The junior from Ancaster, Ontario, is silencing the critics who said he could never balance an intense engineering degree while playing Division I soccer.
“I actually like it during the season,” Camillo, 20, says. “Soccer provides a structure and I know I have to get my schoolwork done before practice.”
Camillo’s love has always been soccer. Charging down the field, making a comeback that no one thought possible or going to the A-10 conference finals as the team did last year offers an amazing thrill. But Camillo has found engineering lets him tap into another passion – one to explore, question and create.
Growing up in Canada – where he moved at age 4 from New York – Camillo always wanted to know how stuff worked. He questioned everything and, in high school, discovered a love of math and physics. When he reached college, friends told him to find an easy major and focus exclusively on soccer. Camillo, who attended the University of Memphis before transferring to URI in fall 2013, wholeheartedly ignored that advice and became the only engineering major on the men’s soccer team.
“I’m not going to be a soccer player my entire life and engineering is something I enjoy,” he says. “I’d rather put in a few years of hard work and enjoy my future job than enroll in a major I don’t like.”
At URI, Camillo found a lot to like about his engineering major. The curriculum offers students the opportunity to study a broad array of topics and dig into why things work (or don’t). Camillo credits professors with bringing topics to life and Professor Donna Meyer with making fluid mechanics – typically a dry field despite its name – exciting. That branch of engineering has so appealed to Camillo that he’s thinking about pursuing it further by going to graduate school.
“I want to see and work in the real world,” Camillo says. “But when I do, I want to be really well educated.”
So does he think URI will offer him that by the time he graduates?
“Yes,” he says. “It’s awesome here.”]]>
John Paquet III
*Not all names appear due to student privacy settings.
A wristwatch, a phone and the cloud will revolutionize how we monitor and treat chronic health conditions says one University of Rhode Island engineering researcher.
Biomedical engineering Assistant Professor Kunal Mankodiya and his students are developing software that allows a smartphone to monitor a patient’s vital signs. The phone sends the data over the Internet to a server in the cloud for analysis, which feeds the results to a doctor. What previously required a doctor’s visit will now occur 24/7 anywhere thanks to the phone’s built-in sensors that monitor pulse, movement, etc.
Armed with the data, doctors can adjust medication or program a computer to automatically inform the patient to change dosage based on the information sent from the smartwatch. The concept brings the “Internet of Things” – the concept of connecting all things to the Internet – to wearable devices, in this case a watch.
“We’re excited about the potential but it is not easy to design such a wearable system,” Mankodiya says. “It goes into a dynamic environment because the body is always moving. However, as biomedical engineers we understand what physicians need and how the technology can help.”
To solve the problem, Mankodiya and two undergraduate students are creating algorithms for commercially available smartwatches running the Android operating system. By relying on readily available watches, the team keeps costs low and puts its focus on the intelligent algorithms designed for the health field.
At the forefront of the code stands junior biomedical engineering student Cody Goldberg, 20, of Amherst, N.H. He’s never taken a programming class, but with research he coded the software to turn the watch’s monitoring components into a stream of data.
“It’s a lot of fun developing wearable technologies for health care,” he says. “I’m teaching myself stuff I wouldn’t learn otherwise.”
Both Goldberg and his professor jumped into the project for personal reasons. Goldberg’s brother suffers from epilepsy. Goldberg hopes his system will predict a seizure and provide his brother time to react – such as safely stopping a car he’s driving.
Mankodiya started thinking about pairing wearable devices and health monitoring after his father suffered a heart attack in India. Then in Germany, Mankodiya developed wearable health devices to monitor health signs from afar to improve diagnosis and interventions.
“We know people around us who suffer from diseases that require continuous clinical care,” Mankodiya says.
He pursued the concept of a “wearable Internet of Things” during graduate school and as a postdoctoral researcher at Carnegie Mellon University. He collaborated with the University of Pittsburg Neurological Center to start work on SPARK – the Smart Phone and Watch for Parkinson’s disease patients. The system uses the watch to monitor tremors in patients to measure the disease’s progress and intensity.
When Mankodiya arrived at URI in July 2014, he scaled up the work. Besides Goldberg, he brought in Trevor Bernier, a senior biomedical engineering student from Taunton, Mass.
