Awards 2009

                                       Paul Wheeler  : Advising Excellence Award

Paul Wheeler was selected as the ECE Advisor of the Year for 2009. His door is always open for advice on classes, curriculum, and careers. Students see Dr. Wheeler as a comfortable voice of wisdom. In addition to the side that the students see, there are many other ways that Paul acts in his role as advisor.

Paul is the advisor to the Master of Engineering degree students in the department. He supervises establishing their course of study, ensuring that they not only meet department requirements, but that they have a coherent course of study that makes sense from the point of view of professional development. Part of this involves students taking classes through our graduate distance education program.

Paul is our curricular watchdog. He has created diagrams representing our course sequences, and continues to make sure that, as classes change, students can still proceed through the curriculum efficiently. He carefully makes sure that prerequisites are appropriate.

He works for the improvement of our curriculum, suggesting improvements in critical sequences such as our design sequence.

In short, he contributes tremendously to the smooth operation of the entire educational enterprise of the department. His advising role thus extends far beyond the advisor helping students put together a set of classes – his role ensures that there are meaningful sets of classes to take. His efforts with students alone merit him our appreciation as Advisor of the Year. His additional programmatic efforts make him truly exceptional.



Brandon Eames : Teaching Excellence Award

Brandon Eames has been selected for the Teaching Excellence Award for the ECE Department. Brandon is an important part of our Computer Engineering degree program, and his teaching strengthens the entire department.

Students have written, “I have never learned so much in so short a time before.” Dr. Eames is known for his incredible dedication to students, sometimes spending hours outside the classroom helping them to understand the material.

Dr. Eames is perhaps the most “famous” for his ECE 5780 course, Real Time Systems. In the process of preparing materials for our recent ABET evaluation, Dr. Todd Moon, the ECE Department Head, had occasion to review the student materials collected from that class. He was deeply impressed at the level and volume of work that Dr. Eames draws from these students. This has come to be regarded as a very difficult but a “must have” course among computer engineers.

Another student wrote, “The entire course was excellent. It has been the best and also the most intensive class I’ve had at USU. The instructor had clear objectives for the course, and everything presented throughout the course was directly related to the objectives. It was by far the most organized, useful, and substantial class I’ve taken. Even though it is a lot of work, I’d do it over again in a heartbeat. Dr. Eames’ willingness and desire to help me learn the material was great.”

Dr. Eames is continually looking for ways to modernize what he teaches and how he teaches. He recently had a paper accepted on teaching methodology that draws from elements in his research program. He continues to look for ways to enhance the hands-on experience for students.

                                            Aravind Dasu : Research Excellence Award

Aravind Dasu is the ECE Department Researcher of the Year. Dr. Dasu’s area of research is in reconfigurable computing, hardware compilers, and issues related to 3-dimensional integrated circuits. In the past year, he has had three papers accepted or published, with an additional five submitted and passing through the review process. In addition, he has had two provisional patents filed in the last year, and made four invention disclosures. Royalty returns on his inventions have been used to help build his research program. Dr. Dasu’s research funding since joining USU four years ago total over $1.53 million, including funding from state, federal and commercial sources. He is director of the Utah Center of Excellence on Hybrid and Adaptive Multimedia Processors.

Dr. Dasu is also the director of the Micron Research Center, a center funded by the Micron Foundation to explore the next generation of 3-dimensional integrated circuits. Among the projects he is working on at the center is a biomimetic design of multicore systems in which errors introduced into the data are automatically repaired. He works with NASA on robust, reconfigurable designs for space missions.

Another, project involves compiling algorithms into hardware. His research involves many students, including nine MS plan A students two PhD students, as well as undergraduate research assistants. We are pleased to have him represent the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department as the Researcher of the Year.

Scott Budge : Undergraduate RA Mentor Award

Dr. Scott Budge is our Undergraduate Mentor of the Year. Dr. Budge has been involved in many research projects over the years, many of which have employed undergraduate students. Recently he has been involved in work on LIDAR imaging and pattern recognition for both state and federal agencies. His efforts in involving undergraduate students not only provide valuable employment experience for them as they work on engineering projects with deadlines and deliverables, but also help them appreciate the value of the material they learn in their classes and how to apply it.

Dr. Budge meets regularly with his research team to ensure ongoing progress. The interesting projects he works on have consistently attracted some of the best students in the department to work with him. He is highly commended for providing challenging, interesting work for these students and directing them through the efforts to success.

Mel Torrie : Distinguished Alumnus

Mel Torrie is the president of Autonomous Solutions, Inc. (ASI), a Cache Valley company that builds robots. Autonomous Solutions was formed in Oct 2000 with six members of the team that had worked on the tractor projects for John Deere. Mel continued to show his managerial and leadership skills and an incredible infectious optimism. The company that Mel formed rapidly headed to the top of autonomous ground vehicle companies. ASI has automated upwards of 50 vehicles ranging from the tiny CHAOS (Mel’s idea from the start) to a D10T CAT and really big mining trucks.

ASI has also produces the industry standard planning and visualization software called Mobius made standard by Mel’s early involvement in the autonomous vehicle communication standard. The company is over eight years old and continues to produce innovative autonomous ground vehicles. Mel has led his company through example by being exceptionally hardworking, creative, and aware.

Mel is a member of the Industry Advisory Committee for both the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department and the College of Engineering.

