Highlights from BYU colleges: BYU partners with NASA, cybersecurity research earns $24.5k grant


Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering

NASA, BYU partner on spacecraft mission

A BYU engineering student works on BYU’s cube satellite in preparation for its official launch with NASA. (Nate Edwards/BYU Photo)

BYU students are coordinating with NASA engineers to release BYU’s first spacecraft mission: a cube satellite. Passive Inspection CubeSat (PICS) is a 10-centimeter spacecraft with cameras on all six sides. The five-year project involving 60+ students will be launched into space later in 2020, where it will inexpensively and effectively track damage on other spacecraft that wouldn’t be able to be seen otherwise.

BYU engineering professor David Long calls PICS “a spacecraft selfie cam.” When the satellites launch from California later this year, images and videos recorded in space will be streamed back to satellite dishes on the Clyde Engineering Building for engineering students to track.

“That’s the number one thing I can’t wait to see: those antennas scanning the sky, watching for satellites,” BYU grad student Patrick Walton said. “There will be a bunch of us in the Engineering building waiting in front of a screen, looking for a signal to show up on a little graph and we’ll be ecstatic when we see it.”

$24.5k grant goes to AI testing

BYU professor Amanda Hughes has been awarded a $24.5k grant for her work in human-AI teaming. (Sawyer Nunley)

A BYU IT and cybersecurity professor has been awarded a $24,498 grant from the National Science Foundation. Amanda Hughes, who has a doctorate in computer science, is collaborating with the University of Texas at Austin and George Mason University to develop human-AI teaming that can be used to improve reaction time in disaster relief.

Human-AI teaming involves the use of human analysis combined with artificial intelligence. Hughes’ research will help improve human-AI teaming to improve emergency response time. The information her team finds will improve the “Citizen Helper” software at George Mason University, a program that filters out social media messages into data that can assist emergency responders. The program is targeted at COVID-19 relief but will hopefully bear larger implications addressing hurricanes, earthquakes, fires and other disasters. Further developments will make the Citizen Helper program more accessible and user-friendly for volunteers.

“A big reason why I enjoy doing this kind of work is because I feel like it has a lot of real-world impact, and that’s important to me, and I feel like that’s also something that’s very important to a lot of the BYU community,” Hughes said. “I like this kind of research because I feel like I can make a difference in the world.”

Marriott School of Business

BYU alumnus works with Nature Valley, Traeger Grills

BYU MBA alumnus Jason Alleger has worked with Nature Valley, General Mills and Traeger Grills. (Jason Alleger)

A BYU Marriott School of Business MBA alumnus has worked with Nature Valley, General Mills and Traeger Grills. Jason Alleger was on the team at Nature Valley that researched and designed Nature Valley Wafer Bars. Alleger said his competitive internship with General Mills helped launch him to his current position: director of consumer insights and strategy at Traeger Grills.

Alleger graduated from BYU with a degree in advertising in 2011. Working for an ad agency in Salt Lake City for five years led Alleger to seek “a new challenge:” an MBA. He started BYU Marriott’s MBA program in 2016 and worked for General Mills in summer 2017. Alleger feels he’s found his place at Traeger, where he helps beta test new wood pellet grills including the Traeger Pro, Timberline and Ironwood grills.

“Working with a product you are passionate about is so neat,” Alleger said. “A few weeks ago, I walked up to a family looking at a Traeger and talked to them about how easy it is to cook for a family on the Traeger, a grill I work with. The experience was deeply fulfilling.”

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