experiments may be completed from home. “The early focus [for experimentalists] was on catching up on the literature, completing manuscripts, analyzing existing data, and so on, which led to a productivity of 50 percent or so,” says Verboncoeur. “However, much of that is coming to completion, and we are seeing productivity drop as the activities narrow down to designing upcoming experiments and protocols.” Engineers in many fields are looking for new ways to remain innovative and productive. Take, for example, those in the green energy sector. While some climate and energy research may continue from home, other projects are more difficult or impossible to complete remotely. Sally Benson’s lab at Stanford University is doing a mix of theory, modeling, and experiments to support the transition to a low-carbon future, including studies related to carbon capture and storage. While the theory and modeling aspects of this research are easy enough to continue, the experimental work involves analyzing rock samples at the extreme temperatures and pressures found in underground reservoirs—tests that aren’t feasible to carry out at home. Despite this limitation, Benson’s group is still finding ways to continue with some aspects of their experimental work. “The good news is that as experimentalists, we tend to collect way, way more data than we can assimilate,” she says. “We generate these immensely rich data sets, where there’s plenty more we can mine out of those data sets.” The group is now returning to its old data sets and reanalyzing the data to answer new, unexplored questions, in part by applying machine learning. By doing so, the researchers have uncovered previously unknown ways that carbon dioxide interacts with rock. Benson acknowledges, however, that this reuse of old experimental data can’t go on forever. Further up the coast, at the University of Washington, Electrical & Computer Engineering's (UW ECE) Washington Research Foundation Innovation Assistant Professor of Clean Energy, Brian Johnson, is leading two projects funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. Both are designed to facilitate a major shift from electromechanical power grids to grids based on power-electronics systems that will better support renewable energy. One project involves the design of controllers for these new power grids. The effort launched in April just as the pandemic was taking hold in the United States, but the team was able to get the research started by focusing on pen-and-paper designs and software simulations. However, the pandemic may prove more problematic for Johnson’s second endeavor. It involves the design of a new breed of high-efficiency power electronics that converts DC power from solar cells into grid-compatible AC power. “For that project, we have a heavy set of milestones coming up in the summer months to actually demonstrate the hardware,” says Johnson. “If we can’t do [tests] in the summer, we’re going to have to start coming up with some contingency plans. Since these experiments necessitate a power lab with specialized equipment, they cannot be done in our homes.” While the pandemic affects each research project to varying degrees, its overall impact on the broader shift toward green tech—and on the state of engineering research more generally—is still unclear. Benson says she’s slightly concerned that the pandemic may cause some researchers to shift their focus from climate change to medicine. “To me, the COVID-19 pandemic is sort of a multiyear challenge and a short-term nightmare,” she says. “If we’re not careful, climate change will be a decadal-scale nightmare. So this work needs all of the attention it can get.” Johnson is less concerned that the pandemic will interfere with the advancement of green tech, saying: “I think that energy is such an integral part of modern life itself and infrastructure that I don’t perceive [the COVID-19 pandemic] fundamentally altering the fact that we all need energy, and cheap energy.”
-Article by Michelle Hampson |  IEEE Spectrum, originally appeared in the June 2020 print issue as "COVID-19 Disrupts Research Plans" [post_title] => Coronavirus pandemic upends research plans [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => coronavirus-disrupts-research [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-06-15 14:24:32 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-06-15 21:24:32 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=18906 [menu_order] => 8 [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/albrecht/
https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/nets2020/
https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/engine2020/
https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/teaching-computers-to-recognize-human-actions-in-videos/
https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/wiboticraises/
https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/coronavirus-disrupts-research/
Coronavirus pandemic upends research plans

Coronavirus pandemic upends research plans

UW ECE Assistant Professor Brian Johnson was recently featured in IEEE Spectrum's article on how the coronavirus has disrupted fieldwork and lab experiments at various institutions across the country.

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He is shown here standing next to a Beechcraft Bonanza he piloted as a member of the Lynn Air Flying Club.[/caption] On June 6, 2020, University of Washington Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering (UW ECE) Professor Emeritus Robert (Bob) Albrecht passed away at his Seattle home from complications arising from inclusion body myositis. He was 85 years old. [caption id="attachment_19178" align="alignleft" width="233"]headshot of Robert Albrecht UW ECE Professor Emeritus Robert (Bob) Albrecht[/caption] Albrecht joined the UW in 1961, as a professor of nuclear and electrical engineering. In 1984, the Nuclear Engineering Department was dissolved, and Albrecht’s focus shifted to teaching electrical engineering full-time. In 1989, he became the Associate Chair of Research and Development in the UW Department of Electrical Engineering (UW EE). During his 40-year career, Albrecht mentored many graduate students, taught classes at all levels, and consulted at nuclear plants and research facilities around the world. In his last decade teaching at the UW, he created an autonomous robotics lab to do early work on mobile robotic control, navigation and integration of artificial intelligence. He was known for being visionary, bold, frank and straightforward. “One of Bob’s mobile robots was recruited to lead a UW ECE graduation ceremony in Husky stadium back in the 1990s, and one of his robots also brought out the ball for the first pitch at a Husky baseball game,” UW ECE Professor Bruce Darling said. “I was so sorry to hear about Bob’s passing. It’s more than just losing a friend and colleague; it feels like losing an institution.” [caption id="attachment_19167" align="alignright" width="250"]An old, crumpled pilot's license A photo of Albrecht’s pilot license. Albrecht always carried it with him in his wallet, even after having to give up flying because of health reasons.[/caption] “Bob used to push for us to pursue telepresence as the next big research area for electrical engineering. Most faculty members groaned in response. But Bob was prescient,” UW ECE Professor Les Atlas recalled. “His examples of telepresence anticipated teleconferencing, which is an integral part of our lives now.” “I was always impressed (and a bit intimidated) by the breath of his knowledge and also his curiosity,” said UW Mechanical Engineering Professor Emeritus Norman McCormick. “He was a practical engineer-scientist-educator who thought both inside and outside the box, all the while injecting a little humor when possible.”

