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IMPRESSING ELON THE BADGERLOOP POD ECE: Celebrating 125 years of history and a future of firsts




I am honored to be chair during this illustrious moment in ECE history: the year of your department’s John Booske 125th anniversary! We are one of the original ECE departments in the entire country, having been established before all but one or two others that we know of. We were trailblazers in 1891 and we remain leaders today. Speaking with our students after they returned to campus this past September reminded me of how privileged we all are to be part of this Badger engineering community. Our outstanding faculty members continue their pioneering leadership in research, as the articles in this newsletter attest. Hot off the presses is the announcement that two more of our faculty members have been recognized for exceptional leadership by being inducted as fellows of the IEEE (the IEEE grade of fellow is only conferred upon people with extraordinary records of accomplishment, and the number selected in any one year totals less than onetenth of one percent of the IEEE membership). That means that well over half of our senior



Contact: Todd Hollister (608) 308-5357

faculty are recognized as among the world’s top innovators and research leaders in ECE. Meanwhile, with the help of generous donors supporting 21st-century classroom renovations, computer hardware and software, and project assistant support, more and more of our faculty are adopting research-proven methods for best student learning in our classrooms. Moreover, we are now advancing our ability to encourage and support student-led initiatives for excellence in learning and engineering accomplishment. One of many such phenomenal examples you may have heard of is the BadgerLoop team,

Longtime engineering dean passes away As dean of the UW-Madison College of Engineering, Paul Peercy constantly sought ways to help students succeed in engineering. In ongoing efforts to educate “global” engineers, he focused on diverse and interdisciplinary experiences, innovations in teaching engineering, and on hands-on work that connected the technical aspects of engineering students’ education with real challenges facing society. “Engineering is where science meets society,” he said in a 2012 interview, referring to myriad global challenges, including energy needs and pollution. “These are problems that can’t be solved without engineers and can’t be solved by engineers alone.” Peercy, who served as dean from 1999 until retiring in 2013, died Oct. 20, 2016, after a lengthy illness. Read more and learn how you can make a gift in Peercy’s memory that helps carry on his commitment to undergraduate education here:


a transdisciplinary group of nearly 200 students (led by ECE and mechanical engineering students). They are revolutionizing transportation by creating a prototype for a lightning-fast transportation technology. They participated in the Elon Musk-sponsored Hyperloop competition, held at Texas A&M University, in early 2016, where they placed 3rd for overall design out of 123 entries from the top universities and businesses from around the world. Now they are gearing up to take the first prize in January 2017 during a test of their pod at the Space-X facility in California! Go Badgers! Our reputation for overall excellence attracts more of the world’s top talent to join our faculty as research mentors and exceptional teachers. This reputation enabled us to recruit five new faculty who will be teaching and conducting research in mobile computing systems, machine learning, computational science and engineering. We—faculty, staff and current students—take pride in working tirelessly every day to sustain the exceptional brand value of an undergraduate or graduate degree from the UW-Madison Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Your gifts are a two-way exchange. They express trust that we will invest them to maintain your department’s proud tradition of excellence, while they help make it possible for us to do just that. They allow us to recruit world-class faculty and improve student learning. They enable startup packages that help our new faculty recruits establish their laboratories and research programs. They allow us to award scholarships and invest in student communityand network-building events. They support graduate students who assist our education innovations, and they help us remodel classrooms for active learning that students love, as they acquire the best ECE education the country has to offer. Please consider making a gift honoring our 125th Anniversary: $125, or an annual pledge of $1,250 over four years. Go to allwaysforward/giveto/ece to make a gift to our annual fund. Or, discuss your specific gift ideas with either me or our department’s director of development, Todd Hollister. ON, WISCONSIN!

