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Engineering Students Compete with Inventions

Team Rides 'JouleCycle' to Cornell Cup

UMass Lowell Image
UMass Lowell’s “JouleCycle” team members are, from left, computer engineering sophomore Andrew Hajj, CE senior John Foley, mechanical engineering senior Mike Wetmore, ME graduate student Michael McGinley and CE senior David Cote.

By Edwin L. Aguirre

A team of UMass Lowell students are heading to Lake Buena Vista, Fla., to vie for top honors at this year’s first-ever Cornell Cup USA competition.

The event, presented jointly by Intel and Cornell University, is a unique national contest that challenges undergraduate and graduate students in science and engineering to use embedded design and technology based on the Intel Atom processor to envision a better world. The top three winners will receive cash prizes of $10,000, $5,000 and $2,500.

The UMass Lowell team will join 21 other finalist teams from MIT, Columbia, Purdue, Penn State, Georgia Tech, UC Berkeley, USC, Worcester Polytechnic, UMass Amherst and other universities in demonstrating working prototypes of their inventions. These include a robotic yard cleaner that will automatically scoop up dog waste daily, a buzzing belt that will help visually impaired people detect and avoid obstacles and an intelligent wildlife video-recording system that will monitor and document the behavior of elusive and endangered species.

“UMass Lowell’s entry is called the ‘JouleCycle,’” says Assoc. Prof. Yan Luo of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. “It is a 3-D gaming system built around a human-powered bicycle and is designed to help people exercise regularly, achieve caloric balance and control obesity.”

Obesity is recognized as a serious public health problem that leads to many illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease.

“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about a third of U.S. adults and 17 percent of children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 years are obese,” Luo says.

The JouleCycle’s gaming system is based on an Intel Atom development board that does not use a battery. The game player generates the electricity needed to run the Atom board and its customized hardware and software by pedaling.

“To make the game interesting and enjoyable, the power generated by the player determines the game’s themes and levels,” Luo says.

Luo and mechanical engineering Assoc. Prof. Hongwei Sun are the team’s faculty advisers. The team received $2,500 in funding from Intel to build the gaming system and help cover travel expenses to Florida.

For more information about the Cornell Cup, go to