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UBC Publications

Focus 1993

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Vol. 4, No. 2
Fall 1993
A look at the new CICSR/CS
building and the collaboration
and projects it facilitates
■ It's been six years in the planning, but
it's now a reality. By the time you read this,
the Centre for Integrated Computer Systems
Research and the Computer Science
Department will be ensconced in their new
building on Main Mall at UBC.
Numerous new laboratories have been
established as a result of the additional
space, but more importantly, researchers in
all CICSR disciplines — computer science,
mechanical engineering and electrical
... continued on page 2
The new CICSR/CS building features wide open
spaces and abundant natural light.
Scientific computation
page 3
Robotics project
page 4
CS 25th anniversary
page 5
Communications lab
page 6
page 7
CICSR ties with MIS
page 8
Industrial experience
page 9
S&T Week
page 10
CICSR Open House
page 11
■ This is a very exciting time for
CICSR and for the Department of
Computer Science at UBC. When you
receive this, we will be installed in our
new building at 2366 Main Mall,
adjacent (and connected) to Electrical
Occupation of this facility represents
the culmination of six years of planning,
development and construction with
Chernoff, Thompson & Associates as
architects and Matthews Projects Inc. as
the general contractor.
Special opening ceremonies, including
an open house and a 25th anniversary
symposium for the Department of
Computer Science, will be held October
14-16, so we hope to see as many of
you as possible then. Demos and tours
of the facility will be available at that
In this issue, we've focused on
particular research labs which will have
a new presence in the new building, for
example scientific computation,
robotics and remote sensing. As well,
there is a report on a new group of
associate CICSR members: the
Management Information Systems
Group from the Faculty of Commerce.
Unfortunately, there is a sad counterpoint to all the above euphoria: Rob
Bishop, the local graphic designer who
has produced all the designs for CICSR
since its inception, including the logo,
Distinguished Lecture Series posters
and the newsletters, died very suddenly
on August 2. Rob's unfailing good
humour and his unique approach to life
will be remembered for a long time, as
will his brilliant design work. ■
Dr. James Varah, CICSR Director
NEW CICSR/CS BUILDING COMPLETED ... continued from cover
engineering — will be in closer proximity
than ever before. While CICSR has always
encouraged collaborative research, the new
building will accelerate the process
According to CICSR director Jim Varah,
the underlying theme to the research in the
building is computer science and computer
engineering. "The new building juxtaposes
these two things, and brings them close
together so there can be interaction. It's all
very well to talk about working together,
but physical proximity makes such a big
difference. If researchers are in different
buildings half a mile apart, it just doesn't
The new building also has a bridge to the
electrical engineering building, a fitting
symbol as well as a physical link of the
connection between science and engineering. There will also be computer connections via high-speed ethemet. As well, the
department of mechanical engineering is
right next door.
The new building provides a wonderful
setting for interaction, with wide open
spaces, abundant natural light, roomy labs
and even small conversation nooks with
whiteboards for spontaneous sharing of
ideas. The offices are spacious, with
double-height windows that actually open
to the outside. The decor features oak trim,
and an attractive beige and teal colour
scheme throughout.
It is very much a high-tech building, with
state-of-the-art communications capabilities. There are cable trays in every hall and
office to allow for easy addition or
reconfiguration of the communications
links. Basically any terminal can be
connected to any server in the building.
The 64,000 sq. ft., four-story building will
house numerous labs, some permanent, and
some for a finite term. Many of the new
labs are profiled in more detail in this issue.
The temporary labs, called project labs, are
a new concept for CICSR.
"The project labs are an innovation," said
Varah. They provide space for research
projects for the duration of their funding or
research task. There are eight 500 sq. ft.
rooms for projects. One example is the
GraFiC project jointly sponsored by UBC
and IBM for three years aimed at researching, developing, and encouraging the use of
graphics and visualization in various
Other project labs will focus on games
employing math and science (Maria
Klawe), mechanical modelling of boilers
(Martha Salcudean), machine monitoring
(Yusuf Altintas), and mechanical design
optimization for CAD systems (Mo
Gadala). The building also has space for
seminars, grad students, visiting researchers, a reading room, a large space for the
robotics lab, and it will, of course, house the
new CICSR office.
The general sentiment about the new
building is that it provides much-needed
additional space, and will greatly facilitate
collaboration. Gordon MacNabb, director of
IRIS (Institute for Robotics and Intelligent
Systems), a part of the Networks of Centres
of Excellence (NCE) program, feels the
new building offers something else that's
very important: a place for researchers to
demonstrate their work.
"It's critically important to have industry
come and see something, and for researchers to be able to demonstrate their work,"
said MacNabb. He adds that NCE has
helped bring interdisciplinary groups
together, but "a facility like this enables it
to work so much better." CICSR members
play a prominent role in the IRIS network,
and MacNabb believes the new facility will
be a great plus for IRIS.