A love for engineering, and for flying

[caption id="attachment_19176" align="alignleft" width="350"]Two people standing in front of an airplane Albrecht often took graduate students and colleagues on sightseeing flights. He is shown here next to his wife, Mary, in front of the Beechcraft Bonanza he flew.[/caption] Albrecht’s long career at the UW demonstrated his passion for engineering, and he loved to fly. In fact, he fell in love with his wife while both were working at Boeing the summer before they graduated with their Bachelor of Science degrees in engineering from Purdue University in 1957. That summer, Albrecht also had the opportunity to work in flight-testing for the Boeing 367-80 jet aircraft. After earning his Master of Science and doctoral degrees in nuclear engineering from the University of Michigan in 1958 and 1961, he earned his private pilot license and flew whenever he had a chance. “One thing that Dad’s colleagues will remember about him is his love of flying,” Albrecht’s daughter Liz Behlke said. “He often would fly graduate students out to see the Hanford Site or take visiting colleagues on sightseeing trips around the Puget Sound.” Albrecht enjoyed flying Beechcraft Bonanzas as a member of the Lynn Air Flying Club for many years. He continued to carry his pilot’s license in his wallet long after his medical condition forced him to give up flying.

A lifelong support for education

[caption id="attachment_19172" align="alignleft" width="350"]Two people standing next to each other in graduation caps in front of a stadium Albrecht and his daughter, Liz Behlke, at her graduation from the UW.[/caption] Albrecht was known to have had an unflagging support for higher education and for being an optimistic, engaging storyteller with a big heart. He remained intellectually active after retiring in 2001, establishing the Wednesday Lunch Bunch (WLB), which welcomed retired UW faculty and all-comers for weekly discussions and camaraderie at the University of Washington Club. He presided over these lunches for 20 years, with a sense of humor, as the self-appointed “Grand Poobah.” He also wrote and published a book, “Introduction to the Beauty of Calculus,” at the age of 81. His friends and colleagues remember him as someone who was always intellectually sharp, well-read and never afraid to engage in a friendly debate. “Bob was a well-respected member of UW ECE, and he was well-loved by many in our community,” said UW ECE Professor and Chair Eric Klavins. [caption id="attachment_19170" align="alignright" width="350"]A Zoom screenshot showing several people in an online meeting The Wednesday Lunch Bunch (WLB), which welcomed all-comers for weekly discussions and camaraderie at the University of Washington Club. After he retired, Albrecht presided over these lunches for 20 years, as the self-appointed “Grand Poobah.”[/caption] “He had one of the most inquiring and original minds I have ever encountered, and he was a nice guy to boot — always courteous and appreciative of others,” said Charles Sleicher, Professor Emeritus and former Chair of UW Chemical Engineering. Albrecht was a person unafraid of new, big ideas. His hopeful vision of the future encompassed forward-thinking technologies and his legacy continues today in the lives of those he touched, both nearby and far away. “I was personally inspired by Bob and challenged to make new things happen in the future,” Atlas said. “As I think about it, that’s likely why I pursued certain research projects, which over time ended up as what are now my most-cited papers.” [caption id="attachment_19174" align="alignleft" width="350"]Three men squatting around a mobile robot Albrecht (center) with two students, next to “Miss Marple,” a mobile robot designed and engineered in 1992.[/caption] “He introduced me to the idea of mobile robotics in the courses I took from him in the early 1990s,” said Jesus Savage, one of Albrecht’s former graduate students. “This gave me a foundation for the work I currently do as a robotics professor at the School of Engineering of the National Autonomous University of Mexico. I’m very grateful for this knowledge.” Albrecht is survived by his wife, Mary; his son, Robert Albrecht Jr., with daughters Renee and Amelia; and his daughter, Liz Behlke with her daughter Aurora. The Albrecht family will hold a memorial service at a later date. Sympathy cards, gifts and well-wishes to the family can be sent care of Bruce Darling. [post_title] => A professor’s long career and vision for the future leaves an ongoing legacy [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => albrecht [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-07-02 10:58:33 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-07-02 17:58:33 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=19158 [menu_order] => 1 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 19104 [post_author] => 27 [post_date] => 2020-06-26 15:13:34 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-06-26 22:13:34 [post_content] => Story by Wayne Gillam | UW ECE News [caption id="attachment_19105" align="alignright" width="650"]photo of students with engineering prototype Tian Wang (left) is shown wearing a device he and his classmates (right [top to bottom] Samuel Broadwell, Katriel Looney and Kenny Lu) designed and engineered in the Neural Engineering Tech Studio. The team’s prototype, Haptic Vision, could replace navigation canes for people who are visually-impaired.[/caption]When the University of Washington (UW) moved all courses online last quarter in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, instructors across campus were faced with an immediate challenge — how to quickly re-purpose lectures, lessons and experiences designed for in-person classes into something that would work well for students in an online, virtual learning environment. This challenge was particularly acute for courses designed to give students hands-on experience, such as the Neural Engineering Tech Studio, a cross-disciplinary course in the UW Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering (UW ECE) and UW Bioengineering, facilitated by the Center for Neurotechnology (CNT) and taught by UW ECE faculty members Chet Moritz, Azadeh Yazdan, and instructor Scott Ransom. They were assisted by Lars Crawford, a UW Bioengineering graduate student and co-founder of MultiModal Health, a startup company that grew out of an idea Crawford and his classmates developed in an earlier version of the course. Crawford noted the difficulty of moving a curriculum online that was traditionally taught in-person. “I’m a very hands-on learner myself, so I benefited directly from the structure of this course when I was a student,” Crawford said. “There’s a level of camaraderie and rhythm that occurs when you and your partners are all working at the same table with your sleeves rolled up that is difficult to emulate purely through a screen.” Also, in prior years the course had been supported by CNT industry affiliates, who provided students with supplies, tools and equipment such as 3D printers and laser-cutters used for building engineering prototypes. But because of the pandemic, companies simply didn’t have the capacity to provide the same level of support, and students weren’t able to physically access the equipment like they had in the past. Instructors had to be creative in regard to facilitating class discussions, using Zoom breakout rooms to provide a virtual space for students to connect with each other and checking-in periodically with each student team online to gauge and assist with student progress. “We were faced with a lot of challenges, and the teaching team was meeting for several hours a week to discuss how to implement different classes and aspects of the course online,” Yazdan said. “A lot of the class activities that are so trivial to do in-person required hours of careful discussions and Zoom tests to evaluate before class.” Despite these obstacles, students in this team-oriented, 10-week Spring quarter class not only coped with the new learning environment, they flourished in it. Working together online in groups of four or five, the students designed and engineered device prototypes aimed at assisting people with a wide range of neurological conditions, such as paralysis, autism, blindness and Parkinson’s disease. “The technology the students came up with was amazing, especially what they were able to do while physical distancing, not being able to be near their team members,” Moritz said. “I was so impressed by their final presentations. It was clear that a lot of thought went into their virtual demonstrations, and it was brilliant work.”

