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HCII Students Bedri and Zhang Win Qualcomm Fellowship

Bedri and Zhang presenting

Human-Computer Interaction Institute Ph.D students Abdelkareem Bedri and Yang Zhang are the recipients of this year's Qualcomm Fellowship. They are one of just eight student teams selected for the 2017 fellowship.

In their proposal, "Towards General Purpose Sensing With Synthetic Sensors," Bedri and Zhang introduce a super sensor that can cover an entire environment. Rather than requiring a multitude of individual ones, one super sensor can collect raw sensor data without requiring a programed sensor on each action the user desires to log.

Bedri and Zhang were nominated by advisors Chad Starner and Chris Harrison, an HCII assistant professor who received the Qualcomm Fellowship in 2012.

The Qualcomm Fellowship is uniquely setup, as it requires a pair of students to submit a proposal together. This partner structure is meant as a reflection of Qualcomm's core value, but in the case of Bedri and Zhang, this was an opportunity to bring together their background in sensing and activity recognition research. 

"This proposed project resonates with both of our research interests very well," said Zhang.

The proposal was based on some of Zhang's work presented at CHI 2017 and featured in publications like Wired and the MIT Tech Review. Moving forward with Bedri's strong background in electronic engineering means adding a more refined sensor tag, advanced deep learning approach and a long-term development plan.

Harrison describes his students' work as tackling a "thorny problem." This is, how to interpret what happens in our everyday environments without draping every room in wires. If they succeed, Harrison believes it will offer an important beachhead into contexts like the home.

"They are truly exceptional students. This fellowship will afford them the intellectual freedom to operate right at the cutting edge," said Harrison.

"The Qualcomm Fellowship helped to fund my graduate education, and now I get to return that investment though mentorship of my students."

The Qualcomm Fellowship awards each winning team $100,000 and a Qualcomm engineer mentor.

"It is a huge motivator to see our proposal well received by industry, specially big companies like Qualcomm," said Zhang. "We will make good use of the funding as well as the collaboration with Qualcomm’s engineers to fully explore and further develop the idea we proposed. We will work closely together to push this project to the next level."