John Booske, Chair Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor, Duane H. & Dorothy M. Bluemke Professor • (608) 890-0804



In a proposal dated late-1937, Howard H. Aiken (BS ’23) penned the following: “At the present time, there exist problems beyond our ability to solve, not because of theoretical difficulties, but because of insufficient means of mechanical computation.” At the time, Aiken was a PhD student at Harvard University, frustrated with the time-consuming calculations required for solving nonlinear equations—and he recognized that such calculations could be mechanized. His proposal, Proposed Automatic Calculating Machine, set forth his vision for what ultimately became the IBM Harvard Mark I computer. Finished in 1944, it was, according to IBM, the industry’s largest electromechanical “calculator” and the first in a line of increasingly powerful computers. Around the same time period, a woman named Thelma Estrin enrolled in a three-month engineering assistant course at the Stevens Institute of Technology while her husband Gerald served in the Army during World War II. After the war, they both came to Wisconsin and each earned bachelor’s, master’s and PhD degrees in electrical engineering. Thelma (BS ’48, MS ’49, PhD ’51) worked with Professor Thomas Higgins, while Jerry worked under Professor Vincent Rideout. Thelma’s first position was in the electroencephalograph department of the Neurological Institute of New York at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital—a position that piqued her interest in biomedical engineering. She spent the bulk of her career as a professor of computer science at the University of California at Los Angeles. As founder of the UCLA Brain Research Institute’s data processing lab, she was a pioneer in applying computing technology to healthcare and medical research. Throughout her career, she also was actively involved in promoting careers for women in science and engineering. This is what it means to be an alum of our department. And, Aiken and Estrin are just two names among thousands of our grads whose electrical engineering or computer engineering education was pivotal in their careers and enabled them to make enduring contributions across many fields. Our grads are known nationally and internationally as entrepreneurs, academics, executives, and engineering leaders (more about some of our notable alumni at “We’re on the edge of powerful innovations,” says alumna Natalie Enright, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Toronto, about the opportunities unfolding in engineering. “We have easy access to computing power. We can ask new questions and get new answers. The collaboration to work between disciplines will be life-changing to everyone.”



Enright is among 125 alumni of impact we are highlighting as part of our yearlong celebration of the 125th anniversary of our department—and each and every faculty, staff member, student and alumnus throughout our history is central to that celebration. We have chosen to work, conduct research and teach electrical and computer engineering at Wisconsin because we are dedicated to developing our students into passionate, creative, ethical and strong engineering leaders of the future. Please join us in celebrating you! The party started in fall 2016, when we hosted alumni gatherings in Silicon Valley, at Qualcomm, and here in Madison. Our distinguished seminar series featured alumni Dave Epstein, Mike Splinter and Winslow Sargeant. In addition, our distinguished panel series featured a startup panel that included Dan van der Weide, Matt Younkle, Michelle Waldorf, Tom Erickson and Rimas Buinevicius. We have lots more planned for spring 2017, when we’re looking forward to distinguished alumni lectures from John Wiley, Jim Thompson, Sheridan Foster and Craig Palmer. In February, a special distinguished panel includes alumnae Cynthia Bachmann, Ruth Barry, Ann Finley, Dawn Harms and Wendy Harris. We’ll cap our yearlong celebration with a May 2 bash here on the engineering campus. Check out for the full schedule of events and make plans to visit (or revisit) your alma mater today!


Akbar Sayeed

Xinyu Zhang

Suman Banerjee

Photo courtesy of Semiconductor Industry Assoc.

Open air is getting crowded. Signals streaming back and forth from smart devices stretch existing fourth-generation wireless networks almost to their limits. As demands on these systems keep increasing, several major research projects led by UW-Madison engineers aim to open new frontiers in cutting-edge wireless communications. The efforts are part of a far-reaching new National Science Foundation (NSF) initiative to develop the next generation of wireless technologies. Across the country, the NSF will help establish research platforms and collaborations between academia and industry to investigate, develop and begin implementing key components for the future of communication infrastructure. At UW-Madison, Akbar Sayeed and Xinyu Zhang, both faculty members in electrical and computer 4

engineering, and Suman Banerjee, a professor of computer science and of electrical and computer engineering, will embark on a total of four pivotal projects. “This is a really exciting time,” says Sayeed. “A lot of new innovations, like smart cities, autonomous vehicles, and the Internet of Things, rest on very fast wireless connectivity.” Even now, existing communication networks can barely keep up with the modern world’s insatiable appetite for data. “The need for research advances in wireless communication and mobile systems is stronger than ever before, especially as users continue to expect robust anytime, anywhere access through their personal devices,” says Banerjee. Currently, all wireless networks compete for a signal space from a limited amount of bandwidth on the electromagnetic spectrum. Information travels as waves, defined by their frequencies and

