If we can remotely probe the structure and nature of an object, we can make an image
of it and use that image to develop human comprehension.
RIT microsystems director receives IEEE Technical Excellence Award
Engineering Professor Bruce Smith recognized for achievements in advanced nanolithography
Mar. 24, 2015
Bruce Smith, director of the microsystems engineering doctoral program at Rochester Institute of Technology (as well as CIS extended faculty and Ph.D. alumnus), was recently presented an IEEE Region 1 Technical Innovation Award. Smith, a senior member of the local and national IEEE society, was recognized for his influential work in advancing the field of nanolithography for semiconductor devices.
The award, presented this past December, is both a reflection of his professional and research endeavors as well as his influence educating and mentoring engineering students in the fields of micro- and nano-technology.
“I am pleased to receive this award and this recognition. IEEE is an organization that has historically been tuned-in to the engineering activities in Rochester, not only from an industrial perspective but also, significantly, with the universities,” said Smith. “IEEE is an influential professional society recognized throughout the world. And the local involvement of IEEE among Rochester professionals, faculty and students is very big. This helps to create a very gratifying organization.”
Smith directs research activities in the Nanolithography Research Laboratory in RIT’s Kate Gleason College of Engineering and is a member of the university’s Innovation Hall of Fame. His areas of expertise include high-resolution semiconductor lithography, thin film materials and optical systems. A member of the faculty since 1988, Smith has published more than 200 papers, a textbook and several book chapters. He also holds 27 patents in the areas of illumination systems, masking devices, optical system design and materials engineering, several of which have been licensed for commercialization.
He is a Fellow of the Optical Society of America and SPIE, the International Society for Optical Engineering. He holds memberships in the American Vacuum Society, the Society for Information Display and the American Society for Engineering Education. He has served as visiting professor with SEMATECH at the University of Texas, Austin as well as at the international semiconductor research organization IMEC in Leuven, Belgium.
Smith is currently on a yearlong sabbatical, increasing his involvement with IEEE and other professional societies, coordinating several international conferences, as well as working on high-resolution lithography research with semiconductor industry organizations.
RIT graduate students recognized for exemplary research in astrophysics
Astronomy and Space Science
Students in RIT’s astrophysical sciences and technology program awarded for excellence
Apr. 4, 2014
Valerie Rapson and Kevin Cooke (Photo by A. Sue Weisler)
Two graduate students in the Rochester Institute of Technology astrophysical sciences and technology program were recognized with Chambliss Astronomy Achievement Student Awards for their outstanding research posters at the 223rd American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington, D.C., in January.
Kevin Cooke and Valerie Rapson were among 31 winners chosen from nearly 450 students who entered the student competition. The Chambliss awards recognize exemplary research by undergraduate and graduate students who present posters at the society meetings.
Cooke, a first-year master’s student from Green Township, N.J., a won a gold-plated brass Chambliss medal for his poster on “Investigation of Extended Emission Line Regions in Intermediate Redshift BCGs.”
Rapson, a doctoral candidate and a resident of Greece, N.Y., received a certificate of honorable mention for her poster on “A Spitzer and Herschel Study of the Protoplanetary Disk Around the Young Nearby System V4046 Sg.”
RIT was represented at the society meeting with 19 poster presentations by high school, undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and an alumnus, as well with a dissertation and oral presentation.
Women in science, technology, engineering and entrepreneurship connect at RIT April 28
Professional organization looks to increase membership
Apr. 21, 2014
Women in science, technology, engineering and business in universities and industries will meet for a roundtable discussion and networking event to help women gain regional connections and global impact in their fields.
The roundtable discussion will include Stefi Baum, professor/director, Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science, RIT; Jannick Rolland, professor, Institute of Optics and director of the R.E. Hopkins Center for Optical Engineering, University of Rochester; Kelly Hutchinson-Anderson, assistant professor of chemistry education, Nazareth College; Toni Whited, professor, William E. Simon Graduate School of Business Administration, UR; Linda Marshall, president, Linmar Enterprises Inc.; and Kathleen Schubach, account executive, IPLogic Inc.
