Peter Kiewit Institute hosts 2013 Spring Open House Showcase


By Jeff Kazmierski, Copy Editor

College-bound high school students and parents interested in information technology had the opportunity to talk to faculty, staff and students in the Institute of Science and Technology about education opportunities at the IS&T open house on Feb. 23.
Representatives from all divisions of IS&T were on hand to answer questions and demonstrate their projects. All areas of interest were on display, from game development to structural engineering.
For those interested in emerging technology, the IT Innovation department has a lot to offer. Game design and mobile application development were on prominent display, with student projects ranging from 1980s style space combat games to first-person shooters. The concentration focuses on the human element of information technology, especially when it comes to interface design.
You don’t need to be an IT major to get into programming either. Pre-dental junior student Ryan Peters has been developing mobile applications for the IT department since his freshman year. He showed off an app currently in development in a modular development engine called XCode.
“I learned everything I know on the job,” Peters said about his programming experience. “What I like about [IT Innovation] is it’s a flexible major.”
On the physical side, student organization Engineers Without Borders demonstrated a water filtration system made from concrete and sand. The system can be easily constructed for about $15 using locally-available materials, and has been used to provide developing-world communities with clean drinking water.
In the STEAL (Security Technology Education and Analysis Laboratories) laboratory, Information Assurance professor Dr. Robin Ghandi was on hand to answer questions about computer security and software vulnerabilities.
The C-Mantic lab showcased their swarm robotics project.  Swarm robotics is the science of using multiple low-cost, single purpose autonomous robots to do complex tasks that larger robots are typically been used for. This aspect of robotics, also called “flocking,” focuses on getting teams of robots to act in group coordination.  
Another real-world application of swarm robotics is landmine detection, an area of work the department has been pursuing for about four years.
“Previously, the state of the art was to build a single expensive robot,” computer science professor Raj Dasgupta said.  
Now, the focus has changed to buying many smaller robots off-the-shelf and developing purpose-built software to run them, resulting in a less expensive solution with higher degree of accuracy.
“Each robot has a different sensor for chemicals, metal, or heat,” Dasgupta said. “If one detects something it thinks is a mine, it calls another over to verify.”
In this way Dasgupta said the number of false positives is reduced, and if one robot is lost, the rest can continue the mission.
If you’re interested in information technology, robotics or engineering, the college of Information Science and Technology has something for you. The PKI Spring Open House offered prospective students a good preview of emerging fields of study.