wavelengths, and right now everything operates below frequencies of 5 gigahertz. Higher frequencies, the so-called of 5G millimeterwave technologies, promise vastly improved performance in both data delivery speed and signal lag-time, which is called “latency.” But using millimeter-wave frequencies in the real world is largely beyond the reach of current technologies. “Harnessing the full potential of millimeter-wave wireless will require a coordinated approach across industry, academia and government agencies,” says Sayeed. “Research advances are needed in communication and signal processing techniques, antennas, digital hardware, and wireless networking.” Given so many disparate avenues of investigation, Sayeed will act as principal investigator for a research coordination network, designed to foster collaboration and promote rapid dissemination of results. In addition to

Photos: Stephanie Precourt


bringing together established field leaders, the network will make a special effort to include innovative new perspectives from junior faculty members and underrepresented groups. In addition to being a hub for collaboration, UW-Madison will play host to two wireless testbeds to evaluate the performance of new innovations. One project, called WiNEST, led by Banerjee, will establish infrastructure throughout the city of Madison to enable large-scale experiments in real-world settings at currently used frequencies. The other effort, called Multi-beam MIMO, led by Sayeed, will develop a testbed network using a state-of-the-art millimeter-wave prototype technology for simultaneously steering multiple signal beams. The testbed will enable real-time testing of new communication protocols as well as critical measurements for the challenging problem of steering multiple signal beams at millimeterwave frequencies. Wisconsin is already a hot spot for advanced wireless research. In 2015, the nation’s first millimeter-wave software radio testbed, WiMi, an NSF-supported project led by Zhang, successfully demonstrated data transmission at 60 gigahertz. More recently Sayeed’s group successfully demonstrated the first prototype capable of real-time communication of multibeam data signals at 28 gigahertz, as part of two NSF-funded projects. As principal investigator on a networking technology and systems grant under the new initiative, Zhang will apply his expertise to ensuring that next-generation wireless can operate efficiently, fairly, and at large scales. Making the future of communication a reality will require extensive collaboration between academia and industry, which can ultimately benefit everyone. “The beauty is that you can push both fronts of basic science and the technology,” says Sayeed. “We are not only doing basic theory development, but also scaling up the prototypes to big test-beds and working toward commercialization.” These new research projects will also provide unique learning and research opportunities for training the wireless engineers and innovators of the future. The nationwide, seven-year, $400 million initiative was announced July 15 by an official White House news release. The four projects at UW-Madison total $1.85 million of support over three years.

Following the rules for faster integrated CIRCUIT DESIGN With support from a $400,000 National Science Foundation grant, Associate Professor Azadeh Davoodi is creating tools to accelerate the emergence of advanced microprocessors. Circuit design progresses through multiple stages, each more detailed than the last. Linking components in fine-scale layouts, called detailed routing, is one of the last steps before fabrication. Detailed routing takes time, usually because the computer-aided design (CAD) tools at the previous, global stage ignore rules about what can and cannot be made in modern foundries. Currently, global routing design tools do not take modern rules into account—which then delays later stages. Initial schemes for integrated circuits produced by the tools Davoodi is developing should speed through the detailed routing stages because the initial designs already accommodate real-world constraints.

“In terms of how long it takes to prepare a product that you can fabricate and send to market, it’s important to make the final stage of circuit design as efficient as possible,” says Davoodi. “We plan to do that by providing a better input.” As fabrication facilities become more and more sophisticated, the number of elements a single chip can accommodate has increased exponentially, just as predicted by Moore’s law. But because advanced production facilities must operate with utmost precision, design constraints for integrated circuits have also skyrocketed. “There’s so much new innovation in terms of fabrication, but the design tools at higher levels have not caught up,” says Davoodi. “There’s almost a Moore’s law for the number of pages in the design rulebook.” Davoodi plans to make the design programs she creates freely accessible for the research community. She also is developing infrastructure to facilitate integration between academic and industry software. Students at UW-Madison will be able to contribute to the project and gain firsthand experience using real-world CAD tools as modules in both an undergraduate and a graduate level course.


