To us, engineering is a social exercise. “We have to listen to our client’s needs and then carefully explain what we have done for them. If we can’t do either of those things, what we do in the middle doesn’t matter,” says president, Mike Ciholas.

Our engineers work together on projects using their field expertise to maximize our chances of creating or improving a product.

“When we have a team working on a project, it’s usually a mechanical engineer, an electrical engineer, a software engineer, and a project manager. The easy and agile interactions between our engineers help us to solve problems,” Ciholas says.

Our team recognizes that, sometimes, an electrical problem can be solved with a mechanical solution or a software problem can be solved electrically. Often software solutions can solve both problems in mechanical and electrical areas.

“The most interesting situation to me is that when a group gets together they come up with ideas that individually they wouldn’t come up with. But the fact that a person asks a question, stimulates another idea in another person’s mind, and because of this we see the transfer of ideas happening. This sometimes unintentionally and unconsciously creates new solutions and new perspectives,” Ciholas says.

To us, leadership plays an important role in the development of employees. We identify their strengths and individuality while placing them in positions where they are able to thrive.

“I like to think of our environment as collegial,” says director of engineering, Justin Bennett. “When we schedule our employees for a project, we leave some time for miscellaneous so they can work on other projects.”

At Ciholas, we have created a space for our engineers to collaborate. These spaces are called PODS, Project Oriented Design Spaces, where different disciplines of engineering meet to work on projects.

Our goal is to foster communication, collaborate on various problem solving techniques, and most of all for everyone to feel welcomed and appreciated.

Evan Buchanan, Master Engineer at Ciholas, knew from the beginning that he wanted to be an engineer.

“I fell in love with computers at a young age. Our dad worked at IBM so it was almost destined that I was going to do something with computers.” Buchanan says.

A graduate from Perry Heights and FJ Reitz High School, Buchanan, decided to study computer engineering at the University of Evansville. He says he had a heavy class load in college but that prepared him well for his professional career.

“Computer engineering is almost two degrees. We joke that it is two thirds electrical engineering and two thirds computer science. We work extensively with both hardware and software.” Buchanan says.

Currently, Buchanan is working on refreshing our internal ultra-wideband products for consumer release.

As a master engineer, Buchanan, has worked with various types of projects that have been crucial for our growth. He says, at this point in his career, his goal is to expand his knowledge of emergent technologies and find ways to implement them into our work.

“When I started nearly fifteen years ago, coming out of college, I spent most of my time learning how to apply the math and software design concepts to the real world. Now I spend more time applying what I already know in new and interesting ways.”

Sarah Dory graduated with two degrees that make her uniquely qualified to work on groundbreaking technology and assist clients in technical theatrical productions; Theater and Electrical Engineering.

From the small town of Greencastle, Indiana, Dory describes her childhood as quiet, fun, and full of support.

“It was kind of a Norman Rockwell type childhood in the sense that there we were insulated from adult and world issues and I remember spending summers running around the neighborhood with my friends. The neighbors didn’t mind and we played outside a lot!” Dory says.

Her community helped shape one of her passions with their summer plays.

“One of my favorite memories is the Putnam County Playhouse. It’s this barn in the middle of rural Putnam County (Indiana) that was converted to a stage where we do four productions in the summer for the community.” Dory says.

Dory graduated with a degree in Theater Design and Technology with an emphasis in Scenic Design and a second degree in Electrical Engineering. She mentions that those majors represent who she is and what her passions are. To her, these passions are a lot more similar than we think.


For her, scenic design is all about the audience’s perception. Her process includes visualizing the play and designing the stage environment to ensure the actors come in and out on time. She says reading the play is the first task for scenic design, one that she enjoys doing.

“My favorite part is teaching the kids scenic painting. For the Warrick County Summer Musical, we work with highschoolers. There are adult staff, but the majority of my stage crew are students. So it’s a fun process for me to pass along those skills and teach a new generation.”

Dory has worked on several significant theatrical productions at the University of Evansville, her alma mater. Now on her time off, she works with the local communities on their summer musicals.

“I wasn’t an actor. I actually like to be behind the scenes. I work with schools within both Vanderburgh and Warrick County helping them design their productions.” Dory says.

With Ciholas, Dory has worked on many different projects, including several client theatrical productions using our ultra-wideband tracking technology to track actors, musicians, and other items on stage. She has made good use of her experience, passion, and two degrees!

Michael Monroe, associate software engineer, originally from Canton, Ohio, moved to Evansville to work at our facilities. In his time with us, Monroe has excelled within our company.

“It’s been interesting because going somewhere where you don’t know anybody it’s tough, but I immediately felt really at home here at Ciholas and I’ve gotten close to the people I work with. So it’s been good,” Monroe says.

