Sensing the Future
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hopes the clear connection between development of the emerging
technology and the ability to address global concerns will
a wider range of talented students,
helping to attract more diversity to
the engineering field.
With that as a goal, CENS has focused on including undergraduates
in its experimental research.
Internet, Estrin points out, was able to emerge
only through government investment in university research to create
the enabling technology, overcome fundamental problems and ensure
sufficient commonality to facilitate a worldwide phenomenon. The
case for the university being the only feasible site to plant the
seeds for a digital hook-up of the physical world is equally strong.
"We're not burdened with needing to have a commercially viable
business model the way that industry is," says Estrin. "By
having science drive the technology, we're able to make leaps that
aren't commercially viable to invest in."
of the NSF agrees. "It probably involves the highest risk of
all the Science and Technology Centers ... but universities are
where this type of high-risk basic research can be done," he
in UCLA and its partner institutions, CENS can draw on the breadth
of expertise needed to meet the challenge of embedded networked
sensing, which requires a diverse set of researchers within engineering
to collaborate with scientists in a variety of fields on problems
that are themselves multidisciplinary.
speak different languages," says Philip Rundel, a UCLA biology
professor and CENS member working on the James Reserve study. "Despite
the tremendous advances in engineering and IT, there's been little
cross-linkage between those fields and environmental science. But
I'm learning more about what they can do, and they're learning more
about the scientific questions we have. I'm realizing this isn't
just about using this technology to do the same things better; it's
using it to conduct studies that were never before possible."