The University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Cisco Kids Support Senior Design Projects

In the summer of 2009, Cisco Systems, Inc. hired more graduates from our Electrical & Computer Engineering Department (ECE) than from any other university, school, college, or department in the nation. Department Head Kris Hollot affectionately refers to the new hires as the "Cisco Kids." One of the Cisco Kids, Austin Cormier '09, wanted to give something back to the department right away. So he and three of his '09 classmates (Doug Frazer, Scott Richard, and Ivan Bercovich) pooled their resources and, with the generous support of Cisco, created "The Cisco Young Alumni Senior Design Project Award." 

Cormier and friends decided to establish the award because of how much the Senior Design Project (SDP) meant to them during their senior year. The SDP provides a capstone experience for undergraduate students in the ECE department. Students work in teams of three-to-four students with a budget of approximately $500 per team during a two-semester course to design and prototype a system of their choice. 

"I always thought,” Cormier reminisces, “just imagine what we could have accomplished if we had more of a budget!"  

To address that issue, he and his three fellow Cisco Kids committed $600 to create the new award to supplement SDP team budgets for projects of particular merit, as determined by faculty. Then, Cisco generously agreed to match its employees' contributions at a ratio of three-to-one for an additional $1,800 gift in support of the award. In the end, something that was just a whimsical idea last fall became a $2,400 award. 

Part of that money was awarded to Stuff Tracker, which finished in a tie for first place during the 2010 Senior Design Project competition on April 23, so that it could travel to the Rochester Institute of Technology Senior Design Competition.

Stuff Tracker is a technology that allows anybody with a smartphone to monitor the location of valuable objects carried around on a daily basis. Stuff Tracker gives you a method to detect your items in the first place, a device to tell you where your objects are when you need them, and a way to communicate with a large database that tracks the information related to the location of all these items. The Stuff Tracker team, working under faculty advisor Tilman Wolf, was composed of Brennan Burns, Sahil Shanghavi, Steve Stanvick, and Fadi Zoghzoghy.

Some of the Cisco funding was also awarded to Bluetag, which finished third in the April 23 competition. Bluetag is a system for implementing a novel “purchase at the rack” shopping experience in modern department stores. Consumers complete purchases with their own smartphone by interacting with Bluetooth-enabled security tags attached to desired items, each indexed to appropriate pricing and description information on a web server available over the retailer's public WiFi connection. Working on this project with faculty advisor Russ Tessier were Michael Shusta, Gilbert Kim, Lucas Root, and Brandon Thorpe.

To find out more about these exciting projects, please visit Spring 2010. (May 2010)