Tech students headed to world finals of International Collegiate Programming Contest

A team of Michigan Tech undergraduates (Computer science students Tom Holmes and Eric Rinkus and math major Ryan McNamara) have earned the right to go to Russia to compete in the world finals of the International Collegiate Programming Contest next June, by finishing fifth in the North Central regional qualifying contest. Holmes, Rinkus and McNamara will be making the trip to Ural Federal University in Ekaterinburg with coach and Computer Science PhD student Jason Hiebel.

You may read the full story online in Tech Today.

Jackson Blended Learning Award

Computer Science Lecturer Leo Ureel is the recipient of a $5000 Jackson Life Blended Learning Grant from the Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning. Grants were awarded to blended learning projects that are strategically transformative, have demonstrated need, and will have broad impacts. Mr. Ureel’s project, “Canvas Teaching Assistant”, will provide students with a highly interactive environment for testing and obtaining immediate feedback about their code.

The way students currently approach homework is similar to the outdated “waterfall” development model, progressing in a one-way, linear fashion: students are given program specifications, they go away and work on the code, the assignment is submitted when they are done, then they wait for grades and possible feedback. As one student said, “We work in isolation, then chuck the program over the wall and hope for the best.” Mr. Ureel wants to make the process of learning to program a more iterative, agile process that interleaves coding with testing and rewards interaction. This will bring our introductory computer science education closer to current “agile” methods of software development.

The project will leverage the department’s existing grading software and the Canvas course management system to provide students with immediate feedback prior to submitting programs for grading. This will encourage students to “code a little, test a little” in an iterative fashion that will empower them to tackle bugs and resolve functional problems earlier in the learning process. Additionally, the project will add intelligent assessment of programming style and comments, helping students mature into professional software engineers. When combined with new curriculum designed to teach agile development, students will be better prepared for a 21st century career in computer science.

PhD Candidate Jun Ma Awarded Finishing Fellowship

Computer Science PhD candidate Jun Ma has been awarded a Finishing Fellowship by Michigan Tech’s Graduate School. The evaluation of candidates is based on their research, publication, and contribution to the mission of Michigan Tech. Competition for these awards is always strong and only a few students are awarded each semester. Jun Ma is the first PhD student in the CS department to receive this award. The fellowship awarded to him provides full support (stipend plus 9-credits tuition) for Spring 2014 semester.

Jun Ma is advised by Drs. Ching-Kuang Shene and Chaoli Wang. He passed his candidacy exam in Spring 2013 and is expected to graduate by Spring 2014. His dissertation title is “Analysis and Visualization of Flow Fields using Information-theoretic Techniques and Graph-based Representations.”

Citizen Science

“8 Apps That Turn Citizens into Scientists”

The following article appeared in Scientific American, and discusses the development of Citizen Science mobile apps by faculty members Alex Meyer (Environmental/Civil Figure) and Robert Pastel (Computer Science). Supported by a grant from National Science Foundation, this interdisciplinary project includes students from Computer Science, Environmental Engineering, Scientific and Technical Communication, and Social Sciences.

NSF award for Drs. Mayo, Shene, Wang of MTU and Dr. Carr of WMU

Drs. Jean Mayo, Ching-Kuang Shene and Chaoli Wang of MTU and Dr. Steven Carr of Western Michigan University, have been awarded $199,164 from the National Science Foundation to develop materials to educate students on modern access control models and systems.

Educating students in this area is important for keeping the nation’s computer resources secure.  Access control is a last line of defense for protecting system resources from a compromised process.  This is a primary motivation for the principle of least privilege, which requires that a process be given access to exactly those resources it requires.  Yet enforcement of this principle is difficult.  A strict access control policy can contain tens of thousands of rules, while errors in the policy can interrupt service and put system resources at risk unnecessarily.

This project will develop materials that facilitate education on modern access control models and systems.  A policy development system leverages visualization to enhance student learning.  The policy development system allows graphical development and analysis of access control policies.  It runs at the user-level, so that student work does not impact operation of the underlying system and so that access to a specific operating system is not required.  A set of web-based tutorials is being developed that are suitable for study outside of the classroom. These materials will increase the number of institutions that are able to offer deep coverage of access control and will facilitate expertise among workers who are not able to pursue formal education.

