ASU team's robot driver in top 10 at Cornell Cup competition

June 24, 2014

A student team from the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, which taught a robot to drive an electric car, placed in the top 10 of 34 finalists at the Cornell Cup USA, an embedded technology competition presented by Intel.

The Cornell Cup competition is patterned after the Intel Cup China competition, which ASU students will also participate in. You can read about that competition here: Fulton students invited to Intel Cup competition in China. The Cornell Cup team received an honorary award. ASU students pose with robot they built Download Full Image

The annual competition, designed to encourage students to use embedded technology, provided teams with Intel development boards featuring Atom processors.

At the competition, held May 1-3 at Florida’s Walt Disney World Resort, teams vied for up to $10,000 and recognition for design, innovation and entrepreneurship.

ASU’s six-member team was led by Sami Mian, and included Joe Boeding, Ryan Sterry, Mila Arezina, Cameron Stewart and Bijan Fakhri, all seniors in computer systems engineering.

The work was the students’ senior capstone design project, which is also a project of ASU’s Sun Devil Robotics club. The team’s advisers were assistant professor Georgios Fainekos and senior lecturer Yinong Chen in the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering. Fainekos mentored the team and provided resources, and Chen facilitated and reviewed the designs.

The project, called Nao Navigators, used Nao, an autonomous, humanoid robot developed by Aldebaran Robotics, a French robotics company headquartered in Paris. Nao, a robot with a body shaped like a human, can operate on its own with minimum or no human intervention. It can be programmed before or during operation.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) chooses a technological issue that it believes needs a solution and sets a grand challenge. The challenge for this competition was to use humanoid robots in disaster zones.

ASU’s Cornell Cup team was inspired by the challenge and a love for robotics. The team members also wanted to figure out how robots could help in disaster relief efforts, so they decided to teach Nao to drive a small electric car.

The idea is to use robots to perform tasks in environments that are too dangerous for humans. A robot can walk to a site, but if it is a long distance, it would need transportation, which would require greater power and capabilities. To drive, the robot must use the steering wheel and acceleration pedal of the car. It also must be able to avoid obstacles and use three-dimensional vision. It also needs to be able to respond to general and common events, such as stopping the vehicle at a red signal, or moving over when another vehicle approaches.

Equipment and supplies may also have to be transported by the robot to the disaster area, and the robot may have to operate heavy machinery vehicles at the disaster site.

The project became easier with new embedded technologies such as laser range finders and Microsoft’s Kinect sensor for Xbox that simulates stereoscopic vision. The robot system uses Intel’s Atom processor running Robot Operating System on Linux.

The team split the project into four stages: simulation, prototyping, programming and testing. Team members worked on it from mid-September until the competition. They plan to improve the software and hardware framework of the robot, and hope that one day human-sized robots will be able to operate any type of vehicle.

Written by Mayank Prasad

First cohort graduates with ASU master's in health care delivery

June 24, 2014

After graduating from University of Arizona, Ashley Diaz decided she wanted to pursue a career in health care administration. When she couldn't find any relevant programs at U of A, she looked to see what Arizona State University had to offer. Luckily, the College of Health Solutions had a degree that suited her interests: the newly launched Master of Science in the Science of Health Care Delivery.

“Once I read the full detail of the program I was like, ‘Wow, this is for me,’” said Diaz. “I was just awestruck about what it offered.” ASU graduate Ashley Diaz Download Full Image

Fast-forward to today and Diaz has completed the nine-month program and earned her master’s degree. For her capstone project, she created a mnemonic device, Project ENTRUSTS, aimed at improving communication between patients and practitioners.

“The ASU experience was great,” she said. “The professors put so much emphasis on wanting to teach you everything that they have, everything that they know, so they can see you succeed.”

Launched in 2013, the Science of Health Care Delivery graduate program is designed to give students a background in health care delivery, and allow students to contribute in a patient-centered, safe and cost-effective health care system. The program allows students to learn all aspects of health care by presenting cases that they must work together to solve.

“It’s a really unique curriculum in that it’s classroom-based, it’s lock step and it’s cohort-based,” said Alison Essary, director of student affairs for the College of Health Solutions and mentor to the Science of Health Care Delivery students. “Students start together, they finish together and they’re in class together the entire nine months. They develop those networks that are so vital to professional development early on, and it builds a sense of community.”

Becoming a ‘Change Agent’

This community the students build is as diverse as their interests; the program draws international students and future and current workers from all aspects of health and health care. While many graduates plan to become doctors, others are interested in areas like hospital administration, health policy and becoming a change agent in the health care field.

Change agents are people who work to alter organizational systems in order to make them more effective. Kayleen Wilson is one student who found this aspect so important. She grew up on a reservation and used to volunteer at the community hospital. Wilson watched the hospital go from being managed by the government to being managed by her tribe, and she noted that some leadership challenges occurred.

“I can make a difference within the reservation, especially in the hospital area,” she said. “I’m hoping with this degree I can go back to the reservation and help my people.”

Students develop different perspectives to achieve solutions in health

Cui “Echo” Sui is another student who is interested in changing the health care field, but she puts an emphasis on the need for technology and social media use. Her capstone project involved producing videos, which incorporated her goal of someday going to film school.

“We made an application video for physicians and nurses with the goal of improving the interprofessional collaboration in (the) health care system,” said Sui. “If they work as a team and they have better communication, it will improve the quality of care and (there) will be more patients entered into the system. I think social media is a good tool to improve public health in the broad scale.”

Sui is originally from China, where she studied medicine until coming to ASU. She says the Chinese health care system can learn a lot from its American counterpart, but both have a long way to go.

“What surprised me at first was I (thought) the United States health care system (was) fantastic, or at least good,” she said. “But actually, after learning more about the system, we found that it’s not perfect and we can figure out a way to improve it in (the) short term.”

Wilson, Sui and Diaz all have different solutions for how to improve health care. Wilson hopes that the Affordable Health Care Act can eventually lead to universal health coverage, while Sui thinks that there needs to be a focus on healthy lifestyles. Diaz thinks health literacy is most important, and the progress she has seen inspired her capstone project.

”I can see that there’s a lot of positive change toward the improvement of health literacy,” she said. “There are checklists that patients can have that nurses fill out with the patients, like ‘Why are you here? What treatments were you given?’ Then the patient takes that to their primary care doctor, and the primary care doctor can talk to them. I think that’s a really good step toward the improvement of health literacy.”

Different perspectives such as these are what the Science of Health Care Delivery program hopes to foster. To support this mission, the program brings together faculty from different departments at ASU, as well as community partners from organizations like the Mayo Clinic and Banner Health.

“There are several aspects of the program that distinguish it from other graduate programs in health,” said Essary. “For instance, the integration of faculty across ASU in a truly interprofessional fashion; we have faculty from law, business and nursing. We have partners from our community come in and provide instruction as well. I think those are going to offer our students opportunities to not only complete capstone projects, but to get employed as well.”

Now that the first cohort of students has graduated, they are looking to the future. Wilson is applying for health care administration jobs in order to gain experience so that someday she can manage tribal-owned hospitals, and Sui has returned to China. Diaz is working on patenting her capstone project by turning it into a patient-friendly application. She sees her position as a patient companion/staffing specialist at Carondelet St. Mary’s Hospital as a foot in the door to becoming a health administrator and earning a doctorate in health care administration.

“I just hope that I get some kind of job that includes health care literacy and patient advocacy,” she said. “If I don’t, I can always work toward it. I’m always going to have this passion.”

For more information about the Science of Health Care Delivery program, including the online degree program, visit

Written by Kaly Nasiff

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