To find out more about the new CICSR/CS
facility, feel free to drop in to our open
house October 14-16, or any time. ■ New laboratory for scientific computation
Researchers of scientific
computation and visualization
now have better facilities to
visualize their results.
■ One of the many new labs that has been
created in the CICSR/CS building is the
Laboratory for Scientific Computation and
Visualization (the "SCV Lab"). The new
lab will provide better equipment, easier
collaboration and more space for research
into scientific computation problems,
according to Uri Ascher of the Department
of Computer Science, who is heading the
new laboratory.
The other faculty members involved in the
lab are CICSR director Jim Varah and Brian
Wetton of the Department of Mathematics.
Problems the group are researching include
simulation of multibody dynamics (such as
the motion of a complex robotic arm, or a
car), computational fluid dynamics, surface
reconstruction (clarifying a blurry photo, or
one shot from outer space, for example),
and matrix computation.
Some of the research projects are already
underway and involve collaboration
between various disciplines. But the new
lab will make working together a whole lot
easier, according to Ascher. "We are
dispersed in different departments. This will
bring us together, and also provide access to
better equipment, better software, and better
facilities to visualize the results of our
Ascher added, "The SCV Lab is definitely
going to change the way we and our
graduate students live. I expect it to result in
more collaboration and better research. It
will give us a physical place to be and better
facilities to work with." The new lab is
funded by NSERC.
Uri Ascher of the Department of Computer Science heads the new Scientific Computation and Visualization (SCV) laboratory.
The lab will not only facilitate ongoing
research on existing projects, but new
research projects are being started as a
result of the new lab. Ascher said visualization projects and animation of time-
dependent problems will be new areas of
research made possible by the new software
and access to workstations that the SCV
Lab provides. He also expects the proximity
"The SCV Lab is definitely going to change the way we and our
graduate students live. I expect it to result in more collaboration
and better research. It will give us a physical place to be and better
facilities to work with."
to the Laboratory of Computational
Intelligence (LCI) and to GraFiC (Graphics
and Film in Computers) Lab will be a
bonus. "We will be on the same floor and
we hope to foster strong connections with
these labs," said Ascher.
Other CICSR departments that he expects
the SCV lab to have links with include
mechanical and electrical engineering. The
work being done in the robotics lab, and the
work in computational fluid dynamics by
Martha Salcudean of the Department of
Mechanical Engineering is "all close to our
heart," said Ascher. He also hopes the lab
will help to foster connections between
CICSR and the Institute of Applied
Mathematics (IAM).
In general, the new SCV laboratory, and the
new CICSR/CS building, are expected to
help CICSR more easily accomplish its
mission, which is to create links between
the various advanced systems disciplines
and to foster excellent collaborative
research as a result. Robotics project with a history
A UBC research team has been working for almost a decade on applying the latest robotics and
computing technology to building better machines. The results are encouraging.
■ The project led by CICSR's Dr. Peter
Lawrence to apply the latest robotics and
computing technology to building better
machines, specifically for use in the forest
industry, is developing quite a history. The
research project was started in 1985, and
has moved along the path to commercialization smoothly, almost "by the book"
according to Lawrence.
Back in 1985, UBC, Robotic Systems
International Research (RSI) of Sidney,
B.C. and MacMillan Bloedel teamed up to
develop a more natural, and safer user
interface for large machinery, such as feller
bunchers. Caterpillar provided the excavator for the research project.
Following the demonstration of the research
results, MacMillan Bloedel and RSI
Research continued work on an advanced
grapple yarder, which has since been
delivered to MB. The forestry company is
now using the technology on three machines.
Meanwhile, at UBC, Caterpillar decided not
to pursue the technology, but Lawrence and
his team, including Farrokh Sassani from
Mechanical Engineering, continued to
improve the man-machine interface, with
funding from the B.C. Advanced Systems
Institute, Science Council of B.C. and the
National Research Council. Lawrence said,
"We dramatically improved the operator
interface" over the course of that project.
Then, in 1990, the national Centres of
Excellence program funded several
projects, one with Allan Mackworth of the
Department of Computer Science, to
continue development of the machine's
vision system. The system is now running at
real-time speed and costs less to implement
than other methods of determining bucket
and arm position. Lawrence said some of
his peers scoffed at the idea of a computer
vision system to supply sensing to a large-
scale machine, arguing that joint angle
sensors would be much more feasible.
Mackworth and the research team have
proven them wrong. The vision system is
now fast and inexpensive — the next steps
are to make it faster and thoroughly test its
In 1992, another joint research project was
Peter Lawrence (right) and project engineer Dan
Chan are part of the research team working on
developing better controls for industrial
machines, including this feller buncher.
launched, this time by UBC, RSI Research
and FERIC. The result of the project will be
a demonstration of coordinated motion
control on a feller buncher, a large machine
that cuts and piles up trees. Recently, an
NSERC-funded project to develop a
simulator and motion platform was started.
