SCE Fluids Lab: Spillway Model

In the SCE Fluids Lab, Dr. Jerry Richardson and graduate student Jonathan Daldalian have contracted with Water Resources Solutions to assist in the building of the Woodson County Fishing Lake spillway model. In 2016 severe rainfall failed the spillway of this reservoir. This is similar (but smaller) to what happened with the Oroville Dam in California last spring. Dr. Richardson and Jonathan were able to model the spillway failure and propose and test a redesigned spillway using a physical model combined with advanced 3-dimensional CFD modeling. Their redesigned model is scheduled to be implemented by April before the next flood season.

 

Closer to a Cure: Rajaram Anantharaman

Rajaram Anantharaman is a Ph.D. student who was recruited through the Provost’s Strategic Funding Initiative to conduct research in the area of Big Data and Analytics. The selection process is very rigorous, and only the best applicants are considered. Raj started working with convolution neural networks and their application to oral diseases this spring. He envisions a future where detecting oral cancer may, “be as routine as drawing blood to detect other diseases.”

What do you hope to accomplish with your research?
The incidence of oral cancer worldwide is around 500,000 new cases every year, accounting for approximately 3% of all malignancies, thus creating a significant worldwide health problem (Johnson, 2011). Oral cancer has a tendency to be detected at a late stage which is detrimental to the patients because of its high mortality and morbidity rates. Early detection of oral cancer is therefore important to reduce the burden of this devastating disease (Messadi, 2013). My research deals with using computer vision and big data to detect oral precancerous conditions in its earliest stages. The hope is that my research will culminate in a solution that health workers can use to detect oral disease, get verified answers from the accompanying oral health knowledge base, and get patients referred to a dentist or oral surgeon for further diagnosis.
What got you interested in this topic?
I took a preliminary class in computer vision from Dr. Lee and it piqued my interest. We studied how we can train a convolution neural network to identify and classify images. Having worked at Cerner and other places in healthcare IT for over a decade, my natural inclination was to find relevant applications of this emerging technology to combat a health problem. Cancer is a terrible disease and there are millions of doctors, researchers, and other health workers already trying diligently to find a cure. My grandmother died of this terrible disease. While a great deal of biomedical research is happening in oral cancer, there is an opportunity to use computer vision, big data, and other computer technologies to help advance the cause.

 

Why did you choose UMKC?
My research requires help from different disciplines including computer science, medical informatics, and oral sciences. UMKC has all of the necessary resources for researchers like me who are trying to bring together different disciplines. UMKC’s programs are intrinsically designed to make this kind of collaboration happen.

 

What faculty are you working with?
I am primarily working with Dr. Yugyung Lee in the department of Computer Science. Apart from Dr. Lee, I am being advised by several other faculty members including Dr. Melanie Simmer-Beck from the department of Dental Public Health, Dr. Arif Ahmed from the department of Public Affairs and Dr. Mary Gerkovich from the department of Biomedical Informatics.

 

What do you hope to discover? 
I hope to discover if it is really possible for an A.I. trained computer vision program to detect and classify oral diseases with any degree of confidence. We share a vision with IBM research (IBM Blog Research, 2016) who is doing similar research work in the area of melanoma. Our vision is that taking pictures to diagnose oral cancer and/or other soft tissue oral diseases might one day be as routine as drawing blood to detect other diseases.

 

References:
1)       Johnson NW, Warnakulasuriya S, Gupta PC, et al. Global oral health inequalities in incidence and outcomes for oral cancer: causes and solutions. Adv Dent Res. 2011;23 2:237–246.
2)      Messadi, D. V. (2013). Diagnostic aids for detection of oral precancerous conditions. International Journal of Oral Science5(2), 59–65. http://doi.org/10.1038/ijos.2013.24
3)       “Identifying skin cancer with computer vision.” IBM Blog Research, IBM Corporation, 14 Nov. 2016, www.ibm.com/blogs/research/2016/11/identifying-skin-cancer-computer-vision/. Accessed 25 Sept. 2017.

UMKC Big Beam Team Wins Big at Nationals!

