Project Firewatch, Celebrating Pride Month, Upcoming Black Engineering Week, Job Highlight, and more!

Wildfire mapping with NASA and drone

SJSU Engineering Students Team Up with NASA to Map Wildfire Trajectories with Drone Technology

Project Firewatch

Project Firewatch, initiated by Huston Scharnagl and Sofia Silva as a senior design project, involves developing a drone equipped with wildfire trajectory software to track and predict wildfire movements. The interdisciplinary team at San Jose State University, guided by Professor Bo Yang, built the drone with FPV and thermal cameras, which transmit data for machine learning analysis to predict fire trajectories and assess vegetation health. The project gained traction through various competitions, culminating in their participation in the NASA Wildfire Climate Tech Challenge, where they were named runners-up. The team aims to advance the software independently, with Silva and Scharnagl continuing their education while planning to further develop Firewatch into a marketable product.

LGBTQ+ Theme – Alan Turing

Alan Turing

Image (Courtesy of National Portrait Gallery, London)

Alan Turing was born in London, England on June 23, 1912. Demonstrating remarkable talent in mathematics and science from a young age, he studied at King’s College, Cambridge, and later at Princeton University earning his PhD in mathematics.

Turing’s most renowned achievement came during World War II when he played a crucial role in deciphering the Enigma code used by Nazi Germany. The Enigma machine was an encryption device used by the Germans to send secure military communications. It utilized a series of rotating wheels, or rotors, to scramble plain text messages into coded text. The complexity of Enigma was enhanced by changing the cipher system daily, making it extremely difficult to crack.

Turing invented the Bombe, an electromechanical machine to break Enigma. The Bombe mimicked the Enigma machine’s workings and rapidly tested multiple potential rotors. By automating the process of checking various configurations, the Bombe allowed the Allies to gain critical intelligence, significantly shortened the war by two to four years, and saved countless lives.

In 1936, Turing introduced the concept of the Turing Machine, an abstract mathematical model that defines the limits of what can be computed. A Turing Machine consists of an infinitely long tape divided into cells, a tape head that reads and writes symbols on the tape, and a set of rules or instructions. The machine moves the tape left or right one cell at a time, depending on the current symbol and the rule being applied. This theoretical framework became the groundwork for the development of programmable computers.

Turing is also regarded as the father of artificial intelligence. His ‘Imitation Game’, later known as the Turing Test, was designed to determine whether a computer could exhibit intelligent behavior identical to a human. In this test, a human judge engages in a conversation with both a human and a machine without knowing which is which. If the judge cannot tell them apart, the machine is considered to have passed the test, demonstrating a form of artificial intelligence.

However, his career was tragically cut short when he was prosecuted for homosexuality in 1952. Turing chose chemical castration, where they injected him with hormone suppression for a year to avoid imprisonment. This eventually led to the dismissal of his security clearance and he died in 1954, with his death being ruled as suicide by cyanide poisoning.

The full recognition of Turing’s legacy came long after his death. In 2013, he received a posthumous royal pardon from Queen Elizabeth II, and in 2016, the UK government introduced the “Turing Law” to pardon men convicted of historical homosexual offenses. In 2019, he was recognized as the greatest person of the 20th century by the BBC series ‘Icons’ and was featured on Britain’s £50 note.

Alan Turing’s legacy continues to inspire both the field of engineering and the LGBTQ+ community. His groundbreaking contributions remind us of the need for inclusivity that drives innovation and progress. At SJSU College of Engineering, we are committed to honoring Turing’s spirit by fostering an environment where every student, regardless of background, identity, and sexual orientation, feels supported and empowered to push the boundaries of what is possible.

Alan Turing’s legacy – Royal British Legion

6 LGBTQ+ Engineers Who Changed The World

Image from news storyOpenAI unveils upgraded voice assistant technology (KTVU) featuring Prof Ahmed Banafa

Open AI recently upgraded their Chat-GPT, now called GPT-4O, with new functionality such as voice chat, image and video scanning, real-time responses, and document upload. This huge update blurs the line between human and AI interaction. Click here to see what Professor Banafa had to say on the subject.


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