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Engineering

Carolina Parada (Photo Raymond Yuen/Nvidia Corporation)
Winter 2018

Making artificial intelligence smart

It’s not a simple thing to get a car to see what we see.

“The world is very complex. That’s what makes vision for self-driving cars a challenge. There are millions of scenarios and millions of contexts,” says Carolina Parada (’04, ’06 MS Elec. Eng.) from her home in Boulder, Colorado.

A senior manager for Nvidia, a company probably best known in the video gaming community for its top-shelf graphics cards but with a strong presence in the machine learning market, Parada and her team are working on machine perception, a key piece of getting self-driving cars safely on the
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Illustration of baseball as atom nucleus
Summer 2018

Physics at the bat

Today’s baseball game, brought to you by Physics Unlimited, is a blockbuster contest between the famous Mathematical Physicists and Washington State University’s own Oblique Collisions.

As the Oblique Collisions take the field, Ernest Rutherford, the renowned English physicist, is first up for the Mathematical Physicists. Better known outside physics circles for his cricketing skills, Rutherford is quite the hitter, though usually of particles much smaller than baseballs.

Indeed, in describing the collision of an alpha particle—better known as the nucleus of a helium atom, two protons and two massive neutrons—with a gold atom, Rutherford had this to say: “It was as if you fired a … » More …

smart home
Spring 2018

Smart tech in senior living communities

Roschelle “Shelly” Fritz, assistant professor at the WSU College of Nursing in Vancouver, studies how “smart-home” technology can monitor the health and safety of senior citizens from afar. She’s part of an interdisciplinary team that includes WSU engineering professor Diane Cook and WSU psychology professor Maureen Schmitter-Edgecombe.

Fritz ran an innovative pilot study that deployed health sensors in five homes at senior living community Touchmark on South Hill in Spokane.

Read more about Fritz’s work with smart health sensors at WSU Vancouver in “Technology with a human touch.”

First Words
Spring 2018

Forged by fire

The intricate mastery of Japanese swordmaking relies on a smith’s deep understanding of fire, metal, and techniques to control both. Each unique sword shimmers with thousands of layers from the folding of the metal, a work of art in steel. That steel, though, traditionally comes from an iron-rich sand full of impurities, pounded and blended by the smith. A smith then uses a secret mix of water, clay, ash, and other ingredients over the blade as they once again plunge the sword into fire to create a keen edge. Only when the blade glows a certain color is it quenched in water.

Humans have learned … » More …

Spring 2018

Fires burned, cauldrons bubble

In the embers of an ancient winter day, a Swedish scout scrambles up the hill of snow-covered boulders, hurrying over the slippery ground between them along a narrow path. His panting breath trails after him until he stumbles through the castle gate gasping, “Vandals on the riverbank! Bandits to the east!”

The heavy palisade slams shut behind him as men rush to position along a glinting rock wall. From 150 feet above the valley floor, they watch as silhouettes begin scaling the boulders below. With a signal, arrows and stones rain down upon them, yet the marauders advance, dragging their weapons or clenching them in … » More …

Winter 2017

Fighting infection a new, old way

Before antibiotics were invented, people often used silver, a known antimicrobial that can also be toxic, to tackle infections.

Researchers in the early 1900s also noticed a mysterious and inconsistent effect from using a mild electric current to kill nasty microbes.

Both methods were problematic, though, and were quickly abandoned with the advent of antibiotics, which killed bacteria so effectively throughout the twentieth century.

Now, as the efficacy of conventional antibiotics wanes, Washington State University researchers are reinventing old ideas to fight bacterial infection.

At their lab in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, Amit Bandyopadhyay and Susmita Bose have developed a nontoxic … » More …

Thumb: King tide at the Embarcadero, San Francisco. Photo Mike Filippoff
Fall 2017

Waves of the future

When the tides are high in parts of San Francisco, Charleston, and Miami, city streets experience an odd new kind of flooding that happens even on bright, sunny days.

In San Francisco’s Embarcadero district, king tides caused flooding between Mission and Howard Street last winter. Seattle’s Georgetown and South Park neighborhoods have experienced sewer back-ups into streets and basements after large storms.

These are quite literally waves of the future, confronted by Hope Hui Rising and her students at Washington State University. They are working on the front lines of sea level rise, developing urban design strategies to help communities adapt.

As the oceans … » More …

Blue Nile
Fall 2017

Fluid dynamic

Growing up in Ethiopia’s capital city of Addis Ababa, Yonas Demissie never suffered from lack of access to clean water, but he knew from a young age that it was a serious problem in most parts of his home country.

He remembers reading news and watching documentaries about the droughts and related famine that still impact Ethiopia.

“Why can’t a three-year-old eat his breakfast?” the young Demissie would ask his parents and teachers. “A society should not have an excuse for a child to go hungry.”

According to Water.org, which works to improve access to safe water and sanitation, just 43 percent have access … » More …