Great Minds Gather at Broadcom Foundation University Research Competition

Broadcom engineers aren’t the only ones who are laser-focused on “connecting everything.” This week’s fourth annual Broadcom Foundation University Research Competition demonstrated that graduate students around the world are busy innovating connectivity technology breakthroughs of their own. BFURC Sea of People 1

The competition brings together 12 finalists from internationally renowned universities to share research that will dramatically impact 21st century engineering and communications. From Big Data to the Internet of Things, smart cities to nanotechnology, wireless video to driver-less cars, these brilliant graduate students are on the leading edge of semiconductor technology.

Their research is paving the way for devices that can transmit more data at lower power and for integrating silicon into gadgets that weren’t even dreamed of just a decade ago.

“This competition gives us a unique opportunity to bring forward great young innovators from world-class universities and showcase their much anticipated future contributions to science and engineering,” said Paula Golden, President and Executive Director of the Broadcom Foundation and Director of Community Affairs at Broadcom. “We hope that while they meet as competitors today they will meet again as collaborators in the future since their fields of endeavor are so closely allied to the company’s mission of ‘connecting everything’.”

For example, the work of Jie Guo, a finalist from Xidian University in Central China, is researching “machine vision” that could make self-driving cars more reactive.

The Broadcom Foundation University Research Competition Selection Committee
The Broadcom Foundation University Research Competition Selection Committee

Using compressive sensing, she is implementing an innovative mathematical algorithm to detect changes in video stream for better accuracy and with less processing time than what exists today. For automotive applications, this could significantly improve the response time for video object detection, and provide the driver with timely and potentially lifesaving feedback.

Guo’s visionary work, and the work of many more like her, is supported by an unrestricted gift to her university by the Broadcom Foundation. The Broadcom Foundation University Research Competition enables these graduate students to put their research into competition for cash awards of up to $10,000, which further incentivizes them to continue their work and take their place among the next generation of great innovators.

“The Broadcom Foundation supports research of professors who nurture and inspire students who will define the future of electrical engineering and all communication,” said Henry Samueli, Broadcom Co-Founder, Chairman of the Board and Chief Technical Officer and Chairman of the STEM University Committee for the Broadcom Foundation. “The research that talented competitors are presenting in this competition translates into major breakthroughs in many fields, improvement in quality of life and advancement of society as a whole.”

Cash awards for the Broadcom Foundation University Research Competition were presented at the 2015 Tech Conference award ceremony this week: Awards include $10,000 for first place, $5,000 for second place and $2,500 for third place.

Meet the Winners

  • First Place: Benjamin Klein, Tel Aviv University, Israel, for his project “From Image to Text and Back Using Deep Learning.”  Klein is creating a unified semantic representation that
    First Place Winner Ben Klein
    First Place Winner Ben Klein

    allows computers to understand images and sentences using deep neural networks.  In the short term, this work could be used for creating search engines on images and for systems that could assist the blind and visually impaired.

  • Second Place: Tejasvi Anand, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, for his project “Energy Proportional Wireline
    Second Place Winner Tejasvi Anand
    Second Place Winner Tejasvi Anand

    Communication System.”  Anand is innovating a scalable high-speed serial link with extremely fast locking time that enables power efficient operation.  The low energy transceivers that he is designing can help tame the huge energy consumption of large data centers by taking advantage of idle time in the interconnect fabric.

  • Third Place: Amr Suleiman, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for his project “A
    Henry Samueli with Third Place Winner Amr Suleiman
    Third Place Winner Amr Suleiman

    45mW Object Detector Accelerator for High Definition Video at 60fps.” Suleiman is developing an energy-efficient object detector in silicon that reduces energy consumption by 4.5x using parallel processing, voltage scaling and image pre-processing. This work could be applied in many embedded systems such as automotive moving object detection, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and portable electronics.

 About the Broadcom Foundation University Research Competition

Selected from a pool of nominees studying at Foundation-supported universities, finalists are judged on quality of research, presentation skills and ability to demonstrate that their project is scientifically rigorous with immediate, real-world applications.

Finalists receive guidance on their public presentations by their individual mentors, engineers on the competition selection committee, who help them sharpen a one-slide, three-minute elevator speech — often a first-time experience for the students.

This year, the Foundation saw an increase in competition entrants and a broader array of topics on display, including virtual cloud services, compressive sensing, energy efficient hardware and communications theory as well as growing technology interest areas like polar codes that enable data to be transferred faster and more reliably, said David Garrett, chair of the competition’s selection committee and an associate technical director at Broadcom.

Garrett also serves as a mentor to the finalists, helping them prepare their presentations.

“We prepare the finalists to make an effective presentation before an audience of over 400 of Broadcom’s top engineers who serve as judges,” he said. “The quality research is at an all-time high and presentations will include a myriad of disciplines.”

After their three-minute “elevator speech,” finalists interact with judges during the formal poster session at the opening reception of the annual Technical Conference where they have to the opportunity further extrapolate on their research and its implications.

While the votes are tallied, finalists spend a day touring laboratories at the Henry Samueli School of Engineering at the University of California, Irvine, as guests of the Dean before receiving final accolades and celebrating the winners at the Tech Conference.