Friday, December 9, 2011

Humans vs. Aliens in Design Patterns

This semester, the sophomores in our Design Patterns class created a game where humans battle it out with aliens. You can watch it on our YouTube channel.

Here is a legend to explain the graphics (clearly, this course was NOT focused on game graphics!):
Green Triangles = Alien
Purple Circle = Human
Black Square = Pistol
Orange Square = Pulse Rifle
Blue Square = Plasma Cannon
Red Square = Chain Gun
Bar along one side = remaining health points

The health bar represents the back of the Human or Alien and helps determine what direction the Human or Alien is facing. Each life form (e.g. Human or Alien) is using a state pattern to determine it's actions (Finding a weapon, Finding a target, Attacking a target, or Reloading). Lifeforms that die are replaced with it's corresponding type (e.g. Human for a Human). Each Alien is given a Linear Recovery Rate that recovers a random amount of health points at a random time rate. For example 5 health points every 4 time ticks. Each Human is given a random amount of armor. The Alien's state pattern has a special case that if the Alien gets hurt enough it will "run" away until enough health is recovered. The Human's state pattern has a special case that if the Human comes across a better weapon (it does more damage) it will swap weapons. The other patterns used in the program: Strategy for the Alien's recovery system, Observer for the time system, and Decorator for the weapon system.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

WiCS Shopping Trip

Last weekend, our Women in Computer Science took a trip to the Hagerstown Outlets with the goal of preparing for interviewing. Everyone got their makeup done so they could see what professional makeup looks like. A couple of seniors purchased suits and everyone else had fun shopping. In their words, "Now they just need the interviews at which to use the suits!"

Thursday, November 10, 2011

IEEE Extreme Competition

In October, the programming team competed in the IEEE Extreme Programming Competition - a 24-hour, worldwide, internet competition.  And we were stellar!!!  Four teams in the quarter of all teams competing!   Two teams in the top 20% and one team in the top 10%.

Derezzed: 147th Overall (9.70%)        
Harmony: 229th Overall (15.11%)
Hexadecimators: 291st Overall (19.20%)
HoneyBadgers: 342nd Overall (22.56%)

out of 1516 total teams.

Derezzed: 2nd (Region)       
Harmony:  5th (Region)
Hexadecimators: 7th (Region)
HoneyBadgers: 8th (Region)
out of 21 teams in the region.

Team Members:
  • Derezzed
    • Jessica Burns
    • Steve Bussey
    • Danielle Johnston
  • Harmony
    • Jen Funck
    • Nick Hydock
    • Matt Hydock
  • Hexadecimators
    • Emily Bruckart
    • Kevin Dederer
    • Corbyn Johnson
  • HoneyBadgers 
    • Greg Battaglia
    • Zack Lessie
    • Andrew Perterson

Yes, we are cool!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

11/11/11 Party This Friday!

When I was eight (40 years ago!), I discovered that there was only one day in each century when all of the digits of the date as we write it are the same: 11/11/11.  I vowed then to have a huge party when that date came around!  Well, this Friday is the day!!!

We will be doing all sorts of fun things: watching movies (The Matrix, because Neo is The One and Ocean's 11, of course!), playing video games, playing board/card games (Uno! and others).  There will be lots of good food and fun to be had and everyone is welcome!  Please come!!!!!

The next date of this kind of party will be 01/23/45, but I doubt I will still be here . . .

Accreditation Visit

I have already missed one of these daily blogs, so I will do two today.  This one is my excuse!

We had our onsite visit from our accreditors from Sunday through yesterday.  They certainly looked at everything VERY carefully.  They had meetings with all of our faculty, a set of students, support places like the library and the sciences, and a wide variety of administrators.  We have a couple of things to fix up, but they said wonderful things about our students, our faculty, and the support we get from our administration.  While I was exhausted at the end of the day yesterday, I always like bragging about what we do!