Tim Salcudean of the Department of
Electrical Engineering, along with graduate
student Alison Taylor, is working on force
feedback and scaling. This work can be
applied at one end of the scale to improve
the performance of large industrial machines, and at the other end of the scale, in
microsurgery applications to improve the
dexterity and sensitivity of the surgeon.
The motion platform, which is part of the
... continued on next page ROBOTICS ... continued from page 4
overall project to develop improved
industrial machines, will provide motion
feedback for users of machines with
movable bases — such as large equipment
used in forestry operations. There is
currently no safe or easy way to train
operators of machines working on sloped,
rough terrain. With the motion platform, a
system can be devised to allow operators to
feel how close they are to the safety limit,
and when they are in danger of capsizing.
The platform is built using six hydraulic
jacks, and is designed to the same specifications as aircraft simulators, said Salcudean.
It can simulate G-forces and acceleration,
and, with the addition of a head motion
sensor and display helmet, can offer lifelike
simulation of driving an excavator, or other
moving equipment.
Development of a realistic simulator is a
CICSR team effort. Salcudean is working
on force feedback and the motion platform,
while Lawrence is working on simulating
the cab environment and the machine, and
on the stereo helmet. The project has come
a long way since its inception.
"It's been almost ten years now," said
Lawrence. "Our tests show the product of
this research is desirable. Now it needs to
be done, cost effectively."
The project will continue in its new home in
the CICSR/CS building, a welcome change
for all of those involved in the project,
many for different reasons. Lawrence says
the graduate students who have been
working on the feller buncher outside in the
rain will be very happy that the project can
be moved indoors.
For the researchers, proximity to each other
will make collaboration easier. "We're now
working closely with Computer Science,
but it takes so long to get back and forth.
You don't casually talk about problems and
solutions over a cup of coffee because all
contacts must be prearranged meetings,"
said Lawrence.
He feels the new building will help foster
collaboration in ways that, despite the work
of CICSR, haven't been happening so far.
"There's a cultural difference between the
departments — especially between Computer Science and Engineering in general. It
will definitely seem much less threatening
when people can see what those in other
disciplines really do, and how they think,"
said Lawrence.
He believes that once the departments are
brought closer together, more synergy will
be created between them. He expects to see
a lot more co-operative research proposals
submitted as a result. "People transfer
technology. The more hurdles you can get
out of their way, the better," he said. ■
Tim Salcudean and graduate student Alison Taylor are working on a motion platform to create lifelike
simulation of what it feels like to drive excavators or other large machines on rough terrain.
Computer Science Department
celebrates 25th anniversary
■ The Department of Computer Science is
celebrating its 25th anniversary with an
open house and symposium in the new
CICSR/CS building. The event will be held
October 14-16.
There will be several demonstrations on
display on topics such as computational
geometry, database, electronic games for
math and science, integrated systems
design, computational intelligence, and
graphics. The displays will be varied,
appeal to all ages, and feature everything
from soccer-playing trucks, and fish tank
virtual reality to robotic controllers and
high-speed protocols.
During the three days of the open house,
CICSR and the Department of Computer
Science will host schools, industry,
academia, government and the general
public. There will be keynote lectures by
distinguished alumni, and official opening
ceremonies for the new building.
The final day of the event will feature a
symposium presenting current research
topics and issues. Invited plenary speakers
include three distinguished graduates of
UBC Computer Science. Monica Lam, as
assistant professor in the Computer Science
Department at Stanford University, will
discuss her research in computer architecture and optimizing compilers. Raimund
Seidel is associate professor at University of
California, Berkeley, and his interests lie in
algorithms and data structures, especially
for problems of a geometric nature. Johan
deKleer is a member of the Cognitive and
Instructional Sciences Area at the Palo Alto
Research Centre. His central research goal
is developing computational theories of
reasoning about complex physical artifacts.
All are welcome to join in the Computer
Science Department's 25th anniversary
celebration. Since its inception in 1968, the
department has grown to be one of the
leading computer science departments in
North America. In the last five years, 17
new faculty have joined the department,
which has teaching and research programs
on the cutting edge of the computing
For more information, contact the Department of Computer Science, tel: 822-3061,
fax: 822-5485, or by e-mail to:
25th@cs.ubc.ca ■ New communications lab open
Cyril Leung is the first recipient of a Visiting Industrial Fellowship from ASI.
■ A new Communications Lab will open its
doors in the CICSR/CS building. While
such a lab already exists in the Department
of Electrical Engineering, the extra space is
providing a home for several new and
existing projects, according to lab spokesperson Cyril Leung.
Five faculty members, about 20 graduate
students and two new research engineers
will be using the lab for numerical and
simulation work, mainly in digital communication systems. The Lab will also house a
new project involving three faculty
members (Victor Leung, Robert Donaldson,
Cyril Leung), two graduate students and a
research engineer. The project, funded by
the Science Council of B.C., is entitled:
Design, analysis and implementation of a
wireless local area network employing
distributed radio bridges. The ultimate goals
of this type of research is to produce
reliable local area networks where computers share information without the need for
cables to link them.
