Posts Tagged ‘Computer Science’

Allegheny Students Develop Ad Campaign, Film Commercial

Clay Dawson stood under a giant American flag hanging from the plant’s rafters and studied his lines.

A few steps away, Allegheny College senior Shu Yi Tang flipped through sheets of paper that laid out the entire video shoot in detail: what scenes would be filmed and when, where and how they would be shot, and the people involved in each.

Lily Loreno, a senior at Allegheny, framed the opening scene with her hands, her fingers forming a square in front of her face. Sophomore Margaret West wheeled the camera into place.

“Every single second (of the video) has to be exactly perfect,” West, a 20-year-old communication arts major, said later.

The Allegheny trio had an important client to impress: Acutec Precision Aerospace Inc., a Meadville-based company that makes parts of the braking system used on Southwest Airlines jets, among other products, had tapped the group to create a commercial that would re-introduce the company to the community after a rebranding and, ultimately, encourage more prospective employees to walk through Acutec’s doors. Dawson, project manager for new product integration, would be one of the stars.

Acutec President and CEO Elisabeth Smith had worked with Allegheny students before and felt confident West, Loreno and Tang would bring the breadth of a liberal arts education to bear on the project.

“Who we look for (to work with) are people who think,” Smith said. “Allegheny students know how to think.”

The Acutec project is just one part of a larger multidisciplinary effort, still in the pilot stage, to create a student-run media agency at Allegheny that would connect students with local businesses and nonprofit organizations that need media, marketing and advertising services.

Vice President of College Relations Susan Salton proposed the idea of a student-run media agency when she came to Allegheny in 2015. Intrigued, Assistant Professor of Communication Arts/Theatre Julie Wilson started talking about the possibility with other faculty partners in and across departments.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity to showcase the creative talents of our students and serve the community in a real, tangible way at the same time,” Salton said. “Our students gain experience working with clients in professional settings, applying what they’ve learned in the classroom to the benefit of our region.”

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Allegheny @ Acutec

The Acutec project started as a college-wide competition among groups of students interested in vying for the company’s business. Interdisciplinary groups of three students each pitched a storyboard and tagline. Tang, West and Loreno’s winning tagline? “It all starts here,” a nod to the region’s manufacturing roots and Acutec’s essential role in the supply chain creating individual parts that, pieced together, make the whole.

Once selected, the students were mentored to handle all the pre-planning and contract logistics. They hired a makeup artist and another person to help with some technical aspects of the shoot, scouted the Acutec’s Meadville and Saegertown plants, and shot the video over the course of several days

Tang relished the opportunity to put what she’d learned in her advertising and video production classes into practice.

“You get to have a real-life experience and talk to a client and get to know people. Why not take part?” she said. “It’s a very valuable experience, something I can talk about.”

They all felt pressure to deliver a quality product. The heightened expectations that came with working for a client gave the group “an opportunity to rise to the occasion,” West said.

“When you’re (working for) someone else, when you’re taking their time and their money, you want it to be that much better,” Loreno said of the video.

After a late-night scramble to the finish, the commercial debuted at a companywide breakfast on Feb. 8.

It was a success, Smith said.

“People really enjoyed it,” she said. “In terms of working with students, (the experience) was excellent. They were very professional.”

Associate Professor of Communication Arts/Theatre Ishita Sinha Roy ran the Acutec storyboard competition and worked with the students, along with Assistant Professor of Art Byron Rich.

The Acutec project and the larger media agency effort are “a great way to respond to the critics that say that the liberal arts are impractical,” Rich said. “The ideas and critical thinking skills that we foster here can be put into practice in the business world.”

Working on the commercial “empowered students to bring their ideas to life” and allowed them to take ownership of a project from start to finish, Sinha Roy said. The commercial and other projects that will fall under the media agency umbrella also help foster and strengthen ties between the college and community — and that’s a good thing for all involved, Sinha Roy said.

When students work for and within the community and learn the stories of its people, “suddenly your neighborhood starts to become friendlier and more well-known in your mind,” she said.