Over the summer, The UMKC Big Beam Team secured 10th place nationally with 52 points at the 2017 PCI Big Beam Competition. It was a very close competition. Only 9 points separated UMKC and the first place team.
 
Team member Scott Jackson, enjoyed his experience at the competition. “The award means a lot to the team. It feels good that we were recognized for the work that was put in. Student organizations can provide completely different experiences than the classroom can. This competition was a good way for me to learn more about an area that I am interested in.” Team member Akash Iwalekar said the competition helped him with problem solving skills. “Being able to experience the whole process of designing a big beam followed by constructing it, and testing it, gave me the chance to witness problems and learn what kind of approach was best to solve them and get the desired results.”
 
The team is very happy with their results and would like to thank the alumni who gave a generous donation that made their testing and participation possible. The students would also like to thank UMKC SCE and their faculty advisor Dr. Ganesh Thiagarajan.

SCE’s Three Time NASA Intern Extraordinaire

UMKC undergraduate student Kati Williams has been interning at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. She shared more about her work, her plans for the future, and advice she would give to other undergraduate SCE students!

What kind of work do you do as an intern at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center?

I assist in the software development and verification of the human rated space flight software for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS). The team I have been working with consists of 20 software developers during a critical release phase of the flight software. I use a tool called ARTEMIS-MAESTRO, which is a rocket simulator used for integration testing for the SLS.

During the first part of my internship, I was able to create a lab manual, which documents how to use the system for different software tests. I have also created a tool which analyzes the results of the flight software unit tests and outputs a simple one page summary. This helps the software developers by giving them a snapshot of the results rather than them having to dig through several pages of reports. Hilariously enough, I have also learned how to use a slide-rule as a side project.

What got you interested in this type of work?

Aerospace has always been interesting to me. I think it’s very important to continue to send people into space because of the technological advances that come from the space program. When I started my engineering career, I knew I wanted to work in an industry that I was passionate about, so NASA is a perfect fit for me.

How did you get connected to this internship?

This is my third summer at the Marshall Space Flight Center. This summer, I am here as an intern for Jacobs (a NASA contractor), but the first two internships I worked as an intern directly for NASA. For my first and second NASA internships, I applied through the “One Stop Shopping Initiative” (OSSI) website and had a nice recommendation letter written by a UMKC faculty member. My mentor during my second NASA internship worked for Jacobs and I was impressed by the company, so I asked him to put in a good word for me.

What have you learned from this experience?

This internship has given me insight into how complex software systems are developed. It’s interesting to see how small changes to one part of the system will affect another part because not everything goes according to plan 100% of the time. Being flexible and adaptable helped me as I progressed in my projects this summer. Learning how to take criticism gracefully was equally important.

Why do you think internships are important for undergraduate students?

School and the professional world are very different things. I think school is important for understanding the theory behind the processes used in the real world. I think internships are important because they help bridge the gap between theory and application and better prepare students to enter the job market.

What made you choose UMKC?

I was looking for an engineering school which was ABET accredited, had the degree I wanted, and was located near Kansas City. UMKC met all of my requirements.

What are your plans for the future?

I’m planning to graduate in the spring of 2018 and I will be looking for jobs working with satellites or embedded systems within the aerospace industry.

What advice do you have for other undergraduate SCE students?

The best advice ever given to me is from a UMKC faculty member. “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Sometimes tasks seem monumental, but if they are broken down into smaller pieces they become much more manageable.

Victoria Wu Takes Her Robotics Skills From UMKC to NASA!

UMKC grad and NASA intern Victoria Wu recently shared more about her research with her mentor Dr. Rao, how she got involved in robotics, all of the cool things she gets to work on at NASA, and more!

1. Congratulations on your many accolades! Tell us more about your research with Dr. Rao.

During my junior year, I was an undergraduate research assistant under Dr. Rao focusing on the area of query optimization for federated SPARQL queries using cardinality estimates.

