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Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley is dedicated to educating its student to become leaders in global technology innovation and management and to performing innovative research that connects it to local, national, and global high-tech companies. Long known for its leadership in engineering and computer science research and education, Carnegie Mellon and the College of Engineering have established a natural extension in the Silicon Valley, one that integrates the rich heritage and resources of the Pittsburgh campus with the opportunities available in the highly innovative and entrpreneurial Silicon Valley. Offering graduate programs in software engineering, software management, information technology, innovation and mobility, each program provides the appropriate mix of technical, business and organizational skills critical to students' success. With research that focuses on a suite of new technologies, Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley is committed to creating and implementing solutions for real problems.

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CyLab Chronicles

Second Age of Carnegie Mellon in Silicon Valley

posted by Richard Power

The history of Silicon Valley is one of daring, luck, and ceaseless endeavor.

It is a narrative rife with the thrills and chills of boom and bust. For every icon that has emerged to illuminate the digital sky, there are countless wrecks that did not make it, as well as other story lines that end abruptly when some entity or another is devoured by some larger, hungrier entity. There are also many fascinating sub-plots interwoven throughout the timeline, and one of them just took a fascinating twist.

Under an azure blue sky, in an open air tent, speaking to an audience of hundreds of Bay Area alumni, trustees, donors, parents and students, Dr. Jared L. Cohon, President of Carnegie Mellon, declared, that having “soldiered on” through challenging economic conditions in the Valley since its founding in 2002, “in a way we are looking at the second age of Carnegie Mellon in Silicon Valley.”

Held at the Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley campus, on the grounds of NASA Ames Research Center (a.k.a. Moffett Field) in Mountain View, California, the event was part of “Inspire Innovation – The Campaign for Carnegie Mellon University.”

Pradeep Khosla

Following Dr. Cohon to the podium, Pradeep Khosla, Dean of the College of Engineering and founder of Carnegie Mellon CyLab, elaborated on the “re-visioning” of the Silicon Valley Campus, as “the crown jewel for the College of Engineering.”

Emphasizing the work of recently established CyLab Mobility Research Center (MRC), Dean Khosla extolled the virtues of the bi-coastal program which calls for students to spend two semesters in Pittsburgh and two semesters in Silicon Valley.

“Don’t get me wrong. Pittsburgh also has a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, but there is something about this air out here, once you start breathing it you don’t want a real job anymore, you want to be an entrepreneur,” Khosla remarked wryly, “You want to use somebody else’s money to create something, and maybe it becomes something big, or maybe you lose it. But as we know, more often than not it has become something big.”

“We have several masters programs; we have also decided that this campus will be involved in research. We have a Ph.D. program. Many students from our international programs will also rotate through Silicon Valley.”

Khosla also cited the significant investment made in the building of a state of the art distance education class room. “And we are building two more,” he added.

After the opening remarks of Cohon, Khosla and Martin Griss, Director of the CyLab Mobility Research Center, Associate Dean in the College of Engineering and recently named Director of Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley, the crowds of hundreds broke up into smaller groups to rotate through four brief presentations meant to convey the scope and spirit of the work being undertaken at Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley:

  • Jason Lohn, a Senior Research Scientist at the Silicon Valley campus, spoke on “Space and Beyond: Creating the Next Generation Antenna through Evolutionary Computing.”
  • Khalid Al-Ali, Director of Research and the Carnegie Mellon Innovation Lab, spoke on “Carnegie Mellon Innovation Lab: An Overview of Cutting-Edge Research in Ground, Air and Space Technologies.”
  • Ray Bareiss, Director of Educational Programs and Professor of Practice of Software Engineering and Software Management, spoke on “Transformative Professional Education for Silicon Valley.”
  • Griss, along with two more faculty members, spoke on “Mobility: Enhancing Our Lives through Mobile Technology.”

“Anywhere, Anytime …” The Future is Now

In articulating CyLab’s goals and mission, I often say that CyLab harnesses the future to secure the present. Well, CyLab MRC harnesses the future to usher the present into it.

