ThinkChicago Roadshow, a networking event for both Illinois Tech students and Chicago tech companies, occurred on April 9 at Guaranteed Rate Field. Sponsored by Relativity, ThinkChicago promotes career-building opportunities to some of the top engineering, design, and entrepreneurial university students, exploring the city’s vibrant innovation platform.
The highlights of the event: ‘Illinois Tech Student Project Demo Session’ where Illinois Tech and staff members presented their project(s) that they have been working on. Half of this event was dedicated for attendees to learn about these projects which I have summarized in section 1 below. Besides, the event led to an open platform for Illinois Tech students to network with 15 companies: Relativity, CCC Information Services Inc, tastytrade, JP Morgan Chase & Co., Ocient, Chicago Ventures, 1871, Capgemini, CDOT, Chicago Department & Innovation & Technology, Matter, mHUB, World Business Chicago, Zen Supplies, and SAGECORPS. Additionally, there was a ThinkChicago Feature Panel (see section 2).
Illinois Tech Student Teams - White Sox Showcase
Agent-Dependent Early-Photon Tomography System (ADEPT) Cancer Imager
Under the Armour R&D program, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering Kenneth Tichauer has contributed to the development of a scientific instrument that assesses the rapid spread of cancer, tumor-draining lymph nodes, and guide therapy. Alongside with his project, graduate student Lagnojita Sinha has published her works on the development of a “new optical-projection tomography system with significantly improved spatial resolution based on enhancing detection of early-arriving photons.”
Extreme Fast-Charging Batteries Enabled by Silicon Micro-Reactors
A project led by the department of mechanical, materials, and aerospace engineering intends to, “design, synthesize, and fabricate extreme fast charging (XFC) batteries.” Rowe Family Chair Professor Leon Shaw acknowledged the current high energy battery technology that takes up to half an hour to fully charge vehicles. However, his research project presents extreme fast-charging batteries made of Silicon micro-reactor anodes that can enable vehicle electrification to its maximum charged level in as few as ten minutes. In January 2018, Illinois Tech filed a “provisional patent application” for this ground breakthrough technology.
Ethics of large platform computing & Automated Analysis of Public Safety Spectrum
Cindy Hood - Associate Chair of Computer Science, Associate Professor of Computer Science and Engineering presented her two main projects.
Hood explained the ubiquitous presence of large-scale computing platforms, citing the example of Facebook and Google, and the amount of data that is collected by these entities for the purpose of automating decision-making models. Her project analyzes the ethical aspects and provides an insight to solve these issues altogether with ways to better educate computer science students about this topic.
This project addresses the lack of a spectrum for public safety agencies to communicate better. Hood proposes a long-term solution through the creation of a semantic framework that can, therefore, be used to automate analysis and classification of such a spectrum. This result is achieved by the knowledge of the prior domain together with the measurements and event data.
Applied Artificial Intelligence
Ankit Srivastava, Associate Professor of Mechanical, Materials, and Aerospace Engineering shared that the main goal of his project is to adapt modern AI/machine learning tools for solving engineering problems efficiently in mechanics. In partnership with University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and metamaterial design (collaborating with the Amazon AWS AI group), this project explores the translation of machine learning algorithms into the discovery of physics laws from observations.
Prep of a Neutral Electrode Implantation Device for In-Vivo Surgical Use
Associate Dean of Armour College of Engineering, Professor of Biomedical Engineering, and Professor of Stuart School of Business Philip Troyk has been working on an improved design for a device that will be used to insert wireless electrode arrays into the neural tissue. This technology will be wirelessly monitored by an intracortical visual prosthesis (IVCP) system, aiming to restore vision in blind patients.
Coordinated Transit Response Planning and Operations Support Tools for Mitigating Impacts of All-Hazard Emergency Events
Zongzhi Li, Associate Professor of Civil and Architectural Engineering, Director of Transportation Engineering and Infrastructure Engineering and Management Department: Transportation Engineering contributed to a $2.9 million project, funded by the U.S. Federal Transit Administration and Argonne National Laboratory. As the largest transportation research group in this field, Illinois Tech researchers have developed new technologies and tools to solve U.S. transit agencies' most pressing issues related to disaster strikes. Additionally, with the aid of Argonne, the university partners aim to build a toolbox that enables transit agencies to respond better to transit system demands during a crisis.
Field on Wheels
A pop-up virtual reality experience, “Field on Wheels” is a prototype built under the IPRO STEM department, with the guidance of Twisha-Shah Brandenburg and Thomas Brandenburg, Adjunct Faculty in the Institute of Design. This project creates an active participation of visitors at the Field Museum of Natural History, beyond any geographical boundaries. Exhibited at the DePaul STEM expo, this project gathered 100 visitor impressions every hour.
