Posts about Carnegie Mellon

Bill Dietrich Gives Carnegie Mellon University $265 Million

Carnegie Mellon is one of the crown jewels of engineering in the USA. While we are busy squandering the economic gains gained through science and engineering investments in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s a few universities are continuing to provide huge economic benefit: MIT, Stanford, CalTech, Harvard, University of Wisconsin – Madison… Schools unfortunately seem to be wasting lots of money (on vanity projects and ever increasing administration, and huge pay to overpaid executives), but even so they provide much much more benefit than the costs. Funding from rich, successful businesspeople (Bill Dietrich was a steel executive) is now a huge reason these shiny lights of the American economy continue to shine. On Bill Dietrich’s donation:

This fund, which will become operational upon Dietrich’s passing, will serve as a catalyst for the university’s global initiatives and for its fusion of left-brain and right-brain thinking, such as studies connecting technology and the arts, as well as support future academic initiatives across the university, including undergraduate and graduate programs, scholarship, artistic creation and research.
The gift furthers the university’s ability to educate students in strong interdisciplinary problem-solving and supports the unique recipe for education offered by Carnegie Mellon’s seven schools and colleges, all of which are leaders in their fields.

Dietrich’s gift, among the 10 largest in the United States, is believed to be the 14th largest gift to higher education worldwide.

Related: Board of Trustees gets new chairperson: Dietrich (July 2001 article)$400 Million More for Harvard and MITEconomic Strength Through Technology LeadershipStanford Gets $75 Million for Stem Cell CenterGreat Engineering Schools and Entrepreneurism

Printing Bone, Muscle and More

A Pittsburgh-based research team has created and used an innovative ink-jet system to print “bio-ink” patterns that direct muscle-derived stem cells from adult mice to differentiate into both muscle cells and bone cells.

The custom-built ink-jet printer, developed at Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute, can deposit and immobilize growth factors in virtually any design, pattern or concentration, laying down patterns on native extracellular matrix-coated slides (such as fibrin). These slides are then placed in culture dishes and topped with muscle-derived stem cells (MDSCs). Based on pattern, dose or factor printed by the ink-jet, the MDSCs can be directed to differentiate down various cell-fate differentiation pathways (e.g. bone- or muscle-like).

“This system provides an unprecedented means to engineer replacement tissues derived from muscle stem cells,” said Johnny Huard, professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and director of the Stem Cell Research Center at Children’s Hospital of UPMC. Huard has long-standing research findings that show how muscle-derived stem cells (MDSCs) from mice can repair muscle in a model for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, improve cardiac function following heart failure, and heal large bone and articular cartilage defects.

Weiss and Campbell, along with graduate student Eric Miller, previously demonstrated the use of ink-jet printing to pattern growth factor “bio-inks” to control cell fates. For their current research, they teamed with Phillippi, Huard and biologists of the Stem Cell Research Center at Children’s Hospital to gain experience in using growth factors to control differentiation in populations of MDSCs from mice.

The team envisions the ink-jet technology as potentially useful for engineering stem cell-based therapies for repairing defects where multiple tissues are involved, such as joints where bone, tendon, cartilage and muscle interface. Patients afflicted with conditions like osteoarthritis might benefit from these therapies, which incorporate the needs of multiple tissues and may improve post-treatment clinical outcomes.

The long-term promise of this new technology could be the tailoring of tissue-engineered regenerative therapies. In preparation for preclinical studies, the Pittsburgh researchers are combining the versatile ink-jet system with advanced real-time live cell image analysis developed at the Robotics Institute and Molecular Biosensor and Imaging Center to further understand how stem cells differentiate into bone, muscle and other cell types.

Related: Engineer Tried to Save His Sister and Invented a Breakthrough Medical DeviceNanoparticles With Scorpion Venom Slow Cancer SpreadVery Cool Wearable Computing Gadget from MITFunding Medical Research

Low-Cost Multi-touch Whiteboard Using Wii Remote

Using infrared (IR) light pens and the Wii Remote, it is possible to create very low-cost multi-point interactive whiteboards and multi-point tablet displays. Johnny Chung Lee, Carnegie Mellon University. Download the software. Great stuff, it is wonderful to see what people can create with technology.

Related: Very Cool Wearable Computing Gadget from MITBuild Your Own Tabletop Interactive Multi-touch ComputerWhiteboard Mechanical Simulation System (from MIT)How Do Wii Game Controllers Work?

The Last Lecture Book

image of the cover of The Last Lecture

We wrote about this last August: CMU Professor Gives His Last Lesson on Life. If you haven’t seen the lecture I encourage you to do so now. Now there is a book by Dr. Randy Pausch called The Last Lecture where he expands on his lecture with “many more stories from my life and the attendant lessons I hope my kids can take from them.”

Like any teacher, my students are my biggest professional legacy. I’d like to think that the people I’ve crossed paths with have learned something from me, and I know I learned a great deal from them, for which I am very grateful. Certainly, I’ve dedicated a lot of my teaching to helping young folks realize how they need to be able to work with other people–especially other people who are very different from themselves.

Related: William G. Hunter: An Innovator and Catalyst for Quality Improvement by George Box – Inspirational EngineerTour the Carnegie Mellon Robotics LabWhat Kids can LearnSarah, aged 3, Learns About SoapSome more on my fatherScience Books

Mapping Where Brains Store Similar Information

CMU finds human brains similarly organized

Based on how one person thinks about a hammer, a computer can identify when another person also is thinking about a hammer. It also can differentiate between items in the same category of tools, be it a hammer or screwdriver.