How the course functions

The Neural Engineering Tech Studio is designed to help teach students entrepreneurship skills, as well as a patient-centric thought process. Instructors teach students how to better connect, engage and collaborate with each other, and students learn from biomedical industry leaders. In fact, an unexpected benefit to bringing the class online this year was that the instructors were able to connect students with industry leaders around the country such as Nick Terrafranca at GTX Medical and Erika Ross at Abbott Neuromodulation. Students were also encouraged to talk with potential end-users and physicians as they developed their prototypes to ensure what they built aligned strongly with real-world needs. “Taking a customer focus perspective in design development and thinking about the patient at the core of technology development is a relatively new thing,” Ransom said. “We want to develop a generation of engineers who instinctively put the patient and end-user’s needs at the center of their work.” The course itself is set-up as a competition. Students are divided into five teams, and each group is responsible for coming up with an engineering prototype that uses neural engineering principles to address health issues. The teams iterate their creations throughout the course, culminating in presentations of their final prototypes to a panel of academic and industry experts. Projects are judged on technical and scientific merit, as well as how easy the prototype is to use and any ethical considerations the invention may generate. The winning team receives five free hours of consultation with the Washington Entrepreneurial Research Evaluation and Commercialization Hub (WE-REACH), as well as mentorship and support from the CNT geared toward shaping the team’s prototype and winning idea into a real-world startup. Last year’s winning team, PanicAway, engineered a smartphone app designed to help users mitigate the symptoms of a panic attack. The team was featured in GeekWire, New Day Northwest and recently received a $50K grant from the National Science Foundation to further develop their idea.

Descriptions of student-engineered prototypes

This year’s winning team was made up of students from UW ECE, UW Bioengineering and UW Chemical Engineering. Samuel Broadwell, Katriel Looney, Kenny Lu and Tian Wang’s winning prototype, Haptic Vision, was designed to replace canes for those who are visually-impaired, and it provided a unique way to help people navigate their surroundings. Creation of the device was inspired by a broader idea. “I was walking down the street one day, and I saw a blind person walking toward me, using a navigation cane,” Broadwell said. “At that moment, I came up with the idea of developing a full-body suit that could give haptic [touch-sensitive, felt] feedback all over a person’s body, based on proximity of an obstacle to part of the suit, kind of like Spiderman’s “spidey-sense.” Obviously, that was overkill, but it was the start of Haptic Vision.” Haptic Vision discreetly wraps around the user’s ankle like a sweatband, and it can detect and identify objects that may be ahead of the user’s walking path. Using adjustable auditory feedback, Haptic Vision lets the user know what’s up ahead — for example, “There is a chair to your left, and a television in front of you.” — and when the device comes close to an object blocking the user’s path, it buzzes and vibrates, providing immediate haptic feedback through the user’s ankle. The team envisions future versions of the device where it could be embedded in a person’s shoes and provide information as to how far away objects are from the user. “The Neural Engineering Tech Studio is a fantastic class and a wonderful learning experience,” Broadwell said. “It was amazing being able to flex our creative muscles and really create something from nothing, especially with all the help and support that the instructors and expert consultants provided.” Other prototypes developed and demonstrated by class participants were:

Myobox: a surface EMG gaming controller

Myobox prototype illustration This video game controller facilitates at-home physical therapy for people impacted by peripheral nerve injury, stroke and limb amputation. By gamifying physical therapy, the team hopes to encourage better adherence to physical therapy regimens, making the process more enjoyable and less tedious for the user. The controller uses adjustable electromyographic (EMG) sensors placed on the surface of the skin to read electrical signals from the muscles. These signals are then sent through an amplifier board, Arduino microcontroller and Xbox Adaptive Controller to a game console or personal computer, allowing the user to play the video game by performing their physical therapy exercises.    

