School of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Diversity Programs in Engineering
CURIE Academy 2014
Design Project: Exploring an Internet of Things
Prof. Christopher Batten
237/239 Phillips Hall • July 13–19, 2014
The CURIE Academy is a one-week summer residential program organized by the Cornell Diversity Programs in Engineering for high school girls who excel in math and science, enjoy solving problems, and want to learn more about careers in engineering. CURIE scholars spend their mornings learning about the various fields within engineering, and spend their afternoons working on a design project. The 2014 design project experience was titled "Exploring an Internet of Things".
Although the Internet has traditionally been thought of as interconnecting computing systems such as servers, workstations, laptops, and smartphones, in reality, the Internet interconnects people. Human beings must collect, enter, publish, and analyze almost all of the information that is transmitted over the Internet. The Internet of Things (IoT) is an emerging trend where the Internet is used to interconnect everyday physical objects augmented with inexpensive embedded controllers, sensors, and actuators such that these objects can autonomously collect information and interact with the real world. IoT wearable devices can monitor our health and notify our doctors of issues in real-time. IoT devices in smart buildings can carefully track the behavior of its occupants to automatically optimize energy efficiency. IoT devices can be attached to bridges for traffic profiling, structural monitoring, and early flash-flood detection. IoT has the potential to be a disruptive technology impacting many diverse aspects of our society including health care, energy, environmental conservation, manufacturing, retail, commerce, and transportation.
Designing new IoT devices requires an interdisciplinary background, and the field of computer engineering is well-situated to serve as a foundation for students interested in this emerging area. Computer engineering sits at the interface between hardware and software, and it involves blending the traditional fields of electrical engineering and computer science. Computer engineers are equally comfortable building embedded computers and exploring new sensor circuits as they are programming web applications and analyzing algorithms. Students studying computer engineering over the next five years will have a unique opportunity to shape how this proliferation of connected devices will change our society.
The 2014 CURIE Scholars explored the Internet of Things by designing, building, and testing one of several simple IoT devices inspired by real-world applications of IoT. The week-long design project began with three laboratory sessions. In the first lab, scholars learned about computer engineering from the hardware perspective by incrementally building a simple calculator out of basic logic gates. In the second lab, scholars learned about computer engineering from the software perspective by incrementally building a mobile robot control application using the popular Arduino micro-controller. In the third lab, scholars put hardware and software together to create their first basic IoT system: a "smart door" that included an IoT device to send the door status to the cloud and a different IoT device to poll the cloud and display the door status using a small light. After these three laboratory sessions, scholars worked in groups on an IoT system centered around one of several themes including: smart home, early disaster warning, wearable health monitoring, wildlife tracking, and smart electrical power grids.