Monday, November 7, 2011

ACM Regional Competition

Saturday we were a site as part of the ACM Regional Competition.  We hosted 22 teams from 8 schools.  Out of about 170 teams, this is how we placed:

Derezzed 29th place
Jessica Burns
Steve Bussey
Danielle Leonard

Something down 92nd place
Garin Dangler
Greg Battaglia
Corbyn Johnson

Hexadecimators 101st place
Emily Bruckart
Kevin Dederer
Zack Lessie

I am proud of this response for two reasons:

1) I watched Emily coach her teammates (who are relatively new to this), instead of taking the keyboard and writing code that would have been easy for her.  The longterm benefit of that for the team is much higher than if she (a senior) had just coded the solutions.

2) Our teams showed excellent grace and sportsmanship.  There were some challenges in the judging (which sometimes happens) that put our teams (and all of the teams at our site) at a disadvantage.  In previous years, that would have sent some of our more competitive teammates into a frenzy.  This year, while we were disappointed, we handled the situation much better.

All in all, it has been an excellent Fall for the team (I will post our previous results on other days), and I am very proud of their performance.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Monthly Programming Team Winners

The programming team has been running competitions in our practices and teams gain points throughout the month.  The winners for October are freshmen Kevin Dederer and Tyler Dalius.  Honor them with all the glory they deserve!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Blog a Day

ok - So I have been too distracted to keep up with our news, but we have had a huge number of things happen this term.  I keep hearing about things that happen during November like Novembeard (apparently, some of our students have vowed to not shave for the month of November).  Last year, a podcast I listened to did a "podcast-a-day" for November.  That gave me an idea: ONE BLOG A SCHOOL DAY through November.

Feel free to complain if I blow it (and, yes, I already missed yesterday - picky, picky, picky!)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Potato Gun. Really?!

The programming took a break to shoot potatoes from a potato gun today.  The videos made it look like great fun and, apparently, only one evil person hit the power lines!

From left to right: Chris Medykiewicz, David Kelly, Steve Bussey, Jessica Burns, Danielle Leonard, Emily Bruckart, Philip Diffenderfer, Jimmy Quinn, Chris Beggs.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sunday, April 10, 2011

PACISE Conference

This weekend we hosted the annual PACISE Conference.  PACISE is an organization of the computer science and information systems departments in the State System schools, but I was happy to see participation from other schools like Dickinson and American University, too.  Turnout was very good (about 140 participants).  Here we are at dinner.

The programming contest was very well attended:  26 teams!!  Dickinson and Millersville took first and second.  Our best placement was Jessica Burns, Danielle Leonard and Steve Bussey in sixth place.  The problem set was pretty tough and the competition was very good.

The keynote speaker was Clif Kussmaul from Muhlenburg College and his talk was on Using Free and Open Source Software in the Classroom.  It was relevant and insightful.  I'm hoping to leverage some of it in my selected topics course this summer.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Computer Engineering is Approved!

Yesterday, Dr. Briggs and I had to get all dressed up to present our department's proposal for a B.S. in Computer Engineering.  Much to my surprise, my students didn't make fun of it at all (they didn't even seem to notice!).  The presentation went well even though there were so many suits in the room that I got nervous.  Here we are in our fancy clothes:

Today, the Board of Governor's gave the final vote of approval required for the creation of our new B.S. in Computer Engineering.  We couldn't be more excited and we owe thanks to the Dean (Dr. Mike), the Associate Provost (Dr. Schoolcraft), the Provost (Dr. Lyman), and the President (Dr. Ruud).  

Check out the official announcement!

Thursday, March 31, 2011


Incoming students often ask me how the job market is.  For Computer Science students, it is surprisingly strong as evidenced by this recent story on NPR.  I have to admit that I haven't heard tales of shrimp cocktail, but I believe all of last year's graduates have software development jobs that are productive and interesting.  They have been hired by places locally, in Pittsburgh, and outside Washington and many had multiple opportunities.  It's a good time to be a geek!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Council of Trustees Approves Computer Engineering

Our Computer Engineering proposal passed one more milestone today: the Council of Trustees approved it.  Check out the University's news release.  This means we have one more hurdle to pass: the Board of Governors.  Dr. Briggs and I will be presenting it at their next meeting on April 6th or 7th.  We are hopeful and I will keep you posted on our progress!