E-Jam: A virtual reality eye-tracking device for autism spectrum disorder

E-Jam prototype illustration E-Jam is a device designed for use in clinical and school settings. It combines virtual reality and eye-tracking technologies to objectively measure a patient’s progress dealing with autism, a developmental disorder affecting communication and behavior. Through virtual reality, E-Jam creates a realistic, but controlled and safe environment for the user. While in the virtual world, the user is given opportunities to learn how to become comfortable with unfamiliar environments, build social and communication skills, and practice interpreting what characters in the virtual world are feeling. Eye tracking records what objects are being looked at and for how long. This helps identify what the user is focusing on and avoiding, which is feedback that can be used to help adjust therapy and further improve a patient's coping skills.    

Motus+: Remote patient monitoring for Parkinson’s disease

[caption id="attachment_19114" align="alignleft" width="350"]Motus+ prototype illustration Motus+[/caption] This smartphone app continuously collects data on tremors caused by Parkinson’s disease anytime the patient uses the phone. Data is uploaded automatically to the doctor’s office. The app takes advantage of technology that already exists within the smartphone, such as the camera, accelerometer and microphone, to measure tremors. Continuous monitoring like this gives care providers a quantitative data set that doesn’t rely on a patient’s recollection, enabling more informed decisions when it comes to developing treatment plans.        

(Th)ink: A hands-free art canvas and coloring book

(Th)ink prototype illustrationThis is an easy-to-use, hands-free art therapy tool for people with limited to no upper limb function, such as those impacted by spinal cord injury and limb amputation. The interface consists of a virtual canvas and “pen.” It uses an eye-tracking device and electrodes placed on the face to enable the user to control the pen with their eyes and facial muscles. Over two million people in the U.S. are currently experiencing limited to no upper limb function, which oftentimes leads to depression and other mental health disorders. The process of creating art through a device like this can help the patient gain a greater sense of control, which leads to improved mental and physical health.    

Support for future device development

After the course is over, all students have the option of taking their prototype further along the path toward becoming a real-world product. Not everyone exercises this option, but for those who do, support is available through the CNT, whether or not the student was a member of the winning team. “We’re happy to work with any student or team that wants to take their ideas forward to commercialization,” said Moritz, who is also co-director of the CNT. Regardless of which career path students choose after the course is over, the skills they gained, including this year’s unique experience of learning how to work with others in online teams, will likely prove invaluable. According to Ransom, most students who took the course will eventually become engineers. “People often see this as just a prototyping course, but it’s significantly more than that,” Ransom said. “It’s about understanding what people really need from an engineering solution and practice in discovering those needs and infusing them into a design. It’s about adopting an entrepreneurial perspective in developing a product and identifying and leveraging your skills in order to collaborate effectively with your team and others in completing that project. It’s about networking with industry and medical professionals in ways that not only make your project better but also position you for success in your future career. It’s about equipping UW engineers to make significant impacts in the world.” For more information about the Neural Engineering Tech Studio, contact Scott Ransom. [post_title] => UW students thrive online, engineering devices to assist people with disabilities [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => nets2020 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-06-26 15:47:53 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-06-26 22:47:53 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=19104 [menu_order] => 4 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 19018 [post_author] => 25 [post_date] => 2020-06-24 12:31:21 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-06-24 19:31:21 [post_content] =>

CONGRATULATIONS

to the 2020 ENGINE Showcase's Top 3 winning teams of RealWear, the UW College of Engineering, and Microsoft!

 
The UW Electrical & Computer Engineering’s ENGineering INnovation and Entrepreneurship (ENGINE) capstone program is the culmination of a student’s electrical and computer engineering education. The ENGINE program was created to enable students to work in teams on industry sponsored projects. At the end of the academic year, students present their projects to peers, industry professionals and faculty in our ENGINE Showcase event.
 

Infrared Camera for HMT-1 (project #3)

The RealWear team of Richard Burberry, Nicholas Mathews and Nathan McCown worked with industry mentor, Alex Rodriguez, and faculty advisor, Tai-Chang Chen, to design, develop and test an "Infrared Camera for HMT-1", a custom PCB and 3D-printed housing for a Lepton infrared camera to interface with RealWear’s HMT-1 headset, maintaining a low-profile and industrial design.
 

Administrative and Financial Web Portal (project #21)

The University of Washington College of Engineering's group members Jieling Wang, Haotian Yuan, Kalana Sahabandu, Batina Shikhalieva and Yimeng Li worked with industry mentors, Ted Hanson and Bridget Faherty, and faculty advisor, Payman Arabshahi, to develop a web application with a background database that can be used internally for College of Engineering departments to manage, process and track administrative and financial requests for both students and fiscal staff, including purchasing, reim­bursements, travel requests (booking and reimburse­ments), and procard document submission.