For Monroe that change has been more than just the zipcode as he has grown as a software engineer. He recently worked on changing how the devices in our system are configured tomanage sensor data.

“It has been a big project that at first was a large undertaking, but I really enjoyed working on that and it was cool to see the results afterward,” Monroe says.

When Monroe started working with us, he started working on our CUWB (Ciholas ultra-wideband) servers and now he works on code for the firmware side of that same system.

“I want to continue to grow and learn more about firmware and become a better resource for other people who are working on other projects here.” He says.

Monroe says he enjoys the changes in scenery that you can enjoy in Evansville and the helpfulness of his co-workers.

“I am always amazed at how people here make themselves available when I’m stuck on a tough problem or need help on something I’ve never done before.“He adds. “Because of that support, I’ve grown a lot as an engineer in the last two years and I hope that I can support others the same way.”

Monroe went to school at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana and hopes to continue to grow with our company and within our community!

For more than 20 years, we have specialized in providing custom engineering for clients in a variety of industries. By that, we mean people hire us to invent things for them.

“People come to us with their particular problem or a particular product they need to build or take to the next level. However, they don’t necessarily have all the expertise or all of the knowledge to build it. We provide that expertise and knowledge so that they can use high- tech in their product and change their industry,” says president Mike Ciholas.

Today, almost all industries have high-tech components. There are smart watches, smart refrigerators, smart cars. You name it; there is probably a smart version. All these industries are undergoing rapid change and need to introduce more and better technology to stay on the cutting edge of their industry.

“We enable our customers to use high-tech to their best advantage to compete in their industry,” he says.

“We have worked with big and small projects to achieve our customer’s goals. We do a lot of work with antennas and wireless devices, but our capabilities don’t end there,” Ciholas says..

Our business started with our desire to invent and build high-tech devices. What we have become is a company that can propel our clients to be disruptors in their industry. Our skills include a wide array of abilities, including conceptual design, ultra-wideband real-time location, image processing, intellectual property rights, and more.

Since the beginning, it has been our mission to create an inclusive environment where our employees feel welcome no matter their background, race, or sex. Our field, engineering, can sometimes be discriminating for those who are not the majority., We continuously  advocate for more inclusiveness for women in STEM. Currently in the US, only 20% of engineers are women, but these numbers are increasing.

 “We had four women in my (graduating) class. It was kind of shocking since most classes have two, maybe one.” Says Sarah Dory, one of our electrical engineers.

Casey Richardson our associate electrical engineer agrees with Dory.

“Being a woman, it does make me stand out sometimes, but I don’t mind.”

For Richardson, the decision of becoming an engineer was an easy one.

“My parents both got degrees in engineering. My dad teaches engineering so I kind of knew what I was getting into.” She says.

Alicia Bird, also an associate electrical engineer, decided in high school to study engineering after taking a Physics class that challenged her. Her college experience was a bit different from Dory and Richardson because she was one of only two women in the class.

“We ended up being pretty close just trying to get through the tough bits Being the only women was just another thing you had to deal with but you just get used to it.” Bird says.

She says it would be nice for more people to have access to STEM classes in high school to attract them to the field.

Daniela Fuentes, associate software engineer, is originally from Venezuela, she was first exposed to programming and software engineering in college.

“Initially it was very challenging learning everything from zero, but I was  excited about tackling difficult issues and learning new ways to solve problems .”  Fuentes says.

She adds that she would like to see more support from men in the field to inspire more women to become engineers.

Dory, Richardson, Bird, and Fuentes are currently working on a variety of things at Ciholas, including software, ultra-wide band radar, model applications, and data analysis.

We, as a company, will continue to support programs and advocate for more diversity among our engineers through our intern program, our hiring practices, and our support of organizations that promote diversity in the STEM fields.

 

We do a lot of work with antennas and wireless devices. Everything we build has a wireless component to it. Every antenna is different in size, shape, and performance characteristics.

In our efforts to maximize the effectiveness of our antenna designs, we needed a test setup that would allow us to automatically sweep the antenna through multiple orientations. We couldn’t find any,so we decided to make one!

“Our needs were not met by what we could buy.” Says president, Mike Ciholas

“We have to invent a lot of antennas that go on various devices. They need to be small, different frequencies, have different characteristics and in the process of doing that to test an antenna properly, you have to look at it in all of its directions.” Ciholas says.

In the past to test our antennas we had to manually change its position over and over.
After going through various concepts, we finally settled on a device that is able to test our antennas by changing the elevation and angles in a systematic, automated way.

Mechanical Engineer Aidan Kunkle helped to bring Mike’s vision into reality.

