School of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Diversity Programs in Engineering
CURIE Academy 2021
Design Project: Computing at the Edge
Prof. Christopher Batten
Fully Virtual • July 19–23, 2021
The CURIE Academy is a one-week summer 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 2021 design project experience was titled "Computing at the Edge".
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 used to interconnect everyday physical objects "at the edge" of the network such that these objects can autonomously collect data, interact with the real world, and communicate with a centralized cloud. IoT wearable devices can monitor health and notify doctors of issues in real-time. IoT devices in smart buildings can carefully track the behavior of occupants to automatically optimize energy efficiency. IoT devices can attach 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 for computing at the edge 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 2021 CURIE Scholars explored "Computing at the Edge" by designing, building, and testing one of several simple IoT devices inspired by real-world applications of IoT. The week began with preliminary laboratory sessions where scholars learned about computer engineering from both the hardware perspective (e.g., assembling basic logic gates to implement a simple "calculator" for adding small binary numbers) and the software perspective (e.g., incrementally programming a microcontroller in C++ to implement an IoT "smart light" system). The scholars then transitioned to working in groups on an IoT system centered around one of several themes including smart home, early disaster warning, wearable health monitoring, and digital agriculture.