Jorge De Paz
UCI senior Jorge De Paz and teammates designed and built a screen that recognizes and responds to touch, making it easier for people to use computers. About 40 such projects will be on display Thursday, March 12, at the UCI Senior Design Expo. Daniel A. Anderson / University Communications

A touch screen designed and built by UC Irvine students provides a glimpse of how simpler computer control could soon be at our fingertips. Dubbed The Ray Project, the device recognizes and responds to touch and movement to help users more easily interact with technology.

“We wanted to build something that would be useful. We are trying to make people’s lives easier,” says Aaron Botello, a senior studying computer science & engineering.

The project, by Botello, Jorge De Paz, Nery Chapeton, Jose Gallegos and Jose D. Rincon, will be one of about 40 on display at the UCI Senior Design Expo from 10 a.m.-noon Thursday, March 12, in Donald Bren Hall. The event will showcase work by seniors in the computer science & engineering, computer engineering and electrical engineering programs.

Students began the projects last fall by forming small groups and enlisting faculty mentors. The goal was to design and build a working device that makes use of hardware and software.

The Ray Project uses an infrared camera to record where a finger is touching the screen. The team designed software that allows an attached computer to read the information.

Ian Harris, computer science & engineering program chair, says the assignment gives students a chance to apply classroom knowledge to the construction of devices similar to those utilized in everyday products such as MP3 players, video game systems, digital watches, microwaves and dishwashers.

Since students select and buy their own parts, the teams also face the real-world challenge of limited budgets. “It is important that products such as cell phones contain cheap but effective parts so the finished model is as inexpensive as possible,” Harris says. “This project is a good way to teach students about that concept.”