Tag: Engineering

Google and TAU to Harness the Power of AI for Social Good

Google and Tel Aviv University recently launched a three-year program for promoting AI-related multidisciplinary research for the benefit of society. The program aims to support research and collaborations in Data Science and Artificial Intelligence, that can advance humanity by addressing focal social issues on the global agenda. It was launched within the framework of TAD, the TAU Center for Artificial Intelligence and Data Science, established in February and headed by Prof. Meir Feder of The Iby and Aladar Fleischman Faculty of Engineering. The program was launched at a recent ceremony at TAU, announcing 10 winners – out of 27 proposals submitted in response to TAU and Google’s joint call. Seven of the winning projects are supported by Google. The grant winners, whose projects address different aspects of AI for Social Good, include researchers from a wide range of disciplines: Zoology (Faculty of Life Sciences), Electrical Engineering, Economics, Statistics, Communication Disorders, Biblical Studies, Earth Sciences and Computer Science, Sociology and Anthropology and more.

Bridging Disciplines to Make Good Things Happen

TAU President Prof. Ariel Porat, who aims to establish ‘bridges’ between the different disciplines studied at TAU, said at the ceremony: “I share a common vision with Prof. Yossi Matias. We believe that AI researchers can benefit significantly from collaborations with researchers in the social sciences and humanities, just as the latter benefit from new developments in AI. I am very happy about our partnership with Google. I look forward to seeing its fruits and hope to expand it further in the future.” Prof. Yossi Matias, VP at Google and Managing Director of Google Center in Israel, spoke of AI technologies and how they are already improving our lives dramatically: “AI already has great impact in various areas. We are delighted for this opportunity to harness the power of AI for social good and for science. Google is especially happy about its work on beneficial and even lifesaving products, such as the worldwide project for accurate flood forecasting, a technology enabling the hearing-impaired to conduct phone conversations, and studies on the use of AI to enhance disease diagnosis.” Prof. Matias thanked Prof. Porat, Prof. Meir Feder, Head of the TAD Center, and all other partners in the initiative. He spoke of the special opportunity to generate collaborations between researchers, and noted that he is a great believer in connections between different disciplines. “There are some deep and fascinating research questions associated with AI in many different disciplines, creating substantial opportunities for collaboration. Good things happen when different ideas and different approaches come together.”   Left to right: Prof. Yossi Matias, Prof. Ariel Porat, Prof. Meir Feder & Prof. Tova Milo The joint venture will include a joint seminar on Machine Learning (ML), led by TAD Director Dr. Shimon (Moni) Shahar and Dr. Deborah Cohen, a scientist at the new Google Center in Israel. Prof. Meir Feder emphasized that “the AI revolution is expected to impact every aspect of our lives, from drug development and data-based personalized medicine, to defense systems, financial systems, scientific discoveries, robotics, autonomous systems and social issues. In addition, it is very important to train human capital in this area, and therefore the Center will provide every student at TAU with a basic AI education. TAU is special in having researchers who specialize in basic science and AI, as well as researchers who apply AI in the humanities and social sciences. We are happy that Google has decided to join forces with TAU in this important matter. The collaboration with Google will enable utilization of the power of AI and Data Science, channeling it toward the benefit of society.”

Fireflies’ Protective ‘Musical Armor’ Against Bats

Trailblazing TAU study reveals that fireflies produce strong ultrasonic sounds that may potentially work to deter bats.

They sure know how to put on a show at nights – fireflies are striking with their glow-in-the-dark feature. But have you ever stopped and wondered how these glowing insects defend themselves against predators? A trailblazing TAU study reveals that fireflies produce strong ultrasonic sounds that may potentially work to deter bats, serving as a ‘musical armor’ against these predators. The discovery of such a ‘musical battle’ between fireflies and bats may pave the way for further research, and the discovery of a new defense mechanism developed by animals against their predators. According to the study, the fireflies produce strong ultrasonic sounds soundwaves that the human ear, and more importantly the fireflies themselves, cannot detect. The researchers hypothesize that these sounds are, in fact, meant for the ears of the bats, keeping them away from the poisonous fireflies, and thereby serving as a kind of ‘musical armor’. The study was led by Prof. Yossi Yovel, Head of the Sagol School of Neuroscience, and a member of the School of Mechanical Engineering and the School of Zoology at the George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences. It was conducted in collaboration with the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology (VAST) and has been published in iScience. Fireflies are known for their unique, all-year glow, which is effective as a mating signal. Their bodies contain poison, and so the light flashes probably also serve as an aposematic signal, a warning to potential predators. At the same time, this signal is also the firefly’s weakness, as it makes it an easy target for predators. Bats are among the fireflies’ most prevalent potential predators, and some bats have poor vision, rendering the flashing signal ineffective. This prompted the researchers to check whether fireflies were equipped with an additional layer of protection against bats.

