Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tech Trails: Freshmen Propelled to JPL

Tech Trails tracks summer plans of Caltech basketball players -- from SURFs (summer undergraduate research fellowships) to related work in the fields of math, science, and engineering.

Three more first-year basketball players will be working at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory this summer.

Mike Edwards (18.8 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.8 spg) will have a role in developing new platinum-based alloys for use in hydrogen-air fuel cells. He will also have his own sub-project while collaborating with a group of students on the main assignment.

"I expect to learn how to perform a modified sputtering system for preparing thin films," said Edwards, a mechanical engineering major. "I'm very excited to get a chance to work at JPL."

Collin Murphy (3.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.4 spg) has an internship working with instruments for Mars missions.

"This is my first glimpse into practical applications for my major," said Murphy, who is studying bioengineering. "Working at JPL will also give me a chance to continue working with really smart and experienced people throughout the summer."

Pan Wang (3.0 ppg, 1.7 rpg), an electrical engineering major, will be involved in a highly structured SURF under Steve Chien of JPL, entitled Onboard automated processing of SAR data for autonomous unpiloted vehicles and autonomous spacecraft.

Wang will investigate and implement approaches for transforming SAR data into readable images and study their accuracy in comparison to other satellite imaging. These algorithmic procedures will take SAR data and create classification maps or statistical summaries like soil-moisture estimations, glacial surges, fire-scars, and forest biomass.

"Essentially, I'll gain experience turning raw data into programmable data," explained Wang.

The concentration will be on approaches that can be efficiently implemented onboard autonomous aircraft or spacecraft so that vehicles operated by UAVSAR and DESDynI can engage in onboard automated processing of data.

"It will be great to work with a new group of scientists," said Wang.