Automated Server Repair Workcell for Data Centers (project #9)

The Microsoft-sponsored team of Marcus Chu, Wichwong Premvuti, Ian Good and Khai Pham worked with industry mentors, Nicholas Keehn and Corina Arama, and faculty advisor, Howard Chizeck, to develop a computer vision-based platform to repair data center servers with variable pose using two collaborative robotic arms.

Congratulations to all of our excellent ENGINE teams this year and thank you for all of your hard work and ingenuity! View all of the 2020 ENGINE projects and learn more about the capstone program here! Thank you, Milt & Delia Zeutschel and John Reece for your continued support of the ENGINE program! [post_title] => ENGINE Showcase's Top 3 winning teams announced! [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => engine2020 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-06-24 12:40:58 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-06-24 19:40:58 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=19018 [menu_order] => 5 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 18954 [post_author] => 26 [post_date] => 2020-06-17 14:23:57 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-06-17 21:23:57 [post_content] => Identifying various movements and actions that people make with their bodies just from watching a video is generally considered to be a natural, simple task. For example, most people would easily be able to identify a subject in a video clip as, say, “jumping back and forth,” or “hitting a ball with their foot.” These sorts of actions are easy enough to recognize even if the subject shown in the video footage changes or is shown from a different angle.  But what if we would like a computer system or a gaming console like an Xbox, PlayStation or similar, to be able to do the same? Would that be possible?  For an artificial system, this seemingly basic task does not come naturally, and it requires several layers of artificial intelligence capabilities such as knowing which specific ‘features’ to track when making decisions, along with the ability to name, or label, a particular action. Research in visual perception and computer vision has shown that, at least for the human body, 3D coordinates of the joints, i.e. skeleton features, are sufficient for an artificially intelligent system to identify several different actions.  However, teaching a computer system to make predictive associations between collections of points and actions using these features turns out to be a much more challenging task than just selecting and identifying said features alone. This is because the system is programmed to group sequences of features into “classes” and subsequently associate these with names of the corresponding actions. Existing deep learning systems try to learn this type of association through a process called ‘supervised learning’, where the system learns from several given examples, each with an explanation of the action it represents. This technique also requires optical camera and infrared depth measurement inputs at each step. While supervised action recognition has shown promising advancement, it relies on annotation of a large number of sequences and needs to be redone each time another subject, viewpoint, or new action is being considered.
So, it follows that researchers are interested in creating systems that attempt to imitate the perceptual ability of humans, which learn to make these associations in a more efficient, unsupervised way.
In their recent research paper titled, “Predict & Cluster: Unsupervised skeleton based action recognition”, University of Washington Electrical & Computer Engineering (UW ECE) PhD student Kun Su and MSc student Xiulong Liu, along with their advisor, Eli Shlizerman, an assistant professor in UW ECE and Applied Mathematics, have developed such an unsupervised system. This week, they will be presenting their work virtually at CVPR 2020, a major annual conference in Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition, featuring keynote speakers Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, and Charlie Bell, Senior Vice President of Amazon Web Services.
    The UW team is proposing that, rather than teaching the computer to catalog the sequences associated with corresponding actions, their system will instead learn how to predict the sequences through ‘encoder-decoder’ learning. The researchers’ system is fully unsupervised, much like a human brain, operating with only inputs and not requiring labeling of actions at any stage. “This neural network system will learn to encode each sequence into a code, which the decoder would use to generate exactly the same sequence,” explains Kun Su, the first author of the paper on this novel approach to artificially-intelligent action recognition. Shlizerman adds, “It turns out that in the process of learning to encode and decode, the deep neural network we’re using self-organizes the sequences into distinct clusters. We developed a way to ensure that learning is optimal in order to create such an organization, and we also developed tools for reading this organization which then associate each cluster with an action.”
The researchers were able to obtain action recognition results that outperform both previous unsupervised and supervised approaches, and are confident that their findings pave the way to a novel type of learning of any type of actions using any input of features. This might include anything from recognizing actions of flight patterns of flying insects to identification of malicious actions in internet activity. 
The team’s next steps are to extend this approach to applications of activity recognition from various features, actions and of different entities. According to Shlizerman, “The generality of our approach allows us to consider various applications. We are currently further developing our approach to recognize behavioral actions in biological behavioral essays and work on providing automatic data-driven recognition and clustering of brain neural activity.” [caption id="attachment_18956" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]from left to right: UW ECE students Kun Su, Xiulong Liu, and ECE and Applied Mathematics Assistant Professor, Eli Shlizerman From left to right: 2nd year PhD student, Kun Su, MSc student, Xiulong Liu and ECE and Applied Mathematics Assistant Professor, Eli Shlizerman.[/caption]