Accidental Discovery of ‘Musical Battle’

The idea for this study came up accidentally, during a study that tracked bats’ echolocation. Ksenia Krivoruchku, the PhD student who led the study recalls, “We were wandering around a tropical forest with microphones capable of recording bats’ high frequencies, when suddenly, we detected unfamiliar sounds at similar frequencies, coming from fireflies. “In-depth research, using high-speed video, revealed that the fireflies produce the sound by moving their wings, and that the fireflies themselves are incapable of hearing this frequency. Consequently, we hypothesized that the sound is not intended for internal communication within the species.” Following this discovery, the team at Prof. Yovel’s laboratory examined three different species of fireflies that are common in Vietnam (Curtos, Luciola and Sclerotia), in addition to one Israeli species (Lampyroidea). It was found that they all produce these unique ultrasonic sounds, and that they are all unable hear them. Prof. Yovel says that it is premature to conclude that fireflies have developed a special defense mechanism specifically targeting bats, there are indications that this may be the case. The fact that the fireflies themselves are unable to hear the sound, while bats can both hear it and use it to detect the fireflies, makes it more likely that these ultrasonic sounds serve as a warning signal. The discovery of ultrasonic sounds in fireflies is in itself an important contribution to the study of predator-prey relations. The idea of warning signals that the sender itself cannot detect is known from the world of plants, but is quite rare among animals. Krivoruochku says “Our discovery of the ‘musical battle’ between fireflies and bats may pave the way for further research, and possibly the discovery of a new defense mechanism developed by animals against potential predators.”

Better maps for better self-driving cars?

New research on object detection breaks with long-held principles of radar technologies

Radar technologies were originally designed to identify and track airborne military targets. Today they’re more often used to detect motor vehicles, weather formations and geological terrain.

Until now, scientists have believed that radar accuracy and resolution are related to the range of frequencies or radio bandwidth used by the devices. But a new Tel Aviv University study finds that an approach inspired by optical coherence tomography (OCT) requires little to no bandwidth to accurately create a high-resolution map of a radar’s surrounding environment.

“We’ve demonstrated a different type of ranging system that possesses superior range resolution and is almost completely free of bandwidth limitations,” says Prof. Pavel Ginzburg of TAU’s School of Electrical Engineering, one of the principal authors of the study. “The new technology has numerous applications, especially with respect to the automotive industry. It’s worth noting that existing facilities support our new approach, which means that it can be launched almost immediately.”

The new study was conducted jointly by Prof. Ginzburg, Vitali Kozlov, Rony Komissarov and Dmitry Filonov, all of TAU’s School of Electrical Engineering. 

Preventing the traffic jams of the future

It was commonly believed that radar resolution was proportional to the bandwidth used. Meaning, a good, accurate radar, required a lot of bandwidth, something that could become a limited resource in the future.

“Our concept offers solutions in situations that require high-range resolution and accuracy but in which the available bandwidth is limited, such as the self-driving car industry, optical imaging and astronomy,” Kozlov explains. “Not many cars on the road today use radars, so there’s almost no competition for allocated frequencies. But what will happen in the future, when every car will be equipped with a radar and every radar will demand the entire bandwidth?

“We’ll find ourselves in a sort of radio traffic jam. Our solutions permit drivers to share the available bandwidth without any conflict,” Kozlov says.

The TAU researchers have now demonstrated that low-bandwidth radars can achieve similar performance at a lower cost and without broadband signals by exploiting the coherence property of electromagnetic waves. The new “partially coherent” radar, which uses significantly less bandwidth, is as effective as a standard “coherent” radars in experimental situations.

Using radar for rescue

“Our demonstration is just the first step in a series of new approaches to radiofrequency detectors that explore the impact of low-bandwidth radars on traditional fields,” Prof. Ginzburg concludes. “We intend to apply this technology to previously unexplored areas, like rescue operations — sensing if an individual is buried in a collapsed building — or street mapping — sensing if a child is about to cross the street behind a bus that conceals him.”