Martin Griss

CyLab MRC was founded in April 2008, and as already mentioned, it is a bi-coastal program. Priya Narasimhan, an Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering in Pittsburgh, is Griss’ CyLab MRC Co-Director.

The program is dedicated to “enriching anywhere, anytime computing.”

In his remarks at the Silicon Valley campus event, Griss provided some context and outlined the scope of CyLab MRC’s activities:

“Smart phones are becoming more popular and more powerful. Sensors are getting to be more powerful, cheaper and more ubiquitous. All of this changes the way you interact with other people and your environment. At CyLab MRC, we are looking broadly at novel applications, devices and systems. We are conducting holistic multi-disciplinary research into how people work, what would make their lives easier and how technology can help. We want to do large-scale pilots. We are involved in education research and entrepreneurship. We have focuses in the areas of mobile health, transportation, manufacturing and the enterprise.”

Griss also shared his personal vision of the “Mobile Companion.”

“The mobile companion the thing you carry with you all the time, it knows where you are who you are what you are doing and ideally what you are about to do, and adjusts itself to support you, in your style, in the way you want whether you are working, collaborating or playing it will leverage your schedule, preferences and history if you are in the car and someone sends you a message should you read it? Not if you are driving. So if you are driving it will read it to you. On the other hand if you have someone with you maybe it should not read it to you a decision has to be made unless it is urgent if traffic is backed up and it will say to you traffic is backed up maybe we should stop and shop at Costco, it has your favorite beer on sale.”

Two faculty members presented current CyLab MRC research projects.

Pei Zhang, an assistant research professor in Carnegie Mellon’s Institute for Information Networking (INI) and Electrical Computing and Engineering (ECE) demonstrated “SensorFly.”

“What if one day there was an earthquake or a fire, and the building was failing down, but there could be people trapped inside, how do you decide whether or not to send rescuers inside or not? Sensor Fly aims to have a swarm of flying sensors that will enter the building and see if there are any survivors and guide the rescuers to them.”

The goal of the research, according to Zhang, is to create something that is very cheap, but at the same time hard to destroy and capable of mapping and recognition.

Joy Zhang

Joy Zhang, also an assistant research professor, demonstrated some of his research into speech translation for mobile devices, translating English into Spanish on his laptop.

“We all say that the world is flat, but we are still separated by language barriers. Carnegie Mellon is a world leader in speech translation. On this campus, we are doing speech translation particularly for mobile devices. In you are traveling in China, and you do not speak Chinese, in the near future, you will be able to use your mobile device, you will speak your English into the device, it will translate the English into Chinese, and then translate the Chinese back to English, so that, for example, you where to find the restaurant that you are looking for.”

He is also working on adding the speech translation system to the virtual world, Second Life.

No Ivory Tower at Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley

In his presentation on “Transformative Professional Education for Silicon Valley,” Ray Bareiss, Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley’s Director of Educational Programs and Professor of Practice of Software Engineering and Software Management, shared some outcomes on Silicon Valley’s 375 graduates:

  • 87% of alumni believe their Carnegie Mellon education has provided a competitive advantage
  • Virtually all have received salary increases; 45% of those were greater than 20%
  • 65% were promoted during the program or after immediately graduation

In articulating the Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley program’s approach, Bareiss stressed lessons learned from cognitive science research:

  • Active problem solving promotes acquisition of “knowledge to be used”
  • Realistic learning contexts promote transfer
  • Knowledge and skills should be taught holistically
  • Teaching should be “just in time”
Ray Bareiss

Bareiss’ Software Product Definition course exemplifies the approach.

Students are divided into faculty-coached teams, given a half-baked idea from “management” and tasked to develop it, using real-world techniques and processes, including:

  • Conduct Contextual Inquiry interviews
  • Model user and customer behavior
  • Perform persona- and scenario-based design
  • Derive high-level requirements and define the “whole product’
  • Document the result in a product vision document

To provide the audience with flesh and blood testimony to the strengths of the program, Bareiss turned the microphone over to one of campus’ 144 current students Alok Rishi, who will soon be graduating with an M.S. in Software Management.