The study makes two important scientific advances: “[T]here is an identifiable neural pattern associated with perception and contemplation of individual objects, and that part of the pattern is shared” by people.

The study reveals that patterns of thought extend into different regions of the brain, reflecting its complexity. It proves that a simple image can invoke thoughts in various regions of the brain, including how to use the object and experiences one has had with the object.

The study also helps to explain how the brain organizes thoughts, and the commonality of that process. “I want a complete mapping of brain states and thoughts,” Dr. Just said. “We’re taking tiny baby steps, but anything we can think about is represented in the brain.”

Related: PLoS One research paper – Using fMRI Brain Activation to Identify Cognitive States Associated with Perception of Tools and DwellingsHow Brain Resolves SightRegular Aerobic Exercise for a Faster BrainHow The Brain Rewires Itself

CMU Professor Gives His Last Lesson on Life

photo of Randy Pausch

CMU professor gives his last lesson on life by Mark Roth:

“If I don’t seem as depressed or morose as I should be, sorry to disappoint you,” said Dr. Pausch, a 46-year-old computer science professor who has incurable pancreatic cancer. It’s not that he’s in denial about the fact that he only has months to live, he told the 400 listeners packed into McConomy Auditorium on the campus, and the hundreds more listening to a live Web cast.

In his 10 years at Carnegie Mellon, Dr. Pausch helped found the Entertainment Technology Center, which one video game executive yesterday called the premier institution in the world for training students in video game and other interactive technology. He also established an annual virtual reality contest that has become a campuswide sensation, and helped start the Alice program, an animation-based curriculum for teaching high school and college students how to have fun while learning computer programming.

It was the virtual reality work, in which participants wear a headset that puts them in an artificial digital environment, that earned him and his Carnegie Mellon students a chance to go on the U.S. Air Force plane known as the “vomit comet,” which creates moments of weightlessness, and which the students promised to model with VR technology.

“A recent CT scan showed that there are 10 tumors in my liver, and my spleen is also peppered with small tumors. The doctors say that it is one of the most aggressive recurrences they have ever seen.”

“I find that I am completely positive,” he wrote. “The only times I cry are when I think about the kids — and it’s not so much the ‘Gee, I’ll miss seeing their first bicycle ride’ type of stuff as it is a sense of unfulfilled duty — that I will not be there to help raise them, and that I have left a very heavy burden for my wife.”

An inspirational story. For me personally, it reminds me of my father: Bill Hunter who honestly believed, as he was stricken with cancer, he was luckier than most people that have ever lived. He was able to do many things that no-one, not even Kings, could have dreamed of even a hundred years before. I can’t manage such an outlook most of the time, but I do try and keep that spirit alive in me at times. William G. Hunter: An Innovator and Catalyst for Quality Improvement by George Box.

Related: Video of the lectureRandy PauschHelping people have better livesThe Importance of Management Improvement

Robot Hall of Fame

Robot Hall of Fame at Carnegie Mellon

Two categories of robots are honored in the Robot Hall of Fame:

Robots from Science – These are real robots that have served useful or potentially useful functions and demonstrated unique skills in accomplishing the purpose for which they were created. These may also be robots created primarily to entertain, as long as they function autonomously.

Robots from Science Fiction -These are fictional robots that have inspired us to create real robots that are productive, helpful, and entertaining. These robots have achieved worldwide fame as fictional characters and have helped form our opinions about the functions and values of real robots.

The web site is not exactly great yet but the idea seems to have merit and the location is sensible; Tour the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Lab.

Related: Toyota RobotsLego Learningrobots related postsR2D2 (from Curious Cat Boston Science Museum photos)

Programming with Pictures

Programming with Pictures

Carnegie Mellon University’s Randy Pausch…argues, many computer science departments are a quarter century behind on adapting their instructional methods for the purpose of attracting and retaining students, continuing to teach the gateway course to the field — introductory programming — just as they did 25 years ago.

About 10 percent of the nation’s colleges now use Alice, an open-source, graphical software program available free online that allows users to learn the very basics of programming — concepts like iteration, if statements and methods — while making 3-D animations. Alice’s growth within college computer science departments has been impressive: Most colleges only began incorporating Alice in their introductory CS0 or CS1 courses within the past 18 months, since the release of an accompanying textbook.

But the software, currently readable to users in plain old English (a major drawback for many faculty who of course teach programming in standard computer languages like Java and C++), is potentially poised to penetrate far more colleges in 2008, when Alice 3.0 comes out in Java — featuring, this time around, sophisticated graphics, made available free by Electronic Arts Inc., from “The Sims,” the best-selling PC video game of all time. (And significantly, Pausch adds, one of the few games more popular with girls than boys. Computer science, he notes drily, has the unfortunate distinction of being the only discipline in the sciences to actually face declining female enrollments percentage-wise in the last 25 years).

Interesting. Related: Computer Science EducationA Career in Computer ProgrammingMicrosoft Wants More Engineering StudentsSo You want to be a Computer Game Programmer?software development posts on our management blog

Update: The Last Lecture Book by Randy Pausch

Tour the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Lab

Robert Scoble videotaped his visit to the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Lab and posted the video to Microsoft’s channel 9 – which has quite a few interesting videos.

They have some of the coolest people I’ve ever met and the robotics might surprise you (two of the students were building soccer-playing robots on top of Segways, other students were building surgery tools, really great stuff).

More robotics webcasts from Channel 9.