Research for the study was supported by an ERC grant and Kamin, and it was conducted at TAU’s Radio Physics Laboratory’s anechoic chamber.

The Faculty of Engineering Predicts: A Greener and Safer Future

Graduates of TAU’s School of Mechanical Engineering present innovative projects.

 

Just like every year, graduates of the School of Mechanical Engineering of The Iby and Aladar Fleischman Faculty of Engineering recently presented the projects they have been working on throughout their final year of studying towards their degree. A lot of ground was covered, with one project promising those suffering from nightmares after trauma to sleep peacefully, another offering a robot capable of disinfecting aircrafts from viruses, and other teams have developed drones designed and developed to transport defibrillators and first aid kits through areas that are either difficult or downright impossible to access from the ground. Seeing these original ideas makes it clear how the faculty’s motto is befitting for those who enter (and perhaps even more so for those who exit) its gates: “Those who fall in love with a problem are the ones who will find a solution to it.”

Thinking Within the Box

We use them every day, usually multiple times a day, but how much thought do we dedicate to the garbage bins in our homes? And, while we’re on the subject, have you ever thought to calculate how many garbage bags you dispose of every year? As environmentally-conscious people, Tal Kelmachter and Nimrod Ben-Yehuda have given this more than a little thought, and got inspired to design their very own garbage can.

The exterior part of the bin does not distinguish itself much from your standard garbage bin. The secret is hidden within the box: the uniqueness of this product is that it does not require a plastic bag, which is an environmental hazard. Nimrod explains, “We designed it as a stand-alone solution which does not require any special infrastructure, like drainage, water supply and electricity. Once you have emptied the contents of the garbage bin, an integral rinsing mechanism cleanses it on the inside, easily and quickly. The water is contained in a clean water container, and a mechanical pump forces the water through a system of pipes with a no-return valve to a system of sprinklers that showers the sides of the tin from the inside. The dirty water then flows into a dedicated water drawer which is easy to empty. The result is a garbage bin that remains clean and free of bad odors and contaminants.”

Tal adds, “During the past few years there has been increased awareness which has led to a growing trend of reducing plastic use and recycling. And yet, there is currently no product on the market that completely prevents the use of garbage bags. Nimrod and I managed to find a solution to this problem.”

 

Tal Kelmachter and Nimrod Ben-Yehuda with their green garbage bin, ECOCAN

Enjoy the Ride

A few minutes into Aviv Halachmi’s motorcycle drive to his girlfriend in Beer Sheva, his headset ran out of battery. The annoying experience motivated Aviv to form the ChargElmet team together with fellow students Tal Belilty and Itay Shulman.

“Motorcyclists attach a variety of electronic components to their helmets, such as hands free and camera, in order to enhance their riding experience. These utilities have batteries that require charging. We designed and built a system which uses the wind and the sun to produce green energy to charge gadgets from motorcycle helmets while you travel”, says Aviv.

Did the project become a smoother ride than Aviv’s trip to his girlfriend? Not at all. The team ran into plenty of difficulties along the way: “The system we created is multidisciplinary and contains a lot of engineering elements from various fields, not all related to mechanical engineering, such as electrical diagrams, electrical design including the investigation and selection of the appropriate cards and components and much more. So, we were forced to learn a lot while on the job. That being said, solving issues that arose throughout the process and accomplishing the end product brought us tremendous satisfaction,” he shares.

Aviv concludes, “For now, our invention is geared towards motorcyclists and improving their lives. In the future, we plan to expand the project to address all two-wheelers (bicycles, scooters…). On a macro level, our vision is to improve public awareness of green energy and to take part in the global trend of promoting and transitioning to renewable energy.”

 

Itay Shulman, Tal Belilty and Aviv Halachmi found a way to improve other motorcyclists’ lives

Hover and Save

This year, the presence of the drone stood out in the Innovate project (a cooperation between TAU and Elbit Systems Ltd), which encompasses several complementary projects on the subject of detecting, rescuing and making life-saving first aid accessible to those trapped under earthquake ruins.

May Davidovich and Ariel Drizin tell us about their part in the project:” We presented a design and a preliminary prototype for a robotic first aid release arm system, installed on a drone and controlled by a dedicated control system, making it easier for the rescue forces to maneuver among the trapped and offer them first aid. In the future, the project can be advanced by allowing for larger systems capable of carrying heavier kits.”