Bernier, 22, is working on wearable optical sensors that monitor brain activity. By pairing them with related sensors under development by URI biomedical engineering Associate Professor Walt Besio, doctors gain a complete and real-time view of patients’ brain activity. The individual systems have already undergone human testing and now the group hopes to bring them together.
“It’s a very hands-on project allowing me to learn engineering skills demanded in the marketplace,” Bernier says. “I also know people who we can help and who will benefit. That’s greatly rewarding.”]]>
Bionic legs and torpedoes would appear to hold little in common. However, Robert Hernandez applies lessons he learned designing prosthetic legs at the University of Rhode Island to America’s next generation of underwater weapons systems.
Hernandez, who holds a master’s (’10) and doctorate (’14) in electrical engineering from URI, spent his academic career studying computer hardware and algorithms that interface between a human nervous system and a prosthetic leg. He took that information and applied it at his day job as a torpedo systems engineer at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport, R.I.
“Once you take the 1,000-foot view instead of the 10-foot view, you see how selection criteria for a computer architecture are not necessarily determined by the system, but instead by guidelines developed to compare the architectures against one another,” says Hernandez, who lives in Middletown, R.I.
The signal processing performed by URI’s neural-machine-interface is similar to many naval systems. The underlying concept is the same – take in lots of raw data, pre-process it then use classifications techniques to make a decision, whether it’s how far to move a prosthetic leg or the targeting of a weapon. Hernandez and URI researchers created guidelines that outline what computer hardware and algorithms work best given different goals.
For the Navy, Hernandez spearheads one or two naval projects while providing a hand to projects that run into issues. His Ph.D. is allowing him to take a research role designing next-generation systems and he often rides on naval vessels to see the systems up close. His research garnered national attention in 2014 when the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers bestowed on him its Hispanic in Technology Government Award, noting his innovative troubleshooting skills.
For his part, Hernandez says he likes a challenge and just getting to the warfare center proved one.
Hernandez grew up in a low-income section of Brooklyn, New York with his mother as the sole provider. Hernandez watched her almost sell their house twice to raise money and saw many neighbors unable to climb the socioeconomic ladder. But his mother encouraged him and he won a scholarship to attend Polytechnic University in Brooklyn in 1988.
Struggling to find a job in New York City, Hernandez applied to the Navy, which offered him an engineering position in Newport. He accepted in 1992 and planned to stay two years. To his surprise, he found a home in the Ocean State and fell in love with his job.
By 2008, he convinced his managers to let him pursue a graduate degree. At the time, URI operated the Center for Excellence for Undersea Technology and it offered the perfect marriage of electrical engineering and ocean technology. He enjoyed school so much he stayed for his Ph.D., ultimately graduating with a 4.0.
Hernandez says his academic career led him to appreciate the first-rate curriculum and dedication of engineering faculty, especially his mentors Jien-Chung Lo and Qing Yang.
He also saw the passion of students and these days helps recruit them to careers at the warfare center. Hernandez says he especially encourages young people who face challenging life situations like those that he experienced.
“Growing up in an inner-city neighborhood, I thought I was destined to be a failure,” he says. “I never expected I would be here. This is amazing. I’m doing something for our country and to protect democracy. I want kids to realize they have the opportunity to be something.”]]>
Morocco wants to be the gateway to the African economy. But even with its proximity to Europe, political stability and millions of dollars poured into infrastructure, it lacks one thing: engineers. Morocco’s education ministry wants to see at least 10,000 engineers graduate a year, but in a country where just 67 percent of people can read and write, meeting that goal has been a challenge.
Hicham Benjelloun wants to be one of those engineers. The Moroccan native traveled 3,500 miles to study at the University of Rhode Island seeking a world-class mechanical engineering education he could bring back home.
“Morocco is experiencing big development right now,” Benjelloun, 23, says. “Yet, if I had stayed in Morocco for college I would not have grown as much as I wanted and have at URI.”
Far from the soaring temperatures of Morocco, Benjelloun immersed himself in college and the United States. He adjusted to the cooler temperatures, explored the nearby beaches and joined intramural soccer. A lover of science and math, he enjoyed the engineering, calculus and physics courses. To fulfill a general education requirement he took French. That class would bring him halfway around the world again.
His French professor suggested Benjelloun join the International Engineering Program. Benjelloun, who already spoke French, Arabic and English, could benefit from the five-year program that offers simultaneous degrees in an engineering discipline and a foreign language. It also meant studying and interning abroad. Benjelloun didn’t hesitate. He added a French major and signed up for the program.