Structural Design and Permit Documents for B.R.O.N.Z.E House
Edoarda Corradi Dell’ Acqua - Adjunct Faculty in Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering and Brent Stephens - Associate Professor of Architectural Engineering Department: Architectural and Civil Engineering composed a team that has submitted structural design and drawings for a City of Chicago Building Permit through Illinois Tech’s award-winning entry in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Netzero 2017 Student Design Competition.
Chemical Engineering Car Competition Team
Designing and fabricating a small, chemically powered vehicle: this project entails the contribution of Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering Donald Chmielewski together with some undergraduate students. It tackles the stopping mechanism of a vehicle through an iodine clock while the vehicle is powered by an exothermic reaction between iodine and aluminum. The thermal energy produced from this reaction is then converted into electricity via thermoelectric plates.
A prototype that manages safety in an open-access fabrication lab, “AuthetiScan” is built under the supervision of Patrick Karina, Lab Manager of the Idea Shop prototyping lab. This system channels power to machines via ID cards following the integration of safety-training database to stop unauthorized users from making use of machines in the lab without prior supervision.
Automated Warehouse Agriculture
A project led by Adjunct Professor of Industrial Technology and Management Blake Davis explores the cross-application of recent developments in automated warehouse systems primarily in the indoor vertical farming industry.
Illinois Tech Robotics
One of the oldest student organizations at Illinois Tech, the campus robotics club presented previous robot manipulators and a scale model of one of its competition robots, and displayed previous projects by the members of the club.
Illinois Tech Motorsports/Society of Automotive Engineering RACECAR
Under the faculty of Electrical and Computer Engineering Associate, Mahesh Krishnamurthy shared his project that involves designing, manufacturing, and testing a formula electric racing car that competes against teams from different countries. Members from this organization gain project experience while learning some of the top software, and design and simulation programs.
Autonomous Movement Framework (AMF) for UAVs
A team consisting of Industry Associate Professor of Information Technology and Management Department Jeremy Hajek has worked on a large-scale fleet of UAVs (drones) which move autonomously to augment disaster recovery and human search and rescue missions. Field workers can call waiting drones to their current location through an Android application. Open-source software (Android and Python based) and commodity drones make this project special, published as a multi-year project by the Special Interest Group in Information Technology Education (part of ACM).
Another project that Hajek contributed to was the “Telepresence Framework”. It involves the exploration of Microsoft’s Hololens AR/XR: Augmented Reality/Extended Reality holographic computing platform that makes telepresence possible. Through standard design tools like Unity 3D, Solidworks and 3D Max together with web-based APIs, a user can be translated instantly to an interactive hologram of a location far away, obtain live information, and interact with remote units without relocating.
Illinois Tech Provost Russell Betts greeted participants for their presence, and highlighted Relativity the main sponsor of this event. Betts acknowledged Illinois Tech as a great school in the city, before passing the stage to Andrea Zopp, CEO of World Business Chicago. Zopp hence introduced the event's other keynote speakers:
Chief Security Officer of Relativity Amanda Fennell
CEO and Co-founder of Ocient Chris Gladwin (an Illinois Tech Board Member)
Illinois Tech alum and founder of ZenSupplies Tiger Safarov
Illinois Tech Trustee and Partner of Chicago Ventures Kevin Willer
From developing startups to functioning within large companies, these panelists gave participants a good contrast with what working in each of these environments signifies. Gladwin explained how he is inspired to go to work at Ocient as he gets to be a team player in a group of awesome people. He acknowledged how work can burn people out sometimes, but it really takes “one notch away from awesomeness.”
Czerwinski highlighted JP Morgan Chase as the largest purchaser of tech in Chicagoland and stated that their great internal synergy and stability is what makes this company unique.
Safarov added how he loves the combination of speed with people within his company, how everybody reports to him every day right at 8:00. He believes that “anything is possible or everything is possible.” As an Illinois Tech alumni, Safarov shared his struggle when he graduated around 2008, the era of economic recession crisis in the United States. At least one professor clearly told him not to venture in the area that he currently champions as a start-up company. No charms work for him other than perseverance and hard work.
Fennell from Relativity gave participants an overview of her company. Relativity is a business incubator and tech hub, trying to balance a lack of bureaucracy with more stability than a stereotypical Silicon Valley incubator.
Zopp commuted to the city back and forth from Buffalo, New York. She said she really enjoys her work as the CEO of her organization.
This event ended on a good note, with Betts apologizing that students missed the baseball game that took place at 1:00 p.m. on that day. Instead, all the attendees were given an unlimited ticket to watch any White Sox baseball game this season. Those who attended had not simply learned a lot from Chicago industrial tech leaders but also had an opportunity to exchange a few ideas with them.