Saturday, December 6, 2008

Skin Sensor Trial

On Friday, we had an official clinical trial of a new device we have built. Last summer, we received a grant to build a device to measure the color of skin by analyzing the reflectivity of the skin at nine different wavelengths. We have built three prototypes of the device and a java application that analyzes the data.

In the trial, we measured the color of 111 participants with our device and with two similar existing commercial devices. In addition, we gathered information on ethnicity, gender, and Fitzpatrick skin type assessments for every participants. We certainly have a lot of data to analyze now!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Professor Briggs becomes Dr. Briggs

Today, Professor Briggs successfully defended his PhD dissertation. Titled, " Constraint Generation and Reasoning in OWL," it was focused on weaknesses in the current set of semantic web documents in the Swoogle database. In particular, these documents are often not completely specified and Briggs investigated ways to automatically complete those specifications. Those generated restrictions could cause issues with the subsequent reasoning, so Briggs also developed theoretically sound modifications to the standard reasoning rules that detect such problems and can retract everything that was inferred from generated restrictions.

This is an important milestone for our department. Dr. Briggs has been a strong faculty member throughout his tenure with us and we are pleased that he will be able to continue to challenge our students in a wide variety of ways.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

WiCS Field Trip

On Friday, WiCS took a trip to the Volvo PowerTrain plant in Hagerstown to see the robots. Our tour guide, Harold Duffey, was a retired engineer who had a wealth of knowledge about the company, the things that were being manufactured, and the direction Volvo is planning for that facility. While we met our goal of seeing robots in action (and we'll make a podcast to tell you more about that), we also learned a lot about manufacturing in general. It was certainly an insightful tour. We ended the day with a trip to the outlets to learn about dressing for interviews. Here we are at the start of the day:

From Trip to Volvo

Jessica, Megan, Danielle, Missy, Elizabeth, Tina, Harold Duffey, Dr. Armstrong, and Sarah (I took the picture!)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Trip to See Brian Kernighan

Professors Briggs and Armstrong took a group of students to Johns Hopkins University to see a talk by Brian Kernighan (one of the original authors of C and Unix). He was speaking on "The Changing Face of Programming" and it turned out to be a very interesting talk. The main focus was on programming languages and how they change as the applications we build change. As the discipline moves from software that resides in individual devices to web-based applications, the features required by a language change dramatically. On the way home, the discussion continued with how this shift in application-type could also affect the demands on the operating systems we develop.

Monday, October 27, 2008

ACM Programming Competition

Last Saturday our programming team competed in the ACM's Mid-Atlantic Regional Programming Competition and fared quite well! A total of 146 teams competed at sites all over the region. We had three teams competing and all three solved at least one problem. That shows a depth rivaled by few teams from schools of our size. Rob Koch, Brian Lindsay and Missy Lewis solved three problems placing 17th overall; Jessica Burns, Elizabeth Jones, and Andrew Marx solved two problems placing 71st overall; and Casey Boone, Phil Diffenderfer, and Logan Kennedy solved one problem placing 97th overall.

I see great promise in these results and, with a few changes to how we run things, I think we'll excel in the contests this Spring. Anyone know where next year's world final will be?!

Unfortunately, I was so busy playing site director that I forgot to take pictures. I hope someone else came through on that front . . . Sorry!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Game Programming Club?

There's a rumor that some of our students have banded together to create a game programming club. I think that's terrific and I'm glad they are having fun. However, I'd like to do what I can to help you be an official club (the university and department can support you better that way). Can anyone who knows any details help me connect with the leaders of this rebel crew?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

It Begins!

Fall semester has officially started with the first meeting of the WiCS Crew (that's Women in Computer Science). We are working on a couple of podcasts based on robotics, so today we started building two types of robots.

Here are Missy, Jody, Sarah, and Logan building a WAO Cranius:

And this is Megan, Jessica, and Tina building a pan/tilt robot with a bioloid robot set.

We'll let you know when the resulting podcasts are available.

Welcome to fall!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Fall Approaches . . .

We are busy getting ready for fall and have made a few of changes to our spaces.

First, MCT 163 will no longer be an open lab. We're turning it into research space to support the various undergraduate research projects that are starting. It will give each of our research huddles a work space and a computer. This should give those project more resources and visibility, so we're hoping that it will enrich that aspect of our programs.

Second, the "zoid" (seminar room) and the department secretary's office have switched spaces. Mrs. Kann is very happy to have a window and the only downside for the seminar room is that we'll have to come up with a new name for it since it's no longer a trapezoid. Suggestions.

Third, with the retirement of Dr. Thomas, I have moved my office into his old office. We will re-purpose my old office into either a lab or space for our tutors. I'm happy to be out where I'm easier to find and I think it'll be a much more valuable use of my space.

Fourth, you may notice my reference to "tutors." We will have two graduate students who will be responsible for providing tutoring for all of our lower division (100 and 200 level) courses. Please take advantage of this!

Finally, we are welcoming a new faculty member: Dr. Alice Armstrong. Her office is between Briggs and Lee. Please stop by and welcome her to our department!

As always, I'm really looking forward to everyone coming back and our freshman class looks really strong. It should be a good year!

Friday, April 25, 2008

A Big Weekend

Last weekend held two significant events for us: a programming competition and a research symposium.

Our Programming Team competed at the annual Dickinson contest and made us proud! The first time, consisting of Philip Diffenderfer, Matthew Hydock, Casey Boone solved four problems and came in second overall. Our second team of Elizabeth Jones and Missy Lewis solved three problems, too. Our team is developing a lot of depth. Click to see the results.

I also had the privilege of taking six of our students the SJU's Sigma Chi Research Symposium to present their grant-funded or senior research. Senior research projects were presented by Matthew Gilbert, Brandon Wilson, Justin DeVage, Wesley Gibson, and Seth Theilemann. Sarah Joseph presented the grant-funded research she and Logan Kennedy have been working on.

Sunday, April 6, 2008


The Programming Team just returned from this year's trip to the PACISE programming competition. While we didn't place, our top team solve 2 3/4 problems (ask them how that makes any sense!) and we think we're much more prepared for the upcoming contest at Dickinson. Here's a team photo including our mascot:

from left to right: Sarah Joseph, Nathasha Gunasekara (holding Fluffy), Elizabeth Jones, Phil Diffenderfer, Logan Kennedy, and Casey Boone.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Versatile Seminar

Yesterday, two developers from Versatile Systems, Ryan Bohn (who is an alum of our program and a member of our Industrial Advisory Council) and Bill Kratzer gave a very useful seminar which was highly reviewed by those who attended.

It was titled "Working in Software Development After College... a.k.a. A Day
in the Life at Versatile Systems".

And here is its abstract:

Bill Kratzer and Ryan Bohn love their jobs. They work for a small to
mid-sized software and consulting company in Central Pennsylvania where
they solve really hard problems and are always in the business of trying
to build and deploy software for their ever-demanding customers. Bill
and Ryan will share with students what they do every day, what they
love/hate about their jobs, what things they do well/not-so-well, what
software technologies are gaining steam, and what things they look for
in college students who are looking jobs.

We think seminars like these are very valuable for our students and we'd welcome similar presentations from other industrial partners.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Deadlock in Legos

Rob Koch was playing with Legos in the Zoid and came up with these to ways of animating properties associated with deadlock.

One shows the conditions causing deadlock (circular wait, non-preemption, mutual exclusion, and hold and wait) while the other shows each of those conditions being prevented. Can you tell which is which?