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Stephen Collins ’81 on Cloud Engineering

[ NEW LOCATION: Integrative Learning Center, Room S331 (South 331) ]

Opportunities In Cloud Engineering
by Stephen Collins

Principal Consultant, 1024tm
UMass Amherst, 1981
B.S. Computer Systems Engineering, Summa Cum Laude

4 p.m., Wednesday October 2, 2019
Integrative Learning Center, Room S331 (South 331)
University of Massachusetts Amherst

>>> In addition to this 4 PM talk, we are excited to announce that Mr. Colliins is available to meet with students, faculty and staff at lunch and dinner on the same day. If you would like to submit a request for lunch and/or dinner with Mr. Collins please complete this Google form:

Since about 1980, there have been four successive waves of unprecedented technological innovation that have reshaped our world. It began with the PC revolution in the 1980’s, the Internet explosion in the 1990’s, mobile smartphones in the 2000’s and the rise of cloud computing this past decade. Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft are building out massive hyperscale data centers delivering cloud-based applications and services to billions of users worldwide. These industry titans are creating a radically new generation of cloud-scale computing infrastructure, capitalizing on technological advances in merchant silicon, off-the-shelf hardware, software-defined networking, distributed computing software and Big Data analytics.

While these impressive cloud computing achievements boggle the mind, there is still a tremendous amount of engineering work to be done. Over the next decade, cloud-scale infrastructure will be deployed in support of mission-critical use cases spanning business digital transformation and real-time machine-to-machine communication for industrial IoT, environmental sensing, healthcare IT, smart cities and autonomous vehicles. Technology is advancing rapidly across such a broad front that even the most dedicated researchers and practitioners strain to keep pace. Graduating students step into a bewildering world in which their academic training barely scratches the surface.

This talk will take a brief look at the evolution of “the cloud” and then break down the full stack of cloud-scale infrastructure, layer by layer. How is technology innovation driving breakthroughs at different layers? What are the outstanding engineering challenges for ensuring scalability, performance, security and operational efficiency? What are possible career opportunities for new graduates in computer engineering and computer science? Why will a life long approach to learning be so important?

Stephen Collins is principal consultant at 1024tm, providing business strategy and product marketing services to startups, emerging growth companies and other technology-driven organizations. He has almost four decades of experience in networking and telecommunications, spanning many segments of both the enterprise and service provider markets.

Over the course of his career, Stephen has served in a wide range of executive, managerial, engineering, consulting, analyst and advisory roles and has a proven track record introducing new products and solutions into rapidly evolving markets.

Most recently, Stephen worked as a networking and telecom industry analyst, creating and leading ACG Research’s practice in network visibility and analytics. Prior to that, he served as VP of product marketing at Active Broadband Networks, VP of marketing at Acme Packet, VP of marketing and business development at Tatara Systems and VP of marketing at Sonus Networks.

In the late 90’s, Stephen cofounded Spring Tide Networks, which developed a new class of IP service switch, and was acquired by Lucent Technologies for $1.5 billion. He began his career in 1981 at Bell Labs developing data communications systems and then was first exposed to IP networking and the original ARPANET while at BBN Communications.

After BBN, Stephen joined Wellfeet Communications as founding engineer and served as software engineering manager and then director of product management, bringing two generations of multiprotocol routers to market. After Wellfleet merged with Sypoptics, he served as director of product marketing for Bay Networks.

Stephen is an active blogger, frequent speaker at industry conferences and has authored numerous articles for trade publications. He holds an M.S. in Computer, Information and Control engineering from the University of Michigan and a B.S. in Computer Systems Engineering, Summa Cum Laude, from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.



This technical talk is presented by the
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
University of Massachusetts Amherst

201 Marcus Hall


You are invited to Circuits & Code, Sat Dec 8th 1PM-4PM


Come to Circuits & Code, the M5 end of semester showcase, on Saturday, December 8th from 1PM to 4PM!

Students will be demonstrating projects they created this semester. We’ll see projects from ENGIN112 “Fresh Design Project,” ECE297DP “Design Project,” IA-0016 “Creative Electronics,” and other groups and individuals!

Bring yourself, your friends, and your family to interact with projects including robot arms, animatronic reindeer, DIY synths and keyboards, and much, much more!