The program took him first to the University of Technology of Compiègne in France for a semester of study. Then he spent six months in Massy, France interning for CGG, an engineering firm specializing in geoscience that counts major energy companies among its clients.
Benjelloun worked with a team of engineers to develop piezoelectric sensors that work when analyzing conditions of rigid soil. The team tested more than 100 variations before settling on a design, which is pending a patent.
“It was the highlight of my academic career,” Benjelloun says. “I can’t wait to go back there and apply for a job.”
He’ll likely have little trouble passing a CGG job interview. His internship interview conducted in two languages – English and French – stretched more than four hours and involved three layers of management. At the end, the senior manager offered him the paid internship on the spot.
Benjelloun says he loves the work at CGG, the people and the chance to dig into international projects, maybe even in his home country. Eventually though he wants to return to Morocco armed with his international engineering experience.
“I always thought Morocco had the potential to be an amazing country,” Benjelloun says. “I feel blessed having had the opportunity to discover new places and expand my knowledge. I have Morocco and my parents to thank for giving me the foundation to do that and I want to give back just the little of what they gave me.”]]>
The College of Engineering Diversity Office provides funding to individual students participating in student organization activities and to student organizations that play a critical role in building community and enhancing the educational experience. In an effort to ensure that funds are allocated in a fair and equitable manner, the office accepts funding requests from students and minority student organizations in the early part of each academic semester. Student organization events that receive financial support from Diversity Office will propose activities that offer the greatest benefit.
To be eligible to receive funds as an individual, a student must hold official membership in the organization. Eligible organizations are those officially recognized by the College of Engineering and their national umbrella organizations (if applicable).
Because funding is limited, it is impossible to fully fund each request. Over the years, a set of criteria has been developed for the award of funds. Generally, the Office’s budget is reserved to support activities that could not go forward without the funding. General categories of such activities include speaker events open to the entire engineering community, community service projects, activities likely to enhance the educational experience of members of the student organization and/or a fairly significant sector of the minority engineering community, activities which provide opportunities for students to develop professional skills, unusual opportunities to learn more about the profession, and activities which promote a greater interaction, in a professional context, among members of different engineering school organizations or with alumni.
Other considerations include the size of the organization, its total anticipated budget for the academic year, amount of carry-over funds from the previous year, and the Diversity funds allocation for the year at issue. Given the limited funding, money for food, honoraria, recreational activities, and travel have become increasingly limited. None of the allocated funds may be used to purchase alcoholic beverages.
Educational Programming – Funding preference will be given to panels and speaker events that further education outside the classroom, help students make informed decisions about career choices, and provide opportunities for students to share aspects of their culture and life experience with the engineering college community. Social mixers and networking programs will receive financial support on a limited basis.
Competitions – Engineering teams are eligible for financial assistance for registration fees, and reasonable travel and accommodation expenses. Competitors are required to report the results of the competition to the Minority Student Recruitment and Retention Coordinator.
Student Travel – Limited funds are available for reasonable travel expenses to conferences, national meetings, and special events. Students are expected to seek supplemental support and sponsorship from other sources.
Registration Fees – Limited funds are available for registration fees associated with conferences, retreats, etc. Student participants are required to share what they learn with their respective organizations and the engineering school community.
Speaker Expenses – Depending on availability, funds may be available for reasonable honoraria, travel, accommodation, and meal expenses incurred by out-of-town speakers.
Organizational Meetings/Food – Depending on availability, funds may be awarded for expenses related to organizational recruitment meetings. Limited funds may also be available for reasonable expenses related to lunch events. University funds may not be used directly or indirectly for the purchase of alcoholic beverages. Funds raised by student organizations may be used to defray the cost of hosting events.
Minority organizations that wish to receive full consideration for funding from the Minority Student Recruitment and Retention Coordinator complete the online funding request form by the designated deadline each fall term.
Funding Fall Deadline – November 15 – Funding requests are limited to events and activities. All funds awarded during this cycle are taken into account during the academic year budgeting process.
Funding Spring Deadline– March 15 – Funding requests is limited to events and activities. All funds awarded during this cycle are taken into account during the academic year budgeting process.
Funding will be limited and based on availability.]]>