Shlizerman’s laboratory acknowledges the support of AFOSR, the National Science Foundation (DMS-1361145), and the Washington Research Foundation (WRF) Innovation Fund. The authors would also like to acknowledge the support of the UW Departments of Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE) and Applied Mathematics, the Center for Computational Neuroscience (CNC), and the eScience Center at the University of Washington in conducting this research. Learn more about the CVPR conference here: http://cvpr2020.thecvf.com/. Originally scheduled to take place in Seattle, WA this week (June 14- 19), the conference has since moved online due to concerns from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).  Story by Ryan Hoover | UW ECE News [post_title] => Teaching Computers to Recognize Human Actions in Videos [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => teaching-computers-to-recognize-human-actions-in-videos [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-06-17 14:23:57 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-06-17 21:23:57 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=18954 [menu_order] => 6 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 18925 [post_author] => 25 [post_date] => 2020-06-22 09:24:04 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-06-22 16:24:04 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_18927" align="alignright" width="541"] WiBotic’s system is designed to charge up robots wirelessly. (WiBotic Photo)[/caption] Seattle-based Wibotic says it’s secured $5.7 million in fresh investment to ramp up development of its wireless charging and power optimization systems, five years after being spun out from the University of Washington. “We’re heading into our toddler phase here,” WiBotic CEO Ben Waters joked during an interview with GeekWire. Investors in the Series A funding round include Junson Capital, SV Tech Ventures, Rolling Bay Ventures, Aves Capital, The W Fund and WRF. The latest round brings WiBotic’s total investment to nearly $9 million. WiBotic was founded by Waters and Joshua Smith, a professor of computer science and electrical and computer engineering (UW ECE) who had Waters as a Ph.D. research assistant. The company’s charging stations take advantage of near-field antennas to beam power wirelessly to receivers that can be hooked up to batteries on robots, drones or other devices. Waters said the technology is well-placed to capitalize on current trends. “Our mission has always been to power the world of automation,” he said. “Over the last five years, we’ve seen big growth in companies doing proof-of-concept deployments of robots, testing things out, learning where there’s value. … In the last six to 12 months, that’s finally started to pivot to, ‘OK, how do we deploy these things at scale?'” WiBotic’s power management software can work with the hardware to optimize battery use for whole fleets of robots, without a human ever having to handle a plug. That’s an additional selling point in this age of COVID-19 and social distancing. [caption id="attachment_18930" align="alignleft" width="509"] Ben Waters is co-founder and CEO of WiBotic. (University of Washington Photo)[/caption] “For many businesses, the need for robots and automation has been placed right in front of their faces, because they’ve realized that if their employees aren’t able to come in to the warehouse or the office, or whatever, their business might not be able to get orders out the door,” Waters said. “Even Amazon, which has hundreds of thousands of robots, has faced this problem.” WiBotic already is working with an array of customers that include Waypoint RoboticsClearpath Robotics and Aero Corp. “We have customers in about 13 countries across five continents, from drones to mobile robots to unique battery-powered IoT applications.” Waters said. The fresh round of funding will help the company advance its technology, expand its sales team and accelerate its growth to answer customer demand. “We need to make sure that, as infrastructure in this robotics market, we’re one step ahead of our customers,” Waters explained. “They need to be able to have confidence in our product and our team and our company to move forward with an important piece of a robotic ecosystem.” Waters said WiBotic’s system is designed to play well with open-source platforms such as Robot Operating System, or ROS, which has won support from Microsoft and Amazon Web Services. “NVIDIA has a big plan for this space, too, so we’re working to make technical documentation and software source code available for customers to easily integrate our system,” he said. WiBotic’s team has grown to 12 full-time employees plus a few part-timers, Waters said. Earlier this year, the company moved into new offices. “We’ve officially graduated from the U District, and we’re now in Northgate, right by the light-rail development,” Waters said. There’s also a new board member: Mark Rogers, chief revenue officer at Coolfire Solutions, who previously served as senior vice president of business development at Mencix and held senior roles at Microsoft before that. “He’s got a lot of expertise when it comes to hardware, software, management and sales and marketing,” Waters said. For now, WiBotic is keeping its focus on business-to-business applications rather than consumer applications. “But with all that said, our goal is to be a leader in the U.S. and abroad in wireless charging and autonomous power in general for robotics and drones. Beyond that, I think we’ll certainly learn more about these industries,” Waters said. “We view that as our secret weapon,” he said. “We’ve gotten so much customer feedback and experience working with companies in this industry that we’re able to expand beyond just simply battery charging, to add more value when it comes to improving the uptime of a big robot fleet by optimizing the way that robots charge. These are really important problems that autonomous systems face, but might not be a problem that a consumer trying to charge one device on one pad might face.” In science-fiction stories, the rise of the robots is usually something to be feared — but Waters, for one, welcomes the robotic revolution.
“It’s an exciting time for robots, and they all have batteries, and they need to be charged up,” he said. “WiBotic is here to help.”
Story by Alan Boyle | GeekWire [post_title] => WiBotic raises $5.7M to boost wireless systems for charging up robots and drones [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => wiboticraises [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-06-22 09:24:04 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-06-22 16:24:04 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=18925 [menu_order] => 7 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 18906 [post_author] => 25 [post_date] => 2020-06-15 14:22:59 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-06-15 21:22:59 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_18908" align="alignright" width="657"] Brian Johnson continues his research from his home office. Photo: Amanda Johnson[/caption] The COVID-19 pandemic has affected virtually every facet of life, including scientific research carried out at companies and universities around the world. As biomedical researchers scramble to find a treatment or vaccine, other scientists and engineers try to continue their own work in the midst of a pandemic. In some cases, this means writing a paper or grant from home rather than at the office. But in many others, the disruption is more pronounced. Most academic, government, and corporate labs in the United States have scaled back operations or closed temporarily to comply with stay-at-home orders. The impacts of these changes can vary greatly from one field to the next, depending on the nature of the work. John Verboncoeur, a director of IEEE and associate dean for research and graduate studies at Michigan State University, says, “Our surveys indicate that theoretical research teams—my own included—are operating at around 80 to 90 percent efficiency, with the main challenge being the ability to explain complicated concepts without our traditional ‘waving hands about’ and interactive work at the white- or blackboard.” For experimentalists, the pandemic is more disruptive, although some experiments may be completed from home. “The early focus [for experimentalists] was on