Cyril Leung is interested in all types of
"personal communications" — systems that
will eventually allow people to communicate anytime and anywhere without wires
needed to connect their communication
devices. "Some people view this as being as
revolutionary as the invention of the
telephone itself. It's the hot area in wireless
communication these days," said Leung.
As part of his work, and with the help of
CICSR director Jim Varah, Leung was able
to secure a three-month visiting industrial
fellowship from the B.C. Advanced
Systems Institute (ASI) to work on wireless
data communications projects at MPR
Teltech. That company recently announced
an important development that allows data
communications over cellular voice
channels. The technology is called Cellular
Digital Packet Data (CDPD).
The exact nature of Leung's work at MPR
Teltech is confidential. But Leung says he's
looking forward to the time he'll spend
performing research in an industrial setting.
"It's always rewarding to spend some time
in industry. You get an appreciation of
some of their real-world issues. It's very
forward-thinking of ASI to institute this
new visiting industrial fellowship program.
It will greatly enhance opportunities for
university-industry collaboration."
The time spent at MPR Teltech will be the
first part of Leung's one-year sabbatical. In
the meantime, research at the new Communications Lab will carry on in the new
facility. "For all of us, it has provided some
much-needed additional space," said Leung.
"We had a very severe shortage of lab
space." The additional space will enable
communications researchers at UBC to
accommodate more graduate students, and
tackle new types of experimental research
In addition, the lab will have new
workstation facilities provided by CICSR.
And its members will have greater opportunities for collaboration with other CICSR
members in the new building.
New ASI visiting
fellows program
■ The B.C. Advanced Systems Institute
is now offering visiting industrial
fellowships to advanced systems researchers, and CICSR members Cyril
Leung and Jeff Joyce are the first to
receive fellowships.
Cyril Leung of the Department of
Electrical Engineering will spend three
months at MPR Teltech working on
wireless data communications projects.
(See accompanying story.)
Subject to final approval, Jeff Joyce of
the Department of Computer Science will
spend a full year at Hughes Aircraft
working on the CAATS air traffic control
I software system. MacDonald Dettwiler is
also participating in the software project.
Joyce will look at applying formal
methods to the project, which is both
immense and safety critical, an excellent
test for formal methods.
According to ASI executive director
Brent Sauder, the goal of the new
I program is in keeping with ASI's overall
I goal to forge strong links between
university researchers and industry. "I see
a two-way benefit. The companies benefit
by having access to state-of-the-art
technology. And the researchers benefit
by closer contact with industry, and a
better appreciation of its needs. The best
way to determine the requirements and
| needs of both sides is to have the people
I working together."
Sauder added that the companies have
demonstrated their commitment since
they pick up part of the tab for the
researchers' time at the company. NSERC
has also become involved in part of the
funding, and the universities themselves
provide a share of the costs. It's a true
collaborative effort.
The Visiting Industrial Fellowship
■ program is open to all industrial affiliates
of ASI, as well as all advanced systems
researchers. For each visiting fellow, ASI
matches the university contribution up to
| $25,000 and the company contribution up
to $20,000. Industrial visits can be as
short as two weeks or as long as one year.
( The visiting fellows are not like consult-
I ants, but instead are specialized researchers brought in to solve a very specific
I problem.
For more information, contact Brent
Sauder, Executive Director, ASI, 450-
1122 Mainland St., Vancouver, V6B 5L1,
tel: (604) 689-0551. ■ ASI links advanced systems researchers in B.C.
The B.C. Advanced Systems Institute links CICSR with its counterparts at SFU and UVic
■ Although CICSR plays a special role in
bringing advanced systems researchers
together from various disciplines at UBC,
we are not totally unique in this respect.
Our counterparts at University of Victoria
and at Simon Fraser University perform a
similar function, and the three groups are all
linked by one organization: the B.C.
Advanced Systems Institute (ASI).
Through ASI, researchers and graduate
students of advanced systems can make
contact and find out about the activities of
their peers at B.C.'s other universities. ASI
enables the three advanced systems groups
to coordinate activities and meet with each
other on a regular basis.
ASI provides fellowships for advanced
systems researchers at UBC, UVic and
SFU, and brings these fellows together for
meetings. ASI also regularly brings together
the heads of the three interdisciplinary
organizations. The annual Graduate
Students Presentations Day is another
chance for students and faculty of advanced
systems in B.C. to interact.
To facilitate networking between all
advanced systems researchers, the following is a brief introduction to CICSR's
counterparts at UVic and SFU.
LACIR, the Laboratory for Automation,
Communication and Information Systems
Research, is CICSR's counterpart at the
University of Victoria. Founded in 1987,
LACIR is an on-campus, cross-disciplinary
research unit. Members include more than
80 faculty and staff engaged in communication and information research, and represent
diverse fields of engineering, physics,
geography, computer science, psychology,
chemistry, philosophy, speech technology,
and health informatics. Specific research
areas include software systems and software
engineering, artificial intelligence, VLSI,
robotic controls, signal processing, CAD/
CAM, speech synthesis, energy systems
modelling and expert systems.