The Acutec video is not the only project of the nascent media agency, though it might be the most visible. A group of communication arts students working under the direction of Professor of Communication Arts/Theatre Michael Keeley have also filmed videos for the Tamarack Wildlife Rehabilitation & Education Center. And students working with Wilson and Assistant Professor of Computer Science Janyl Jumadinova developed a website and pitched a logo for an online food hub that, when launched, will connect restaurants and food wholesalers with local farmers.

Wilson stressed that the agency is still in very early stages of development. But if it’s successful, she said, it could be a model for business incubation that leverages the resources of the college to help promote economic development.

Wilson said she doesn’t know of many other colleges or universities similar to Allegheny doing that important work.

“If we get this up and running soon, we’ll be pretty cutting edge.”

Wenskovitch presents research at symposium

Adjunct Professor of Computer Science John Wenskovitch presented “FluxE: Exploring Flux in Astrophysical Simulations” at the SIGGRAPH Asia Symposium on Visualization in Macao. This paper and the accompanying software were written in collaboration with Associate Professor of Physics Jamie Lombardi and Roger Hatfull ’16.

Food Hub, Mobile Market Bring Fresh Food to Community

The burgeoning farm-to-table movement is getting some help from some tech-savvy students at Allegheny College.

Working under the direction of Assistant Professor of Computer Science Janyl Jumadinova, two students — junior Maria Kim and sophomore Jesse Del Greco — are developing an “online food hub,” a website aimed at connecting the community with the region’s farmers. It’s one of the many ways Allegheny faculty and staff are working to educate the public about the availability and benefits of fresh, locally grown food.

Once launched, the still-unnamed site will allow users to search for sellers of specific produce within a selected geographic range. Buyers — limited to restaurants and other bulk purchasers, initially — will be able to place orders online and arrange for pickup or delivery, Jumadinova said. If successful, the hub could expand and offer online buying to the general public.

Every visitor will be able to search for local gardens and pick-your-own farms and learn about events and activities related to local foods and farming.

“The whole goal is to increase access to and availability of fresh, local food,” Jumadinova said. (more…)

Students/Faculty Member Publish Computer Science Work

Assistant Professor of Computer Science Janyl Jumadinova, Hanzhong Zheng ’17, and Almog Boanos ’17 have published their work “OWLS: Observational Wireless Life-enhancing System” in the Proceedings of the International Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems as a short paper and in the Proceedings of the Autonomous Robots and Multirobot Systems Workshop as a long paper. In this work, they developed a system where multiple wearable sensors, software agents, robots, and health analysis technology have been integrated into a single personal therapy solution, and demonstrated its effectiveness and efficiency. Dr. Jumadinova and Hanzhong Zheng published an article titled “Using Boolean Networks for Consensus in Multi-Robot Environmental Monitoring Tasks” in the Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Electro/Information Technology. In this paper, they presented a novel approach to multi-robot environmental monitoring based on dynamical systems, in which a robotic team overcomes data misinterpretation and aggregation difficulties through an effort of collaboration between all members of the team.

Looking for a Health Coach? Try a Robot

Imagine a world where robots help those with special health needs continue living independently at home.

That’s what Assistant Professor of Computer Science Janyl Jumadinova and three of her research students are striving to do.

We’re not talking about robots like Rosie from “The Jetsons.” What Jumadinova and Allegheny students Almog Boanos ’17, Michael Camara ’17 and Victor Zheng ’17 are doing is creating a monitoring system consisting of multiple robots, wearable sensors and software that can provide personalized monitoring of a user’s well-being in his or her own home.

For example, if a person is at risk for falling or for having a stroke, the robots can be trained to follow this person and monitor certain parts of his or her condition, such as temperature, speed, location and blood pressure. If there is a sudden change in the data – signaling a life-threatening situation – the robots can send an emergency message to a caregiver’s computer or cell phone, or to a doctor’s office. They also can send a message to 911, if needed.