catching up on the literature, completing manuscripts, analyzing existing data, and so on, which led to a productivity of 50 percent or so,” says Verboncoeur. “However, much of that is coming to completion, and we are seeing productivity drop as the activities narrow down to designing upcoming experiments and protocols.” Engineers in many fields are looking for new ways to remain innovative and productive. Take, for example, those in the green energy sector. While some climate and energy research may continue from home, other projects are more difficult or impossible to complete remotely. Sally Benson’s lab at Stanford University is doing a mix of theory, modeling, and experiments to support the transition to a low-carbon future, including studies related to carbon capture and storage. While the theory and modeling aspects of this research are easy enough to continue, the experimental work involves analyzing rock samples at the extreme temperatures and pressures found in underground reservoirs—tests that aren’t feasible to carry out at home. Despite this limitation, Benson’s group is still finding ways to continue with some aspects of their experimental work. “The good news is that as experimentalists, we tend to collect way, way more data than we can assimilate,” she says. “We generate these immensely rich data sets, where there’s plenty more we can mine out of those data sets.” The group is now returning to its old data sets and reanalyzing the data to answer new, unexplored questions, in part by applying machine learning. By doing so, the researchers have uncovered previously unknown ways that carbon dioxide interacts with rock. Benson acknowledges, however, that this reuse of old experimental data can’t go on forever. Further up the coast, at the University of Washington, Electrical & Computer Engineering's (UW ECE) Washington Research Foundation Innovation Assistant Professor of Clean Energy, Brian Johnson, is leading two projects funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. Both are designed to facilitate a major shift from electromechanical power grids to grids based on power-electronics systems that will better support renewable energy. One project involves the design of controllers for these new power grids. The effort launched in April just as the pandemic was taking hold in the United States, but the team was able to get the research started by focusing on pen-and-paper designs and software simulations. However, the pandemic may prove more problematic for Johnson’s second endeavor. It involves the design of a new breed of high-efficiency power electronics that converts DC power from solar cells into grid-compatible AC power. “For that project, we have a heavy set of milestones coming up in the summer months to actually demonstrate the hardware,” says Johnson. “If we can’t do [tests] in the summer, we’re going to have to start coming up with some contingency plans. Since these experiments necessitate a power lab with specialized equipment, they cannot be done in our homes.” While the pandemic affects each research project to varying degrees, its overall impact on the broader shift toward green tech—and on the state of engineering research more generally—is still unclear. Benson says she’s slightly concerned that the pandemic may cause some researchers to shift their focus from climate change to medicine. “To me, the COVID-19 pandemic is sort of a multiyear challenge and a short-term nightmare,” she says. “If we’re not careful, climate change will be a decadal-scale nightmare. So this work needs all of the attention it can get.” Johnson is less concerned that the pandemic will interfere with the advancement of green tech, saying: “I think that energy is such an integral part of modern life itself and infrastructure that I don’t perceive [the COVID-19 pandemic] fundamentally altering the fact that we all need energy, and cheap energy.”
-Article by Michelle Hampson |  IEEE Spectrum, originally appeared in the June 2020 print issue as "COVID-19 Disrupts Research Plans" [post_title] => Coronavirus pandemic upends research plans [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => coronavirus-disrupts-research [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-06-15 14:24:32 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-06-15 21:24:32 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=18906 [menu_order] => 8 [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] => 19158 [post_author] => 27 [post_date] => 2020-07-02 10:37:39 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-07-02 17:37:39 [post_content] => Story by Wayne Gillam | UW ECE News [caption id="attachment_19160" align="alignright" width="325"]A man standing next to an airplane UW ECE Professor Emeritus Robert (Bob) Albrecht was known for his long-standing commitment to higher education and his love of flying. He is shown here standing next to a Beechcraft Bonanza he piloted as a member of the Lynn Air Flying Club.[/caption] On June 6, 2020, University of Washington Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering (UW ECE) Professor Emeritus Robert (Bob) Albrecht passed away at his Seattle home from complications arising from inclusion body myositis. He was 85 years old. [caption id="attachment_19178" align="alignleft" width="233"]headshot of Robert Albrecht UW ECE Professor Emeritus Robert (Bob) Albrecht[/caption] Albrecht joined the UW in 1961, as a professor of nuclear and electrical engineering. In 1984, the Nuclear Engineering Department was dissolved, and Albrecht’s focus shifted to teaching electrical engineering full-time. In 1989, he became the Associate Chair of Research and Development in the UW Department of Electrical Engineering (UW EE). During his 40-year career, Albrecht mentored many graduate students, taught classes at all levels, and consulted at nuclear plants and research facilities around the world. In his last decade teaching at the UW, he created an autonomous robotics lab to do early work on mobile robotic control, navigation and integration of artificial intelligence. He was known for being visionary, bold, frank and straightforward. “One of Bob’s mobile robots was recruited to lead a UW ECE graduation ceremony in Husky stadium back in the 1990s, and one of his robots also brought out the ball for the first pitch at a Husky baseball game,” UW ECE Professor Bruce Darling said. “I was so sorry to hear about Bob’s passing. It’s more than just losing a friend and colleague; it feels like losing an institution.” [caption id="attachment_19167" align="alignright" width="250"]An old, crumpled pilot's license A photo of Albrecht’s pilot license. Albrecht always carried it with him in his wallet, even after having to give up flying because of health reasons.[/caption] “Bob used to push for us to pursue telepresence as the next big research area for electrical engineering. Most faculty members groaned in response. But Bob was prescient,” UW ECE Professor Les Atlas recalled. “His examples of telepresence anticipated teleconferencing, which is an integral part of our lives now.” “I was always impressed (and a bit intimidated) by the breath of his knowledge and also his curiosity,” said UW Mechanical Engineering Professor Emeritus Norman McCormick. “He was a practical engineer-scientist-educator who thought both inside and outside the box, all the while injecting a little humor when possible.”

