First Two Weeks – Evan Weiler

Wow! How fast two weeks can go by. I feel like I just got off the plane in Minneapolis! Being from a suburb of Los Angeles, the small town of Menomonie has been quite the change of pace from what I am used to, however it has been very welcoming! I’ve settled into the new dorm nicely and have found that the walk to the lab is not as bad as I initially thought it was going to be. There are a few cool places to eat nearby the dorm and the university which is great for when you want to get a quick bite to eat. Overall, I’m liking the area!

Contrary to what I initially expected, we were thrown into the thick of things right away. In our first week, we started by meeting with our team and our faculty advisor, ours being Dr. Cheng Liu. Dr. Liu explained to us his vision for our project this summer, which was to have robotic arm that can be controlled by inputs as seen by a camera. Our goal is to have the camera be able to recognize facial movements and use those movements to control various aspects of the arm. For example, when someone opens their mouth that could be interpreted by the robot and the robotic arm could bring a spoon with food on it to the user.

There are two different ways we can approach this, both involving computer vision. The first is through an FPGA board. This is the method that we have initially begun testing. Currently, we have created a program that can recognize which third of the screen a certain-colored object is and output to one of three bits accordingly. We plan to use this to create a line-following robot, and hope to have this done by the middle to end of this upcoming week. The second method to recognizing facial inputs is through OpenCV which is hosted on Linux through a board called the Beaglebone Black. The advantages of using OpenCV is the fact that there are many open source libraries available. Despite this, working through OpenCV will be slower than working through an FPGA because of the overhead that comes from running Linux. Computations will take longer which is a problem as our project involves real-time inputs. We plan on exploring these advantages and disadvantages in the upcoming weeks.

About Me – Evan Weiler

Hi! My name is Evan Weiler. I’m from Claremont, California. This fall I am going to be a junior in Computer Engineering at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Some of my biggest passions include baseball, aviation, and technology. I try to apply these passions in various activities that I participate in on and off campus such as the Science of Baseball, one of my favorite clubs and the one I am most proud to be a part of. When I’m not doing school work you can catch me biking, watching a baseball game, or hanging out with friends.

I first heard about the REU program when my friend recommended I apply to one. Because of my interest in robotics, I decided to look specifically into REU programs relating to that field. I came across the program at the University of Wisconsin-Stout and thought it was a great opportunity, so I decided to apply. Now that I’ve learned what the subject material is, I’m even more excited. I love using the power of engineering to better the everyday lives of people. That is one thing that I hope to get out of the REU experience; a sense of accomplishment and confirmation that I could help someone with the work I did. I also hope to simply get experience in the field of robotics and to fine tune my skills in using FPGA boards and the Verilog programming language.

When I graduate college I plan on going into industry to apply what I’ve learned over the previous four years. I would love to be hired at a company that pertains to one of my passions, whether it be in aviation or in baseball. Working at a company like Honeywell, Raytheon, or Boeing would be a dream come true. Despite this, I would not rule out graduate school. We will see!