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(Fall 2005)

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No More Wires!

Wireless accents lets Speed students compute on the go

Electrical and computer engineering (ECE) students Sergey Chekmenev and Ham Rara are exploring what faces can tell us about the rest of our bodies.

ECE students

Analyzing heat patterns captured by an infrared camera can show, among other things, the way artery patterns differ from person to person. "It's a good signature of the person," says Chekmenev, a master's graduate now pursing an electrical engineering Ph.D. "Face temperature variation can even tell us about heartbeat and blood distribution, changes in temperatures in the nose and even breathing rates. Even changes in emotions."

To analyze such complex interactions, Chekmenev and Rara often access the supercomputer housed in the Computer Vision and Image Processing lab run by the students' supervisor, ECE Professor Aly Farag.

In the past, such studies meant hanging around the supercomputer during data analysis or accessing it while hardwired to the internet. But no more.

Now U of L students can plop down a laptop nearly anywhere on campus and access computers and databases without being near a wire connection. That's because Speed School recently installed wireless technology in all its buildings. The project is part of Information Technology's effort to make all of the university's campuses and buildings wireless-accessible. There are more than 200 access points on the Belknap and Health Sciences Center campuses.

"We can log into the supercomputer using a UNIX shell and run different applications remotely--away from the computer," Chekmenev says. He recently demonstrated the point using a laptop as he sat outside on the steps of the J.B. Speed Building.

"We can access the supercomputer or the Internet," adds Rara, who is working on his electrical engineering master's degree.

"This is the way to world is going," says Speed's dean Mickey Wilhelm. "You need to be flexible enough to work wherever you are. We're making access to resources more convenient for students, enhancing their educational opportunities and giving them a head start on real-world tasking."

Ed Birchler, director of the Dahlem Supercomputing Laboratory, worked with IT technicians to install Speed's wireless network. "This not only enhances the student's opportunities, it also allows faculty to enhance the students' learning experience by utilizing network access in the classroom," Birchler says. "And it provides infrastructure needed if we introduce a laptop requirement for Speed students."

The changes are a positive thing, says Yindong Yu, a senior in computer engineering and computer science (CECS). "Wireless allow students to access lecture notes while following along with the lecture," Yu says. "Now students don't have to waste a lot of resources like paper-printing all of their lecture notes."

The costly project was paid for with the earnings from a supercomputing endowment fund. Students and faculty say the cost is worth it. "I think it's great!" says senior CECS major Kevin Price. "This can really distinguish us and bring us together as a learning community."

For more information on wireless access at Speed or at U of L, visit

Information for this story was provided by Natalie Heinen and Ed Birchler.

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