“Our premise was that the system we were planning would be part of a swarm of drones, including one that would scan and photograph the area, a parent drone that would carry a large number of kits, and drones that would know how to receive kits from the parent glider, bring these to the person(s) trapped and then to release the kit. The system will be controlled by an operator from his control room, who will receive information about the trapped, put together a suitable kit, bring it to the disaster stricken area, and release it as close as possible to the trapped.”

May recounts sleepless nights: “The system worked fine up until a few days before the project was to be presented. As we were putting the parts together, we discovered that we had made some measurement errors prior to the printing of the parts, which meant the components didn’t work properly together.”

“We also had to make several design changes and print the model three times before we achieved the desired result. We learnt that when you print the prototype, you need to consider the system in its entirety, which is hard to do before all the components arrive. It is a time-consuming process which requires a lot of planning in advance.”

“We hope that our invention will help streamline the process of rescuing people who are trapped. For instance, by taking measures and signaling back to the control room the severity of the physical condition of victims, so the rescue can be prioritized accordingly. There are many more potential usages, not necessarily related to rescue, such as grocery delivery from the supermarket.”

 

Extending their robotic arm. Ariel Drizin and May Davidovich.

Saving the Black Box

Did you know that every plane crash is investigated in depth to determine the cause of the crash? Yaniv Alon, Dor Cohen and Ido Rosenzweig designed a system to be ejected from a plane in the event of a crash, and which transmits location details and additional data, significantly reducing the radius of the search for a plane when contact has been lost.

“The system includes a smart box with electronics and internal controllers. When it recognizes that the plane is about to crash, it is ejected from the plane at high speed with the help of mechanisms that we developed. It then falls to the ground with a parachute and can weather any condition, on land or sea.”, explains Yaniv. He clarifies that the system is not meant to replace the black box, but rather it is meant to offer a better alternative to the aircraft transmission systems that exist today, which tend not to be resilient or ejected, and usually vary according to the aircraft systems.

They started working on the project already last year. After a thorough examination of the system’s weaknesses and failures they undertook significant adjustments and enhancements before presenting the product this year. “We encountered quite a few complications along the way, when deciding how to operate the mechanism, examining various alternatives, finding suitable components, communication with suppliers, delivery delays and manufacturing glitches, requiring us to do ping-pong between the workshop and the production. However, thanks to our combined creativity, determination, efforts and our dedicated project manager Danny Barko, we were able to create a functioning product.”, he says.

When asked how they think their invention will contribute to change our lives, Yaniv replies, “The two main problems those who investigate plane crashes are faced with today, are that the black boxes are not ejected and that they are not resilient, which means that they mostly disappear along with the the aircraft. Unproductive field searches can reach sums of around $155 million. A system is required that will allow for swift and effective investigations and save us a lot of resources and money. Our solution meets these requirements and might even end up saving lives by helping locating crashed planes and their black boxes, advancing the investigation of the failures that led to the planes’ crash and preventing similar future cases.”

 

Will they help find the black box? Ido Rosenzweig, Dor Cohen and Yaniv Alon

What will life look like in 2030?

From surgery to household tasks, humanity is about to see its daily life transformed. Prof. Irad Ben-Gal is planning for the biggest unknowns of our future.

Only twenty years ago, connecting to the internet meant sitting next to a desk and sorting through various cables, when downloading a photo could take ten minutes or more. Today, it seems like everything happens online – it’s where we find our friends and where elections and revolutions are won and lost.

But as we spend more and more of our lives in cyberspace, the question is: what’s next? The rate of change and growth is so rapid, even ten years can make a huge difference. Humanity’s biggest “unknown” is the immediate future: what can we do to foresee and cope with the next set of changes and challenges?

To answer these questions, Tel Aviv University partnered with Stanford University to create the Digital Living 2030 program. It will connect engineering students from Israel and the U.S. to lead the development of infrastructures, processes, methods and algorithms, hardware and software components, to create and support this new world. 

When our digital self goes grocery shopping

According to Prof. Irad Ben-Gal, from the Department of Industrial Engineering, a founder of the Digital Living 2030 project, we’ll see many changes over the next ten years. Some for the better, some, potentially, for the worst.

What are the biggest changes waiting around the corner?