Associate Professor Nader Behdad is among four College of Enginee

A simple solution for complicated scanning antennas?

Stand still.

Antennas often need to trace circles in the sky; for example, radar arrays Much like the way in which the curved reflector in a car’s headlamp atop air-traffic control towers rotate to sweep signals in all directions. Yet, concentrates light emanating spherically outward from a single bulb into constantly moving such large objects takes time and mechanical energy— a forward beam, these flat arrays focus microwave signals into directed so scanning from a stationary position could speed up long-range detection columns by altering the electronic properties of individual elements on and communications. their surfaces. But unlike mirrored dishes, these devices can vary the Now, with support from a $1.1 million grant from the direction of the reflected beams by tuning individual elements U.S. Office of Naval Research, UW-Madison electrical on the surface. engineers are pursuing an innovative new strategy Achieving that tuning, however, is no easy task. “Up until to create antennas that spin their beams in circles Behdad tried numerous complicated approaches to this idea there was while the devices stand still. “Our approach doesn’t modulate every component before he and Booske practically no way depend on exotic materials that bend the laws realized that they did not need to control each to meet the almost of physics,” says Nader Behdad, the Harvey D. element one by one. Instead they harnessed smallimpossible specification Spangler Faculty Scholar and H.I. Romnes Faculty scale mechanical motion within the entire antenna of the ideal solution.” Fellow. “We’ve found a practical way to achieve itself by making tiny adjustments to one large beam-steering that the antennas field largely component called the ground plane that sits below —John Booske overlooked for many years.” the entire structure. Engineers have long searched high and low for “Luckily for us, in order to do beam-steering, we ways to rapidly reorient radar beams, but progress has really don’t need to individually tune each element,” says historically been slow and the existing technologies are still too Bedahd. “All we need to do is create a gradient and we can expensive for widespread use. Still, researchers persevere because do that by simply tilting the ground plane on one corner a little bit down scanning the sky can make the difference between life and death. “In and the other a little bit up.” defense situations, you need to detect incoming objects or see where Small tilting motions inside an overall flat plane require much less time you are going very quickly,” says Vilas Distinguished Achievement and mechanical force than spinning a large reflector dish. To test the Professor John Booske. “The ability of a mechanical rig to move a big, feasibility of this approach, the group made a low-cost prototype, which heavy parabolic dish back and forth limits how quickly you can respond successfully provided proof of concept of electromagnetic principles. to potential threats.” Now the team is working to identify appropriate materials and techniques The team plans to create special reflective surfaces that achieve the to improve this concept, making it suitable for real-world applications. same effect as flat antennas called phase-varied arrays, but only rely on The researchers filed a patent on their concept with assistance from one single signal source. “Up until this idea there was practically no way the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. The patent is pending. to meet the almost impossible specification of the ideal solution,” says Booske. 6




UW-Madison engineers have created high-performance microscale solar cells that outshine comparable devices in several key performance measures. The miniature solar panels could power myriad futuristic personal devices from wearable medical sensors, to smartwatches, or even auto-focusing contact lenses. Unlike large rooftop photovoltaic arrays that generate electricity from charges moving vertically, these small cells capture current from charges moving side-toside, or laterally. And they generate significantly more energy than other sideways solar systems. New-generation lateral solar cells promise to be the next big thing for compact devices because arranging electrodes horizontally allows engineers to sidestep a traditional solar cell fabrication process: the arduous task of perfectly aligning multiple layers of the cell’s material atop one another. “From a fabrication point of view, it is always going to be easier to make side-by-side structures,” says Hongrui Jiang, the Lynn H. Matthias Professor and Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor. “Top-down structures need to be made in multiple steps and then aligned, which is very challenging at small scales.” Lateral solar cells also offer engineers greater flexibility in materials selection. Top-down photovoltaic cells are made up of two electrodes surrounding a semiconducting material like slices of bread around the meat in a sandwich. When light hits the top slice, charge travels through the filling to the bottom layer and creates electric current.