LACIR encourages collaborative research
among its members and with industry,
government and other B.C. universities.
LACIR also promotes technology transfer
and advanced systems education.
LACIR's director is Nigel Horspool, who is
also a professor in the Computer Science
Department. He can be reached at LACIR,
University of Victoria, P.O. Box 3055,
Victoria, V8W 3P6, tel: (604) 721-7297,
fax: (604) 721-6632.
The Centre for Systems Science is
CICSR's counterpart at Simon Fraser
University. CSS promotes advanced
research in computers and communications, microelectronics and intelligent
systems. CSS was established in 1986 to
coordinate multidisciplinary advanced
systems research and to promote the
application of university research in B.C.
to industry.
CSS has three main areas of research, and
about eighty faculty from 12 departments
working within these areas. Under
intelligent systems, research areas include
neural networks, machine translation,
human interfaces, graphics and animation,
knowledge representation, robotics and
vision, cognitive science, expert systems,
and natural language interface.
The microelectronics division includes
research in materials, devices and circuits,
testing, VLSI applications, fabrication and
testing. And under computer and communication systems are research areas that
include computer-assisted design/automation, computer-assisted software engineering, distributed computation, parallel
processing, communications (mobile,
subsea and policy), algorithms, information
systems and medical imaging.
The director of CSS is Tom Calvert, who is
also a professor of computing science,
engineering science and kinesiology. He
can be reached at Centre for Systems
Science, Faculty of Applied Sciences, SFU,
Burnaby, B.C. V5A 1S6, tel: (604) 291-
4588, fax: (604) 291-4424, e-mail Faculty
of Applied Sciences tom@sfu.ca.
There are many parallels between the work
of CICSR and that of CSS and LACIR. All
three organizations promote collaborative
interdisciplinary research and interaction
with industry. And ASI helps to bring it all
together. ■
The Graphics Lab, representing one of many Centre for Systems Science (CSS) disciplines at Simon
Fraser University, has developed commercial human motion simulation software called Life Forms.
ASI provides links from CICSR to CSS at SFU and LACIR at UVic. 8
CICSR welcomes ties to MIS
CICSR has established an affiliation with the MIS Division of the
UBC Faculty of Commerce and Business Administration
Yair Wand of the MIS Division, Faculty of Commerce, looks forward to stronger ties with CICSR.
■ The field of management information
systems has as its major foundations two
quite different disciplines: computer science
and business administration. Therefore, the
new affiliation between the Management
Information Systems (MIS) Group from the
UBC Faculty of Commerce and CICSR is
very fitting with CICSR's goal to promote
interdisciplinary computer systems research.
Yair Wand, chair of the MIS Division of the
Faculty of Commerce and Business
Administration describes MIS as the
management, development, adoption and
evolution of information and communication systems for business and administrative
applications. Information technology has
become important enough to business
administrators that all business school
students take at least one course, and often
many, in management information systems.
According to Wand, MIS has been taught at
UBC for 25 years, but only in the past five
years has it become a separate division —
previously it was part of a combined
accounting and MIS division. MIS is more
concerned with the effective use of
information technology (IT) in business and
the effect of IT on the business environment
than it is with actual development of the
technology. As part of their research,
software development is sometimes
necessary, and is often done with the help
of Computer Science graduate students.
A good example of this kind of collaboration is in the design and use of expert
systems. "We don't develop artificial
intelligence techniques or theories, but we
may build some expert systems," said
Wand. "We study the relationship between
expert systems and their users."
The MIS Division is also co-operating
directly with the Department of Computer
Science on two software projects. One is the
development of team-based intelligent
productivity systems (TIPS), and the other
looks at logging, annotation and navigation
for hypermedia video analysis tools.
A good example of the type of software
developed within the MIS Division is
Meeting Place, a software system to
facilitate group decision-making. The
software facilitates such group tasks as
brainstorming, voting, allocating funds, and
ranking priorities or choices. "We're
working on an interface to make the
software as easy to use as possible," said
Andrew Trice, assistant professor in the
MIS Division.
The group is also working on the best way
to tackle issues that arise from the use of
such software. A big issue is anonymity,
which takes away inhibitions, and is very
useful in creative brainstorming sessions,
but not a help in situations where people
with the greater knowledge and experience
should carry more weight. A simple
solution, being implemented in the soft
ware, will allow users to choose anonymity
or not.
The software also performs simple calculations that greatly speed the process of
reaching group decisions. For example, it
will quickly tabulate the top choices in a
list, taking into consideration everyone's
ranking of each item. It will average out
suggested budget allocations, and produce
graphic representations of the results. It's
designed to make group work easier —
whether it does, and how it actually gets
implemented in businesses is of great
interest to MIS researchers.