“In general,” Prof. Irad Ben-Gal said. “A lot of sectors will see accelerated progress in the coming decade, such as autonomous transportation, personal digital medicine, smart cities, industry (robots and artificial intelligence), virtual environments and applications that affect our personal lives.

 

“On a personal level, we will witness a more complete integration between our digital world and our physical world. People will live simultaneously in both worlds when their digital self will perform different tasks for them – it will learn, make decisions (in collaboration with other digital agents), perform social interactions, and more.”

What about our lives will be better by 2030?

“In principle, a large section of society will benefit from having a better life: personalized services such as autonomous transportation, personalized medicine, a longer and healthier life, increased leisure time, more efficient handling of information overload, and a variety of new and interesting professions.”

What are the biggest problems we’ll have to deal with?

“First and foremost, there is a danger of widening economic and social gaps between different people – experts and laymen in the digital world, between the rich and the poor, between developed and developing countries, between technologically advanced and non-technological sectors…

But we’ll have to cope with all of this just like previous generations had to cope with their own technological leaps forward. Every innovation introduces new risks, from the discovery of fire and stone tools, to dynamite, to artificial intelligence.”

What about 2130? On the basis of what you know today, what will life look like in a century?

“Nothing is truly certain, of course, but there’s one thing I’m sure of: the integration of the digital world with the physical world will be complete.

 

 

“The individual will not only be a physical entity represented in digital worlds (as we are today represented in social networks) but a perfect dual entity. The digital entity will be aware, make independent decisions, learn on its own, work in parallel with the physical entity and be rewarded accordingly, and will contain elements of emotions and awareness that don’t exist today.”

So, what are you most looking forward to in the coming decade, or the coming century? And how will you prepare? Are you looking forward to outsourcing your grocery shopping to your digital avatar or dreading having to be even more involved in cyberspace than you already are?

One thing’s for sure: the engineers taking part in Digital Living 2030 will do their best to make sure we’re as ready as it’s possible to be.

Fighting Pollution With Seaweed

Coastal seaweed farms can help fight environmental damage.

Nitrogen is a common fertilizer for agriculture, but it comes with an environmental and financial price tag. Once nitrogen reaches the ocean, it disperses randomly, damaging various ecosystems. As a result, the state local authorities spend a great deal of money on reducing nitrogen concentrations in water, including in the Mediterranean Sea.

A new study by Tel Aviv University and University of California, Berkeley suggests that establishing seaweed farms in areas where freshwater rivers or streams meet the oceans, or so-called “river estuaries”, significantly reduces nitrogen concentrations and prevents pollution in marine environments.

As part of the study, the researchers built a large seaweed farm model for growing the ulva sp. green macroalgae in the Alexander River estuary, hundreds of meters from the open sea. The Alexander River was chosen because the river discharges polluting nitrogen from nearby upstream fields and towns into the Mediterranean Sea. Data for the model were collected over two years from controlled cultivation studies.

The study was headed by doctoral student Meiron Zollmann, under the joint supervision of Prof. Alexander Golberg of the Porter School of Environmental and Earth Sciences and Prof. Alexander Liberzon of the School of Mechanical Engineering at The Iby and Aladar Fleischman Faculty of Engineering, Tel Aviv University, and was conducted in collaboration with Prof. Boris Rubinsky of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at UC Berkeley. It was published in the prestigious journal Communications Biology.

“My laboratory researches basic processes and develops technologies for aquaculture,” explains Prof. Golberg. “We are developing technologies for growing seaweed in the ocean in order to offset carbon and extract various substances, such as proteins and starches, to offer a marine alternative to terrestrial agricultural production. In this study, we showed that if seaweed is grown according to the model we developed, in rivers’ estuaries, they can absorb the nitrogen to conform to environmental standards and prevent its dispersal in water and thus neutralize environmental pollution. This way, we actually produce a kind of ‘natural decontamination facility’ with significant ecological and economic value, as seaweed can be sold as biomass for human use.”

Profitable and Environmentally Friendly

“Our model allows marine farmers, as well as government and environmental bodies, to know in advance what the impact will be and what the products of a large seaweed farm will be – before setting up the actual farm,” adds Meiron Zollmann. “Thanks to mathematics, we know how to make the adjustments also concerning large agricultural farms and maximize environmental benefits, including producing the agriculturally desired protein quantities.”

