Seniors Design App for Microsoft’s New HaloLens

By Alex Maurer

Every semester at UMKC’s School of Computing and Engineering (SCE), students apply their skills and knowledge to their hands-on Capstone Senior Design Project.  For computer science seniors Eric Lytle, Zach Wolf, Jarren Back, Cameron Knight, Eric Wilson, and Alex Mammele, this capstone project afforded them the opportunity to work with the innovative technology of the HoloLens.  Teaming up with the School of Computing and Engineering’s Recruitment staff, these seniors designed an app that can be used in high school and middle school classrooms throughout the Kansas City area to showcase the exciting and cutting-edge work of SCE students.

Through the use of the programming language Unity, a language that will be introduced into computer science classes in SCE this spring, they developed an app that provides a mixed reality for users that combines augmented and virtual realities.  With this app, users can spatially map the environment they are standing in and incorporate holograms that interact with their actual environment.  In this case, UMKC’s mascot, Kasey the Kangaroo, will chase after objects that the user can “throw” into their environment.  This gives the user a fun interactive experience with the environment they live in (augmented reality) and the objects created within the app (virtual reality).

Due to the recent release of the HoloLens, these students were presented with the unique challenge of not only programming the app, but researching and discovering how to create successful programming and code through a trial-and-error process.  While this process proved tedious, Eric Lytle noted that the “exploratory programming” of this app was one of their favorite experiences with this project as it allowed them to develop new skills and knowledge, and be at the forefront of technology.  Not only did this exploratory programming provide a unique experience for this group of students, it also stands to create new opportunities for future SCE students who seek to further develop the app and create new uses for the HoloLens.

Learn more about the HaloLens at: https://www.microsoft.com/microsoft-hololens/en-us

View the HaloLens in action at SCE: https://www.facebook.com/pg/UMKCSCE/videos/?ref=page_internal

Q+A With Alum: Cody Hill

Cody Hill
Manager, Energy Storage Systems, LS Power
BSECE, Class of 2010
Current City: Mountain View, CA (San Francisco Bay Area)
Hometown: San Francisco, CA and Kansas City, MO
Follow me on twitter: @Cody_A_Hill

What activities were you involved in at UMKC?

I was a recording engineer for Bob Beck at the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance for five years which was an awesome gig! I also did audio work for the Marr Sound Archives with Chuck Haddix and KCUR’s New Letters on the Air radio program with Angela Elam.  The Communications Studies department let me teach a few workshops on audio editing, too.

I was active in IEEE, worked alongside Dr. Deep Medhi on a National Science Foundation funded research grant, and volunteered with Debbie Dilks (CSEE’s second mother to all) teaching science to children.

What drew you to Electrical Engineering (EE)?

I got into EE from being a musician (note: a poor one). My interest lead me to recording studios and concerts, where I began working as an audio engineer after high school.  When I first enrolled at UMKC, I was focused on media production in the Communications Studies department, but the more work I did with microphones and audio editing equipment, the more I wanted to master the technical side – pure EE and signal processing. You have to follow your passion if you are lucky enough to find it!

Did you take any technical classes in High School?

Quite the opposite, I was more of an art student.  Looking back, I wish I had done both.

How did you decide what area you wanted to work in?

As I got further into my EE studies I became really passionate about renewable energy and decided to make a shift from media to power.  Professor Mike Kelley was an extremely influential person at this time in my life.  He was so excited about power and energy and it really rubbed off on me.  After my undergraduate degree was complete, I went to the University of Texas at Austin to pursue a PhD with Professor Mack Grady. While there, I started working for an energy storage startup and that experience was transformative.  Energy Storage is a key in enabling technology for the future of our energy systems in a high-tech/low-carbon world.  And everybody everywhere needs cheap clean energy. I got my Masters Degree and put the PhD program on hold to work in the field full time. Today, I’m part of a private equity group that builds power plants and energy infrastructure in the U.S. with really outstanding management and coworkers.

How do you keep up with the rapidly changing field of technology?

I read obsessively, often for multiple hours a day. My RSS feed for general and industry news is something that I have been tweaking for years and I probably scan 100-200 article titles every day. With unlimited information at our fingertips, it seems like the key is setting up the right system of filters so that you find the good stuff fast, but are still challenged by people with different perspectives from your own.