ECE Summer Undergraduate Research in Engineering: SURE 2014

Following are some of the projects created by students who participated in the 2014 SURE program. (A list of all the projects offered)

Additional past completed projects (2013, 2012, 201120102009)

Developing a Space Experiment to Investigate the Use of Miniature Electrodynamic Tethers to Enhance Capabilities of Ultra-small Spacecraft

Student: Brenton Pniewski
Faculty Mentor: Brian Gilchrist

Project Description:The growing success of nanospacecraft (1–10 kg) over the past decade has generated interest in exploring the potential for even smaller spacecraft, both as stand-alone satellites or as a distributed swarm.  Because of advances in integrated circuit and microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) technology, the feasibility of miniaturized spacecraft at the levels of fully monolithic semiconductor integrated circuits (10–100 mg) or hybrid integrated circuits (10–100?g) is being seriously investigated.  To provide a sense of scale, the new "ultra-small" spacecraft concept is lighter than many modern cellular phones. 

We are investigating an approach for ultra-small spacecraft propulsion that appears to scale to the small size needed, is propellantless, and could enable substantially improved communications.  The approach uses a short, semi-rigid electrodynamic tether (EDT) for propulsion, which keeps the overall ChipSat mass low and provides enough thrust to overcome drag in low Earth orbit (LEO).  The EDT uses the Lorentz force, utilizing a current in a conducting tether in the presence of the Earth's magnetic field to produce a force. 

SURE students involved in this project will have an opportunity to build and test the EDT and other satellite subsystems. Students working on this project will also be able to conduct laboratory experiments that will tell us more about how the satellite operates in LEO.

Efficiency Optimization of Organic Photovoltaic Cells

Student: Jiong Xue
Faculty Mentor: Stephen Forrest

Project Description:This laboratory conducts research on thin molecular films for use in solar energy harvesting for electricity generation. The student will fabricate and test solar cells with the goal of maximizing their efficiency. Cells have been demonstrated in this laboratory with excellent efficiencies, but improved processing should allow for improved conventional and bulk heterojunction cells. For more information on the work conducted in the Optoelectronic Components and Materials Group led by Professor Stephen Forrest, see

An intelligent vision system based on artificial neural network

Student: Yue Cao
Faculty Mentor: Zhengya Zhang

Project Description:Modern computers are efficient at low level number crunching, but slow in intelligent tasks, such as recognizing objects in videos, that can easily be done by the human brain. Recent breakthroughs in computational biology showed that vision processing can be carried out by an artificial neural network inspired by the human brain. In this research, you will investigate neural network algorithms, and design a small scale neural network on a hardware platform as a proof of concept. The neural network prototype will be capable of learning a dictionary of objects through training, and recognizing objects by neuron firings. The bio-inspired neural network is expected to demonstrate key advantages in both power and performance in vision processing.

Ultra-low Power Circuit Design for Millimeter Sized Sensor Nodes

Student: Paul Myers
Faculty Mentor: David Blaauw

Project Description:We are developing sensor nodes that have a size of 1 millimeter or less.  The sensor nodes contain a small microprocessor, a transducer, such as pressure sensor or imager, a power source such as a battery and radio circuits. Reducing a sensor processor node to this minute size allows the sensor node to be used in a host of new and interesting applications, including implanted biomedical applications and monitoring of the environment.  The work will depend on the background of the candidate and can include testing and diagnosis of fabricated chips, help with circuit design for processor, power management, and sensors, or software development for sensor applications.

CMOS Temperature Stability for Heterointegration

Student: Yunkai Zhao
Faculty Mentor: Becky Peterson

Project Description:Classification is a fundamental task in Machine Learning. Nonlinear classifiers are necessary for complex pattern recognition tasks, but state-of-the-art classification algorithms require O(n^2) complexity (space and/or time) where n is the training sample size. This project will examine linear complexity algorithms grounded in theoretical approximations, and connected to the well-known k-center problem in computer science. Duties will include researching and programming of efficient implementations of algorithms, evaluating performance on various pattern recognition tasks, and designing new algorithms as needed. Keywords: kernel methods, sparse approximation, k-center problem, distributed computation, online learning

Embedded Software for Wireless-Controller Modular Robots


Student: Haowei Cai
Faculty Mentor: Shai Revzen

Project Description:This projects aims to develop circuits and component models to assist in the design of switching power converters switching at VHF frequencies (30MHz to 300MHz). This is between two and three orders of magnitude higher than conventional power electronics design. Among the advantages of designing converters at these frequencies is the reductions in size, the increase in control bandwidth, and the possibility to operate in harsh environments.  At these frequencies of operation, the components of the power supply can potentially be directly printed on a passive substrate,  improving manufacturability and reliability of high performance power converters.

Testing of 64x64 Correlator ASIC for Geostationary Synthetic ThinnedAperture Radiometer


Student: Justin Correll
Faculty Mentor: Michael Flynn

Project Description:Assist in designing, fabricating, and testing new microwave antennas for wireless communications. This will involve using a CAD program to design and then simulate the antenna's operation. Next, the student will assist in fabrication of the antenna. Finally, the antenna will be tested in the radlab's anechoic chamber to determine the antenna pattern as well as its frequency response.

Discrete Event Systems


Student: Jason Del Rosario
Faculty Mentor: Stephane Lafortune

Project Description:An important class of dynamical systems encountered in today's technological systems is the class with discrete state spaces and event-driven dynamics, known as "discrete event systems" (DES). DES arise in the study of software systems, transportation systems, networked systems, and so forth. Three application areas of DES currently being investigated in the research group of Prof. Lafortune are: (i) control of concurrent software for deadlock avoidance; (ii) control of traffic intersections for collision avoidance; and (iii) enforcement of security properties in computer systems. See for project-specific details.

Readout Circuit for Resonant Sensors


Student: Alex Liao
Faculty Mentor: Mina Rais-Zadeh

Project Description:We are developing uncooled infrared sensors/detectors using micromechanical resonators. To increase the sensitivity of these IR detectors, the resonators need to be coated with a thin layer of a nearly perfect IR absorber. The work will include COMSOL simulation and fabrication of the absorber layer. The student will work closely with a graduate student mentor and will learn all aspects of the design and fabrication during the course of the project.

Improving Communications between Autonmous Systems and Humans


Student: Mihir Sheth
Faculty Mentor: Necmiye Ozay

Project Description:This research project will evaluate wireless systems, help develop demonstrations of the wireless transceivers and help develop new transceiver circuits.. Michael Flynn?s research group has developed integrated wireless transceivers with record energy efficiency. These devices work with WiFi, Zigbee and other standards. Wireless systems with integrated sensors and processing are also being developed.  As an example, a wireless sensor measures magnetic field strength and transmits the measured data to a base station. This SURE project will involve the design of new boards, and the writing test software as well as software to control instruments. Some integrated circuit design will also be included in the project.