SPARQL is a query language for RDF (resource description framework) data. RDF is a neat, machine readable way to represent knowledge in the form of a triplet (subject-predicate-object) such as sky – has_color – blue. A wide variety of information, including abstract concepts, can be encoded in this way, forming a giant graph made of potentially interrelated statements from various sources, or endpoints. Federated SPARQL queries can gather RDF data from several databases across a network, providing a powerful tool to aggregate data from various endpoints. Optimizing the queries formed can result in faster execution time. The work I did focused on reordering service calls to different endpoints using cardinality estimates, or assumptions about the number of “answers” to a query.

2. How did you get involved in robotics?

I have to thank one of my classmates, Sarah Withee, for getting me started with robotics. It was at her persistent invitation as the software lead that I finally joined the UMKC IEEE robot team late my freshman year. The robot team was a great way to get involved in an engineering project, from contest description and robot requirements, to development, integration, and testing. It was also a fantastic environment to get experience working both in a large multidisciplinary team, as well as a smaller subteam (software and hardware team). And finally, it was incredibly fun! I’m extremely grateful for the experiences I had with my teammates and the wonderful support of Mrs. Debby Dilks, our robot team sponsor/coach at the time.

3. What was your experience like at the 2015 Grace Hopper Celebrating Women in Computing Conference?

I had the opportunity to present a poster there thanks to my undergraduate research advisor Dr. Praveen Rao. It was a wonderful experience to see so many others like me, that shared my interests. Normally in a CS/tech degree, there are only a handful of women students, but to see so many all at once, and especially to see women industry and academia leaders who had already gone ahead, was very inspiring.

There was a sense of camaraderie that made it easier to meet and talk to others. I’m happy that I had the opportunity to meet many wonderful people through this conference. I think that is the most valuable thing I got from my experience at GHC – the relationships that were made. I highly recommend for everyone to attend at least once. They do offer scholarships that you can apply for.

4. I hear you’re an intern at NASA! What kind of work do you do there?

I just started last spring as a Pathways intern at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) in the science data processing (587) branch. One of the projects I worked on was for RRM3 (Robotic Refueling Mission Phase 3), starting development on a CFS (Core Flight System) application in C for interfacing with and configuring a wireless access point, and passing along video telemetry. It was my first industry/non academia internship, and it was a great learning experience for me. I got to look at the project requirements document to see what was expected of my app, do development work with those requirements, test on different platforms, and learn their build environment. It was a great place to work, and I’m really happy I had this opportunity. I highly recommend applying for NASA Pathways (co-op) internships through USAJobs for those interested in working here after college; you can also apply for internships through NASA’s OSSI website.

5. What advice would you give to other women who are beginning to pursue their degree in computer science?

My main advice is to spend time thinking about what your career/life goals are, and then take every action you can to get closer to that goal. If academia and research sounds interesting, apply for REUs (Research Experience for Undergraduates), funded summer long research programs at various universities in a wide variety of topics. Conducting longer term research as an undergraduate research assistant is also a great way to get experience. If you want to go into industry, pursue internships at companies and ask classmates and professors about opportunities or people they know that work at companies similar to the ones you want to work for.

I would also encourage seeking leadership roles in student clubs and extracurricular activities that interest you. They are a great way to develop soft skills and build relationships with other students and professors. When I served as secretary, then chair for our ACM student chapter (Association for Computing Machinery), I got to develop my public speaking and networking skills. I also greatly benefited from the support and encouragement of our student chapter sponsor, Professor Brian Hare.

If this field is something that you like, and enjoy doing, seek out and pursue as many related opportunities as possible, keep trying, and don’t be discouraged – it’s easier to be at peace when you know you did your best, whatever the outcome.

6. What made you choose UMKC?

I attended UMKC because of its affordability as a public school, scholarships offered, and its location nearby. It was also a good size for me – not too small, but also not too big where you get lost in a sea of students. The school size makes it much easier to get involved in extra curricular clubs.

7. What are your plans for the future?

After I complete my master’s, I hope to return to Goddard full time. From there I look forward to working on more neat projects!

UMKC Steel Bridge Team Soars at Nationals!

The UMKC Steel Bridge Team received 2nd place in 1 of 6 subcategories and placed 33rd out of 43 teams at the 2017 National Student Steel Bridge Competition! Team members Jon Daldalian and Evan Jones shared more about their experience at the competition.

