Spotlight on Carolina Osorio, an Innovator We Admire


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Willamette Valley Company was founded on the principal that innovation is truly at its best when it makes our lives better. Sometimes that takes on the form of advancements in the field of medicine or robotics, other times it means making our daily lives more efficient and allowing more time for what is important.

It is this reason that our “Featured Innovator of the Month” is Carolina Osorio, an assistant professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at MIT, who wants to help solve the world’s growing traffic problem.

Traffic Jam

An all too familiar sight for anyone living in the city.

As anyone who has spent any time commuting in a city can attest, gridlocks and traffic jams can waste a large percentage of your day and turn a 20 minute drive into several hours. But did you know this problem could be solved with an algorithm and software? That’s exactly what Ms. Osorio is working to do, an endeavor that is built on her study into the traffic patterns of Lausanne, Switzerland.

She says the problem with most existing traffic light software is that it typically looks at the traffic system as a whole as opposed to a collection of individual drivers. “Most signal-timing software looks at current or historical traffic patterns. It doesn’t take into account how travel might change,”says Osorio. “Usually in practice, when you want to time traffic lights, traditionally it’s been done in a local way. You define one intersection, or maybe a set of intersections along an arterial, and you fine-tune or optimize the traffic lights there.”

This is where Osorio’s software promises to shine.  “What is less done, and is more difficult to do, is when you look at a broader scale, in this case the city of Lausanne, and you want to change signal times at intersections distributed across the entire city, with the objective of trying to improve conditions across the entire city.”

In their applied simulations of this new approach to traffic timing, Carolina Osorio and her team found a decrease in commuting time of 22% compared to standardly-used traffic software. Though Ms. Osorio’s system is not yet implemented in traffic software, one can easily see how it can positively influence cities in the future.

Carolina Osorio has received several honors and accolades for her work, including MIT Technology Review EmTech Colombia TR35 Award (2015), MIT CEE Maseeh Excellence in Teaching Award (2014), National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award (NSF CAREER) (2014), NEC Corporation Fund Award for Research in Computers and Communications MIT (2014-2015), and the National Science Foundation Award, (2013-2016). Furthermore she has been an invited Speaker on “The Road to Future Urban Mobility” at the 2016 National Academy of Engineering’s (NAE) EU-US Frontiers of Engineering (EU-US FOE) Symposium.

This dedication to finding solutions to the very real problems that hinder society’s efficiency and mobility is why we have named Carolina Osorio as our “Featured Innovator of the Month.” We can’t wait to see what she’ll accomplish in the future!

Note: Carolina Osorio does not work for Willamette Valley Company nor is she affiliated with our company.


MIT – Traffic Lights: There’s a Better Way

Smithsonian Mag – Better Traffic-Light Timing Will Get You There Faster

MIT Innovators Under 35 – Carolina Osorio


photo credit: World Class Traffic Jam: Jersey Turnpike Version via photopin (license)


Pi Day Gives Us an Excuse to Celebrate Mathematics This Month!

Pi Day

Celebrate “Pi Day” March 14th! 

As a company full scientists, engineers and other technological innovators, we value and celebrate mathematics! So you can probably guess that Pi Day, March 14th, is a big deal to us!

Yes, Pi- the mathematical constant.  You know, that “π” symbol thing used in mathematics to represent a constant — the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter — which is approximately 3.14159.

Since it’s humble beginnings at the San Francisco Exploratorium in 1988, Pi Day has exploded into a cultural phenomenon celebrated by students, mathematicians, engineers and everyone in between around the world! The day is often commentated with pie eating contests, essays, T-Shirts, poetry, internet memes, math challenges and more!

To understand the fascination of Pi, you must first understand it’s infinite nature. Scientists and mathematicians have calculated Pi to more than a trillion digits, but its exact nature remains a mystery that will never be solved. As an irrational and transcendental number, it will continue infinitely without repetition or pattern.

You may have memorized pi in your High School math class, only to never use it again- but it’s impact on science, technology, engineering and math is astronomical. Steven Strogatz summarizes it’s importance beautifully in this 2015 New York Times article. “The beauty of pi, in part, is that it puts infinity within reach,” he writes. “The digits of pi never end and never show a pattern. They go on forever, seemingly at random—except that they can’t possibly be random, because they embody the order inherent in a perfect circle. This tension between order and randomness is one of the most tantalizing aspects of pi”.

Pi is so much more than a number. Our modern world depends on it. “It lies at the heart of any technology that involves rotation or waves, and that is much of mechanical and electrical engineering,” writes Chris Budd. “In medical imaging using CAT or MRI scanners, the scanning devices move on a ring which has to be manufactured to a tolerance of one part in 1,000,000, requiring an even more precise value of pi”.

We could go on about our excitement over Pi Day, but we’ll leave you with this list of interesting reads on the subject. So, from all of us at WVCO, Happy Pi Day!

photo credit: LEGO happy pi day! via photopin (license)

Yaskawa Motoman Offers Tips on How to Select a Robotics Integrator

Motoman-PartnerThe 4 “Cs” to Selecting a Robotics Integrator

We are proud of the outstanding work and research being conducted by our robotics division, PRE-TEC, the largest custom robotic integrator on the West Coast. In the past decade alone, PRE-TEC has prepared more than 165 robotic systems thanks in part to the valuable partnerships we have with leading robotics companies like Yaskawa Motoman.

Yaskawa Motoman is an industry leader in the rapidly growing robotics field, and we’re proud our PRE-TEC division is a premier Motoman Strategic Partner.

Sam Schenck, Director of Strategic Partner Relations at Yaskawa America, Inc. – Motoman Robotics Division, recently wrote a piece for the company’s blog that offers valuable advice on how to select a robotics integrator. “Ultimately, picking the right robotics integrator is about making the part you want to make at the rate, quality and timing you need,” he writes in his recent post, 4 Things to Consider When Selecting a Robotics Integrator. “There are 4 “Cs” to sizing up any integrator; I define them as concept, cost, capabilities and capacity”.

Here is a quick summary of his advice.

1. Don’t accept claims that can’t be supported by evidence.

2. Be aware that the proposal price might not be your “all-in cost” for automation.

3. Regarding support, if you want an integrator to be available for immediate, on-site help should problems arise, make sure they have a support presence in your region.

4. If they have the capabilities you need, ask how much of their work is sub-contracted. You want to know if they are a net aggregator of pieces or a producer. Work with the latter, not the former.

Click here to read the full article.