WiSTEE Connect—founded and chaired by Jie Qiao, associate professor in RIT’s Center for Imaging Sciences—promotes women’s leadership in science, technology, engineering and entrepreneurship; bridges the gap between science, technology and business; and provides a forum to learn, connect and lead.
The organization aims to create extended networks to advance junior and mid-career women through career growth rather than career entry and support women in entrepreneurship in science and technology. WiSTEE Connect looks to form national and international connections.
RIT becomes part of national plans to improve use of unmanned aircraft systems
Apr. 3, 2014
Robert Jones, right, a fifth-year mechanical engineering student, demonstrates the capabilities of a quadro-copter for Donald McKeown, distinguished researcher, left, and professor Agamemnon Crassidis. RIT, a national drone test site, will contribute its research into navigation and imaging systems technology as part of a university-industry partnership. (Photo by A. Sue Weisler)
Ever since Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos suggested using drones to deliver packages to customers, discussions about the possible uses of unmanned aircraft have taken a new flight path.
He might have easily been dismissed as a dreamer or an opportunist. But Bezos’ announcement prompted a shift in thinking about unmanned aircraft systems from flights-of-fancy to real possibilities such as crop surveying, fighting forest fires, pipeline inspections, rescue operations, wildlife monitoring and disaster response. As the ideas mature and unmanned aircraft systems become more sophisticated, standard processes to assess usage, safety and technology are necessary.
Drones, also referred to as unmanned aircraft systems and more commonly associated with the military and law enforcement, are being developed for a wider variety of commercial uses— some of which may be developed at RIT.
The university is part of NUAIR, the Northeast Unmanned Aircraft System Airspace Integration Research Alliance, a group of more than 40 companies and universities in New York and Massachusetts selected in December 2013 as one of six Federal Aviation Administration test sites in the U.S. The alliance will conduct research and testing of safe integration of unmanned aircraft systems in the national airspace system. Nineteen universities are involved with RIT and Massachusetts Institute of Technology as regional academic leaders, said Agamemnon Crassidis, associate professor of mechanical engineering in RIT’s Kate Gleason College of Engineering.
“One of my key roles is to bring the universities together to see what kinds of research they are doing and how we can use that research,” said Crassidis, who will also serve on NUAIR’s board of directors.
RIT is well positioned for this work with expertise in sensor and aeronautic system development from the engineering college, and in remote sensing and imaging from the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science.
“This is a significant opportunity to expand use of remote sensing and imaging and make that imaging accessible to a broader constituency. In some disaster situations, especially with state or counties with tight budgets, access to low-cost imaging is big for them,” said Donald McKeown, distinguished researcher in the Carlson Center.
Unmanned aircraft have flown since the mid-1900s and are more than remote- controlled model planes. Today, they consist of complex systems for collision avoidance, automated controls and navigation; they also integrate imaging systems to gather and process data. RIT researchers have already been developing aspects of these technologies and can contribute to improving unmanned aircraft systems.
Regulations currently do not permit UAS operations above 400 feet without certification, and these allowances are given primarily to law enforcement or the military. The FAA has directed new test site teams like NUAIR to contribute recommendations about how corporate and commercial unmanned aircraft can be part of already crowded skies. The Northeast corridor where NUAIR will operate has some of the highest volumes of air traffic to control.
The team has already received testing and development requests since the December announcement and expects to have a formal test facility and process up within six months. “It’s not a competition between the sites, it’s just a goal for us,” said Crassidis. “What RIT brings to the table is its strong industry partners and our hands-on approach to teaching. Students will be involved in multidisciplinary projects related to this, plus undergraduate and graduate research. We will make use of our facilities, particularly the machine shop, wind tunnel and the Aero Design Club.”
Tim Southerton and Robert Jones, both fifth-year mechanical engineering students, are working on control systems for a Parrot AR Drone 2.0, a quadro-copter. They are upgrading the unmanned aircraft as part of a senior design project, integrating remote sensing equipment onto the frame and adding GPS navigation capabilities.
These capabilities and others being developed make Bezos’ idea of delivering packages seem not so far-fetched. According to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, UAS may provide 100,000 new jobs in the U.S. and more than $82 billion in economic outcomes by 2025.
