Advanced Survey Technology at Maya Site El Zotz

Kastner Group members Dustin Richmond, Perry Naughton, and Ryan Kastner were among a group of researchers documenting cultural heritage at the Maya site El Zotz in the Peten region of Guatemala. The team, which also included members from Engineers for Exploration and the Explorers Club, used ground lidar, imagery from unmanned aerial vehicles, and structure from motion to provide precise data of the temples, stelae, bowls, tunnels, and masks throughout the site from the Early Classic period. The site is named “Zotz” (the Maya name for “bat”) after the thousands of bats that emerge every night from a nearby cliff. Our team was also able to provide a 3D image of that cliff and determine the location of the bat cave. Additionally, we created 3D models of the excavated tunnels beneath two the main temples, El Diablo and M7-1.

After getting the blessing from the Guatemalan government, the results of these expeditions were written up by Calit2, put on the front page of the UCSD website and the Jacobs School website, picked up by, Gizmodo, and International Business Times.

Patent Issued on “Simulate and Eliminate” Research

patent-award-imageThe US Patent Office recently issued patent number US 8,812,285 B2 to our research group for work related to developing application specific processors. The patent was awarded to Dr. Ali Irturk and Ryan, and is licensable through the UCSD Technology Transfer Office. The patent covers material related to Ali’s PhD thesis, which took a general purpose processor, analyzed a set of applications that would run upon it, and removed unnecessary components in order to reduce the complexity, save power, and increase the performance.

Best Paper Award at FPL

20140902_090242The Kastner Group brought home another award from the International Conference on Field Programmable Logic and Applications (FPL). The odds were stacked in our favor as two of the three papers that we had accepted to FPL were nominated for the best paper award. Unfortunately, only one can win. 20140903_225108And that one was our paper called “Hardware Accelerated Novel Optical De Novo Assembly for Large-Scale Genomes” authored by Pingfan Meng, Matt Jacobsen, former visiting scholar Motoki Kimura, our collaborators at BioNano Genomics, Vladimir Dergachev, Thomas Anantharaman, Michael Requa, and Ryan Kastner.

Congratulations is also in order for the best paper nomination of the research titled “Improving FPGA Accelerated Tracking with Multiple Online Trained Classifiers” authored by Matt Jacobsen, former Kastner Group undergraduate Siddarth Sampangi (now a graduate student at UMass Amherst), Yoav Freund, and Ryan.

Last year we also had three FPL papers with one winning the Community Award (see previous post for more info). The bar has been set high for next year. Congrats again to all of the authors!

Dustin receives ARCS Fellowship

dustin_hikingDustin Richmond was awarded the Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS) fellowship, which “advances science and technology in the United States by providing financial awards to academically outstanding U.S. citizens studying to complete degrees in science, engineering and medical research”. He joins other famous ARCS scholars like Neil deGrasse Tyson and recent Kastner Group PhD alumnus Jason Oberg. More information about Dustin and the award can be found at the UCSD CSE Department news release. Congrats Dustin on the well-deserved award.

Cyber-Physical Systems Security Ideas Lab

IMG_2211Last week Ryan was invited to a five day workshop aimed at developing novel ideas and new directions in cyber-physical systems security. The workshop, sponsored by the National Science Foundation and Intel, brought together researchers from around the country to understand this space, develop research ideas, and generally brainstorm about the applications and issues surrounding this increasingly important area.

As part of the “getting to know you sessions”, we were asked to blindly draw a random person (the one seated across the table). The picture was Ryan’s caricature. We won’t reveal the artist, but the likeness is uncanny.

New(ish) Graduate Student: Riley Yeakle

e4e-riley-setupAfter finishing his undergraduate degree last spring at UCSD, Riley Yeakle has joined the Kastner group as its newest graduate student. As an undergraduate, Riley found the Engineers for Exploration group and dived into the world of remote imaging. As a student leader in Engineers for Exploration, Riley led development on the Intelligent Camera Trap, a robotic wildlife videographer, and the Tiger Tracker, a behavior monitoring system for the tigers at the San Diego Zoo. Riley even spent a summer in the District with the National Geographic Society working on the CritterCam, a camera collar for animals used to study animal behavior from a first person perspective in the wild. Work on these projects strongly influenced Riley’s research interests in machine learning, ecological sensor networks, and embedded computer vision.

A true Californian, Riley rock climbs, hikes, surfs, and plays Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu outside of school. In the Kastner Group, Riley is continuing his trend of creating technologies for exploration by developing acoustic localization algorithms for the SIO autonomous underwater explorers.

COSMOS Comes to an End

IMG_1287Ryan and Riley spent much of the past month working with 19 outstanding high school students as part of the UCSD COSMOS program. These students in Cluster 1: Computers in Everyday Life were exposed to topics in computer science and electrical engineering while developing Android applications, programming robotics, and developing embedded systems using Arduinos. Their final projects were outstanding, and highlighted in an article from the Qualcomm Institute and UCSD CSE Department. We are sure that these students will go on to do great things, and we hope to see them in the future. For more information, including pictures and videos of the various projects throughout the summer, feel free to check out the blog.

Qualcomm Institute Provides Seed Grant for Underwater Archaeology

perry+antonella-tahoeOur group was awarded a one year grant to aimed to develop robust 3D imaging techniques to study underwater archaeological sites. The grant, “Mapping and Visualizing Complex, Large-Scale Underwater Archaeological Sites and Artifacts” will extend the work done by Perry Naughton, Antonella Wilby and other Engineers for Exploration group members to create a multi-camera underwater system. The key contribution is to develop accurate localization in order to supplement the camera location information during the construction of the 3D models. Teledyne has generously loaned us an Explorer Doppler Velocity Log which we have coupled with an IMU, optical location techniques (e.g., optical flow), and acoustic ranging via buoys in order to get an accurate location lock for each picture taken. Press references [Qualcomm Institute, UCSD CSE]

New(ish) Post-Doc: Vinnie Wei Hu

DSC06217Vinnie Wei Hu recently returned back to our research group from Xi’an, China. Vinnie is no stranger to UCSD. He spent two years here as a visiting graduate student starting in 2009. During his visit, he worked with Ryan, Dr. Jason Oberg, and Dr. Ali Irturk on hardware security, specifically developing the theory behind gate level information flow tracking (GLIFT). After going back to Xi’an to finish his Ph.D, he is now starting his second stint in the Kastner Research Group to extend his research in hardware security. He plans to work on developing GLIFT for secure hardware design & verification and for enforcing embedded system security in order to secure the internet-of-things as well as cyber physical systems. Furthermore, he is looking into some research related to timing and power attacks on hardware involved in secure applications.

Ryan and Jason were hosted by Vinnie in China a couple of years ago and visited Museum of Terra-cotta Horses and Soldiers and rode around the 14 kilometer city wall built over 600 years ago (the picture is taken on that city wall). Welcome back Vinnie Wei Hu to the land of eternal sunshine!