“I had Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence, I wasn’t particularly looking to get an MBA, but I heard about this program, which is to me like an accelerated MBA tailored for Silicon Valley, and more specifically for the software industry. It gives you a complete end to end view of conceiving a software product or technology idea, innovating it, bringing that innovation to the market, building a company out of it, and running and growing that company, with all the people dynamics and technology dynamics around it.

“But the ongoing experience was not, ‘Wait until I graduate and then apply it.’ At work, my colleagues began to see very vivid changes in me almost immediately, I was manifesting what I learned at work, in two forms: I was assuming more of a leadership role, being much more comfortable in a larger people dynamics type of way, and also I had moved away from being sort of being in a silo and spreading out to harness innovation more broadly within Sun and from the industry. So it lead to profound transformative changes within, but it also resulted in my career taking off like a hockey puck. So I progressed from Software Engineer to Senior Engineer in the last year and a half to Principle Engineer, Chief Technologist and Director at Sun. A couple of months ago, I left Sun and started my own company.”

Rishi’s company, Megha Software, is an early stage software technology start-up that accelerates the adoption of cloud computing by Enterprises. It enables thousands of existing enterprise applications to move seamlessly into private/public clouds as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), radically changing software distribution, use, management, and economics for the Enterprise.

From the Caves to the Stars: Art and Technology Define What It Means to be Human

For the evening program, attendees rode on buses to the Computer History Museum for “An Evening of Impact and Imagination.”

In a compelling talk, Raymond J. Lane, Managing Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufeld & Byers and University Life Trustee and Campaign Chair for Carnegie Mellon offered poignant insight on Carnegie Mellon’s national impact from his own life story.

When Lane was a boy, his father, an executive in the steel industry back in Pittsburgh, attended night school at Carnegie Mellon.

“He would work all day, then he would have dinner with us, and then he would go upstairs and study all night … And he would explain to me that what was going on at Carnegie Mellon was possibly the development of a whole new industry that would be more exciting, higher growth and might be an industry that would attract me more than the steel industry.”

And indeed, throughout Lane’s information age career, he has drawn on the university’s wellspring of talent.

“After leaving IBM and EDS, I spent twelve years with Booz Allen, I spent eight years with Oracle and I have spent eight years with Kleiner Perkins. The most important thing that I have done in all three of these endeavors is to find talent, to have a pipeline of talent. And in all three of them, a management consulting company, a software company and a venture capital company, Carnegie Mellon has been my number one source of talent … So much more analytical, so much more practical …”

Apple Inc. Vice President Edward H. Frank (S’85), also a University Life Trustee, underscored Lane’s message with an observation from his own experience.

“Many of you who are at these companies have heard the expression ‘Carnegie Mellon Mafia.’ Microsoft has one, Apple has one, Sun has certainly has one, Google … The talent level is so extreme that we kind of all congregate together, smart people like to talk to other smart people.”

Frank moderated a panel of experts on the inter-relationship of Art and Technology:

Inspire Innovation panel

In framing the evening’s theme, Frank said, “If you look back millions of years ago at how humanity evolved, it seems that there are two things that human beings did that make us uniquely human, we develop technology, to help us hunt and help us eat, and that makes a lot of sense; but then we does this other thing … we make art … Carnegie Mellon is a unique institution, because it has great strengths in both of these areas. The crossover between Art and Technology is stronger than ever.”

At the end of the panel session, Beverly Wheeler, Executive Director of the Washington, D.C. State Board of Education, and President-elect of the Carnegie Mellon Alumni Association, surprised Ralph Guggenheim by presenting him with the Alumni Award.

The evening’s discussion was a reminder that although there is more to life than advancing technology, e.g., the fine art, even in the pursuit of these other riches, technology has become a vital element of success, and furthermore, that Carnegie Mellon is at the forefront of both pursuits.

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