NASA astronaut Donald Pettit tours RIT's Center for Imaging Science
Jan. 14, 2014
Peter A. Blacksberg '75
David Messinger, director of the Digital Imaging and Remote Sensing Laboratory in the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science, tells NASA astronaut Donald Pettit, third from left, about the center?s work for the World Bank after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Stefi Baum, center director, left, and Robert Constantine, director of planned giving, right, listen on.
NASA astronaut Donald Pettit visited RIT's Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science on Thursday, Jan. 9, while in town to give a lecture at the George Eastman House on his space photography.
Peter Blacksberg, a 1975 alumnus from the School of Photography, introduced Pettit to key members of the center: Stefi Baum, director; Joe Pow, associate director; and David Messinger, director of the Digital Imaging and Remote Sensing Laboratory.
"Knowing that taking photos from space posed some unique problems, Peter suggested that Don connect with our researchers here, thinking we might be able to help address some of these challenges," Pow said.
Pettit asked specific questions about imaging the sun from the space station.
"He posed for us an interesting question on what useful filtered photography of the sun might he do," said Baum. "We are investigating that and will be getting back to him soon."
Pettit has logged more than 370 days on the International Space Station and more than 13 spacewalking hours during his three times in space.
NASA astronaut Donald Pettit has spent 370 days in space, orbiting the Earth more than 3,000 times while traveling 82 million miles. The space traveler has also taken nearly a half-million photos to capture the awe of his journeys.
“Looking at Earth from space is amazingly beautiful,” said Pettit. “It’s a perspective where you can see things on a length scale of half a continent.”
Pettit will present his lecture “Astronauts’ Guide to Photography in Space” at 6 p.m. Monday, April 13, in RIT’s Webb Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.
Pettit’s innovative photographic work and passion for low light photography has changed the way we see Earth from space. He is a veteran of three space flights. He has lived aboard the International Space Station for 5 1/2 months during Expedition 6, was a member of the STS-126 crew, and again lived aboard the station for 6 1/2 months as part of the Expedition 30/31 crew. He has also logged 13 hours in space walks.
Millions of photos are used as part of the scientific data set for NASA. Pettit will share the photographic challenges faced by astronauts on board the International Space Station as well as some of the ingenious solutions he developed during his time in space.
“Frontiers are interesting places. They offer experience outside of the norm where the answers are not found in the back of the book. You have to figure things out for yourself,” said Pettit, whose fascination with photography began in middle school.
“Space is such a frontier and documenting that experience with photography presents not only a fascinating arena but challenges to the Earth-centric mind. Do you compose and shoot using Earth-standard expectations, thus making photographs pleasing to planetary dwellers? Or do you compose showing how life really is conducted there? Such is the photographer’s dilemma.”
Pettit will remain on campus April 14 and visit with students, faculty and staff in the College of Science, the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science and the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences. Part of the visit includes meeting with student researchers who will examine ways to reduce damage to photos caused by cosmic rays in space.
RIT alumnus Peter A. Blacksberg ’75 (photography) was instrumental in arranging Pettit’s visit.
Dr. Jan van Aardt awarded 2014-15 Trustees Scholarship Award
Mar. 31, 2015
Dr. Jan van Aardt, Associate Professor in the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science, is one of the two recipients of the RIT 2014-15 Trustees Scholarship Award.
The Trustees Scholarship Awards were established to recognize RIT faculty who have demonstrated outstanding track record of academic scholarship that is integral to all aspects of a student’s educational experience at RIT. The selection process involves extensive review by a COS Trustees Scholarship Awards Committee, the COS Administrative Council, and the Deans Council. The final selection is made by the Education Committee of the RIT Board of Trustees. For more information on the award and current and past winners, click here.
Dr. van Aardt is in good company - past Trustees Scholarship recipients from CIS include Dr. Joel Kastner (2012), Dr. Joseph Hornak (2010), Dr. John Schott (2009), and extended faculty Dr. Eli Saber, Dr. Bruce Smith (also CIS alumni), and Dr. Ryne P. Raffaelle.
