ICT and engineering students show their skills at annual event

Thursday, July 1, 2010, by Martin Debattista
ICT and engineering students show their skills at annual
Some of the projects by ICT and engineering students on show at the annual exhibition.
A system that tracks objects, such as vehicles or persons in video images, advanced aircraft cockpit display
systems, and a surgical instrument for plastic surgery are among the projects on display at the exhibition of final
year projects by ICT and engineering students at the University of Malta.
The annual event is a showcase of the abilities of students that have just concluded their studies and are ready to
start a career in technology and engineering.
Steven Galea, an ICT student, created a system that processes video frames in order to detect moving objects
such as vehicles and persons. This software can be used in applications such as vehicle surveillance and traffic
monitoring. The software can also be used, for instance, to monitor a car park and alert a human operator every
time a car moves in or out of the car park. This means that the operator does not have to watch the CCTV
screens for hours on end. It is also applicable as an intruder detection system.
Mr Galea used very sophisticated image processing algorithms in order to detect the moving objects which are
highlighted using a wireframe. He also used the GPU (graphics processing unit) of the PC to speed up certain
compute-intensive operations. This enabled the system to work in real time and to process a minimum of 30
frames per second.
Neil Sammut, another ICT student, created a software tool that analyses cosmic radio data in order to detect
pulsars. Pulsars are thought to be neutron stars. Neutron stars are the collapsed cores of stars that underwent a
supernova explosion. A pulsar rotates and emits pulses of radiation - hence the name. The radiation emitted by
pulsars can take the form of radio waves, gamma rays, X-rays or even light.
Scientists are interested in pulsars since they help us understand how the universe works. Around 1500 pulsars
have so far been detected - many of these in our Milky Way. Radio telescopes generate many gigabytes of data
per second and this data has to be processed and analysed in order to detect the radio pulses from pulsars many
light years away.
Mr Sammut created a software tool that processes the radio data obtained from large radio telescope arrays in
order to detect pulsars. Since the operation is very compute-intensive he programmed the GPU of a PC to
process this radio data. Modern GPUs are used for game playing and can often process data at a much faster
rate than the main CPU. In fact, Mr Sammut was able to process the radio data from four to seven times faster
with the GPU.
The ICT projects exhibition will be open to the public today from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The exhibition is housed in the
Computing Building which is accessible from the car park next to the main library.
Towards the end of the academic year, the University of Malta's Faculty of Engineering also holds an exhibition
of final year engineering projects. These showcase the knowledge and experience acquired by the students
during their years of study. The projects were conducted under the supervision of academic staff from the six
departments at the Faculty of Engineering.
Biomedical technology is a key research area investigated by a number of engineering students. One particular
project looked at the development of a modular and ergonomic surgical instrument handle prototype to be used in
keyhole facial plastic surgery procedures.
During the initial stages of the design process, various instrument handles and concepts were analysed. A
modular and ergonomic design was generated through Computer Aided Design (CAD) software. The prototype
surgical instrument was manufactured and tested for dexterity, ergonomics and functionality. The
interchangeable mechanical components and modularity offered by the designed instrument allow a wide range
of possible uses that meets the different needs of various surgeons and surgical procedures.
Research work is also being carried out on the design of advanced cockpit display systems that are capable of
presenting large amounts of data in a very short period of time. One particular project focused on the design of
an ultrasonic absolute positional head tracking system which processes data independent of previous knowledge
so as to avoid any drift errors.
Previous research at the Faculty of Engineering involving the tracking of the orientation of the pilot's head has
been significantly developed over the past years. This project extends this work. A system which tracks the
absolute head position was designed and developed. The system is relatively inexpensive yet reliable and
accurate, with a fast update rate, lightweight and not a nuisance to the user. It is also able to cover a reasonable
area so as not to restrict the user's movement.
The engineering project exhibition is open today from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. and tomorrow from 9 a.m. to until 1 p.m.
at the Faculty of Engineering building.
The exhibition will also allow prospective students to have a more informed career choice. An information
seminar regarding undergraduate courses offered by the Faculty of Engineering will be given today from 4 p.m. to
5 p.m. at the Sir Temi Zammit Hall. For more information one may visit www.um.edu.mt/eng/exhibition.