Another MIS software project is OASIS, an
environment for developing organizational
applications. The project is funded by the
Institute for Robotics and Intelligent
Systems (IRIS), under the federal Network
Centres of Excellence program. The system
is unique in that it is adaptable to support
virtually any organizational system, and is
completely decentralized, according to MIS
assistant professor Carson Woo. While all
system users have their own support unit,
they also have access to a central support
unit, but retain complete autonomy over
their own information processing.
The system is object-oriented and uses a
form as its basic building block. Forms can
be created to suit every purpose, from
acquiring information to calculating
budgets or creating invoices. Automatic
triggers, such as the first day in a month, a
new day, or system start-up, can activate
specific forms.
The system allows for interaction between
databases, expert systems and users. The
form defines the problem to be solved by
the system, and no other programming is
needed. The system is set up to use local
resources first to complete tasks defined by
any form, and then go to other support units
if what's needed is not found.
"It's like asking the expert in the next office
to help you solve your problem," said Woo.
"If the system doesn't find the answer
anywhere, the form will come back to the
original user and request further input. "The
programming is easy and flexible."
Other topics of interest and research at the
MIS Division, which are also of interest to
the Department of Computer Science
include human-computer interfaces,
database design and management, and
information system modelling, analysis and
design. This year, Izaak Benbasat of the
Commerce Department, and Kellogg Both
of Computer Science will be co-teaching a
course on human-computing interaction,
open to students of both departments. With
a closer link through CICSR, the MIS
Division and Computer Science may
collaborate even more in the future on the
many research areas of common interest. ■ Cumming Values Industrial Experience
A new addition to the CICSR
roster comes with strong ties to
industry, after spending 17
years at MacDonald Dettwiler
■ A new full-time addition to the CICSR
roster this September is no stranger to UBC.
He's no stranger to industry either. Ian
Cumming spent the past 17 years at
MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA) doing
satellite data processing, specializing in
radar. He was also an adjunct professor for
UBC for the past eight years, and has now
joined the Department of Electrical
Engineering fiill time.
"I feel strongly that it's important for a
teacher to have industrial experience," said
Cumming. "My courses rely a lot on
practical examples — what's not in the
textbooks, but how to actually use the
Cumming feels industrial experience is
especially valuable for teachers in engineering disciplines. "It's a practical profession.
You spend your life designing and building
things. It's all based on knowledge and
experience, and very little on textbooks."
MDA is providing some of the support for
Cumming's work at UBC. The company's
success is largely predicated on getting
good people, said Cumming. They recognized that using their resources to help
ensure universities turn out students with
practical experience at a working level
would be worthwhile. MDA also provides
scholarships for its employees to continue
their education, and some of these people
are working under Cumming as graduate
NSERC is also supporting Cumming's
work, and have provided funding for a new
industrial research chair in the area of radar
remote sensing and digital signal processing. Cumming applied for the chair with
CICSR member Robert Donaldson of the
Department of Electrical Engineering. The
research will be done in close liaison with
MDA, according to Cumming.
The research involves four distinct projects
all related to using computers to obtain
better information from radar data captured
from either satellites or aircraft. The
information is used in many ways:
improved mapping, geological study,
agriculture, land use planning and more.
The first project is to develop computer
algorithms to focus the radar image. "The
image from radar at first looks like random
noise," said Cumming. "you use synthetic
Ian Cumming believes strongly in the importance of industrial experience for teachers of engineering.
"Industrial experience is especially valuable for teachers in
engineering disciplines... engineering is a practical profession.
You spend your life designing and building things. It's all based on
knowledge and experience, and very little on textbooks."
aperture radar processing (SAR) to take the
widely-dispersed data and focus it into an
image." Cumming was one of the very first
scientists to do SAR processing, and he has
been working on improving the algorithms
ever since. Last year, he developed a new
algorithm and has been awarded a patent for
it. But there's still room for improvement,
Cumming says. "There's still work to be
done to improve the algorithms and get
even better image quality."
A second research topic is radar
interferometry, which involves trying to
create a meaningful pattern out of two radar
images taken of the same subject, but with
antennae in different positions (anywhere
from one to one thousand metres apart). If
you can measure the difference in range
... continued on next page 10
Science and Technology Week
Join in the activities to help create a technology culture in B.C.
Science and Technology Week activities, October 15-24, are aimed at bringing an awareness of the
wonders of science and technology to school children and the general public.
■ As members of B.C.'s science and
technology community, CICSR Focus
readers are undoubtedly aware of the
importance of this sector to the economy
and future prosperity of the province.
However, this alone won't ensure the
technology sector receives the support and
recognition it deserves. To ensure future
prosperity, as we move away from strong
dependence on natural resource sectors,
B.C. needs its young people to become
active in science and technology industries.
This is the primary goal of Science and
Technology Week, which will be held this
year from October 15-24. According to
Ingrid Smith, who is coordinating S&T
Week for the Ministry of Advanced
Education, Training and Technology, the
more people from the universities and
industry that become involved, the better.
