Brian J. Wright

USF NetID: brianwright 
Mechanical & Electrical Engineering
University of South Florida
CV Transcript

     haptics,   control systems,   human-machine interfaces

Course Review Material

•   Manufacturing Processes
•   Heat Transfer — broken; A fixed version is hosted on a local edX installation but is not connected to the world wide web!


It took years to discover my goals and interests during and after high school. The journey included time as a Marine infantryman. After my service, I enrolled at USF and devoted myself to the field of Engineering.
I received two degrees at USF: a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering.
Currently, I am enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania. As a Penn Engineering student, I study robotics and research haptic interfaces for Katherine Kuchenbecker.
After graduate school, exploring the realm of engineering practice will be exciting. I am a Tesla stockholder and firmly believe in their mission to promote sustainable personal transportation by creating world-class electric vehicles, and my educational path would naturally lead toward companies such as Tesla.
School subjects I enjoyed and excelled at include Haptics, Control Systems, Manufacturing Processes, Electronic Materials, and Microcontrollers. Outside of the classroom, I attend IEEE and ASME events and involve myself with the Mini-Projects electronics group. I am involved in activities for Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society, and seek to attend guest lectures and research events. As a professional, I hope to stay connected with local universities by sharing my experience and advice.
USF Concert Band, a course with no audition requirement, was offered on a Wednesday night in the Spring 2014 semester. After finding a masterfully crafted Yamaha trombone, I enrolled in this course. It has been very satisfying. On a related note, one of my CAD course reports involved creation of a trombone model using Solidworks. If time allowed, I would attempt to make simple brass instruments as a hobby.

Research Interests

While I am staying open-minded, I am most engaged by haptics, robotics, machine control, automation, manufacturing, sensors, displays, and alternative energy. I constantly seek to improve systems where I find them flawed and will often disassemble broken (or unbroken!) devices instead of paying for replacements or commercial repair services.
I have volunteered to help graduate students for Prof. Nathan Crane and Prof. Kyle Reed. My laboratory work included the simulation and modelling of the electrowetting process, where electric energy injected into a droplet changes the surface energy, leading to a disruption in surface tension which morphs the shape of the droplet, creating force or motion.
My realized projects include 3D-printed prototypes, radio frequency filters & matching circuits, a high-speed geartrain, a Stanford Haptic Paddle, computer programs, physical and electrical simulations, many analog and digital circuits, and a hands-free electric wheelchair tie-down for nautical installations.

Classroom Diversions

Donald Sadoway, a distinguished professor at MIT, gives an excellent lecture on diffusion in solid state chemistry. He has an insightful linear approximation of the error function. Communications uses a formula called the Q Function, which is based on the error function. Students might look up the Q function on a table or diagram. However, for small values (less than 0.8), the estimation 0.5 - x/2.7 yields a decent approximation of the correct answer. Between 0.8 and 2, the formula (4x)-1-0.1 is a workable estimation. Keep in mind, these are ballpark figures and shouldn't be used for precise calculations.
Too often, engineering students are given triangular holes and hexagonal holes, then told to fit a cube through one of the holes.
One Machine Design problem had students calculate the shear stress on a thick, hollow, cylindrical beam. Our study group devised a quick method for calculating the values needed for this problem using MATLAB. More details can be found on my post, Finding Q.
Piledrivers are great devices when civil engineers need to put large poles in the Earth. They are also expensive and require extensive operator training. Why use a piledriver to hammer a brad nail? There are many opportunities to simplify concepts and use small tools for small jobs. Let me explain:
Microstrip impedance equations are one complicated aspect of Electromagnetics. They take into account relative permittivity, board thickness, conductor dimensions and material properties, and several other variables. I developed a specific simplification of these equations for my classmates that approximates microstrip impedances for most hobbyist circuit boards. Learn how we simplified microstrip transmission line impedance calculations.