A love for engineering, and for flying

[caption id="attachment_19176" align="alignleft" width="350"]Two people standing in front of an airplane Albrecht often took graduate students and colleagues on sightseeing flights. He is shown here next to his wife, Mary, in front of the Beechcraft Bonanza he flew.[/caption] Albrecht’s long career at the UW demonstrated his passion for engineering, and he loved to fly. In fact, he fell in love with his wife while both were working at Boeing the summer before they graduated with their Bachelor of Science degrees in engineering from Purdue University in 1957. That summer, Albrecht also had the opportunity to work in flight-testing for the Boeing 367-80 jet aircraft. After earning his Master of Science and doctoral degrees in nuclear engineering from the University of Michigan in 1958 and 1961, he earned his private pilot license and flew whenever he had a chance. “One thing that Dad’s colleagues will remember about him is his love of flying,” Albrecht’s daughter Liz Behlke said. “He often would fly graduate students out to see the Hanford Site or take visiting colleagues on sightseeing trips around the Puget Sound.” Albrecht enjoyed flying Beechcraft Bonanzas as a member of the Lynn Air Flying Club for many years. He continued to carry his pilot’s license in his wallet long after his medical condition forced him to give up flying.

A lifelong support for education

[caption id="attachment_19172" align="alignleft" width="350"]Two people standing next to each other in graduation caps in front of a stadium Albrecht and his daughter, Liz Behlke, at her graduation from the UW.[/caption] Albrecht was known to have had an unflagging support for higher education and for being an optimistic, engaging storyteller with a big heart. He remained intellectually active after retiring in 2001, establishing the Wednesday Lunch Bunch (WLB), which welcomed retired UW faculty and all-comers for weekly discussions and camaraderie at the University of Washington Club. He presided over these lunches for 20 years, with a sense of humor, as the self-appointed “Grand Poobah.” He also wrote and published a book, “Introduction to the Beauty of Calculus,” at the age of 81. His friends and colleagues remember him as someone who was always intellectually sharp, well-read and never afraid to engage in a friendly debate. “Bob was a well-respected member of UW ECE, and he was well-loved by many in our community,” said UW ECE Professor and Chair Eric Klavins. [caption id="attachment_19170" align="alignright" width="350"]A Zoom screenshot showing several people in an online meeting The Wednesday Lunch Bunch (WLB), which welcomed all-comers for weekly discussions and camaraderie at the University of Washington Club. After he retired, Albrecht presided over these lunches for 20 years, as the self-appointed “Grand Poobah.”[/caption] “He had one of the most inquiring and original minds I have ever encountered, and he was a nice guy to boot — always courteous and appreciative of others,” said Charles Sleicher, Professor Emeritus and former Chair of UW Chemical Engineering. Albrecht was a person unafraid of new, big ideas. His hopeful vision of the future encompassed forward-thinking technologies and his legacy continues today in the lives of those he touched, both nearby and far away. “I was personally inspired by Bob and challenged to make new things happen in the future,” Atlas said. “As I think about it, that’s likely why I pursued certain research projects, which over time ended up as what are now my most-cited papers.” [caption id="attachment_19174" align="alignleft" width="350"]Three men squatting around a mobile robot Albrecht (center) with two students, next to “Miss Marple,” a mobile robot designed and engineered in 1992.[/caption] “He introduced me to the idea of mobile robotics in the courses I took from him in the early 1990s,” said Jesus Savage, one of Albrecht’s former graduate students. “This gave me a foundation for the work I currently do as a robotics professor at the School of Engineering of the National Autonomous University of Mexico. I’m very grateful for this knowledge.” Albrecht is survived by his wife, Mary; his son, Robert Albrecht Jr., with daughters Renee and Amelia; and his daughter, Liz Behlke with her daughter Aurora. The Albrecht family will hold a memorial service at a later date. Sympathy cards, gifts and well-wishes to the family can be sent care of Bruce Darling. [post_title] => A professor’s long career and vision for the future leaves an ongoing legacy [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => albrecht [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-07-02 10:58:33 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-07-02 17:58:33 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=19158 [menu_order] => 1 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [comment_count] => 0 [current_comment] => -1 [found_posts] => 718 [max_num_pages] => 120 [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 ) ) )
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