In the News: Build18 Projects


January 24, 2012

ECE students made headlines across the country last week when more than 120 tinkerers and gadgeters participated in the department's Build18 initiative, a week of building and speed hacking for students, by students. Now in its third year, the engineering festival encourages groups of students to innovate and create solutions to problems they choose themselves, free from the pressure of tests, exams and formal project reviews. ECE students run the event, coordinating everything from the project applications to finding corporate sponsors. The department kicks in lab space, equipment and conference rooms. The result? A weeklong hackfest that gives students a chance to find their inner entrepreneurs.

"Build18 is a great and unique opportunity to complement our studies with the application of real-world engineering skills. That means using what we learn in electrical and computer engineering to create a cool product in a short time. We work in teams to devise innovative technical solutions, on the fly, with the equipment available," said Erik Schmidt, an ECE senior and Build18 leader from Ellicott City, Md.

This year, some of the projects showcased included a sensor-sensitive vest to monitor safety features for the avid cycler and a specially designed "Embarrass-You-Awake-Inator" digital clock that posts photos to Twitter to incentivize the sleeper to wake up. They were just two of more than 30 projects that filled the halls of Hamerschlag to overflowing. (For a complete list of projects, click here.)

Build18 also attracted attention from both local and national media, with stories landing in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and publications like the New Jersey Herald.

Following their project demos, Build18 participants attended a dinner and banquet, where six teams earned recognition for their hacking efforts. Winners included:

Outstanding Project: FPGA Game of Life (Assistant Teaching Professor Bill Nace, Ross Daly, Paul Kennedy, Greg Nazario)

First Penguin - for the "first penguin to jump off the iceberg into unknown waters," inspired by Randy's Pausch's "Last Lecture": Printensity (Harrison Rose, Robbie Wedler)

Builder's Choice: RGB Propeller Clock (Costas Akrivoulis, Jitu Das, John Howland, Allan Wang)

Faculty Award - for the team with the most polished product at the end of the week: Nixie Tube Retro Clock (Laura Bloch, Sam Klonaris, Derek Miller, Sara Roy)

Officer's Choice: Mindnet (Neil Abcouwer, Daniel Jacobs, Ben Wasserman)

Lab Rat - for the team that consistently made it to the lab first and left it last: LED Bike Safety Vest (Pronoy Biswas, Chris Leaf)

While the initial project demos may be finished, Build18 teams will keep tinkering throughout the spring semester, refining their creations for the final project showcase at ECE Day in May.

For more on Build18, visit Check out photos from Build18 below, and also at

All photos courtesy of Tim Kaulen.

Get the flash player here:

Emily Grove applies sensors to teammate Billy Keyes' head as part of their Personal Soundtrack Device demo.