“In other structures a lot of volume goes wasted because there are no electrodes or the electrodes are mismatched,” says Jiang. “The technology we developed allows us to make very compact lateral structures that take advantage of the full volume.” In the top-down arrangement, one layer needs to do two jobs: It must let in light and transmit charge. Therefore, the material for one electrode in a typical solar cell must be not only highly transparent, but also electrically conductive. And very few substances exist that perform both tasks well. Instead of building its solar cell sandwich one layer at a time, Jiang’s group created a densely packed, side-by-side array of miniature electrodes on top of transparent glass. The resulting structure—akin to an entire loaf of bread’s worth of solar-cell sandwiches standing up sideways on a clear plate—separates light-harvesting and charge-conducting functions between the two components.



Existing top-of the-line lateral new-generation solar cells convert merely 1.8 percent of incoming light into useful electricity. Jiang’s group nearly tripled that measure, achieving up to 5.2 percent efficiency. “In other structures a lot of volume goes wasted because there are no electrodes or the electrodes are mismatched,” says Jiang. “The technology we developed allows us to make very compact lateral structures that take advantage of the full volume.” Packing so many electrodes into such a small volume boosted the devices’ “fill factors,” a metric related to the maximum attainable power, voltage and current. The structures realized fill factors up to 0.6—more than twice the demonstrated maximum for other lateral new-generation solar cells. Currently, Jiang and colleagues are working to make these solar cells even smaller and more efficient by exploring materials that further optimize transparency and conductivity. Ultimately they plan to develop a small-scale, flexible solar cell that could provide power to an electrically tunable contact lens. Other authors on the paper included Xi Zhang, Yinggang Huang, Hao Bian, Hewei Liu, and Xuezhen Huang. The National Institutes of Health provided funding for the research.


NEW METHOD can can squeeze squeeze many many more more features features into into limited limited wafer wafer space space

Jack Ma Scanning electron micrographs of block copolymer films assembled on graphene/germanium chemical patterns with 90 degree bends (left side) and with density multiplication by a factor of 10 (right side). The black dotted lines (right side) indicate the period of the graphene/germanium chemical pattern, in which the period of the assembled block copolymer is reduced by a factor of 10 due to density multiplication.


anufacturers continuously strive to pack more transistors on a tiny The researchers’ new method is much faster and reduces the number computer chip—yet as the size of these transistors approaches of steps in the process to only lithography and plasma etching. In their the atomic scale, there are physical limits on how small they are demonstration, the block copolymer self-assembled completely in just able to make the patterns for the circuitry. 10 minutes—compared to 30 minutes using conventional chemical Now, however, taking advantage of a germanium wafer coated with a patterns—and with fewer defects. virtually pristine, one-atom-thick layer of graphene, a team of engineers The new method takes advantage of a phenomenon called density from UW-Madisoon and the University of Chicago has devised a simpler, multiplication; essentially, the researchers used electron beam lithography reproducible and less expensive approach to first create a larger master template for directed self-assembly—a large-scale with sparse patterns that guide the oriennanopatterning technique that can tation of their block copolymers. When increase the density of these patterns. they directed the block copolymer to selfIncluded in the International assemble, it did so in a way that enhanced Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors, the resolution of the original template—in directed self-assembly is a promising this case, by a record-setting factor of 10 alternative that circumvents some (over the previous factor of four). Chemical patterns consisting of alternating graphene and limitations of conventional lithographic The novel process increases the germanium stripes (left side) are used to direct the self-assembly processes for patterning semiconductor capabilities of directed self-assembly of block copolymers into well-ordered patterns (right side). wafers. from both the top down (wafer-scale The top images are schematics and the bottom images are The team includes electrical engineer uniformity and simpler processing) and scanning electron micrographs. Zhenqiang “Jack” Ma and materials from the bottom up (faster assembly and engineer Michael Arnold of UW-Madison greater density multiplication). “Using this and chemical engineer Paul Nealey of one-atom-thick graphene template has Chicago, and their students. never been done before. It’s a new template to guide the self-assembly The advance could mean, for example, a boost in functionality for semiof the polymers,” says Ma. “This is mass-production-compatible. We conductor electronics and in capacity for high-density magnetic storage. opened the door to even smaller features.” To achieve the incredibly tiny size scale required for the circuitry in future The researchers are patenting their method through the Wisconsin semiconductor electronics, manufacturers are developing directed selfAlumni Research Foundation. Funding from the U.S. Office of Naval assembly—an alternative technique that enables them to fabricate intricate, Research, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Defense, perfectly ordered polymer patterns for the circuitry on semiconductor wafers. UW-Madison and the University of Chicago supported their work.