“For radio signals, their path is deformed with the presence of metal so the goal was to make a device that had as little metal as possible.” Says Kunkle

Our device is made out of plywood, plastic fasteners and glue. “These things seem old fashioned but they’re non-metallic.” He says.

Our antenna positioner can work in two orientations simultaneously and test various orientations without the presence of a person manually moving it. The results are recorded in a program that allows us to analyze the antenna and make decisions based on the recorded characteristics..

“We can set this up to measure the antenna pattern, measure the antenna delay, and measure all the antenna characteristics and we can have it run overnight so in the morning we have all this data that tells us how good the antenna is.” Says Ciholas.

The antenna positioner is currently in use at Ciholas for internal development. We are in the process of commercializing it to make it possible for other companies to use.

For years, we’ve worked with a variety of companies interested in real-time tracking. Whether it’s robots, people, animals, or equipment, there is a need for precise localization in real-time.

“Imagine you wanted a robot to mow your lawn. It’s not like sweeping your floors. It’s more difficult than that. Your floor sweeping robot can miss locations.” says director of engineering, Justin Bennett.

Precise location is critical to a variety of applications. Some of our earliest products were proximity detectors used to keep workers safe in the mining industry. Accurate location was the key to the success of those products. We have always had our eye on technology that can be used for location, but some of the early technologies we used are not precise enough for applications like lawn mowing.

“Some manufacturers put barcodes in an area allowing robots to follow a path. The problem is that can only work when the robots can find the barcodes. Even vision systems with multiple cameras run into issues. It’s not always possible to mount cameras where they can see everything. Location is a known problem in robotics.” Bennett says.

We knew that ultra-wideband would allow us a higher level of precision, but there was not a chip available at a viable price point to use to test this theory. We learned of a company in Ireland, called Decawave, that had a chip that not only had the capabilities needed, but also was cost-effective enough to design into products. We realized that this chip was going to allow us to do precise timing and create a location system that could be incredibly valuable in a variety of industries.

The first iteration of our location system used what we call the DWUSB. The DWUSB is a usb-powered device that can serve as a tag to locate, an anchor to define an area, and when plugged into a computer, communicate with a server to do the location calculation.

“Our first attempt was a two-way range system that would detect distances between DWUSBs and report those to users. We have expanded our UWB technology into a full real-time location system that clients can incorporate into various products.” Bennett says.

The precision, in real-time, of our current system is approximately 10 centimeters, roughly the size of a tennis ball. In addition, we can capture data from various sensors in the system, including accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, and more. Our system is now used in a variety of ways, in a variety of industries.

Here are a few of the real company projects completed by our 2019 summer interns…

Ciholas interns spend their summers working on real projects, creating devices and solving technical problems like  the full-time engineers on staff.

This summer, our interns worked almost exclusively on projects related to our new precision tracking and location system — the Ciholas Ultra-Wideband system, or CUWB. The The CUWB system represents Ciholas’ first significant venture into creating and selling our own intellectual property. The system  uses ultra-wideband radio transmissions to calculate the real-time location of an object with extreme precision. Our system can track items to a precision of about ten centimeters. Other location systems that use bluetooth or wifi are nowhere near that precise.

“Let’s say you want to track a pallet in a warehouse, and you want to know it is on the third shelf, second rack,” said Director of Engineering Justin Bennett. “Those systems just aren’t precise enough to help you do something like that. We are precise enough.”

This summer our interns made valuable contributions to this CUWB system. Here are just a few examples of the projects our interns completed:

Automating data sharing

Conner Luebbehusen, a sophomore electrical engineering student at the University of Evansville, spent the summer developing a method for our engineers to automatically share new CUWB tools and updates with our customers.

This is a critical function because the CUWB system is not like an app on your phone. Once our customers purchase and install our hardware, they begin receiving sensor data , but it’s not always immediately clear to them how to use that data.

“It is not necessarily easy for our users to go from having sensor data to actually tracking a pallet in a warehouse,” Bennett said.

To make that job easier internally, Ciholas engineers have developed several tools that can do things like plot the data, print out an object’s precise location or create a database of positions. Prior to Luebbehusen’s work we did not have a reliable way of sharing those tools with customers. Instead, we provide written instructions on our website for them to follow. Many times customers called to have us walk them through those instructions. While our customers appreciate the detailed on-line documentation, the support calls were not sustainable as we continue to grow and sell more CUWB systems.

So, Luebbehusen took the summer months making those tools readily available to the public.

“It was not the easiest thing to do because when people write internal tools, they aren’t always thinking about the public having access to it,” Luebbehusen said. “So, there was a lot of cleanup to do.”

Luebbehusen also wanted the process to be simple for the Ciholas engineers to use. So, what he created was a program through which Ciholas employees can upload new tools to the software hosting site GitHub, where anyone can view and download them. To upload their tools, employees merely click a button.