Congratulations on your victories at Nationals! Tell us more about your experience there.

Jon: Our team tied for 1st place in the stiffness category at this year’s National Student Steel Bridge Competition (NSSBC). We were awarded second place after losing the tiebreaker to Tongji University from Shanghai, China. I don’t have the words to describe what it feels like to place at the national competition. Our team had a running joke throughout the year regarding placing in a national category because it seemed like such a far fetched goal. Ultimately, the attention to detail and quality of the team’s design and fabrication made the difference. This award makes all the sleepless nights and early mornings well worth the sacrifice.

Evan: Nationals was what the entire team had worked tirelessly towards the entire year and being able to participate was an opportunity of a lifetime. The competition pulled 43 teams from a pool of 251 different universities who competed at regional levels. Given such a large filter, to be able to even participate at the national tournament was a huge honor for the team, and to leave with some hardware was an even bigger one.

What have you learned from this experience?

Jon: This experience has taught me to never sell myself or my team short. Although our team wasn’t the largest and our fabrication equipment wasn’t the fanciest, we were able to create a simple well-built bridge that was stiffer than any of the top engineering programs throughout the world. No matter the odds, it only takes hard work and dedication to compete among the best.

Evan: I learned that how you build something is just as important as the design itself. Steel Bridge is unique because it forces our team to not only come up with a design, but to also be able to build it ourselves and then load test it at competition to prove its design. The activity constantly forced me to ask “How can this design be implemented?” “Is a less efficient design better if it can constructed easily?” This type of first hand design (and build) experience is something that is immensely important for young engineers to have.

What does receiving this award mean to you and your team?

Jon: UMKC has such a rich and successful history participating in the Steel Bridge competition. Receiving these awards at the regional and national competitions makes us feel proud to count ourselves among the many great engineers who came before us. More than anything, it felt amazing to listen as the announcers read the University of Missouri – Kansas City aloud for all the competitors to hear. Our hope is that these awards can once again solidify UMKC’s dominance in our future conferences and national appearances.

Evan: Hearing “University of Missouri-Kansas City” announced at nationals was what the team needed to prove that we still can go toe-to-toe with any school in the nation, and we’re excited to prove that again next year.

What do you have planned next year for Steel Bridge?

Jon: For the upcoming 2017-2018 Steel Bridge team, we plan to focus on growing our younger member involvement. Our current team captain, Mario Gutierrez, was a freshman throughout last year’s competition. The returning graduate students plan to teach Mario, and all other underclassmen, everything we can about the process of designing and fabricating a steel bridge within the rules. Once again, our main goal is to make UMKC a strong Steel Bridge contender within the regional and national competitions.

Evan: The primary focus will be growing the team. With key team members returning and underclassman already taking on leadership roles for the next year, we hope to ensure that this past year was not a one-off year, but rather the revival of a nationally competitive team. While the rules do not come out until early August, the team is modeling designs for bridges based off of rules from many different years. Furthermore, using the few extra materials we do have from last year, the team is still practicing its fabrication skills. While we did place in one category, we still have a lot of hard work to do to close the gap in others, and we’re excited for the challenge.

Why do you think it’s important for students to get involved with teams and organizations like Steel Bridge?

Jon: Student organizations allow young engineers to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom. Although faculty advisers provided useful input throughout the year, the bulk of decision making was done by student members. As a young engineer, these experiences are crucial because it necessitates initiative and teamwork among peers. These skills are arguably the most important for career advancement and learning them early can make all the difference.

Evan: It teaches students that engineering does not stop when something is drawn. It is one thing to design something, it is another to be able to design something that is easy to make, economical, and still safe.

Ryan Holmes Receives Prestigious ASCE Fellowship!

Recently, SCE Ph.D. student, Ryan Holmes, was awarded a prestigious American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Fellowship. Ryan took the time to share more about his fellowship, his interest in civil engineering, and why he decided to come to UMKC.

1.Congratulations on being awarded an ASCE Fellowship! Can you tell us more about it?