We are excited to welcome these RISING STARS to our ECE faculty! Assistant Professor VARUN JOG earned his PhD in electrical engineering and computer sciences from the University of California at Berkeley. His research interests include information theory, network science, energy harvesting, convex geometry, and optimal transport. He is a fellow in our Grainger Institute for Engineering.

Assistant Professor YOUNGHYUN KIM received his PhD in electrical engineering and computer science at Seoul National University and completed postdoctoral research at Purdue University. His research interests include power management of emerging embedded systems, energy harvesting and storage systems, and secure implantable and wearable medical devices.

Assistant Professor PO-LING LOH earned her PhD in statistics from the University of California at Berkeley and was an assistant professor of statistics at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research interests include high-

dimensional statistics, (non) convex optimization, graphical models, causal inference, information theory, network inference, and robust statistics. She is a fellow in our Grainger Institute for Engineering.

Assistant Professor DIMITRIOS PAPAILIOPOULOS received his PhD in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Texas at Austin and completed postdoctoral research at the University of California at Berkeley. His research interests include machine learning, coding theory, and parallel and distributed algorithms. He is a fellow in our Grainger Institute for Engineering.

Assistant Professor ANDREAS VELTEN earned his PhD in physics from the University of New Mexico, completed postdoctoral research at MIT and was an assistant scientist in the medical devices group in the UW-Madison Morgridge Institute for Research. His research interests include applied computational optics and imaging.

LUDOIS AMONG MIDWEST CLEAN ENERGY LEADERS Midwest Energy News has placed Assistant Professor Dan Ludois on its 2016 “40 Under 40” list, recognizing him as one of the Midwest’s emerging leaders in transitioning America to a clean energy economy. Ludois is one of only two academic researchers to make this year’s list, which also includes some of the region’s most influential utility executives, leaders in the non-profit sector, policymakers, and entrepreneurs. An expert in both the theory and application of electromagnetics, electrostatics, and solid state power converters, Ludois is contributing to our transition to a clean energy economy by creating technology that can bring large-scale change to power conversion. In fact, his development of lightweight, reliable, and energy and cost-efficient electrostatic motors—motors that use electric rather than magnetic fields to convert electricity into rotary force—has lasting implications for many clean energy applications, including wind turbines, electric and hybrid electric vehicles, aerospace applications, energy storage, and energy infrastructure. Compared to conventional machines and devices, Ludois’ innovative, “E-field” systems reduce metal mining needs, enable new manufacturing techniques, and extend the useful lifetime of equipment while maintaining higher electrical efficiencies. The systems are also low-maintenance and made from inexpensive and recyclable materials.

HAGNESS SELECTED FOR ASEE RESEARCH COUNCIL Philip Dunham Reed Professor Susan Hagness was recently elected a director of the engineering research council of American Society for Engineering Education. She will be joining a board of directors that will include professors from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, the University of Virginia, the University of California, Davis, and the University of Iowa. Hagness’s term will last three years, and begin on Monday, June 27, 2016, at the ERC Board meeting, and conclude at the ERC board meeting at the 2019 ASEE Annual Conference in Tampa, Florida. The ASEE is an association dedicated to the improvement of education in engineering and other STEM fields. 9


Read even more about our recipients:



Founding President, Shanghai Dajun Technologies, Inc. MSECE ’83, PhDECE ’90 (BSEE ’82, Huazhong University of Science & Technology, Wuhan, China)