Directions: This event takes place in M5. M5 is located in Marcus Hall, on the lower level. Marcus Hall is located at 100 Natural Resources Road, Amherst, MA 01003. There are multiple parking lots behind Marcus Hall that are available on the weekend.

Are you a student with a project to show off? Join us for the showcase! Email and share a little about the project you’d like to bring!

For our planning purposes we do ask you to register and obtain your event ticket on eventbrite, but an event ticket is not required for admission. Come whether or not you have an eventbrite ticket. However, if you do get an eventbrite ticket and you print it out and drop into our special ticket box at Circuits & Code before 3 PM you will automatically be eligible for a seriously cool door prize. We’ll have five door prizes: Five different miniature 3D prints of significant sculptures from around the world. Details below. There must be a name and valid email address on the ticket in order to win! (M5 staff ineligible for door prizes. No more than one prize per household.)

We have printed the following five works, in miniature, to given as door prizes:

1. Michelangelo’s Pietà, detail of Mary

2. Colossal bust of Ramesses II / Ozymandias

3. Moses by Michelangelo

4. Nefertiti

5. A Terracotta Warrior

We hope to see you soon. Tell your friends. Bring your friends.

See you there!


N64C – 297DP Final Report

My name is Nicolas Wicker and I am in my junior year at UMass on the electrical engineering track. I decided to enroll in 297DP this past semester as I figured it would be a great opportunity to apply the fundamentals of electrical engineering that I have learned over the past few years, in an environment where I could integrate my own creative freedom towards a project I’m passionate about.

The project I decided to take on was one that both had a personal connection to me, as well as exemplified core electrical engineering skills. I wanted to take one of my favorite gaming systems, the Nintendo 64, and turn it into a handheld, portable unit that you could take with you and play games on the go and on original hardware. This project has been done by others in the past, either by using original Nintendo 64 hardware or emulation via a small computer such as the Raspberry Pi. After extensive research, I came to the conclusion that Nintendo 64 games emulated on the Raspberry Pi do not all play at 100% speed when compared to the games running on the original system. Also, having the nostalgia factor of plugging in a retro cartridge into my system seemed like a neat feature to me, thus I decided to hack up an original Nintendo 64 and use that as opposed to emulation.

After determining this, I went on to design the initial plan on how this would all come together. My criteria for the system was rather simple. It needed to be as compact as I could get it, so it wouldn’t be a far cry from other modern portable systems. It needed to integrate a battery pack, controls, audio amp with speakers, and screen, all so it could be played on the go. It needed to integrate the Nintendo 64 RAM Expansion Pack which would allow it to play every Nintendo 64 title, as some require more ram. And finally, it needed to just be appealing to me and something I would be proud of.

Based on what others have done with this project in the past, I began to think about cutting down the Nintendo 64 as small as I could get it. Thus it could go in a small form factor to satisfy that criteria point. This can be tricky because if you cut off necessary components on the board by mistake you could ruin your board and have to buy another Nintendo 64. Being so, I took extreme caution with trimming down the motherboard and got it down to a small enough form factor to where it was still functional as well. After this was done, I went on to figure out how I would integrate the expansion pack. The pack plugs into a connector on the motherboard and extends off  of it vertically. Thus, it wastes a lot of space. I decided to try my hands at cutting the expansion pack board on one side 80% of the way through, that way all of the bus traces on the other side would still be in tact. This allowed me to bend the board at a 90 degree angle and I only had to rewire one ground trace from the severed side of the board. Unfortunately, my first attempt at this failed as when I went to bend the board, some of the traces on the other side severed, rendering it useless. I feel this was a result of me not being careful enough, so I bought another Expansion Pack and tried my hands at it again. This time it worked like a charm. I now had to think about integrating the controller. I opened up a 3rd party Nintendo 64 controller I bought and began to brainstorm how I could cut up the controller board itself to save space. Being that the particular controller board I used was a single sided PCB, seeing where I could cut away was fairly easy. Most of the space on the PCB were just traces routed out to the button contacts, so these contacts could be cut off and traced back to a spot on the board closer to the center where I could solder to. I found each button’s corresponding pin on the center of the board and soldered wires directly to them. These wires would go to tactile switches on prototyping boards, which I could arrange in an ergonomic position in my design. Next up, I had to source a LCD screen that accepted composite video, as that’s what the Nintendo 64 outputs, as well as design a decent audio amplifier. The screen was straight-forward, a simple Amazon search pointed me to a 3.5″ rearview monitor for a car that happens to take in a composite video signal. This could just be spliced with the composite output pin on the Nintendo 64 motherboard, and it worked with no problem. I found a simple circuit using a lm386 for audio amplifying. I wired it up, hooked up a little piezo speaker I found in M5, connected it to the audio output pins on the Nintendo motherboard, and I was happy with the result. I also decided to route those pins to a headphone jack as well, so I would have the option of playing either way. With a integrated controller as input, a portable power supply, and a small screen and audio amp for outputs, I seemed to have everything done in terms of the electronics side of things. Next up was to design an enclosure around everything. To do this, I used SolidWorks which is a 3D CAD package I’m very familiar with to design two parts of a case that would fit around my assembled electronics. This was straight forward as well. After taking into account the measurements of all the components, all I had to do was add a bit of my own personal flair to the design and it was ready to be printed and assembled.