“The whole world is moving towards green energy, and seaweed can be a significant source,” adds Prof. Liberzon, “and yet today, there is no single farm with the proven technological and scientific capability. The barriers are also scientific: We do not really know what the impact of a huge farm will be on the marine environment. It is like transitioning from a vegetable garden outside the house to endless fields of industrial farming. Our model provides some of the answers, hoping to convince decision-makers that such farms will be profitable and environmentally friendly. Furthermore, one can imagine even more far-reaching scenarios. For example, green energy: If we knew how to utilize the growth rates for energy in better percentages, it would be possible to embark on a one-year cruise with a kilogram of seaweed, with no additional fuel beyond the production of biomass in a marine environment.”

“The interesting connection we offer here is growing seaweed at the expense of nitrogen treatment,” concludes Prof. Golberg. “In fact, we have developed a planning tool for setting up seaweed farms in estuaries to address the environmental issue while producing economic benefit. We offer the design of seaweed farms in river estuaries containing large quantities of agriculturally related nitrogen residues to rehabilitate the estuary and prevent nitrogen from reaching the ocean while growing the seaweed itself for food. In this way, aquaculture complements terrestrial agriculture.”

Featured image: The cultivation reactor that was used as the base of the model

TAU’s race car is headed to Italy

Team of engineering students who constructed the car entirely by themselves will compete internationally

The students of the Formula project designed and built a race car as part of their final project in Mechanical Engineering. Now, after a year of hard and challenging work, they are preparing for the cherry on the cake – participating in the Formula ATA competition, where they will compete with students from all over the world for the honor, glory and of course, the trophy, of coming first.

 

Getting your hands dirty

Fifteen students and instructors from the Faculty of Engineering of the Iby and Aladar Fleischmann Faculty of Engineering at Tel Aviv University will travel to Italy at the end of July – the country is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of rare sports cars. In the belly of the plane will rest their race car, which they spent an entire year building, as part of their final project for their Bachelor’s degree. This is the only project at the faculty that requires a manufacturing process (not just planning and design) and is one of the university’s flagship projects as a result. It’s the result of collaboration between all the schools of engineering that comprise the faculty – Electric/Software, Materials, and of course Mechanical. The project is led by the School of Mechanical Engineering, and headed by by Prof. Yoram Reich.

 

“Our goal was to design and manufacture a vehicle the way a real engineering company does it, with all that that entails,” says Nadav Gvaram, a fourth year student who is taking part in the project. “The entire project is divided into sub-projects according to the different systems in the vehicle, such as the chassis design, the wheel assembly, the cab, the steering system and more, and is executed according to the competition rules (about 120 pages that specify the requirements and nature of the competition), which we can now quote even in the middle of the night,” he adds with a smile.

 

I’m very excited about the trip,” says team leader Dima Medvednik, a Bachelor’s degree student in Mechanical Engineering, who has been part of the project for five years. “Two years of very intensive work have all led to the past two weeks and to this competition.” The rest of the group attests to him being the most extensive source of knowledge in the project.

 

Is there a screw loose? The Formula Team tightens and examines each element of the race car

Is there a screw loose? The Formula Team tightens and examines each element of the race car

 

The unique project gives students practical experience in planning and assembling a product. “There’s a real a win-win situation here both for our graduates and for the industry,” explains the project manager, Baruch Meirovich. “Most of the students come to us without hands-on knowledge, and this work gives them practical tools for real life, where they get their hands dirty and can go into the industry with more experience. And beyond the pride we feel at the School of Mechanical Engineering, we also feel like we’re representing our country internationally.”

 

#tau_racer: Nadav Gvaram’s debut story about the car on Instagram

 

International standards

Tel Aviv University is one of three universities in Israel (alongside the Technion and Ben-Gurion University), which traditionally participates in annual international competitions of this kind. This year, TAU’s race car will be the only Israeli representative at the competition in Italy, along with 46 cars from universities all over the world, including India, Egypt, Spain, Ukraine, Thailand and more. The requirements for admission to the competition are very strict, and currently the waiting list, two weeks before the event starts, stands at 32.

 

The cars are tested according to many parameters. Even the business plan and production costs are scored. With a low budget, comprised mostly of sponsorships from companies like Xenom, HP and others, students acquiring the spare parts and build the entire car themselves, from the chassis to the engine.

