Research Opportunity for Undergraduates in Autonomous Vehicles

by Andrea Gray

This past summer I was privileged to work as an undergraduate on a National Science Foundation funded research project at Wright State University. This research program was focused on autonomous vehicles and split up the 11 participants into 4 separate teams working on specific research and development projects under the general topic of autonomous vehicles.

I was on a team with another undergraduate student studying Electrical Engineering working on developing a forward collision detection and avoidance system in autonomous ground vehicles using LiDAR and IBM’s 90nm CMOS technology. As a Software Engineering student, the focus of circuit creation and design was not something I was familiar with, but luckily, I had a wonderful teammate and supervisor, along with the experiences I have had at Embry-Riddle, I was able to learn and be successful in my work.

LiDAR is growing in popularity with autonomous ground vehicles due to their ability to function in adverse weather conditions (comparative to a camera) and their recent decrease in cost. The 90nm CMOS, Complimentary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor, is being used along with the LiDAR because it is a low-power and low-space solution that can also produce the necessary performance needed to make rapid decisions for the system. This LiDAR system, being low-energy and high-performance, is a development that is highly valued in the autonomous ground vehicle field. While there are many teams performing research and development for systems such as this one, there is no system that has been adopted by commercial or professional companies as there is still a lot to be perfected in the systems and costs can still be too high. This is where our research shows its value, since LiDAR is rapidly dropping in price and our system is based on dependability, our final design and report should be very useful for others in the field after presented at a technical conference at the end of this year.

For the development of this system, we first designed the basic circuitry logic in MATLAB. This process was where I was able to take the lead from my previous MATLAB and Simulink experience and develop a basic functional forward collision detection and prevention system. From there, we exported the circuit into a software platform called Cadence. Cadence allows for circuit development that meets the specific specifications and functionalities of particular technologies per their manufacturer’s specifications. My teammate, being familiar with Cadence, took over the circuitry design while I did more research on issues that would need to be mitigated with LiDAR systems such as the detection of the return LiDAR pulse off of obstacles with poor reflectivity rates (i.e. matte black bar bumpers). My teammate navigated the complex Cadence design process, with my research inputs, and we were able to successfully create our final circuitry system for a forward collision detection and prevention system for an autonomous ground vehicle.

By the end of the 3 months, I had gained a large understanding of autonomous ground vehicles, their history, and their future. I produced a background report, multiple progress reports on the technology we designed with their setbacks and future plans, and I am currently working on the final report of the project, along with my teammate, which is planned to be published into a conference by the end of the year. Along with knowledge gained on the topic, I learned an immense amount about perfecting my time management skills, my teamwork abilities, and, a vital skill for engineers, the ability to create a professional technical report that is well-organized and well-written all while being completed under a strict time constraint. I am very grateful for not only this experience, but also for the knowledge gained during it and the knowledge I was able to utilize from my academic career at Embry-Riddle.

Luke Baird’s REU at Wichita State University

This past summer, I attended an REU at Wichita State University in Kansas. I originally heard about the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program in an email from Dr. Ed Post, advertising the REU in Cyber-physical systems, along with several other REUs. REUs are summer research internship programs at different universities throughout the country funded by the National Science Foundation in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics. With the support of several professors in the Electrical Engineering department at Embry-Riddle, I was readily accepted into the program.

A view of the dorm Shocker Hall at WSU.

Before, I had zero experience whatsoever with research, however, the program provided a smooth introduction to it. My work schedule was super laid-back. Once a week, I would meet with the program coordinator for different workshops discussing topics such as how to apply to graduate school, what is expected in research, and how to present research findings effectively. Also, I met weekly with my faculty mentor regarding the specific research in which I was involved. As a result, I needed to employ a lot of self-discipline. Thankfully, I formed good study habits at Embry-Riddle that I applied at the REU.

When I was in high school, I had a job with a marketing company developing mobile apps. Based on this work experience, the program coordinator paired me with a project in the field of Android cybersecurity. It was my task to research and develop a set of tools to determine if a given app on the Android platform is hiding in different lists on a device.

At a poster session featuring my work with Android.

One of my favorite things about Kansas is that the people there are remarkably hospitable. Within days, I had the opportunity to make friends both with other REU interns and with several local residents through a college group and a local church. This was a huge blessing as I did not have a car in Kansas.

Towards the end of the REU, I had the opportunity to visit Hutchinson, KS where NASA’s Cosmosphere is located. Their lobby is built around a SR-71 Blackbird banked 30 degrees for its turn to final.

Beside an SR-71 Blackbird at the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, KS

One of the coolest things that I got to see there was the original Apollo 13 space capsule, reassembled after different parts toured the world for many years. It was particularly interesting to see the history of rockets from World War II through the space race. As an American, I was quite unfamiliar with the German and Russian history which was covered extensively and honestly in the museum.