Caregivers or physicians outside the home also can have access to the health data, allowing for continuous monitoring.

“With the growing special-needs and aging baby-boomer population, paired with a deficit in caregivers, there is an increasing need for personalized care,” Jumadinova says. “I have always had an interest in developing life-enhancing technologies, so that’s where this idea originated.”

The system requires the user to wear a small sensor which monitors the person’s vital signs, the researchers explain.

“My job for this project was to make sure the information coming from the sensor was transmitting to a database, which then analyzes the different health conditions,” says Boanos, who is double majoring in neuroscience and computer science. “If anything changes rapidly, the robot can sense the change and create an event, like calling emergency personnel. The GPS device can even give the person’s location, so it can send an ambulance if needed.”

According to Jumadinova, the sensor can communicate wirelessly with the robot, which looks similar to a Roomba vacuum cleaner with a laptop on it. The base, called a Turtlebot, is on wheels so it can move at different speeds.

Also part of the unit are Kinect sensors, which are the same sensors used in the Xbox gaming system. These sensors allow the computer to “see” a picture of a human. They also allow the robot to detect the distance between itself and an object in front of it.

“The laptop is basically the brain of the robot, and the Kinect sensors are the camera,” says Zheng, who is majoring in computer science with minors in math and economics. “My job for this project was writing algorithms to establish a connection between the laptop and the robot. ”

The third student, Camara, worked behind-the-scenes this summer to develop what’s called a “text mining system.”

“The robots can collect data and analyze it to find long-term trends. The data is then saved in a database, which then can be processed by the text mining system,” Jumadinova says. “The idea is that the robots may not see long-term trends, but the text mining system can go through the long-term data and find any alarming trends, and then notify the robots, if needed, by sending them a message.”

Allegheny currently has four robots. When turning them on, Jumadinova says they must first travel around the room to create a map of it. The robot then will use the map to find the person it is tracking.

“Only one robot will follow a person at a time. And if it needs to charge itself, it can go directly to its docking station and call another robot to its location,” she says.

“The greatest challenge has been getting the robots to talk to each other,” Zheng adds. “But they now can communicate and tell each other to ‘come here’ if needed.”

A Long Way From Home
While growing up in Israel, Almog Boanos ’17 always knew he wanted to do something with computers. As he grew older, he also became interested in neuroscience.

As he started to research colleges, he couldn’t find one in Israel that would allow him to pursue both passions. That’s when he found Allegheny.

“The only neuroscience program available in Israel was for Ph.D. students. Then I found Allegheny, which would allow me to double major in both,” he says.

Boanos would like someday to use small computers to simulate different neurons and see how different chemical changes affect brain activity.

“Eventually, I’d like to work with the Blue Brain Project, which is an attempt to reverse engineer the human brain and re-create it at the cellular level inside a computer simulation,” he says. “I hope my background here can help me get there.”

The opportunity to do this type of hands-on research as an undergraduate is surprising, says Boanos. “We are given a lot of independence. But if you have any questions, the professors are always there. It’s really amazing to be working on something like this as a junior. I can see the power of computer science through this project.”

Applying what he has learned in his computer classes to this research is enjoyable. “To me, computer science is about using all the information you learn in class in a really creative way. And learning how to program gives you the ability to use your imagination to create whatever you want; you can create amazing things. I think this project is impressive – it will really affect people’s lives,” says Boanos.

What’s next for the project? Jumadinova says they will continue testing and refining the system. But she doesn’t plan to stop there.

“In addition to monitoring a person, we hope that our team of robots will be able to provide motivation for cognitive and physical exercises to the user by considering the history of the user’s daily tasks and coaching the person to fulfill appropriate tasks, such as taking medicine, exercising or being socially active,” she says. “I also hope to meet with those in the medical community to get a better understanding of various health conditions so we can tailor the robots to those conditions.

“So far, I haven’t seen any other systems out there using data from wearable sensors with robots in this continuous way,” she adds. “It’s exciting.”