Best in show: computer science undergrads recognized for age-at-home technology

Kegan Strawn and Paul Bivrell

Computer science undergraduates Kegan Strawn and Paul Bivrell are using networked smart devices to give seniors the medical monitoring and safety of an assisted-living facility in the comfort of their own home.

Over 90% of seniors prefer to age at home, and for many with medical conditions, real-time monitoring is vital. The team is building a smart home that will collect, store and analyze physiological and environmental data in real time.

Their research project, Collecting Physiological Data Streams in a Real Time Smart Home Environment, was selected Best in Show from over 500 entries at this year’s CSU Celebrate Undergraduate Research and Creativity (CURC) Showcase.

There’s no place like VitalHome

Tucked away on the third floor of the Computer Science Building is a lab – a tiny two-room smart home blinking with over 30 interacting devices. Inside, a Fitbit, blood pressure monitor, and pulse oximeter record vital signs. Motion sensors and vibration sensors in the floor monitor movements. A dust sensor checks the air quality. A smart mirror detects changes in a face using the latest face recognition technology. Because smart devices have sensors and WiFi/Bluetooth capability, almost any can be added to this network, from Apple’s smartwatch to Amazon’s Alexa.

Strawn and Bivrell are connecting the different devices and aggregating the data, but that is only the beginning. Their work, funded by the Monfort Foundation, is an early step in Professor Shrideep Pallickara’s VitalHome instrumentation project that will continuously and non-invasively collect vital sign data, and then analyze that data to pinpoint early signs of health problems – all in real time. “We will keep improving the VitalHome by adding more sensors, and optimizing the data collection and analysis,” Strawn said.

Undergraduate research with an impact

As the population ages and healthcare costs climb, the undergrad team’s research could improve quality of life for millions of people. The University noticed and awarded them the top prize at the CURC Showcase. “We made a big impact on the research, and the award was very validating,” Bivrell said. The annual CURC event, now in its 25th year, is an opportunity for hundreds of undergraduate students from every discipline across campus to display their research.

Both the undergrads are seniors and will leave the next stage of their research to others. Strawn is interested in graduate studies in distributed robotics, and Bivrell is considering a career in industry, but not until he helps write the CS152 Intro to Python course. They encourage undergraduates interested in research, “As an undergraduate student, research can often feel like a gated community for the elite few, but not here at CSU. It’s a matter of putting yourself out there and expressing interest in learning something outside of your regular course work.”