ECE Research Review Day Highlights Innovation, Entrepreneurship

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Photo by Satinder Pal Singh.

The University of Maryland's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) drew representatives from corporate, government, academic, and non-profit organizations to campus on Friday, October 9, 2009, to attend ECE Research Review Day, a special research showcase event highlighting the latest technology innovations developed by researchers at the Clark School of Engineering.

The theme of the event, held in the Jeong H. Kim Engineering Building, was: “The Spirit of Innovation: Responding to the Technology Needs of the State, the Nation, and the Global Community.” Nearly 120 posters were on display, showcasing research advancements in key areas impacting the global community: Communications and Networks; Energy and Sustainability; Robotics and Automation; Biomedical Technology; Security; and Advanced Information Systems.

The morning began with a welcome from ECE Chairman Dr. Patrick O'Shea, followed by Keynote Speaker Dr. Steve Fetter of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, who spoke on the subject of "Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy: A View from the White House." After Dr. Fetter's talk, five professors delivered presentations on featured research:

• Prof. Pamela Abshire: "Nose-on-a-Chip"

• Prof. Rajeev Barua: "Bending Binary Programs to Your Will"

• Prof. Thomas Murphy: "New Techniques for Transmitting Microwave Signals Over Optical Fiber"

• Prof. Min Wu: "Invisible Traces in Pixels and Bits"

• Prof. Nuno Martins: "Why Robots Should Chat"

The day continued with poster sessions, followed by an afternoon Professor Venture Fair, showcasing technology with the most promising commercial potential. Outside on the Kim Plaza, ground and underwater robotics demonstrations and new guitars designed by professors and students in the ECE Department were on display. The ECE Research Review Day event was sponsored by ECE Corporate Affiliates Aerospace Corporation and Texas Instruments.

At a ceremony in the afternoon, Prof. John Baras was presented with the inaugural Jimmy Lin Award for Innovation and Invention. Established by ECE Professor Emeritus Hung C. "Jimmy" Lin who passed away last March, the award was created to promote innovation among ECE faculty, staff, and students by stimulating, encouraging and rewarding the invention and patenting process. Prof. Lin's wife, Mrs. Anchen Lin, attended the ceremony and presented the award to Prof. Baras.

A new technology that measures the radiation absorbed into the human body from cell phones faster and for far less money than current methods was awarded first prize at the Professor Venture Fair. Prof. Christopher Davis pitched the technology he developed to a judging panel comprised of venture capitalists and leaders in the region’s entrepreneurial community. He was selected among six faculty members and graduate students who also presented their inventions.

“I was very surprised and delighted to win, because our technology is a little different, it is nearer to the ground than the other inventions presented,” said Davis. “Cell phone certification is vital to the manufacturers of wireless devices. Improved testing equipment is needed that is accurate and fast. Current testing capabilities are expensive and slow and potentially subject to error.”

Davis’s invention uses 12 laser beams to measure the full specific absorption rate (also known as SAR, a measurement used by the cell phone industry) of a cell phone’s radiation into the human body in less than a minute. The cost of his system, Davis says, could be as little as $20,000, down from the $300,000 price tag of current equipment.

Other faculty members and graduate students presenting at the fair, all from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, include:

• Prof. John Baras: "Method and Implementation for Wireless Authentication"

• Graduate student Mahesh Ramachandran, whose advisor is Prof. Rama Chellappa: "Augmented Reality and Navigation for Blind People"

• Prof. Mario Dagenais: High "Conversion Efficiency InGaN/GaN Solar Cells"

• Prof. Ramani Duraiswami and graduate student Adam O’Donovan: "Audio Camera for Efficient Sound Localization"

• Prof. Carol Espy-Wilson: "Tidy Talk, Speech Purifier for Noisy Environments"

Professor Carol Espy-Wilson’s invention, called Tidy Talk, took second place, with just one less vote than Davis’s. Tidy Talk filters noise out of a sound sample to make any speaker’s speech sound clear. Tidy Talk can even pull out the speech of secondary speakers, or those that are not as loud as the primary speaker. Espy-Wilson’s technology could also filter out sounds such as wind or truck noise when talking on a cell phone.

Sponsors of the Professor Venture Fair included the university’s Office of Technology Commercialization and the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech). Presenters were judged based upon clarity of pitch, commercial viability, and licensing potential. Judges for the venture fair included: Henry Ahn, program manager, technology funding programs, Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO); Frank Dickson, principal, Maryland Venture Fund; Asher Epstein, managing director, Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship; and Kiran Hebbar, partner, Valhalla Partners.

For more information about ECE Research Review Day, including a list of all poster titles and abstracts, visit:

To see photos from the event, visit:

Published October 13, 2009