Since 2008, the biometrics program in West Virginia University’s Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources has conducted data collections used for biometric technologies research. The current collection, headed by Jeremy Dawson, research assistant professor of electrical engineering, is multi-modal and aims to gather data from 1,500 people, with at least 750 repeat visits.
The research will collect fingerprints, hand geometry, iris images, facial expressions, voice sound bites and archival face images. The collection, which started in May 2013, emphasizes repeat visitors so the researchers can test differences in facial expressions, voice tone and facial features over time.
Gathering the biometric data is a team of student assistants ranging from freshmen to doctoral students. The experience the students gain is like an extended lab, according to Dawson, and helps them apply the concepts they learn in class.
Dawson wants the students to learn how to collect data in a uniform process. “This is good training and allows them to apply concepts learned in class and to think critically about them.”
Amber Goodwin, a senior biometrics systems and computer engineering major from Frederick, Md., is pleased to have the hands-on experience. “I’m learning a whole different perspective because it’s something you can’t get from a classroom.”
Students in the biometrics program at WVU learn how to build and program the equipment used to collect and analyze the biometrics data. Through the study, the students gain practical knowledge of how the equipment actually works.
“The first year I was kind of confused because I didn’t really understand what research was at all,” said Goodwin, who has been working on collections since her freshman year. “This collection really showed me what I’d be working with ? I didn’t know this was an opportunity I could have at WVU.”
Sophomore George Sarkodie, a biometrics systems and electrical engineering major from Arlington, Texas, has a different view of the collection. He is excited to take the knowledge he is learning now into his major classes in the coming semesters.
“Having this ground knowledge and working with equipment that I might help advance in the future is pretty cool. Once I learn how the devices are made, I can apply practical skills to their use.”
In September, a group of student assistants were able to go to the Biometrics Consortium Conference in Tampa, Fla. Goodwin and Sarkodie both said their eyes were opened during the process, especially to the respect West Virginia has in the biometrics field.
“As I walked around, people were saying things from all over the place about biometrics in West Virginia,” recounted Goodwin. “It wasn’t just the school; it was the state as a whole.”
Going to the conference also allowed the students to see the business side of engineering. They were able to speak with companies and CEOs who they could potentially work for.
“To speak with so many companies about how they want to use biometrics in every aspect of our lives, that got me hyped,” Sarkodie said. “I have a notebook at home that I wrote notes in; things I would like to do and ideas for the future.”
As a senior, Goodwin knows this experience will help her in the job market. “I’ll be able to relate to them and ask, ‘What are you looking for? What is it that you want to create?’ Being part of this lab gave me experience that a lot of students won’t have.”
The overall experience has been both overwhelming and clarifying to the students.
“My understanding has changed,” said Goodwin. “It just really opened my eyes to a lot of things I wouldn’t have learned in school. It clarified what biometrics is to me and gave me ideas of what can come next.”
The collection is scheduled to be completed in May 2014.
CONTACT: Mary C. Dillon, Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
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