Mind Over Matter
In a successful experiment, students control a toy truck with their brain waves sent from a high tech headset.
After a full year of trial and error, $1,500 in unfunded expenses and skeptical parents, one team of College of Engineering and Computer Science students drew the largest crowds at the college’s annual Senior Design Day Showcase. Then came an NPR radio spot, a Fox News TV appearance and more.
“The biggest surprise is all of the media attention,” says Michael Stobridge, ’13, one of two electrical engineering students on the team, along with two computer engineering students.
Why all of the hubbub? It has a lot to do with a red toy monster truck that moves seemingly on its own. “At first we thought we’d put on the headset, and just think ‘go’ to make it move,” laughs Chris Perez, ’13, who was recently hired by Harris Corporation.
It ended up being more complex than that.
“The truck moves through the combined efforts of computer software and hardware components,” says Perez. “They work together to direct a remote control by reading and interpreting EEG waves from the human mind as well as facial expressions.”
A headset on Stobridge picks up concentrated brain waves from 14 sensor pads and sends the signals that move the truck. “When I left blink, the truck goes left; right blink makes it turn right,” says Stobridge. “I activate the part of my brain that senses pain to make the truck go forward, and I concentrate on the part of my brain that interprets language to make the car go backward.”
Stobridge continues, “Early on, I needed help activating the correct parts of my brain.” For example,
to practice firing up the pain sensors, he stomped on a tack. Soon, he learned how to manufacture pain without the tack.
It’s complicated. Its microcontroller, motherboard, circuit board and software are custom-programmed. There were no instructions to follow. “Even our parents were skeptical that this would work,” says Perez.
What’s next? The team says it is feasible to create a mind-controlled wheelchair that works the same way one day. Soon. ✦
On Two Feet
Students consider strategic business objectives to solve problems of design, usage and production to protect women’s health.
A disposable urine funnel designed for women won the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership’s Joust Business Plan Tournament. Winnings included $12,500 and a year as a client of the UCF Business Incubation Program.
“Winning the Joust is undoubtedly one of our greatest accomplishments,” says Taylor Cheeley, chief operations officer. “It validates that the Smartway Cup is a revolutionary product with serious market potential.”
The Smartway Cup enables women to stand while urinating, eliminating unnecessary contact with contaminated surfaces. To date, approximately 5,000 pieces have been sold.
Unsanitary public restrooms expose women to more than 1,800 types of dangerous bacteria, parasites and viruses; studies have shown that female restrooms are seven times more contaminated with harmful pathogens than male restrooms.
Company CEO August Reign says, “Female urine funnels are making such a global impact that universities, airports and restaurants in Europe, Asia and Africa are beginning to accommodate women by installing urinals.”
“We started right here on UCF’s campus, selling our products near portable toilets during home football games,” says Nicole Enterlein, Smartway’s marketing director.
“Knight Aide Pharmacy and Convenience Store was the first place to give us a real opportunity.”
“Currently, we’re working with Steven Felkowitz, ’79, this year’s Joust sponsor, to establish our first major contracts,” says Cheeley. “We anticipate statewide deals with Walgreens and CVS by 2014.” ✦
UCF recently launched an innovative program to connect students with discipline-specific writing experts.
“Trained writing consultants, known as embedded tutors, were first utilized in the chemistry lab in Spring 2013,” says Erin Saitta, Ph.D., ’06, assistant director, Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning.
Embedded tutors help students develop critical thinking skills, learn problem-solving techniques and master deductive reasoning.
“Being able to work as a disciplinary tutor in the chemistry lab gave me hands-on experience in my field,” says Adam Benzekri, a biomedical sciences and psychology senior.
“This experience allowed me to discover that I want to be a professor and help influence how fields of science are taught and perceived in terms of writing.”
Students learn to write everything from scientific research papers to communications for nonscientific audiences. They also learn about a variety of topics, from writing ethics to correct verb tense to literature citations, symbols and abbreviations.
“These tutors have undergone training to assist students with general writing techniques as well as writing specifically for chemistry,” says Saitta. “Working together, the Writing Across the Curriculum Program and the University Writing Center identify, train and guide these tutors.”