 

“There are static tests, that examine mainly the design of the main systems and the quality of the assembly, and then there are of course the dynamic stages in which the cars get on the track,” explains Gvaram. The car’s driver, who must meet stringent height and weight criteria, drives the vehicle first on the acceleration track, which the ability to accelerate the vehicle along a straight path is tested. He then competes in another track called “skidpad”, where the car is tested on its maneuvering abilities. The race culminates on the last day, as cars compete on the “autocross” race track, that examines the overall dynamic abilities of the vehicle, and then on an endurance track that is 22 kilometers long and identical to the autocross.

 

As befits a competition of this calibre, the car with the highest score earns its team a cup and of course, enormous respect. “I don’t know if there’s another major prize like this, but I can say that this will certainly be enough for us,” says Gavram.

Featured image: Part of the team who spent a year building the race car from scratch

 

TAU Researchers Identified a Serious Security Flaw in Samsung’s Galaxy Series

TAU Researchers Identified a Serious Security Flaw in Samsung’s Galaxy Series.

Tel Aviv University researchers have discovered a serious security flaw in Samsung’s flagship Galaxy series. The researchers contacted Samsung in May 2021, and in October the company released a software update that fixed the loophole. According to the researchers, users who have not updated their Android software since October are urged to do so as soon as possible, as hackers could take advantage of the loophole found to hack into the Galaxy smartphones in the series and steal sensitive information.

The study was conducted by Prof. Avishai Wool of TAU’s School of Electrical Engineering, Dr. Eyal Ronen of the Blavatnik School of Computer Science, and graduate student Alon Shakevsky.

Securing the Last Layer of Protection

“In protecting smartphones using the Android system, there is a special component called TrustZone” explains Prof. Wool. “This component is a combination of hardware and software, and its job is to protect our most sensitive information – the encryption and identification keys. We found an error in the implementation of Samsung’s TrustZone code, which allowed hackers to extract encryption keys and access secure information.”

“It should be understood that phone companies like Samsung go to enormous lengths to secure their phones, and yet we still hear about attacks, for example in the case of the NSO spyware,” Dr Ronen adds. “TrustZone is designed to be the last layer of protection, the internal safe. So, even if NSO managed to hack into my phone, it still wouldn’t be able to access the encryption keys. For example, if I approve a bank transfer using a fingerprint, the fingerprint enters the phone’s TrustZone, and hackers will have no way to use the fingerprint to carry out transactions in my bank account. In our article, we showed that failures in Samsung’s code also allowed access to these sensitive cryptographic keys.”

 

The Research Team (from left to right): Alon Shakevsky, Prof. Avishai Wool and Dr. Eyal Ronen

“A Secret Code Never Guarantees Longevity” 

In May 2021, the Tel Aviv University researchers contacted Samsung and presented their findings. In October 2021, Samsung released an update to the Android operating software that fixed the major loophole in about 100 million Galaxy phones. The company and the researchers coordinated the date of the publication of the findings and the date of the update in order to prevent hackers from taking advantage the loophole.

“Master’s student Alon Shakevsky worked for months on extracting the code from the device so that we could investigate it,” says Wool, “and two weeks ago hackers broke into the company’s databases and leaked Samsung’s code. The information that was previously confidential is today available to everyone, including researchers like us. Therefore, the lesson for phone companies should be to publish the code in advance, let the experts and researchers check the architecture, and not to rely too much on the code’s secrecy. A secret code never guarantees longevity, because it will eventually leak. In the end, we helped Samsung.”

“In order to protect ourselves,” Dr. Ronen concludes, “we encourage all owners of Samsung Galaxy devices to update their software.”

The spirit Behind Engineering

The Faculty of Engineering is trying to be the bridge between sciences and humanities

Prof. Yossi Rosenwaks, dean of the Faculty of Engineering at Tel Aviv University, told The Jerusalem Post about the BSc in Engineering with a program in the Humanities and how the high-tech industry benefit with such a program. Also introducing the “High Tech Plus” program, enabling undergraduate students to combine engineering studies with all dual-disciplinary courses, including from the humanities and social sciences.

Click for the full article

Bringing water to Tanzania

Tel Aviv University’s future engineers flew to Africa to connect a school with 1,000 students to clean water

The children living in the villages of Babati district, Tanzania will now have drinkable water during the dry season, thanks to the student delegation from the Iby and Aladar Fleischman Faculty of Engineering. Unfortunately, there are still many places in the world where fresh, clean water, which many in developed countries take for granted, is a rare commodity. This is a common problem in many African countries. Each year, a delegation of engineers from the University of Tanzania sets out to build and improve water and electricity infrastructure. They do so within the framework of the “Engineers Without Borders” association, which works to promote and improve the quality of life of the Israeli population and developing populations worldwide. This year, as in previous years, students responded to the organization’s call, and a delegation of six students flew out during the Sukkot holiday break to contribute their time and knowledge, gained during their studies, and install systems at the regional school that would store 40,000 liters of water.

