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Research and projects on display at Spring Symposium

2017-04-25
Spring 2017 Symposium

The ideas never stop flowing at the School of Informatics and Computing, but it’s a special occasion when so many ideas come together in one spot.

SoIC’s Spring Research and Projects Symposium put the work of the students on display for the public at the Indiana Memorial Union Alumni Hall and Solarium April 20. The symposium brings together undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, researchers, and professionals in computing to celebrate the accomplishments of students and promote student research. The event included the work of 65 teams of students presenting their Senior Capstone projects, and another 50 teams of graduates and undergraduates took part in the research fair to showcase their work.

“Sometimes it’s hard to articulate what the School of Informatics and Computing can do, and this symposium really demonstrates why it’s so difficult,” said Lamara Warren, the interim assistant dean for diversity and education and one of the event’s organizers. “The types of projects and types of research varies so widely. Our School is on the cutting edge of technology, and these projects enhance what they’re learning in the classroom.”

Lori Reesor, the vice provost for student affairs and dean of students at Indiana University Bloomington, was impressed by what she saw.

“You can feel the energy and the enthusiasm of the students,” Reesor said. “It’s exciting to give them an opportunity to showcase their work. It feels businesslike and gives them a taste of what they will experience in the real world. It’s a great showcase for the whole School of Informatics and Computing to talk about the students’ success.”

Projects included a wide range of topics, from virtual 3D modeling of an ancient work of art to an app to help students on the autism spectrum adjust to a school environment. Some students designed games, one group created a virtual reality world that was navigated using a user’s hands, and there were applications for music, and websites to educate users about craft beers. Steve Babcock, who is pursuing a Master’s in Computer Science, helped create an algorithm to allow smart security cameras to detect a raised handgun.

“I believe smart security cameras can have a great impact on public safety but need to function in unison with emergency responders and police,” Babcock said. “I imagine that not too far away, verbal descriptions of robbers in 911 calls will be replaced by images from smart security cameras. The Symposium was a great opportunity to get my idea out, and the positive response has made me consider continuing to work on the project.”

The growth of mobile apps was mirrored by the projects.

“Over the past 15 years, the makeup of the projects has changed,” said Matt Hottell, the director of Serve IT and a lecturer for the capstone course. “We’re doing more and more apps. About 70 percent of the capstone projects are apps, and the other 30 percent are either websites of games. It’s also great to see people take the same idea and use different routes to present it. There isn’t a best way to make the idea a reality, but you build a prototype and see what happens.”

Bridget Weaver, a senior in informatics, was part of a group that created a website for a client that provided an e-commerce platform, an email confirmation system, and database management. Weaver is headed to a career in consulting, and her project allowed her to gain valuable real-world experience.

“I had to work one-on-one with the client, and I learned how to approach someone to see what they needed from a technological standpoint,” Weaver said. “It was challenging, but it will really help me in the future.”

Creating realistic situations for students to push themselves was the key element of the capstone projects, but it also gave students a chance to create real-world solutions for common problems. For instance, one group created an app called SeatCheck, which allows students to check in on a seating chart to personalize a lecture. It also allows students to better connect by allowing them to provide social media information, which can create more opportunities for collaboration.

“Being forced to pull all my technological skills into one project and implement them has been great,” said Adam Carandang, a senior in informatics. “My overall knowledge has improved tremendously, and it has shown me that I can accomplish what I set out to do.”

Jessica Herron, a senior in Informatics, helped create the ONE Style app, which helps hair stylists and clients organize appointments. She said her group learned patience.

“We learned the technology, and it was something that we had never worked with before,” Herron said. “We had to learn the patience to really teach ourselves and get ourselves through the stressful times when the code wasn’t working. Utilizing our available resources to the best of our ability was key, too.”

On the research side, Michael Balaban, a senior informatics major with a cognate in biology, worked with Ph.D. student Murat Ozturk to track amino acid similarity in organisms to make inferences based on their evolutionary path.

“It’s great to get this kind of experience as an undergrad,” Balaban said. “Dealing with databases was a challenge, but the project was so valuable.”

The Spring Research and Projects Symposium was open to all, allowing everyone a glimpse of the work of the past semester at SoIC.

“Giving the public a chance to see the innovative minds at work at the School is a fantastic opportunity,” said Raj Acharya, dean of SoIC. “There is such great work being done by the students, and their ability to create new solutions and present them in a way everyone can understand really shows the power of technology.”

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