Possible ways to become involved include
opening your doors to school-age students
(for example, the CICSR/CS open house
will be held during Science and Technology
Week), and visiting schools to talk about
career possibilities or to demonstrate
science. The theme for this year's S&T
Week is "Discover the Scientist in You."
The week's activities will play a part in
establishing a science and technology
culture. But there's lots of work to be done
in this area. Recent studies show that B.C.'s
public is largely uninformed, even though
they are interested, in scientific areas.
People who use science and technology in
their working lives have a key part to play
in building this understanding. They are
being encouraged to become sources of
information about events, discoveries and
B.C. industry also has a role to play in
organizing events and activities that forge
links between scientists, technologists and
the public. We live in an era characterized
by increasing public interest in the impact
technology has in everyday life, in telecommunications, data processing and broadcast
The role science and technology plays in
the lives of our children is crucial. Every
generation needs young scientists who are
determined to make a difference in our
understanding of the way we treat the
environment, hunger, disease and other
global problems. We also require students
with science and technology backgrounds
so that they can start businesses or find
satisfying employment in B.C.'s changing
Our children need to see scientists and
technologists as role models and receive
encouragement from the education community, parents and society to take up studies
and careers in these fields.
To find out more about how you can
become involved in Science and Technology Week, contact Ingrid Smith, Ministry
of Advanced Education, Training and
Technology, (604) 387-1628. ■
CUMMING ... continued from page 9
between two positions accurately, you can
detect the height of objects and produce
very accurate topographical maps, said
Cumming. The dual radar images may be
taken by two antennae in different positions
on an aircraft or satellite. There is currently
a proposal in the U.S. to capture data from
two satellites flying side by side. Cumming
hopes to be involved in processing this data,
which would cover the whole earth in a
short period of time. MDA has approached
the Canadian government about becoming
Radar polarimetry is another of Cumming's
research interests. Radar waves used in
radar image capture systems are usually
polarized vertically or horizontally. It is
now being recognized that the way the earth
looks depends on the polarization of the
wave. Differences in images created from
wave that are polarized differently give
clues about what is on the earth's surface.
He and a graduate student are using this
technique to determine the accuracy
required by a radar system to classify fields.
Cumming's fourth research area is radar
data encoding. "Radar data comes at you at
30 megahertz. It quickly fills up data
channels and recorders," said Cumming. He
is working on taking 8-bit sample data and
reducing it to two or four bits, while
keeping the image quality as high as
"To strengthen our economy,
we have to teach people how to
First, he is working on algorithms to
compress data, but preserve all information
from the image. In the next year, he plans to
combine this with the radar inter-ferometry
project to look at how to preserve the
minimum amount of data and still produce
accurate maps. For some applications, 2-bit
data is enough; for others, double the
information may be required.
All of Cumming's projects have a very
practical focus, and much of his work will
be applied at MDA in the foreseeable
future. In the great debate over the benefits
of pure versus applied research, Cumming
has a definite bias. "I'd rather see a good
number of people dedicated to applied
research. It's more important to our
economy." He believes that "to strengthen
our economy, we have to teach people how
to innovate." ■ Come one, come all to the
CICSR/CS Open House
Don't miss this opportunity to see live demonstrations on the
highlights of CICSR research. Celebrate with us on the opening
of our new building and Computer Science's 25th anniversary!
CICSR Demonstrations
• Telecontrol of heavy equipment
• Fish processing automation
• Robotic Controllers
• Image Processing
• Computer communications
■ High-speed protocols
Computer Science demonstrations
Computational Geometry
• Taking objects apart with two hands
• Computational geometry in geographic
information systems
• Building database systems
Electronic Games for Math and Science
• The Electronic Games Research Lab
• Fishtank virtual reality
■ Computer animation
Integrated Systems Design Lab
• Betting your life on the correctness of
software/hardware systems
Laboratory of Computational Intelligence
Machines that see
• Soccer-playing trucks
Scientific Computation and Visualization
• Sparse matrix movies
• Computing Across the World
■ TestGen and TestSel - test generation
and selection toolset
• TCMS: Test Case Management System
• Flip a coin
• Catch and gnat
Schedule of Events
Thursday, October 14
Open House of the new CICSR/CS building
and hands-on demonstrations of facilities
• 9 am to 3 pm:
Open House for Schools
• 3 pm to 6 pm:
Open house of laboratory facilities
for industry, academic and public
Friday, October 15
Opening of the CICSR/CS Building
• 9 am to 1 pm:
Open House for alumni, industry,
academic and government
• 1 pm to 2 pm:
Keynote lectures by distinguished
2:30 pm to 4:30 pm:
Opening ceremonies for CICSR/CS
building; ribbon-cutting by
university, government and industry
Saturday, October 16
Computer Science Symposium Day
• 8:30 am: Registration
■    9 am to Noon: Keynote Lectures
Noon to 2 pm: Luncheon
• 2 pm to 5 pm:
Technical and career presentations
• 5 pm to 8 pm:
Commemorative dinner
Introducing CICSR staff
■ A big part of the reason CICSR is able
to provide all the services it does and stage
so many lectures and events is due to the
efforts of CICSR staff members Gale Ross
and Margy de Vries.