How did you choose to attend college at UW-Madison? I was a graduate student at UW-Madison from January 1983 to October 1990. I went to college in 1978, among the first group of Chinese college students after the 10-year cultural revolution. Upon graduation from college in 1982, I had an opportunity to pursue postgraduate studies in the U.S. At that time, China was just opening up. We had very little information and didn’t know which schools were good and which weren’t. All we had was a Peterson’s Guide on how to choose a graduate school. UW-Madison ranked fairly high in that guide. Besides, UW-Madison had a very good reputation in China because there were several famous scholars in China who graduated from Madison in the early 1900s. So I applied for it and got admitted. What was your favorite engineering class? I liked ECE 332 taught by Professor Theodore Bernstein. It was the control theory entry-level for seniors and grad students. I loved that class. The way that he taught it was very funny and made it easy to learn. That’s how I got to become his TA. The other class I think back that sort of made me stick to motor drive systems is ECE 411 taught by Don Novotny. It encompassed the motor design and motor control basics. How did your experience in the college shape your career path? My study in WEMPEC has shaped my career. WEMPEC specializes in electric machines and power electronics. Power electronics uses electronic means to process electric energy. It is an energy technology with great potential. So I devoted my career to power electronics. After graduating from UW-Madison in 1990, I worked on variable speed drive technology at Square D company. In 1992, I went to Ford Motor Company for an interview. Bill Powers, Ford VP of research, told me that powertrain electrification was the future of the auto industry; power

electronics was key enabling technology for electrification; and automotive power electronics was a great career opportunity at Ford. He convinced me to join Ford working on electrical and hybrid vehicles. I worked at Ford for 10 years, setting up power electronics team and worked on various vehicle programs. In August 2002, I decided to quit Ford ... so I came to China and started up my own companies. In the beginning, we worked on motor drives for industrial applications such as sewing machines, injection molding machines, textile machines and so on. Then in 2005, anticipating that EV would become a reality in China pretty soon, I established Shanghai Dajun Technologies, Inc. to pursue the EV motor drive business. Thanks to the fast growth of electrical vehicles and plug-in hybrid vehicles market in China, Dajun also achieved fast growth, with over 600 employees and annual sales reaching $100 million U.S. today. Looking back on my career so far, I am very thankful to UW-Madison and WEMPEC. What’s your fondest memory of your time on campus? Activities organized by the Madison charity community would always remain as fond memories in my mind. You can imagine a young person without any experience with a foreign country and then suddenly coming to a foreign country; it could be very difficult. When we Chinese students arrived in Madison, a lot of churches asked us to participate in their activities. I can’t remember specific events, but I remember a very friendly Madisonian invited us—students and spouses—to go to English classes and took us to see farmland. Such activities really helped us to mingle into Madison society very quickly.

Game-changing COMPUTATIONAL APPROACH takes guesswork out of materials design By simulating substances inside the silicon brains of powerful computers, engineers Dane Morgan and John Booske are finding ways to accelerate the arduous process of making new materials. And using this approach, they identified a promising candidate compound that could be used in next-generation vacuum electronic devices for long-distance communications and thermionic energy converters. Synthesizing high-performance compounds is no trivial task—each attempt to mix molecules in the lab and measure the resulting properties costs money and takes time. So the researchers 10

characterized virtual versions of materials to guide their experimental efforts. They zeroed in on an electrical property called the work function, which refers to the energy required to remove an electron from a material—a critical property of electron emission materials. The researchers relied on a computational modeling method called density functional theory, which solves the fundamental equations of quantum mechanics to describe how electrons behave in materials. Performing these calculations many hundreds of times over for bulk materials would be impossible without powerful high-throughput computing regimes. This work combined the materials computation tools in Morgan’s group with the expertise in electron emitting materials from Booske, the Duane H. and Dorothy M. Bluemke and Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor. The U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the National Science Foundation funded the research. Read more:


Founded in fall 2015, BadgerLoop is working to evolve the means of transportation in SpaceX’s first-ever Hyperloop Pod Competition, through which teams design and build a functional pod prototype. This idea of the Hyperloop was proposed in 2013 by entrepreneur Elon Musk. Musk envisioned that the vacuum-like, low pressure tube of the Hyperloop could send pods from Chicago to Minneapolis at more than 600 miles per hour, cutting a six-hour commute to just 30 minutes. As one of 123 teams to participate from around the world, BadgerLoop presented its design to a panel of judges in January 2016. The team thoroughly impressed not only the judges, but the public, with its interactive electrical display, immersive virtual reality, and a hands-on magnetic demonstration—the competition’s only Halbach wheel propulsion system. These Halbach wheels are the largest ever developed and use very strong magnets to propel and stabilize the pod throughout its run. The team received 3rd place and a spot in the final stage of the competition, where Badgerloop will present and test a scaled prototype at the mile-long test track in Hawthorne, California, Jan. 27-29, 2017.

