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Microsoft Grant Funds Smart PC Technology

Mechanical Engineering Professor Receives Microsoft Grant

Thomas Stahovich, an associate professor in the Bourns College of Engineering is one of 11 awardees with projects to use technology to improve the classroom experience

(February 27, 2006)

Thomas Stahovich

Thomas Stahovich

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — — Thomas Stahovich, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at the University of California, Riverside has been awarded a $40,000 grant from Microsoft Research to develop ways to use Tablet PC technology to tutor engineering students on the fundamental principles of analog circuit analysis.

Stahovich’s project, titled A pen-based circuit analysis tutor, is one of 11 projects funded from more than 165 proposals submitted from 18 countries. A panel of 40 carefully reviewed the projects from a wide cross-section of disciplines. The awards are all part of Microsoft’s $500,000 Tablet PC Technology, Curriculum and Higher Education Program to enrich the classroom experience in higher education.

The project will build upon technology Stahovich has been developing for several years that allows the Tablet PC to interpret hand-drawn circuit schematics. In the current work, Stahovich will create an intelligent tutoring system to teach students the fundamental principles of circuit analysis. The tutor will be used in the Electrical Engineering 001A course at UCR.

To use the system, the student will draw a circuit and write the governing equations. The system will then examine the circuit and equations and provide suggestions if there are errors.

“The system will, in effect, look over the student’s shoulder, give feedback, and offer guidance if the student gets stuck,” Stahovich said.

Professor Stahovich’s research is in the area of design and artificial intelligence. Much of his current work is focused on developing techniques to enable natural, sketch-based user interfaces. He and his students have developed sketch-based tools for vibration analysis, control system analysis, circuit analysis, and mechanical design.

The award is part of a two-pronged, $1.7 million, Microsoft funding program for academic research. One effort focuses on improving classroom teaching and learning in higher education. The other focuses on how technology can unlock the potential of people in underserved communities.

“We work with academic researchers worldwide to tackle technological challenges to positively affect health, education and socioeconomic conditions,” said Sailesh Chutani, director of the External Research & Programs group of Microsoft Research. “Whether pushing toward digital inclusion on a global scale with underserved communities or enhancing computing curriculum for higher education in developed countries, we have a vision of enabling all people to have the opportunity and the skills to harness technology’s rewards.”

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