5 Questions with ... Sacred Heart professor Tolga Kaya
FAIRFIELD — Program Director of Computer Engineering Tolga Kaya dreams of a world without need for a battery.
In essence, that means phones without wires or cables and cars that can recharge while driving.
“That’s decades away,” admitted Kaya, who started at Sacred Heart University last year. “But that’s my dream.”
The Turkey native obtained his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electronics and communication engineering at Istanbul Technical University before coming to the United States, where he conducted research at Yale University’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
Kaya recently talked about his goals, trajectory and upcoming projects.
Q: What got you interested in engineering?
A: My interest started out in my high school years. I saw circuits and I was excited about it and wanted to pursue that. College wasn’t enough for me, I wanted a deeper understanding in electrical, computer and mechanical engineering.
Q: When did you come to the United States?
A: I started to come to the States around 2005. I was doing my Ph.D. in Turkey and I had the opportunity to come to Yale University as a summer scholar. I finished my Ph.D. in Turkey and then came back to the States to continue research at Yale.
Q: You study a lot of things; what is a focus of yours?
A: I recently just published an article on what I was working on: sweat.
We have been working on determining real-time hydration levels of athletes for the past five years. We finally were able to make wristwatch-type devices where we can send continuous hydration information, basically ion levels in your sweat, and sweat rate information to an athlete’s watch.
The impact of this type of device is big on endurance sports and team sports for coaches, trainers, and for athlete themselves who look for a competitive edge. Our devices are still in the prototyping phase but we did human trials and could determine the hydration changes in one single workout.
Another device I’m working on is one that can email you the taste and smell of of food.
For example, you write me an email that you have this lemonade. You have a device with you and I have another device with me — you will literally email me what you have through that device and it will make the lemonade right in front of me. You are quite literally making the item.
Q: Your bio says you focus on the Internet of Things. What is that?
A: I focus on that and Internet of Things devices. These are devices that are connected through the internet.
For example, the cellphone is an Internet of Things device and now we’re talking about the refrigerator, the television, your home system — these are all part of the Internet of Things devices. It’s getting bigger and bigger, and we can connect people through different aspects of this. It’s not only virtually but physically.
Q: What is something cool you’re working on? What’s your dream?
A: In our engineering program, we have this amazing facility that we’re building now, and in this space one can turn their dreams to a prototype. We have an idea that you never thought you could make it, maybe a device or gadget, and you can use this kind of lab to make it.
We will have this type of equipment you can only dream of — not only three-dimensional printers but big-scale machinery and electronic equipment — where you can design a device on the computer and the machines will create it for you. It’s unbelievable what kind of ideas people work on with this.
My dream is basically to eliminate the battery need in the world. I’m not talking about solar panels and wind power, but the energy that already exists like in the building in the form of vibration, from the magnetic field that creates our cellphone. The energy is already there. You just need to find an efficient base to get to transform that into usable energy.
Imagine you’re carrying your phone without a cable and it’s being charged just like that or running your car but just energized from the roads without cables or wires. That’s my dream.