The 15-foot Badgerloop Pod levitates using these Halbach arrays, along with the novel Halbach wheel system, to counteract drag and actively provide roll, lateral and yaw stability along the center rail. The pod’s lightweight, yet durable, outer shell houses numerous robust and innovative safety and control systems, including a regenerative, fail-safe, contactless, and eddycurrent braking scheme, innovative fire suppression systems, and a lightning fast controller area network.

Badgerloop has since been working hard to build its Hyperloop pod prototype in spaces in Chamberlin Hall and in the Mechanical Engineering Building. In order to accomplish such a task, the group relies on diverse membership from both STEM and business majors, as well as an accomplished body of industry and academic advisors. Badgerloop’s goal is to produce a successful competitive pod while also laying the foundation for future transportation. The Badgerloop organization has added more than 100 new members, now totaling nearly 200. The team is seeking additional sponsors who can provide with monetary donations or materials. As an incentive, the team will feature company logos on the Badgerloop website, newsletter, and apparel. The team also offers accessible interfacing with some of the most talented, business-oriented engineering minds on campus through company-specific recruiting events and a handbook of member resumes. To learn more about sponsorship opportunities, contact Justin Hines, College of Engineering corporate relations manager, at (608) 262-0578.


Photos: David Tenenbaum

Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering 1415 Engineering Dr. Madison, WI 53706

Two weather stations designed by Understory are mounted on the roof of the company’s offices.

fter a three-year sojourn in the Boston area, a maker of weather station networks has moved its headquarters back to Madison. Understory, spawned by two engineering alumni in 2012, designs and deploys flocks of miniature weather stations that create an unprecedented level of detail on such weather measures as wind, hail and temperature.


UW-Madison spinoff keeps an eye on weather “Any meteorologist can tell you that weather data is way too sparse,” says CEO and co-founder Alex Kubicek (BSEE ‘10). “Radar only looks at the top of the storm, and to know how weather affects people we need to know what is going on at ground level.” True to its roots, Understory straddles the divide between academia and commerce. The firm offers data free to academic researchers, and its initial commercial success is intimately related to hail, which was Kubicek’s focus as a graduate student in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at UW–Madison. A 2011 study by the National Center for Atmospheric Research found that weather could have a $485 billion impact on the U.S. gross domestic product. Understory has focused on insurance companies, which pay out billions every year for storm damage. Big hailstones, for example, are heavy enough to damage buildings and vehicles. Understory’s data also are applicable to weather forecasting, agriculture, outdoor events, utilities and aviation. Overall, Kubicek’s graduate research on thunderstorms convinced him of the need to create more data. For example, the relationship between storm intensity and hailstone size is uncertain. And the best way to find hail damage is tried, true and laborious: You climb up on the roof and look for it. As Kubicek and co-founder Bryan Dow (MSME ‘11), pondered the problem, they realized that the data gap might be big enough to drive a business through. They began to design a detector built around sensors that register the movement of a metal sphere due to rain, hail and wind, then added devices to measure temperature, pressure and humidity. 12

Their business was in the first class of the Gener8tor accelerator in Madison, but raising capital was easier on the coasts, so it moved to the Boston area in 2013. Understory has now completed a $7.5 million round of investment, with the largest shares coming from 4490 Ventures of Madison and Monsanto Growth Ventures, part Alex Kubicek holds one of the company’s compact of the agrichemical giant. weather stations before it is mounted on the roof The money supported the of the company’s headquarters in Madison. return to Madison. “An awesome reason to move here is to pull talent from the university; that’s a big attractor for us,” says Kubicek. Understory has installed sensor networks in Kansas City and Dallas that show unprecedented detail about the plunging temperatures and rising winds that mark the arrival of cold fronts, which drive thunderstorms—the birthplace of damaging winds, hail and tornadoes. “This shows data that has never existed before,” says Kubicek. “Meteorologists know what a cold front looks like in theory, but they have never seen it like this.”

UW-Madison electrical and computer engineering news, fall 2016