If you have any questions about CICSR,
or would like to drop in and see our new
offices or tour the new building, Gale and
Margy will be happy to assist you.
New Science Council chair
Dr. Suezone Chow of Richmond is the
new chairman of the Science Council of
B.C. He replaces Haig Farris, who has
served as chairman for the past three
Dr. Chow is director of research and
development for Canadian Forest
Products Ltd. in Vancouver. Originally
from Taiwan, he immigrated to Canada in
1963 and obtained a Masters in forest
products and a Ph.D. in wood and pulp
chemistry at UBC.
Chow says one of his main objectives as
chairman is to have the Science Council
become more active in the Pacific Rim.
He added, "On the home front, we need
to put our efforts into promoting applied
research and development in the resource
industries which are still the backbone of
our economy."
Looking forward: ASI Grad
Students Presentation Day
The theme for this annual technology
transfer event, to be held March 29,
1994, is advanced systems — artificial
intelligence, robotics, computer science,
telecommunications and microelectronics.
The ASI Graduate Students Presentation
Day brings together grad students, ASI
fellows, university faculty and high-tech
companies. Plan to attend! ■ OA»L»E»N«D«A«R
CICSR/CS Open House
October 14-16
The new CICSR/CS building will be
officially opened. There will be displays
and the new laboratories will be open to
industry, government, academia and the
general public. Everyone is welcome! For
complete details, see page 11.
CICSR Faculty Forum 1993/94
In this first annual Faculty Forum, six
CICSR members present and discuss their
ground-breaking research in integrated
computer systems.
September 30,1993
On Seeing Robots
Alan Mackworth
UBC Department of Computer Science
October 28,1993
Studies in Fluid Mechanics, Spacecraft
Dynamics and Control
Vinod Modi
UBC Dept. of Mechanical Engineering
December 2,1993
If Things Are Not The Way They Look,
Then Which Way Are They?
Alain Fournier
UBC Department of Computer Science
January 27,1994
Computer-Assisted Control of Mobile
Hydraulic Machines
Peter Lawrence
UBC Dept. of Electrical Engineering
February 24,1994
Update in Manufacturing Automation
Yusuf Altintas
UBC Dept. of Mechanical Engineering
March 31,1994
Issues in Mobile Digital Communications
Cyril Leung
UBC Dept. of Electrical Engineering
The CICSR Faculty Forum was created to
provide local researchers and industry with
an opportunity to find out more about the
world-class research in integrated computer
systems being performed at the University
of B.C. by CICSR Faculty.
Talks will be held from 4:00 to 5:30 pm in
the new CICSR/CS Building's large
seminar room, 2366 Main Mall, UBC.
Lectures are complimentary.
Distinguished Lecture Series 1993-94
Parallel and Distributed Systems
Six academic and industrial leaders address
the future of computing: Parallel systems,
ubiquitous computing, and more.
September 9,1993
Specifying Concurrent Systems
Leslie Lamport
Digital Equipment Corporation, Systems
Research Centre
October 14,1993
How to Design a Parallel Computer
David May
Inmos Co., UK
The UBC Centre for Integrated Computer
Systems Research (CICSR) is an interdepartmental research organization made up of
computer-related research faculty members in
the Departments of Computer Science, Electrical
Engineering and Mechanical Engineering.
Currently there are more than 60 CICSR
researchers which direct over 200 graduate
students and collaborate with dozens of
industrial firms in areas such as robotics,
artificial intelligence, communications, VLSI
design and industrial automation.
November 18,1993
Ubiqitous Computing: Origins, Current
Research, and the Future
Mark Weiser
Xerox Palo Alto Research Centre
February 10,1994
New Abstraction for Scalable, Portable
Parallel Programming
Lawrence Snyder
University of Washington
March 10,1994
Shape Recognition in Neural Networks
Geoffrey Hinton
University of Toronto
April 14,1994
Omega Networks, Combining and the Ultra
III Prototype
Allan Gottlieb
New York University
CICSR is hosting its sixth annual Distinguished Lecture Series, bringing in academic and industrial leaders in the forefront
of their respective fields.
This year, DLS speakers will be discussing
computing systems of the future, including
parallel computing, neural networks and
ubiquitous computing. DLS speakers will
provide a picture of the latest computing
techniques and provide clues to where this
fast-moving field is heading.
Join us for a Glimpse of the Future of
Computing Systems
Lectures are from 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm, in
the new CICSR/CS Building's large
seminar room, 2366 Main Mall, UBC.
Lectures are complimentary.
CICSR FOCUS, is published twice a year.
EDITOR:   Leslie Ellis
DESIGN:   Rob Bishop
Office: 289-2366 Main Mall,
Vancouver, B.C. V6T 1Z4
Tel: (604) 822-6894, fax: (604) 822-9013
Contact: Gale Ross


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