Each summer, undergraduate students make significant contributions to research projects at ECE while working as interns. This is the first of four interviews with undergraduate research interns working closely with ECE faculty members and graduate students. Omar Omari is a 3rd year ECE student in the biomedical option. His research internship is supervised by Dr. Rabab Ward and he is working closely with PhD student Ehsan Nezhadaria and Dr. Hossein Sameti.
What project are you working on this summer?
I am working on speech recognition software. The lab is collaborating with a company called Trusterra Technologies and we plan to have an App ready for the iPod this winter. The App will be designed to work with conference calls to facilitate communication and file sharing with a group. During conference calls the app will provide transcriptions (voice to text) and allow people to execute computer commands by voice. We have completed work on the language model, developing a database of words and phrases, and an acoustic model, a database of variation in pronunciation. We now have to bring these models together and run some tests. The tricky thing about speech recognition is the huge variation in natural speech. We can use different words and sentence structures to say the same thing and the same word or phrase will sound different when spoken by different people. The best speech recognition software currently in use still has a 10% failure rate. We would like to do better than that.
What skills did you bring to the internship?
My strong C programming skills were very useful; with C you are going right into firmware, right into the system.
What have you learned during the internship?
Next month I will be programing in C++; I am teaching myself the language right now. At the moment I am working in embedded software. Once the relationship between the acoustic and semantic models is functioning I will work on the user interface which will be programmed in C++. It is good to have a balance between electronic and mechanical skills and programming skills. I have the mechanical skills I need; I decided I wanted to concentrate on my programming skills this summer.
How did you get the internship?
I received an email letting me know I was eligible for the NSERC scholarship. That email sparked my interest in the possibility of doing research during the summer. I spoke to my professors to get advise about who might be interested in hiring undergraduate research interns. This experience has been so valuable I have asked Dr. Ward to keep working on the project in the fall.
How will this influence your future?
The programming industry is booming right now, if I can’t find a job as a biomedical engineer I still have programming as a back-up and I have a passion for programming.