CS and SE Students – Leo Ureel II, Michael Tuer and Raven Rebb – receive Leadership, Scholar and Service Awards

Computer Science Ph.D. student Leo C. Ureel II is the recipient of the 2013 Michigan Tech Student Leadership Award, in the “Exceptional Community Service Project” category, for his work with the Breaking Digital Barriers project.  Leo has been a key figure in organizing and fundraising for this effort, which brings Michigan Tech students together with local elderly residents for tutoring in computer literacy skills.

In addition, Software Engineering undergraduate Michael Tuer was presented with the Departmental Scholar award at the Awards Banquet on April 19, and Software Engineering undergraduate Raven Rebb was honored as a nominee for the Award for Service.

BonzAI Brawl 2013 – Results

BonzAI Brawl 2013 was a great success with over 170 participants which included faculty, Michigan Tech students, Northern Michigan University students, alumni, and people from local industry. This year, participants implemented Java programs which gave artificial intelligence to farmhand characters. The farmhands rounded up ducks and eggs for money while avoiding slipping on mud. After a breakfast and orientation, everybody had around 8 hours to write their programs in teams ranging from 1 to 3 people. The event used all of the major computer labs in Rekhi hall. After the programming session was completed, each team’s submission faced a competency test and then competed against every other submission to preliminary rank them. Everybody got to see their programs compete against at least one other program in a “brawl” in the evening. Michigan Tech students from Team Hawkward (Christopher Wallis, Eric Zimmer, Corey Bilski) won the event and took 0th place. MTU students Lazor Beans (Nick Lanam, Kaylee Edwards) took 1st, and Neptunia (Kayla Egner, Matt Menze, Larry Flint) from NMU took 2nd. The team from industry sponsor LasalleTech would have advanced to the semifinals but they bowed out to allow students to take the top places.

The 6th annual BonzAI Brawl was organized by members of Husky Game Development, Women in Computer Science, graduate students, and three faculty members. Numerous sponsorships from industry and Michigan Tech helped make the event possible.

FlowGraph Research gets Honorable Mention at IEEE PacificVis

Computer Science PhD student Jun Ma, Assistant Professor Chaoli Wang, and Professor Ching-Kuang Shene received an Honorable Mention for their paper, “FlowGraph: A Compound Hierarchical Graph for Flow Field Exploration“, at the IEEE Pacific Visualization Symposium (PacificVis), Feb. 26 – Mar. 1, 2013, in Sydney, Australia. In this paper, the authors present a novel graph-based solution for visual analytics of three-dimensional large and complex flow field data sets, enabling occlusion-free observation and comparison of streamlines and their spatial relationships in a controllable fashion.

Exploring interesting flow patterns in the car flow data set. Selecting three L-nodes (one at the next level of the hierarchy) to capture the main flow structure passing through the car.

PacificVis is one of the three leading conferences in the field of visualization. This year, out of 118 submission, 34 were accepted, from which one was awarded the best paper and four received honorable mentions. Chaoli Wang attended the symposium and presented the paper. He also presented another accepted paper “iTree: Exploring Time-Varying Data using Indexable Tree” at the symposium, coauthored with his PhD student Yi Gu.

Best Paper Award

Computer Science Assistant Professor Chaoli Wang, former CS undergraduate student John Reese, former CS MS student Huan Zhang, CS PhD student Jun Tao, and Physics Professor Robert Nemiroff will receive a Best Paper Award for their paper, “iMap: A stable layout for navigating large image collections with embedded search”, at the IS&T/SPIE Conference on Visualization and Data Analysis, February 3-6, 2013, in Burlingame, California. Jun Tao will present the award paper at the conference.

With the booming of digital cameras and image archiving and photo sharing websites, browsing and searching through large online image collections is becoming increasingly popular. This award paper targets the Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD), a popular online astronomy archive maintained by NASA and Michigan Tech, and presents a solution for image search and clustering based on the evaluation of image similarity using both visual and textual information. To lay out images, the paper introduces iMap, a treemap based representation for visualizing and navigating image search and clustering results. iMap strikes a good balance among simplicity, intuitiveness, and effectiveness by addressing key issues such as stable layout, screen utilization, and in-place interaction.

For their next steps, the authors will further develop techniques for animated transition and graph based image layout, deploy the visualization results on the display wall at the Immersive Visualization Studio (IVS) at the Center for Computer Systems Research (CCSR) for outreach, and eventually release a web based online program to benefit a wider user base.

apod querying example
apod querying