Thank you! The ASCE Freeman Fellowship is a national fellowship set up by one of ASCE’s past presidents, John R. Freeman, in 1924 to encourage future civil engineers working in hydraulics and hydraulic engineering. Hydraulic engineering is a subset of civil engineering dealing with water flow systems especially for the purpose of providing clean water. For my submission I described some of my work towards modeling flow through a unique filter system we are developing here at UMKC.

2.What first drew you to civil engineering?

I have wanted to be a civil engineer since middle school. I was drawn to civil engineering because it provides the best of two worlds, creative inventiveness and practical application. Lots of people have great ideas but lack the understanding of the systems to build them. Alternatively, others know the places where improvements are needed but don’t have the time or energy to explore the innumerable, potential solutions. I want to interface between these two groups as having both the knowledge of available answers and the understanding of how those solutions can be implemented.

3. What have you learned from working with your mentor, Dr. Hart?

Dr. Hart has taught me that multifaceted knowledge base is the core of all civil engineers. Her expertise in soils, geochemistry, and hydrogeology has been an invaluable resource to me. She also has practical experience in environmental engineering. While I’m work towards developing a filter for purifying groundwater, she helps direct my inquisitiveness towards solving the practical side – the chemistry of clean water – and addressing the questions around implementation – how to explain this process to people in the Environmental Protection Agency or Department of Defense.

4.What made you decide to come to UMKC?

I decided to come to UMKC because I was born and raised in Kansas City. I wanted to go to a school that had a reputation for civil engineering and a community impact – so UMKC was a natural choice. There are UMKC graduates at almost every engineering firm in the city and at most construction, concrete, or mining facilities. I think this is not just a reflection on the quality of civil engineers UMKC produces, but the way the program is structured to integrate future engineers with the existing local experts.

5.What advice would you give to undergraduate engineering students?

My advice for undergraduates is firstly to cultivate relationships with the people in your classes and in your internships. These will be the people you will go to for help or job placement in the future. Secondly, keep leaning in to learning everything you can, but be humble enough to admit you don’t know everything.

Visiting Student Benoît de Patoul Is Mapping a Better Future.

Our blogger, Molly Gilstrap, recently interviewed a visiting student from Belgium about his research and time at UMKC.

Benoît de Patoul is working towards a master’s degree from the ECAM Brussels School of Engineering in Industrial Engineering. Read on to hear about his wildfire research and how the Midwest weather was something entirely new.

1. Tell us more about the research you have been working on!
The research is about mapping the vegetation loss on radar images after a wildfire. When I talk to people about the research, they often ask me the same question: “Why do you need to map that?” The answer: It allows us to save human lives. You are probably wondering why, right?

A heavy rain after a wildfire can result in breakouts of mudflow or debris flow, which can threaten residential communities and even kill people. Knowing where the burned areas are located is critical for agencies to prepare people for secondary hazards.

The idea of the algorithm is to take two radar images, one before and one after the fire. Using these two images, the algorithm will detect the changes and classify them. The image below shows some of our results. The red represents the burned areas, the black shows the changes in the urban area, the green shows the changes in the vegetation, and the blue represents areas with no change.

2. What peaked your interest in this project?
I have always wanted to conduct my research in the United States, so I started looking and asking around to see if someone could offer me the right opportunity. The first person to contact me was Dr. Chen at UMKC SCE. He offered me different subjects, but this particular one had a connection to NASA and image processing. I directly seized the opportunity, not only because it was related to NASA, but because it was going to be very challenging for me.

3. Did you come across any obstacles or challenges?
Yes, a lot of challenges and obstacles. First, there is a lot of theory I had to learn in a very short time. Second, I had to develop an algorithm to accomplish the objectives of the research. That’s very challenging because it’s a long process and as you develop the algorithm, you will always have obstacles that can take a lot of time to overcome.

4. How has your experience been as a visiting student?
I really loved this experience. Discovering a new culture is something completely unique. I would encourage anybody to try it! It a very enriching experience, I learned a lot about myself and I made a lot of good friends.