I am very happy with how my project came out. The final form factor matched exactly to what I set out to create, something both sleek and functionally practical. If someone were to follow in my footsteps and create a similar project I would advise highly to follow the same procedure in which I outlined in this post. Getting everything  electrically functional is a must before even thinking about your case. It goes by the old rule of thumb: form follows function. You have to have everything working and sound before you think of the design of it, otherwise you’ll drive yourself crazy trying to rearrange things to fit in the case you designed initially, and will most likely have to do all kinds of jerry rigging, which just begs for things to go awry down the road.

If I were to continue off this project, I would most likely design my own PCB that integrates all of the external components: battery charging circuit, LCD driving circuit, audio amp and speakers, headphone jack, controller circuit etc. on one PCB. Then all one would have to do wiring wise would be wire a few things from the PCB to the Nintendo 64 motherboard. Maybe this idea could then be mass produced or even sold as a kit.

M5 was a invaluable resource for me throughout this entire process. With instant access to all tools I needed, as well as electrical components, it was very easy to work on things once I acquired the few things M5 could not provide such as the Nintendo 64 and such. One thing M5 could possibly change would be the hours of operation, as having access to these resources late at night were sometimes a necessity to me, as that was the only time I could work on my project in the midst of classes.

In conclusion, I am very happy with how my project came out, as well as the learning experience that came with it. 297DP was a great course that allowed me to receive credit for a self-assigned project that I was passionate towards throughout the whole process, and I cannot commend the course enough for that.

Circuits & Code 2017

This weekend, members of the ECE 297DP class presented their semester projects in M5.  The projects consisted of various different projects within engineering and technology subfields.

Wayne Hobby constructed a Fourier Transform Fan with led strips on the blades that interpreted the surrounding sounds, and dispersed them as different colors along the radius of the fan.  The greater the frequency, resulting in a higher pitch, and the louder the noise, the further outward the fan would light up.  He demoed his project using Coldplay’s Scientist, where it was able to follow the rhythm of the piano and the sudden changes in the singer’s voice.  To do this, Wayne used a Teensy 3.6, a microcontroller similar to an Arduino, an Electret Microphone Amplifier and LED strips on each of the fan blades.


Sophomore CSE student Zac Little created a homemade set of drum pads by using an Arduino Nano, Codec + MicroSD Breakout – MP3/WAV/MIDI/OGG Play + Record, and piezo sensors.  He made the pads out of old DVDs with the piezoelectric disks in the middle, and assigned each of the sensors to a designated port on the bread board. One improvement he hopes to make is to allow the drums to be able to play two or more of the sounds at the same time.  Because of the code he used, the system thinks linearly and can only process the input of one of the sensors at a time.  Since when using a drum set, you often combine the different instruments, he plans to alter the coding so he can successfully make this change.

There were many other projects from the class that were on display.  One project consisted of a robot that reacted to the sound of the environment and looked in your direction.  Each “ear” contained a sensor to detect the level of noise in the environment, and if the noise was above a certain threshold, it would send a signal back to the microcontroller to move the head in whatever direction the noise came from.  Another project was an LED Clock that uses a timer to keep track of the time, and then displays the numbers in respective colors based on a color code.


If you are interested in working on a project like this next semester, you can enroll in ECE 297DP with Professor Baird Soules.