Inventive Education: Research with an edge

For Carlos Jensen, teaching and innovation go hand-in-hand. The assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science (EECS) is passionate about guiding students to answer questions that have inspired his own research.

 From left, Donald Heer, Carlos Jensen, Kevin Kemper and Christopher Dent of electrical engineering and computer science are working to introduce the Oregon State Wireless Active Learning Device, a flexible handheld computer. (photo: Justin Smith)

From left, Donald Heer, Carlos Jensen, Kevin Kemper and Christopher Dent of electrical engineering and computer science are working to introduce the Oregon State Wireless Active Learning Device, a flexible handheld computer. (photo: Justin Smith)

“I try to show students where the holes in the existing research are and hope that some of them will fill some of them,” Jensen said.

Soon, Jensen and EECS faculty research assistant Donald Heer will help three computer science undergrads, Kevin Kemper, Christopher Dent and Ben Goska, introduce the Oregon State Wireless Active Learning Device, or OSWALD. The “Ozzie,” a spin-off of Kemper’s senior project, is a flexible handheld computer device that will support educational and recreational activities such as web browsing, IM, blogging, and multimedia playback tailored to the student’s choice. Ozzie allows users to create their own applications or borrow from other devices.

Starting this spring, the freshman-level course CS 162 will put the Ozzie to use. Students will get hands-on experience in computer science through a common and familiar device that they can build on as they progress through the major. Its creators hope to integrate Ozzie into all freshman computer science courses by the 2009-2010 school-year and anticipate Ozzie’s debut in a number of upper level courses as well.

“The goal is to give students a flexible, fun, and inexpensive device that will encourage them to explore, innovate, and learn above and beyond the class material,” Jensen said. “We started with Ozzie in the summer of 2008 so that we could offer students an affordable and innovative way to experiment.”

Also among Jensen’s creations is Beaversource, a Web site for OSU students that combines elements of Facebook and Sourceforge, an open source for software downloads. It offers a place for students to network in a more controlled, educational environment as well as host and discuss projects or designs they are interested it. Currently, the site hosts over 340 users and more than 45 projects.

”Beaversource was started to get students more involved with their peers at OSU as well as supporting their creative process,” Jensen said.
Jensen also has designed a program that will help users identify and track the personal information that Web sites collect about them through mechanisms such as cookies.

“This will help people make more informed decisions about the tradeoffs they make with respect to their personal information when Online,” Jensen said.

With the help of two OSU graduate students, and in addition to his many projects, Jensen is analyzing the design of computer systems that are used by sports commentators. The aim is to design systems that will put more information at the commentators’ fingertips even faster.

“The exceptional thing about teaching is that you surround yourself with bright, passionate people who have all kinds of wild and crazy ideas,” Jensen said. “And, as teachers, we get to tag along for the ride.”

~ Tara Pistorese

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