CIS undergraduate Elizabeth Bondi named a 2015 Goldwater Scholar
Four RIT students have been awarded the 2015 Goldwater Scholarship.
Apr. 1, 2015
Elizabeth Bondi, a third year student in Imaging Science, has been named a Goldwater Scholar for 2015. Liz's history with CIS extends back to 2011 when she was a high school summer intern. Most recently she completed an internship at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Liz's career goals are to obtain a Ph.D. in Imaging Science, conduct research in computer vision, and teach at the university level.
The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was authorized by the United States Congress in 1986 to honor Senator Barry Goldwater, who served his country for 56 years as a soldier and statesman, including 30 years of service in the U.S. Senate.
Each scholarship covers eligible expenses for undergraduate tuition, fees, books, and room and board, up to a maximum of $7,500 annually. Goldwater Scholars must be sophomores or juniors during the 2014-2015 academic year and intend to pursue research careers in mathematics, the natural sciences, or engineering.
(Photo: MAX SCHULTE/@maxrocphoto/ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
On a cold March afternoon, RJ Garma is flying a small quad copter in a parking lot at the Rochester Institute of Technology. The craft, about 2 feet wide, hovers several hundred feet in the air as Garma controls its movements using an application on his tablet. A camera mounted to the bottom of the copter sends overhead images of the campus back to him.
But Garma is not just a student out for a few hours of fun. He's a U.S. Air Force captain, a doctoral candidate in the school's imaging science program, and one of a handful of RIT students and faculty piloting a revolution.
The school has long been known for its expertise in aerial and satellite photography — a science known as remote sensing. So it's no surprise that RIT has now emerged as one of the world's leading centers for research on drones, small unmanned aircraft.
David Messinger, interim director of the school's Center for Imaging Science, says he gets calls almost every week from companies seeking this expertise, and graduating students are in extraordinarily high demand. Messinger says he can't recall one in the last 10 years who walked across the stage without having a job lined up.
"Our students don't bother going to the job fair," he says, "because when employers want our students they come here and talk to them directly."
The Digital Imaging and Remote Sensing Lab is the biggest group within the center, and about three-quarters of the DIRS students are working on masters and doctorate programs. They're highly sought after by government and industry alike.
The development of inexpensive flying platforms — as well as ever smaller and cheaper digital cameras — has suddenly made aerial photography something anyone can do. For a few hundred dollars, you can walk into the mall or go online at Amazon and get a simple drone capable of taking pictures. With a modicum of skill, just about anyone can take overhead pictures of an urban landscape or a natural wonder.
Those breathtaking photos are nice, but what's really driving interest, what's turning this into a science and big business, is the idea of converting those aerial images into useful data.
"If I launched a drone and over the course of half an hour it covered the entire RIT campus at a 1-inch resolution, I'm not going to be able to physically look at all of that data." Messinger explained. "You've got to have some back end processing schemes that try to extract information out of the data.
"That's what you really want. You don't want the pictures. Nobody cares about the pictures. You want the information that you can get out of it," he said.
One of the first areas to leverage this new technology is precision agriculture, and researchers at RIT have been developing systems to address issues like drought management and disease detection.
Here's how it works. A farmer launches a small drone by simply throwing it into the air. The aircraft circles a couple of times to orient itself, then it goes back and forth until it has taken high-resolution pictures of each individual plant in his entire field. When it lands, the information is downloaded to a computer that can begin analyzing the images, asking questions about what the images show.
Questions like: Is that plant healthy? Is there a gap in my irrigation system? Is there a broken pipe someplace or an infestation of something that's moving across the field?
Messinger says that the process usually starts with researchers going to customers and saying "this is what we can do, tell us if it's useful." If you could look at each plant in a thousand-acre field every day, what could you learn from that?
Salvaggio developed an inexpensive imaging system that can transmit live images of an area about an acre in size. It's designed for law enforcement or first responders who want to get an overhead view of what's going on in real time.
"A user can simply point at a spot on Google Maps," Salvaggio said. "The system will figure out where it is, turn and keep the camera trained toward that point on the ground the user selected."
