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Incorporating Biometrics Technology into a Sophomore Level General Education Course

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

NSF Grantees' Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.729.1 - 23.729.9



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Paper Authors


Shane Cotter Union College

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Dr. Shane Cotter came to Union College in August 2005 and is an associate professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. He teaches courses in introductory digital logic, digital design, signal processing, and computer networking. Dr. Cotter's principal research interests are in the areas of speech and image processing, wireless communications, computer networking, and biological signal processing. Prior to joining Union College, he was a visiting assistant professor in the ECE Department at the University of Miami for the 2004-2005 academic year. Dr. Cotter worked at Nokia Mobile Phones as a senior design engineer between 2002 and 2004 in the DSP/Audio group on speech codec implementation and phone acoustic properties.
Dr. Cotter received his Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in Electrical Engineering with an emphasis on Digital Signal Processing from the University of California at San Diego in 2001 and 1998 respectively. He received his undergraduate degree in Electronic Engineering from University College Dublin in 1994.

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Anastasia Pease Union College

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Dr. Anastasia Pease is a lecturer in English and an award-winning teacher. Her interests include literature and science, ethics and bioethics, science fiction, second language pedagogy, and cognitive science.

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Incorporating Biometrics Technology into a Sophomore Level General Education CourseAbstract Over the last decade, Union College has been attempting to integrate engineering andtechnology into the study of the liberal arts and has hosted a Symposium on Engineering andLiberal Education, which is now entering its sixth year. As part of this effort and with fundingfrom NSF, we have designed a course titled “Identity and Security in a Technological World” tofit into Union College’s general education curriculum as a Sophomore Research Seminar. Thecourse is team-taught by faculty members from the Electrical Engineering and Englishdepartments and addresses the implementation and socio-cultural impact of new identificationand security systems. The course is taken by engineering and non-engineering students andblends the study of literature (both fiction and non-fiction) with technology. Biometric technology overlaps with language processing, psychology, neuroscience,biology, philosophy, and is an ideal subject area for inter-disciplinary teaching and discussion.Students in the course have many different majors and have various levels of preparation inmathematics and science. The course has no prerequisites, so it must be taught at a level to allowall students to appreciate the technical aspects of the identification systems. The students arerequired to come up with a research topic -- related to biometrics, identity, or security -- whichthey develop into a full research paper by the end of the term. Since September 11, 2001, there has been an increased emphasis on identification andsurveillance systems to enhance security. There has also been an increase in the use of biometricdata in passports, border control, and secure private company access. In tandem with this, overthe last decade one’s identity (and the need to verify it) has become increasingly digital.Verifying one’s identity with a password can now give one access to health and financialinformation, as well as be used to verify financial transactions (through PayPal or other similarservices). Indeed companies such as Facebook and Google, which provide most services free ofcharge, are largely gathering personal information that can be used for targeted advertising.Biometrics is one way in which one’s digital identity can be more securely verified and isbecoming more commonly used (e.g., voiceprint in banking telephone access systems). The technical course content focuses on the acquisition and storage of biometric data(handprint, face, fingerprint, and voice data) which are extensively used in personalidentification and forensic investigations of crimes. Students learn how current biometric andforensic systems work, and explore their uses, merits, and limitations. Through a collaborationwith IBM and its Smarter Planet initiative, a business development executive from IBMdemonstrates how current voice identification technology is being used in an industrial setting. Alongside exploring the technical implementation of these systems, students are alsoasked to ponder a future world where all biometric and personal data, including genetic andhealthcare records, as well as shopping patterns, etc. will be easily accessible in real time. Thetechnologies that allow the tracking of individuals anywhere in the world bring forwardquestions of security, privacy, and identity. Reading Science Fiction stories, along with news andscience articles, students explore the ethics, the dangers, and the advantages of a Big Brotherworld.

Cotter, S., & Pease, A. (2013, June), Incorporating Biometrics Technology into a Sophomore Level General Education Course Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19743

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