Friday, March 18, 2011

CS Games Results

The Programming Team/WiCS have returned from their great adventures north of the border.  You can find results at Ship's news and The Programming Team's website and the CS Games website.

It was a great experience and I'm proud of how well they adapted to a completely different kind of contest than we are used to.  Thank you to everyone who bought a shirt and to the alumni who supported this trip. The students learned a lot!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Changes to CSC110 Computer Science I

We have made a significant change to our Computer Science I course that we are very excited about.  It is currently a four-credit four hour class and our classes run almost full to 32 students per class.  We were concerned because 32 students makes it difficult to get to everyone when we are doing hands on activities, so we have decided to split the course into separate lab and lecture sections in much the same way other science classes are run.  The lecture section will be a normal three-credit three hour class and the lab will be a smaller section (limited to 22 students) containing the hands on work.

In addition, we are creating two versions of the lab: a three hour lab for majors and a two hour lab for non-majors. We hope this will improve things for both student populations.  For non-majors, this will let us focus on the challenges the material provides to students whose skills and focus may not be in this area.  For majors, we are going to use the extra hour to provide a freshman seminar experience including material about potential careers, study skills, college life skills, team building, etc.

This is a big change that was initiated as the result of our assessing the retention and failure rates in CS1 and we are hopeful that we will see significant improvement in both of those measures as a result.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Update on Shirts and Travel

Today, the programming team is creating their "flash" video for the CS Games.  Here they are in their team shirts:

David Abrams, Danielle Leonard, Brian Ettinger, Emily Bruckart, Rob Koch, and David Kelly (not pictured: Jada Williams, Logan Kennedy, and Steve Bussey)

And their team name:  Getting Our Codon!

(look up codon if you don't know what it is . . .)

The department shirts will look like theirs without the special team name on the back.  They are still available if you want one . . .

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Programming Team Travel and Department T-Shirts

The Programming Team is traveling a bit further than usual this spring.  They will be going to The CS Games at Concordia University in Montreal.  This event lasts three days and includes a wide variety of competitions.  Nine of our students will be competing as a team led by Dr. Armstrong.  It will be an adventure and I will let you know how it goes.

While we are supporting this trip with moneys from our alumni and the Dean has offered his support as well, not all of the expenses are covered.  The team has designed department T-shirts to raise some money.  Check out the cool designs!  The QR codes take you to are department's web site. White shirts are $10 and red ones are $15.  If you are interested, let me know what to order!

On a side note, Steve Bussey (pictured with the white shirt above), is the member of a jazz band: Jive Turkeys on the Loose.  They will be performing at  McFeely's lounge in the lower level CUB, this Saturday from 9pm to 11pm.  The band will be performing some jazz standards for the first 50 minute set and doing a more impromptu "jam" style performance for the second 50 minute set.  The music will be a mix of  blues, bebop, funk, and ambient styles. 

Friday, January 28, 2011

Tech Support!

Recognizing that our technical support needs are different from the rest of the campus, the university has funded a full-time tech support person for our department's equipment.  In December, we hired Tim Boyum and he is doing an excellent job!  Our server/lab configuration is a complex combination Mac and Linux workstations, three physical servers and 15 virtual machines; all of which share a file space and single log-on capabilities.  Tim has shown an incredible understanding of Kerberos, LDAP, and a bunch of other technologies that I don't begin to understand.

In addition to his technical skills, Tim's demeanor serves him well.  He wants the machines to work well, reacts quickly when something is not working, is very open to suggestions, and has patience in helping all of our students and our faculty.  He is developing a working relationship with campus technical support that will be critical to his success.  

Tim's arrival has allowed Dr. Briggs to return to teaching full time and he has the real-time/embedded students engaged in programming the FPGAs.  We are happy to have his focus returned to our students!  Over the last week, his office has once again been taken over by long conversations with students about research projects and current technology news.

For now, this new position is funded only through the summer, but we are actively working with administration to find ways to convert it to a permanent position.