Currently, I am finishing up the paper that was mostly completed during the REU. It is wonderful to be able to show a completed paper at the end of a program, especially as an undergraduate. I went from not knowing a thing about research to having a finished paper. My mentor and I are submitting the paper to a conference which I will hear from by the end of the month.

To any students who are interested in research—I would highly recommend an REU, especially for Sophomores as REUs accept Sophomores far more readily than industry internships do. There was even an intern who had only completed his freshmen year who was accepted! I am thankful for Embry-Riddle making this wonderful opportunity possible for me this summer!

The Missouri River in Kansas City, MO

Chloeleen’s Internship at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

The sign right at the entrance to JPL.

During the summer of 2018, I had the privilege to work as an intern at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). It has been a lifelong dream of mine to work at JPL and I got to live it as a part of the Integration and Test team on the Mars Helicopter Project (which will be headed to space on the Mars 2020 mission).

This is a model of the helicopter that was brought out for a presentation at JPL about the project.

You may think “Wow, she must have done a lot to get an internship at JPL!”. However, my resume was as built as any inexperienced college student. One thing to keep in mind is don’t dismiss activities or projects done in high school; an engineering project I did in high school is what caught my JPL mentors’ attention when they decided to contact me for a phone interview.

One my first day, I was extremely overwhelmed because the project was well underway, and I needed to catch up. My mentors were very understanding and welcomed any questions I had throughout my internship. I was tasked with assisting with testing as well as writing procedures for future tests.

Outside the lab where they did the shock testing that I participated in.

Aside from work, JPL held several activities for interns the entire summer, like speaker events, short movie series, and facility tours. My most exciting experiences as an intern were: (1) participating in the NASA Summer Intern Challenge, (2) being interviewed for an article highlighting some projects at JPL, (3) participating and watching any Mars Helicopter test activities.

This picture was taken early on in my internship. This was my original carpool group.

One thing I learned from my experiences at Embry-Riddle is to be patient because hard work and a little luck will pay off. I’ve had some hard semesters where I thought I wouldn’t make it through a class, but I studied hard and got the grade I needed on the finals. The curriculum that was most helpful to me during my internship at JPL was Technical Report Writing. While different JPL projects have their own formatting requirements, I used what I learned to section the procedures I was writing, make sure that the steps were detailed, and ensured that there was enough information for each step with images, callouts, and tables.

This picture is the mission control for space flight operations. It is where NASA’s Deep Space Network is operated. It was named after the former director of JPL, Charles Elachi. The room
right next to this one is the room that JPL broadcasts from for mission landings, like the
Insight Landing that happened in November.

Orcad and Pspice Simulations

As a student studying Electrical Engineering you will use many different tools to assist you in the learning and application process. So today I will go into one of the AWESOME software tools I use on a daily basis.

One thing that just about all of my professors have told me about using a computer aided design (CAD) is that if you don’t master the software, the software masters you. This may not make sense yet but it will by the time you finish reading this blog.

Although the above picture is not a schematic I have drawn, the Program, ORCAD, allows you to draw a schematic like the one you see above. This is what the interface looks like on your screen.

You need ORCAD to run a simulation with values you set and then will receive data much faster then actually setting up a circuit with discrete components. So before I enter the Electronic Devices lab every Thursday I draw a schematic similar to the one above. I set all the values of Resistors, Capacitors and Sources to receive the data I want. With this data, I have a reference point for the values I should receive when I design the Circuit with discrete components like the one below.

The software is a great tool to master and utilize! I highly suggest buying a text on the software and reading it as you learn to master it. It can be tricky! If you really want a jump start you can check out the link below, if you are a student you may download the free lite version of ORCAD with pspice simulations.

http://www.orcad.com/

Again this ORCAD is just one of many great tools you will learn to use at Embry-Riddle. Thanks for reading.

Overview of Electrical Engineering classes

Are you interested in studying Electrical Engineering or Computer Engineering? Well as a junior I am just starting to take all the core engineering classes at Embry-Riddle, Prescott. So if you decide to read further into this blog which I highly encourage, I will be covering what it’s like taking the first of many core Electrical Engineering classes.

Currently I am taking: Signal Processing, Electronic Device Design, Computer Science (C Programming) and Engineering Math. So why do these classes even mater? Engineering math is Essential the last math tools you need to to take the upper class Electrical Engineering courses. so far we have covered Fourier Series, which I have provided a link to information about if you click Here

.     As far as Signals goes, this class has struck my interest the most. I have so far learned about sampling, which is a necessary process for converting continuous (real time) time signals to digital signals. Learning about this and the process of amplitude/frequency modulation is pretty fun considering there are so many applications.

Too quickly sum up Electronic Device Design, the name says it all. Basic Op Amp applications in designing an amplifier. Applications and design of Transistors and more to come.

While taking these classes are demanding, don’t fear, by the time you come to your junior year you will be well prepared for the task at hand. The best way to keep up with everything is staying motivated, and enjoying what you learn. If you don’t enjoy it then you may consider studying another topic or learning in a way that is enjoyable to you. If you have any further questions that I can answer please feel free to comment or email me and thanks for reading.