In my sparse free time, I am developing problems for a web-based FE/EIT Exam review.
After chasing many false leads, including a rewrite of the Khan Academy code, testing Moodle and Stanford's Class2Go, and auditing many MOOCs, I found an excellent solution to most of my problems. I even taught myself enough Javascript to write my own problem generator. Each route took an incredible amount of time and effort to prepare a single problem. My construction of the Engineering Review site was designed using XML, Javascript, and jQuery to optimize site maintainability. (Maybe I should have picked Computer Science!) Particularly, the XML format allows questions to be easily written without the need to focus on layout or code interaction. The MathJax library is used for displaying equations using inline LaTeX. The site was ended as a proof-of-concept.
July 2014 Update! edX will be used for any future work on the Exam review site. The combination of instant feedback, LaTeX support, and aesthetics led me to this solution, which I attempted in the past but stopped pursuing during the complicated installation process. Since third-party vendors, such as Amazon Web Services, now facilitate setting up the server, course designers can focus on content. The edX Course Studio is well-designed and easy to learn, and problems can be created quickly and intuitively. If USF is interested in devoting server space to a local edX installation, I can assist any interested professors or teaching assistants in developing content for their students.
MATLAB is my preferred programming package. I am getting exposure to Python, Javascript, and C++ every now and again, and can understand much of the bug-free source I encounter. Still, I seek to one day improve in this area. MIT OpenCourseWare is a great place to start. Examples of my MATLAB code will be posted on this site in the future, and the C++ code for our Haptics project can be found at the bottom of this page.

Research Documentation

Byrnes-Blanco, L. M. & Wright, B. J., Reed, K. B., "3-D Virtual Maze with Multiple, Bimanual Feedback Mechanisms: A Comparative Analysis of Feedback Effectiveness," April 30, 2014.



None, currently.
For the 2014-2015 school year, I am the Tau Beta Pi Professional Development co-chair. My partner and I seek to find professional engineers, academics, and business owners who can speak to students and share their unique insights.
Potentially, a student-run Lecture Series will be developed at USF to share knowledge which is easily forgotten or isn't taught in the Engineering core curricula.
Topics may include current USF research, recent journal publications, haptic devices, Arduino programming, 3D printing, resin casting, practical math, approximation techniques, building personal websites on the USF server, music in engineering, optimizing algorithms, analogous physical systems, Laplace and Fourier transforms, finite element analysis, artificial intelligence, anecdotes from the periodic table, nanosensors, and general life advice.
A student-run Lecture Series would give undergraduates an outlet to eat, learn, and interact with their peers. It also is a great opportunity for upperclassmen or graduate students to develop teaching skills and effective presentation habits. Each talk would test the depth of a presenter's knowledge in a specific area, which is good preparation for a thesis defense, teaching career, or job interview.
As an aside, anybody searching for an alternative to Powerpoint, Keynote, and Prezi should consider the template developed by Google for their annual I/O conference. The source code can be found on its Google Code repository along with sample slides. There's a slight learning curve since it is HTML-based instead of WYSIWYG, but anybody who has experience with Emacs or MiKTeX can figure out the slide template.

Source Code

Haptics Project (in progress, requires Visual Studio 2008, the QuickHaptics API, and two PHANToM OMNI devices)
The data for the Haptics project (shown unpublished above) were fixed in September 2014. Usable results might be obtainable after all! The error rate was around 2.5 per 100 data points. At over 100,000 data points, this would have taken an absurd length of time to fix by hand. Fortunately, Octave (MATLAB's free cousin) saved the day and automated the repair process!

Also, Notepad++ played a major role in editing the text files containing the data points in our Haptics project. For those unfamiliar with this text editor, Notepad++ allows users to select multiple lines (even skipping lines) to add/delete text in batches. Macros can be used to quickly repeat keystrokes. Tabs can be resized. Plugins can extend the functionality of Notepad++. It supports highlighting for many programming languages. This program is highly recommended for most text editing.