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Nebraska dominates top five in 2012 IBM/IEEE Smarter Planet Challenge

2012 Smarter Planet 4th place, Nebraska SEER team

Nebraska’s SEER Team, 4th place in IBM/IEEE 2012 Smarter Planet Challenge, includes (from left): Hong-Yen Hoang, Robert Boulter, Timothy Struble-Larsen, Sara Shinn and Marc McCaslin.

2012 Smarter Planet 5th place, Nebraska 'Windfarm Planning with GIS' team

GIS Wind Farm Planning Team, 5th place in the 2012 Smarter Planet Challenge, includes Dingguo Lu (seated, left) and Salman Kahrobaee (seated, right), shown here with UNL Electrical Engineering Assistant Professor Wei Qiao as they work on control components for their lab’s rooftop wind and solar applications.

Two teams led by Nebraska Engineering students earned top-five status in the 2012 IBM/IEEE Smarter Planet Challenge, an international competition for college/university teams improving the world’s technology solutions.

Achieving fourth place was “SEER,” a project to enhance television viewing by adding additional video input sources on-screen for a layered multimedia experience. SEER team leader Robert Boulter, a senior UNL Electronics Engineering major, said learning of the team’s award was exciting—especially when they saw the other winners’ submissions from highly-regarded schools.

The $2,000 prize from the Smarter Planet Challenge will help the SEER team develop a prototype for a future challenge: the 2013 Computer & Electronics Engineering Senior Projects Showcase, April 25 at The Peter Kiewit Institute in Omaha.

In the SEER team’s documentation, the resulting television system would equip multiple users to view simultaneous videos from separate sources, all on the same screen. “With SEER, it would be possible for one user to watch a Blu-Ray while a second plays a gaming console, using the same television and without it being separated into two screens,” Boulter said. “This will enable multiple-user access to a single appliance.”

The SEER team worked in-class and during several additional hours each week during fall semester at Omaha’s Peter Kiewit Institute. The interdisciplinary group includes Hong-Yen Hoang, an accounting major at the University of Nebraska at Omaha; Marc McCaslin, a senior UNL Electronics Engineering major, Sara Shinn, a senior who majors in Computer Engineering with UNL and Computer Science at UNO; and Timothy Struble-Larsen, a senior studying Electronics Engineering with UNL engineering programs in Omaha.

Another Nebraska team earned fifth place in the 2012 Smarter Planet Challenge with its Geographic Information System (GIS)-based Wind Farm Suitability and Planning Study. Led by Salman Kahrobaee and Dingguo Lu, UNL Electrical Engineering graduate students, team members also included UNL GIS and Remote Sensing students Tarlan Razzaghi, Anthony L. Nguy-Robertson and David Gibbs.

Lu and Kahrobaee had worked on the initial concept in a Wind Energy class taught by Jerry Hudgins, professor and chair with UNL’s Electrical Engineering Department. They further developed their work with their collaborators, as well as Professor Don Rundquist with UNL’s School of Natural Resources, to help layer data on site topography, wind patterns and other environmental factors for more informed and effective placement of wind turbines.

“It’s great that what we learned in class can apply to real challenges,” said Lu. Kahrobaee added, “It was fun to work this project with students from other disciplines.” Their team’s $1,000 prize will help them refine their work for potential commercialization.

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