Junior Year Studying Electrical Engineer at ERAU

As you may already know I am currently a Junior at Embry-Riddle, Prescott campus studying Electrical Engineering. Today I will go into the awesome classes I am currently taking to give you an idea of what to look forward to in studying this field of engineering.

First off as Electrical engineers there are many different areas of expertise to get into, which means that as an undergraduate you will get a little taste of everything. so whether you like power or not doesn’t quite matter yet because you will take a power class anyway. This serves to our benefit though as it allows you to better understand what you would personally enjoy as a career.

So as far as I have come today I am currently taking; Signal Processing plus the lab, Electronic Devices plus the lab, Math for engineers with physics, and Computer Science 1 (a.k.a. C programming). Although we have just started the semester I personally enjoy the Electronic Devices class the most, so that is what I will go a little in to depth with next.

In Electronic Devices we will be getting into electronic circuits, such as an Integrated circuit compared to Discrete components. We will also get into Amplifier frequency response, Diodes, Transistors, and Feedback systems, although there is so much more I can talk about this is just a brief description. (Note: if you click on the link to electronic devices, it will take you to Wikipedia, yes I know you may be skeptical about Wiki. but it has a diverse amount of knowledge about the subject so feel free to take a look).

The reason I believe I enjoy this class in particular is because it is taught in a top down design, meaning you see the big picture of each little component first so you can really see how everything comes together.

The New Semester

Good afternoon everyone, I hope you all have enjoyed you’re summer as much as I did. Today I will discuss with you some tips that I have come to learn about getting ready for the new semester after a long summer break. After a few years of experience I have decided to share some personal tricks for relieving stress and getting psyched for the new year.

To start off, we all know the routine shopping spree for school supplies and clothes. That is clearly a must, one thing I like to do when shopping for school supplies is get a few extra of everything; binders, pens, pencils, exct. Just to be sure your ready all year. Don’t forget to get in there before all the high schools begin their shopping, usually they do begin school prior to colleges.

I personally like to get everything ready a couple weeks in advanced when I have free time and I feel motivated. This way I have plenty of time to get anything I forget and I am not feeling rushed before school.

Now the best way to relieve the stress of not know how tough the year is going to be is to be sure you aren’t rushed with anything the first month school starts. So for instance if you work like me, take a fee weeks off so you can relax and know what you are getting in to. Just remind yourself of all the tough classes you have already been through and realize those classes have prepared you for this semester and the classes you are about to take.

Lastly it couldn’t hurt to read a few pages of the textbooks for your classes. All it takes for me is a chapter in each and I feel comfortable enough to relax.

Please feel free to contact me in the comments, I understand my profile says I am a freshmen but this year will begin my junior year. Thank you for reading.

(BS) Bachelor of Science in Electrical, Computer and Software Engineering

If you have any kind of curiosity you might be thinking, well does Embry-Riddle offer anything else besides Flight and Aerospace Engineering? Of course we do, At both Campuses there is a variety of things you can study. From Aerospace engineering to Software engineering to Homeland Security.

Furthermore for more knowledge on the degree programs at ERAU visit: http://prescott.erau.edu/degrees/bachelor/index.html

But I am more Interested In discussing some of the newer degree programs like Electrical Engineering, Software Engineering, and Computer Engineering. these degree programs are in DEMAND! Its rare these days to find someone with one of these degrees and companies are looking for them. An Average calculated salary of an Electrical engineer is just under $90,000. But of course any Engineering degree will be great to have.

So what exactly do these degree have to offer? Well BSEE is an exploding field and has many jobs to offer, from Programing, research engineer, systems Engineer (Avionics), Test Engineer to Design Engineer. And if you are looking at getting into the military, and need scholarships or want a competitive degree? well this is it.

If you Choose to take up one of these technical degrees you will learn about circuits, circuit design/components, Systems, Controls and Programming. These are the basics of these degree programs, you will have the chance to understand what is happening inside your Playstation 4 or your XBox and your computer. The core of technology today is based off of what we know in these fields. If you think about it your everything from your phone to Facebook and your TV has required the knowledge of someone in these fields. Its quit amazing as I am studying Electrical Engineering at ERAU Prescott, I cant wit to get to my senior Design Project.

Almost every company that is looking for engineers is in need of Electrical Engineers, Software Engineers and Computer Engineers. These types of technical Degrees offer many challenges and types of classes. although each University may require you to take a few different classes or offer different technical electives, the overall objective is the same. For instance at Embry-Riddle you might pick up a minor in Unnamed aerial vehicle systems, which other colleges wont. Why does ERAU offer it and not others? well ERAU is aimed at Aviation and Engineering its as simple as that.

So  encourage all readers to take a look at Electrical Engineering, Computer Engineering and Software Engineering Degree Programs.

Thanks for Reading.