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Computer engineering student Carl Wong is on track to be UBC Okanagan’s first Master of Applied Science graduate - photo by Bud Mortenson
Computer engineering student Carl Wong is on track to be UBC Okanagan’s first Master of Applied Science graduate - photo by Bud Mortenson

UBC Reports | Vol. 54 | No. 5 | May 1, 2008

Computer Engineer in Position for UBC Okanagan’s First MASc Degree

By Bud Mortenson

UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering won’t confer Bachelor of Applied Science degrees for another two years, but this year graduate student Carl Wong is on track to receive the school’s first Master of Applied Science degree.

As he finishes his master’s thesis on wireless positioning systems, Wong couldn’t be happier to hold the distinction as the school’s first graduate.

“Studying at UBC Okanagan definitely helped me,” he says. “For one thing, because it is relatively small, I get to ask a lot of questions of my supervisor.” That’s been very helpful in research, he adds, explaining that drawing on supervising faculty’s expertise can help identify potential pitfalls.

“Knowing what to look for and having someone always there who is willing to help, and who has significant experience, allows you to not slow down,” Wong says. “That’s important because momentum is a key thing in research.”

Wong is developing new techniques to accurately locate devices such as cell phones, no matter where they are. Satellite-based global positioning systems (GPS) available in today’s cellular phones can provide a general location -- within several metres. “But a GPS device won’t work if you go indoors and, especially for emergency purposes, people with cell phones want to know where they are.”

Using commonly available devices such as a building’s existing wireless computer network and new, complex signal processing tools, Wong’s technology could, for example, locate patients anywhere in a hospital building, with precision down to where in a room a person is standing.

His master’s thesis is an exploration of the concept and he has worked with actual signals to prove the concept works, so the technology appears viable and warrants further development, he says.

Always fascinated by science, before embarking on the path to a master’s degree Wong earned an undergraduate engineering degree at the University of Calgary. “I liked math and physics and did consider going into pure physics,” he says, “but I like to see the practical application of what I’m doing -- not just the equations developed to explain some phenomenon. It’s nice to have a final end-product and see it in action.”

Through the Western Dean’s Agreement, which allows graduate students to register with a program at one university and take courses at other Western Canadian institutions, he chose a master’s program of UBC Okanagan design but began his graduate research at the University of Calgary under the supervision of Richard Klukas, UBC Okanagan Asst. Prof. of Engineering, and a co-supervisor at the University of Calgary.

“That saved a lot of hassle and the courses were very appropriate for what I wanted to do,” he says, adding that dividing his graduate studies between Calgary and UBC Okanagan “was a natural fit for me, and it’s nice to be the first graduate student for the program at UBC Okanagan.”

Wong plans to continue with his education, pursuing a PhD at UBC Okanagan next year. “When I’ve done my PhD, I hope to be teaching,” he says.

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“I’ve had lots of opportunity to do teaching and labs with undergraduates. My goal is to teach -- I like to explain complex things in ways people can understand, to re-form concepts in multiple ways, reflecting the different ways people learn and understand information.”


Last reviewed 22-May-2008

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