Ken Stevens : Distinguished Service

Ken Stevens has been selected for our Outstanding Service Award this year for the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. Ken graduated from USU, then spent a big part of his career working at IBM. Upon his return to Cache Valley, he began employment at Campbell Scientific. Along the way, he has shown his Aggie colors by providing service to the ECE Department in a variety of ways. Ken has helped out as a lecturer in our department. He is also a member of the Industry Advisory Committee, where he helps identify industry directions and works on recruiting efforts. He is a regular contributor to IEEE Student Branch activities and a staunch supporter of the department. We appreciate his dedication to USU and the students of the ECE department.

David Willis : Outstanding Senior

David Willis is widely regarded by the faculty as a consistent and solid student. Dave hails from a family of Aggies, and is glad to continue the family tradition. He is a member of Tau Beta Pi and the Golden Key Honor Society. He is a senior in the ECE concurrent program.

Dave participated in the Research Experience of Undergraduate (REU) on Communications and Coding in summer 2008, where he took on a difficult problem related to error correction coding, and contributed to another problem related to digital communications. He has demonstrated determination and thoroughness in his work.

These qualities have served him as he has worked through some serious medical issues. Despite the fact that he has had extraordinary physical and emotional demands placed on him by ongoing and debilitating treatments since 2005, he has pushed through, continuing to be a capable student. 

Outside the academic setting, he plays classical and modern music on guitar, and racquetball (not on the guitar). He enjoys trying new things, such as skydiving, floating our local canals, and rappelling. He skis and does puzzles to keep his brain fresh.

Christopher Hall : Outstanding Junior

Christopher Hall has a broad background, enjoying good music and exercising (including running, biking, swimming, and lifting weights). He speaks Mandarin Chinese and Malay. He also is an avid reader. He has been active in local and other service.

As the IEEE Student Chapter Treasurer, he has led fund-raising efforts, including Sub-for- Santa, selling T-shirts, and running the IEEE Candy Store. He is interested in open-source software and amateur radio. He is on the team of students that has successfully competed in the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International competition, this year acting as the team lead for the competition. He works as a research assistant in the Center for Self-Organizing Intelligent Systems, and is a member of IEEE and Tau Beta Pi. He represents both academic excellence and engineering ingenuity and we are proud to have him in our department.


May Bo Hsu : Outstanding Pre-Professional Student

May Bo Hsu is an outstanding, enthusiastic student who says of herself, “I can’t see myself doing anything else besides EE.” It is hard to counter such wisdom! Besides loving all of her
classes (even calculus and physics), she does a lot outside of school. She has a passion for art and photography and does rollerblading, country dancing, multimedia, and making movies for fun.

She has been recognized by Senator Robert Bennett for service, leadership, and politics. She  was the publicity chairman and on the Engineering Week Committee for the USU Engineering Council. She is an active member of the Society of Women Engineers, serving both in  fundraising and food bank collection activities. She provides service also to the USU Multicultural Student Services. She is chapter historian for the IWA. She has worked as an intern at L-3 Communications, where she has deepened her appreciation for engineering. It is a pleasure to have May Bo in classes. Don Cripps, her teacher last semester in ECE 1000, reports that her enthusiasm is infectious: she lifts the intellectual and emotional level of the class by her interest in all that goes on. We are pleased to have her in the department, and look forward to continued success as she proceeds through her engineering program.

                                       John Sallay : Outstanding Undergraduate RA

John Sallay has been a research assistant working on LIDAR research and pattern recognition for over a year. He has been tasked with the development of an algorithm to use texel camera data to count and identify who gets on and off a bus. He began by recalibrating the camera so that the depth images are registered to the camera images. He then began collecting data and developing an algorithm that segments the images into people, tracks their movement, and  identifies when a particular person is in the scene.

He has been very capable in finding a solution to problems in each of these areas. He has quickly understood each
problem and been able to find solutions in an independent manner with minimum direction. His research skills can
be compared favorably to MS students at the end of their program.

He has also shown a willingness to read and study the topics involved in his research to become familiar with the issues involved and the state-of-the-art in the area. He then discusses his ideas with his advisor in a knowledgeable manner.

He is a very capable researcher, and shows great promise for ongoing research. He is also a stellar student, bringing insight and input to his classes while maintaining an enviable GPA.

                                                Austin Jensen : Outstanding Graduate Research Assistant

Austin Jensen has been the TA for ECE 5320 Mechatronics Labs, where he has contributed
to the success of the labs in this very hands-on class. Significantly, he has built up the web
page for the class, which not only serves student needs by keeping track of schedules and assignments, but also has lab equipment cataloged with photographs and labels.

The website also features videos of successfully constructed projects. The website promotes our program beyond the boundaries of the university. Austin is a dynamic student who has helped in building the miniature UAV program, and the entire controls program here at USU.

                                        YongCan Cao : Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant

As a third-year PhD student, YongCan Cao is making significant contributions to his field of
coordinated control of multi-vehicle systems. He has two journal papers that have been
published or in press and another five journal papers that are under review, all in top-quality
journals. In addition, he has eight conference papers published or accepted.

YongCan is also a strong student in classes and a hard and creative worker. He is affable and easy-going, respected by the other members of his research team. We commend him for his excellence, his dedication, and his example. He is on a road to academic success.