In addition to the technology push, there's also an application pull: folks who come to RIT with a specific problem they need help solving. And perhaps the biggest problem is the one faced by the Federal Aviation Administration, which is charged with developing a plan for getting drones integrated into the national airspace.
They're concerned about these inexpensive fliers getting in the way of commercial aircraft, of course, and there are all sorts of technical and logistical issues that need to be addressed.
As one of the lead test centers for NUAIR, researchers at RIT are working on solutions for these challenges.
"With manned aircraft, we're pretty good at navigating from point to point," said Agamemnon Crassidis, a professor in RIT's Kate Gleason College of Engineering and the academic director for NUAIR.
Commercial aircraft use sophisticated navigation systems with an array of high-tech sensors.
"Those systems are large and they're expensive. You're not going to put an $80,000 inertial navigation system on a small unmanned aircraft," Crassidis said. "We're trying to develop sensors that are just as accurate but much cheaper, weigh less, use less power, and obviously are a lot smaller."
Collision avoidance is a major concern because drones are flying at lower altitudes than traditional manned aircraft. Crassidis says it's pretty easy to avoid buildings or hillsides, but that smaller obstacles — electrical wires or tree branches — present a more complex challenge. Part of the solution is developing better "detect and avoid" algorithms, but the real advances will be driven by those new sensors.
"The variety of potential applications for these unmanned systems is amazing, but we have to be able to do the testing to figure out how we can do those things safely," Crassidis said. "In terms of the technology, we're pretty close."
A drone spent hours swarming around Rio’s iconic Christ statue to show a cheap way to capture highly accurate 3-D scans.
Mar. 19, 2015
The 30-meter tall statue of Christ overlooking Rio de Janeiro from a nearby mountain was under construction for nine years before its opening in 1931. It took just hours to build the first detailed 3-D scan of the monument late last year, using more than 2,000 photos captured by a small drone that buzzed all around it with an ordinary digital camera. The statue’s digital double was unveiled last month, and is accurate to between two and five centimeters, enough to capture individual mosaic tiles.
The project was intended to help efforts to preserve the statue and to demonstrate how drones could lead to a dramatic increase in high-resolution 3-D replicas of buildings, terrain, and other objects. Being able to easily and frequently capture detailed 3-D imagery could have many uses, such as speeding up construction projects and helping Hollywood make better special effects, says Christoph Strecha, CEO and cofounder of Pix4D, the Swiss company that led the project. It collaborated with drone manufacturer Aeryon Labs and researchers at PUC University of Rio de Janeiro.
Mapping tools from companies including Google and Apple have made outdoor 3-D imagery commonplace in recent years. But they are mostly built with 3-D data from aircraft carrying expensive equipment. The 3-D shape of buildings and terrain is most often captured using a technique called lidar, which uses lasers. The photo-real 3-D models of cities in Apple’s “flyover” mode are made by processing images captured by a complex and expensive array of cameras (see “Ultrasharp 3-D Maps”). Both techniques rely on very accurate GPS technology.
Software stitches a high-resolution 3-D model by processing overlapping photos.
Drones don’t have very reliable GPS fixes by comparison, and can’t carry large sensors or cameras. But they are cheap, and Pix4D’s software can build highly accurate models by comparing many different overlapping photos, says Strecha. In fact, using lidar would have been impossible with the Rio statue, Strecha says, because of its size, shape, and location.
Other projects have also been weaving 3-D models from drone photos. Researchers led by Horst Bischof, a professor at the Technical University of Graz, Austria, are developing software that extracts information from such images. For example, for a company that restores old buildings, the researchers made a version of the software that calculates measurements necessary for producing custom-fit thermal insulation.
With the image processing more or less a solved problem, the ambitions of drone scanning will depend more on how well drones can be controlled or coӧrdinated in challenging conditions like the winds around Rio’s Christ, or to cover larger areas, saysCarl Salvaggio, a professor at Rochester Institute of Technology’s Center for Imaging Science. “Drones are good for small-scale projects but traditional aircraft offer the time in the air to collect whole cities,” he says. “Perhaps when there are ‘armies’ of drones in the air, we will see a different landscape emerge.”