Months without water

“In Babati district, children sometimes have to walk 10 kilometers to reach clean water reservoirs, or settle for stagnant, contaminated water containing high levels of fluoride, which is detrimental to their health,” says Natalie Lubelchick, a University delegation graduate who is currently completing her master’s degree in Astrophysics. In Tanzania, during the dry season, the local rural population has to cope with three long, hot and dry months. In the absence of a solid infrastructure, the search for drinkable water sources is particularly difficult. If that’s not enough, the same water is also sought by wild animals, who often damage the few existing artificial water reservoirs. The mission of the Israeli delegation, which has sent volunteers for the fifth time, was to build a 40,000-liter water collection system from the rooftops of the Babati district school, where approximately a 1,000 students study, maintain existing systems installed by previous delegations, and also establish a new library, together with the local community. The project is overseen by Prof. Dror Avisar, head of the Water Research Center.   Working together: members of the delegation with locals from the school in Babati district Working together: members of the delegation with locals from the school in Babati district

A glass of water a day for 1,000 children

After a 12-hour flight and before they embarked on two weeks of challenging physical labor, the delegation acquired all the necessary equipment they didn’t bring with them from Israel in Arusha, the city where they landed: dozens of huge 2000-liter containers, each to be installed in a school, as well as pipes and work tools. The main difficulty of this delegation and its predecessors is in being funded. “The ideal situation is that we would have a regular annual budget and know that our operations are guaranteed,” explains Natalie. Sometimes it’s unclear until the day of departure how much money will be at their disposal. On the eve of leaving the city for the village, the delegation members met the Tanzanian community representative, Julius, a school teacher who accompanies the project, and met his family. “He is the delegation’s angel and takes care of all of us,” says Natalie.   Smiles all around: Julius and his family with members of the delegation Smiles all around: Julius and his family with members of the delegation At the biggest, most central school in Babati district, where the largest system was about to be installed, the delegation was greeted with an enthusiastic welcome. Knowing that soon every student would be able to enjoy clean water was exciting for the children.   Hope and excitement: the delegation is recieved by the young students Hope and excitement: the delegation is recieved by the young students   At the principal's office​ At the principal’s office The first order of business for the delegation was teaching a group of boys and girls from local Scouts how to help with the construction and then later on how to maintain the systems. “The idea is not just to build a system, but to work collaboratively with the community, which includes education and instruction, which will lead to long-term results,” Natalie explains. Left: local Scouts learning the new system. Left: children from the school using it to get clean water. Left: local Scouts learning the new system. Right: children from the school using it to get clean water.   The construction process included installing gutters, cleaning the water tanks and preparing the infrastructure. In one of the schools, where systems had already been installed in the past, the delegation had to replace containers, destroyed by elephants that came in search of water, and build anti-elephant concrete walls around them.   While the systems were being installed, the delegation members taught the students about proper use of the system and “water discipline”, and in return the students taught them local songs and dances. Singing while you work: two members of the delgation with young students Singing while you work: two members of the delgation with young students When it was clear that the work was progressing quickly and efficiently, the delegation decided to visit local families and get to know the community. “We started asking them questions about their daily lives and their needs,” Natalie says. “We realized that in addition to building the systems in schools, we also want to think of a home solution. Most people here live in extended families, sometimes numbering up to 50 people. So, a solution for one family can spare them a walk to the nearest water source, which can take hours, and also give them clean water, as opposed to reservoirs that are very polluted. Our challenge was to think of a simple, creative and inexpensive solution, using local materials, so we could easily distribute and duplicate it, and they could easily maintain the systems.”     Sometimes the villagers are forced to drink polluted water Sometimes the villagers are forced to drink polluted water

As the largest system was assembled at the Minjingu Elementary School, the principal, together with the teachers, some of the parents and a thousand students, conducted a moving farewell ceremony. “They thanked us with a song, and promised to maintain the system, and we, for our part, got to see and understand how important the system is to them,” Natalie concludes.

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