5. How have you liked living in Kansas City?
I was living near the Country Club Plaza on campus in the Oak Place apartments. Kansas City is a very beautiful city with very friendly people. I would certainly recommend it. The city has good public transportation and it is free for UMKC students. The weather can be kind of weird because it can radically change from one day to another, but you get used to it.

6. What are your future plans?
I’m completing my master’s degree this year. I really like to learn new things and I’ve been accepted to do another master’s degree in Technology Management at University College London. It is not an easy task to be accepted, but I think what really helped me was choosing to do my research abroad, especially in United States.

 

Why KC?

5 Things To Know If You’re Moving To Kansas City

By: Molly Gilstrap, Computer Science Sophomore, St. Louis Native

1. I hope you’re hungry.
While this city is known for its barbecue, KC has a wide variety of dining options for whatever you’re craving. My favorite place to eat is The Westside Local. They have an on-site garden with herbs and vegetables and everything on the menu is delicious! Oh, and it may not be considered “fine dining”, but you have to go to Winstead’s Diner and ask for a Skyscraper Soda. You’re Welcome.

2. You’re a Royals fan now.
I came to Kansas City from St. Louis and foolishly thought that since the two cities weren’t that far apart, there were bound to be some Cardinals fans there right? Wrong. It’s a sea of blue here, so you’ll have to cancel your membership to Cardinals Nation (or whatever baseball team you’re a fan of) for the time being and buy yourself a new jersey.

3. You can shop till you drop!
UMKC’s campus is within walking distance of the Country Club Plaza. It has H&M, Kendra Scott, Urban Outfitters, Coach, Burberry, Forever 21, and more. I personally go for the popcorn and candy at Topsy’s, but that’s just me.

4. Take some time to enjoy the view.
One of my favorite places to go is the Liberty Memorial at the National WWI Museum. You can look out over the top and see Kansas City in all its glory! It’s pretty in the daytime, but I think the view is the best at night. Very Instagram-worthy.

5. You’ll have another reason to look forward to Friday’s.
Every first Friday of the month, the Crossroads Arts District hosts First Friday’s where you can enjoy live music, food trucks, art vendors, galleries, pop up shops, and more! You could even take a ride on the cool new KC streetcar to get there!

So let me be the first to say welcome to Kansas City! With food, music, art, activities, and lots of Midwestern charm, KC is a great place to be!

UMKC Baja Racing Team Placed 11th In The World At Recent Championship

UMKC’s Baja Buggy Team recently returned from Baja SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) in California as champions! This event was the first of three international competitions hosted in the United States by SAE. UMKC Baja Vice President, project design lead and senior in mechanical engineering, Alex Eckhoff, shared more about the team’s experience at this year’s competition.

This year we went into the competition with our biggest rival being ourselves. The previous school record for the Baja competition was placing 21st overall (typically out of 100-120 teams). With that in mind, we were determined to be within the top twenty.

As a team, we faced many challenges. From failing technical inspection for various parts to being audited for the first time in UMKC history, we didn’t let any obstacle keep us from pursuing our goal.

As far as the results, we broke several school records! We placed 13th in Cost, 11th in Acceleration, and 14th in Suspension. We also placed 8th in design, 29th in Maneuverability, and 25th in Hill Climb. We placed 11th overall, just three points shy from being in the top ten.

We are very proud of our team this year and have set our goals even higher for the following competitions. Our goal now is to get in the top 10 and push for top 5 in the world.

To do this, we will focus on fixing any damage to the car caused by the competition, streamlining our design presentations, perfecting our sales presentation and performing CVT tuning which will benefit performance as well as design.

We have made more friends with other teams and have gained a positive reputation with judges at competition. All in all, we couldn’t be more thrilled to compete again at Pittsburg State University later this month.

Story by Alex Eckhoff and Molly Gilstrap.

Baja SAE® consists of competitions that simulate real-world engineering design projects and their related challenges. Engineering students are tasked to design and build an off-road vehicle that will survive incredibly rough terrain. Each team’s goal is to design and build a single-seat, all-terrain, sporting vehicle. The vehicle is to be a prototype for a reliable, maintainable, ergonomic, and economic production vehicle which serves a recreational user market.