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New Faculty: Kunal Mankodiya

Since joining the URI College of Engineering faculty in July of 2014, Kunal Mankodiya has been widely acclaimed for his research and teaching of the so-called Internet of Things, or IoT.Kunal Mankodiya 3

“The IoT is about connecting everyday objects around us to gather data and provide new services to users, such as a ‘smart’ connected eyeglasses that automatically changes lighting or music,” explained Mankodiya.

Another example would be a device that helps a user give up nicotine, which some of his students developed for the Cornell HealthHackathon, an event sponsored by Johnson & Johnson and held in New York City from March 10-12, 2017.

The team of five URI students claimed second place for their project. They were one of 15 teams to compete.

“Their idea was to use IoT to help smokers wean off their nicotine addiction without removing the act of smoking,” said Mankodiya.

According to Mankodiya, hackathons (also known as hackfests or makerfests) have gained wide popularity in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education in recent years to promote a “learning by doing” exercise in young generations.

The first hackathon organized by Mankodiya was held at URI in 2015.  Four teams of students were tasked with coming up with solutions to real­world problems and develop prototypes to present for judging. The prototypes had to fit under the IoT umbrella.

Since the inaugural event, the URI hackathon has exploded in popularity. Cumulatively, more than 60 students, 15 mentors and 20 judges have participated in the three hackathons.

Prior to entering contests, Mankodiya’s students first learned about IoT in the professor’s classroom, for which he has received recognition.

In 2015, Mankodiya received a VentureWell Faculty Award
for a course on “Wearable Internet-of-Things.” In the class, teams of students developed affordable, wearable devices with healthcare applications.

Using technology to make advances in healthcare has been of particular interest to Mankodiya.

In 2016, the professor received a National Science Foundation (NSF) Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) Research Initiation Initiative grant. His project is “Brain-Body Sensor Fusion: Merging Neuroimaging With Full-Body Motion Capture.”

Currently, Mankodiya is working with Bradley Hospital and Brown University on the pilot project, “Brain/Behavior Mechanisms in Emotional Dysregulation in Adolescents with Mood and Anxiety Disorders.”

Using smart watches, the researchers are able to examine changes in blood flow in the brain and monitor bodily responses to emotional stimuli.

“We can see when there are episodes that indicate they are experiencing anxiety or mood swings,” Mankodiya told the Providence Business News for a recent article.

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