Students for a Smarter Planet ..leaders with conscience
Archive for January, 2013
January 29th, 2013

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Here are updates from the IEEE-UIUC Student Branch’s new competition, “Make It Happen!”

First, let’s start off with an important question for those of you that don’t know: “What is Make It Happen?”

Make it Happen is a team-oriented project competition from IEEE at UIUC. Teams compete to build a project of their choice with IEEE and corporate funding, and then they present their project at EOH 2013 to a panel of judges from many separate fields. The competition began with teams pitching ideas to our IEEE branch, where the board of “Make It Happen!” sifted through the projects and picked out five projects to see compete. Since the selection concluded in October, these teams have been working and should be nearing a completed project.

The first checkpoint for Make it Happen came in late November, and teams had to show that they had made significant design progress since being selected. These meetings helped to nail down what we can do for the teams and what we expect of the teams.

The five teams we have chosen for Make it Happen come from diverse backgrounds and project ideas.

Dress Me Up is an automated closet with an integrated outfit picker. The closet keeps track of previous clothes choices, accounts for the day’s weather forecast, and keeps track of laundry related chores. This project is heavy in coding and physical construction; the team is studying learning algorithms, programming the system, and building a scale model for demonstration.

Low Cost Intelligent Robot aims to make home security much more economical and practical. The team has studied many sensing algorithms for visual, audio, and wireless methods. A mobile smartphone application will also be developed so that people may monitor their household while away from home.

Motion Guided Navigation is a project to help visually impaired people navigate their surroundings without the use of a cane. The project comprises a belt to be worn around the waist or chest with a set of distance sensors angled towards the ground in front of the wearer. The sensors are connected to a motor on the inside of the belt, and will alert the user whenever they come close to a dropoff in front of them or an object in the way.

Robotic Eating Assistant is building a robot to help disabled people eat, as motivated by someone they know with ALS. The robot has an arm has several possible configurations. One possible use is gripper tool on the end, for grasping cups, plates, or other required objects. Another possible utility is a utensil tool, outfitted with a fork, spoon, or knife depending on what the person needed for eating at that moment. The most challenging part of the project comes from the control method; the team is working with a kit to try and make the entire assembly controllable with just brain waves, no physical motion required.

Smart Folder solves the issue of disorganized notes. The project is very much a software project with only a physical interface, integrating several different APIs to scan, interpret, sort, and save notes. Included with the project is a scanner for reading in the notes. After reading the notes, the software scans for words to help categorize it and saves the file with the corresponding tags and parses the information for you. Smart Folder also saves the original documents by storing them in an included compartment, where they can be easily accessed later.

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January 28th, 2013

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wendy.murphy in

from MIT, Harvard, US Berkeley and more!

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analytics for the real world

Win a Honda Insight by writing an app! Wow.

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FLASH BACK: Remember when cell phones became popular in the 1990s?

Now that I have made you feel old, these so-called mobile devices (bricks) refused to fit into pockets, did not have color screens, and must have weighed three pounds! No judgment.

Now let us reflect on how far we have come.  A new category of cellular devices emerged. Smart phones: our pride and joy.  Without them, our world ceases to exist.  Collectively, we email, search the Web, play games, pay bills, socialize, organize our lives - the list is endless.

In this fast-paced, smart phone era, UC Merced students are creating, programming,and monetizing the next great apps for smart phone users.

This year, 15 teams from freshmen to Ph.D. students are competing in the second annual UC Merced Mobile App Challenge. Teams are tackling real-life problems, such as a hassle-free way of dividing bills between housemates, a game assisting individuals with learning disabilities and a concept that will revolutionize the physical shopping experience.  As the 2013 spring semester begins, teams will meet with top industry mentors for advice and guidance in development and marketing strategies. And as the semester comes to a close, each team will pitch their app to UC Merced students, faculty and staff as well as potential investors in the hopes of claiming the UC Merced Mobile App Challenge bragging rights, scholarships and other prizes.

Stay tuned! In the next couple of weeks, we will be announcing the app challenge teams and their advancing ideas that will soon flourish into reality.


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January 24th, 2013

1. Tell a story, make it authentic and real.

2. Make it straightforward, relevant, and localized (pertinent to the situation).

3. Provide useful information.

4. Entertain.

5. Keep it short.  Assume your audience has a 10 second attention span.  Keep to your point.


1. Ensure good lighting.

2. If not using an external microphone, using built in microphone – stay close!

3. Keep music as background, not everyone has the same tastes.

4. Whenever possible, avoid camera shake – use a tripod or something to prop up the camera.

5. Edit out all the “um’s, ahh’s” hesitations and pauses.

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