“I really enjoyed doing it,” Luebbehusen said. “I learned a lot. I spent the first two weeks just reading code and trying to understand what it did. Now, I’m writing the code. That’s cool.

Keeping the system from crashing

Hagan Hollinger is only the second high school student to ever earn a Ciholas internship. Hollinger, a Mount Vernon High School senior, spent the summer creating an in-house test suite to ensure that firmware development updates don’t break the critical CUWB network timing requirements.

Firmware is basically software for hardware. Just about every piece of electronic equipment has what we call a “microcontroller,” which is a tiny computer that tells the electronics how to function. Those microcontrollers need instructions to operate that come in the form of firmware written by engineers.

In the CUWB system the firmware instructs the microcontroller on how to operate the Ultra-Wideband transceiver within the network. If two UWB signals are sent together, it can create interference in the network, and cause the system not to operate. The UWB signals are sent thousands of times per second and must be scheduled precisely not to overlap. A typical transmission is anywhere from 160 microseconds to one millisecond, with about 2 microseconds scheduled between transmissions.

“So, if somebody writes instructions in firmware that cause it to slip more than a microsecond, it causes a problem,” Bennett said.

To keep that from happening, Hollinger created a test that can be applied to any firmware update. First the test  measures the amount of time it takes for the command to travel to the device. It then calculates how long the update itself will take. If the travel and update time exceed the time allocated for the update, Hollinger’s program automatically stops it from sending.

“That took me all summer,” Hollinger said. “I learned quite a bit. They did a good job of treating me like I was an actual engineer and that I was doing important things.”

Predicting an object’s true location

Cameron Ruggles, a Purdue University senior studying computer science, spent his summer using advanced mathematics to better work with occluded sensor signals.

Our CUWB system uses timed radio signals to determine the location of an object. Those radio signals can become blocked — or occluded. This happens frequently in warehouses, for example. When it does, the signal actually bounces off other objects, taking a “multipath” back to the sensor.

“It would actually be better if we didn’t get the signal at all,” Bennett said. “But, it turns out, we get the signal, and because it took this multipath to get there, we get bad data.”

That bad data causes the location on the monitor to bounce and gitter — sometimes erratically.

There’s no way to stop occlusion from ever happening. So, Ruggle’s job this summer was to find a way for the system to work better by anticipating this rogue data. He did this by learning about something called a Kalman filter, which is an algorithm that takes in noisy sensor data and makes accurate predictions of the sensor values based on mathematical modeling. The Kalman filter takes into account the physical characteristics of the object being tracked and applies them to the data to improve the outcome. In the case of the CUWB system, Ruggle’s was able to take in noise position data and predict the actual position of the object improving overall accuracy.

The Ciholas summer internship program gives bright students the chance to do real engineering.

Every summer, Ciholas offers a handful of students the opportunity to intern with our company. At Ciholas, we treat our interns like any other engineer or scientist, giving them company projects to complete or problems to solve that fall within their area of study. Over the summer, our interns grow in their chosen field while their work moves our intellectual property (and in some cases our clients’ IP) forward.

“I learned a lot,” said Conner Luebbehusen, a sophomore at the University of Evansville and a Ciholas intern. “I spent the first two weeks just reading code and trying to understand what it did. Now, I’m writing the code. That’s cool.”

Our company is growing. In the past 20 years, we have  focused primarily on creating intellectual property for our clients. Over the past five years, we have begun to focus more and more on Ciholas-owned intellectual property like our new Ciholas Ultra-Wideband (CUWB) system.. CUWB can track the real-time location of an item with extreme precision.

Our system uses Ultra Wide Band radio transmissions to generate a location in  real-time. Ultra-wideband, as an Real-Time Location System (RTLS), is far more accurate than existing phase based solutions For example, bluetooth and wifi technologies can achieve an accuracy of  about plus or minus one meter.

“Plus or minus a meter is huge,” said Director of Engineering Justin Bennett. “Let’s say you want to track a pallet in a warehouse, and you want to know it is on the third shelf, second rack. Those systems just aren’t precise enough to help you do something like that. We are precise enough.

The launch of the CUWB  system created more work allowing  us to expand our internship program. Some of our interns this summer worked on projects to improve system accuracy while others were tasked with building additional features to the system.

“This summer I helped out with the design, testing and release of a new ultra-wide band device that is designed specifically for personnel tracking,” said Evan Thomas, a Ciholas intern and junior at Purdue University. “I was able to learn quite a bit about the entire process from design to having it manufactured, followed up by testing and making revisions. It’s the type of thing you can’t really get out of a traditional classroom.”