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.”

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Just Learning in the Sand

Allegheny College’s newest piece of technology offers students a chance to roll up their sleeves and act like a kid again — a combination of sands and smarts. This augmented reality sandbox, located in the basement of Alden Hall, arrived in late January and creates three-dimensional topographical maps based on the way students physically shape the sand.

Read more.

Tyler Pecyna is the fact-checker for Pittsburgh Magazine. This article appeared in Pittsburgh Magazine’s Great Minds newsletter.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Students Get Their Hands Dirty With New Augmented Reality Sandbox

Allegheny senior Kristy Garcia rolled up her sleeves and dug right into the sandbox, piling up clean, white sand to form a mountain.

Senior David Olson joined in as well, using his fingers to dig a trench at the base of the mountain.

As they watched the colors change from deep reds and oranges to bright greens to blues, they braced themselves for the fun part – placing their hand over the camera overlooking the sandbox to “make it rain.”

“That is so cool!” the wide-eyed environmental science majors said in unison as virtual rain washed over the mountain and sloshed into the trench.

It’s a common reaction when someone first sees Allegheny’s newest piece of technology, the augmented reality (AR) sandbox, in the basement of Alden Hall.

The AR sandbox, which arrived at Allegheny in January, combines the playfulness of a child’s sandbox with advanced technology to create a learning tool that can be used by students of all ages. When students shape the sand, a Microsoft Kinect 3-D camera and a projector with powerful software detect the movement and display a three-dimensional topographic and colored elevation map in real time.

According to Sam Reese, lab technician for the geology and environmental science departments, unlike street maps, topographic maps display 3-D characteristics of an area using lines, called contours, to represent elevation above or below sea level. Using topographic maps, engineers know where best to build a road, scientists know where rainwater will flow after a storm and hikers know where a trail is steepest.

“By using this technology, students can actually see how a topographic map portrays a 3-D world. Sometimes people don’t grasp that concept on a flat 2-D map,” Reese says. “The beauty of the sandbox is the simplicity of the model, as it tells a very complicated story.”

Reese explains that the College acquired the materials to construct the sandbox through a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Allegheny carpenters built the actual box, and Craig Newell Welding in Cambridge Springs, Pa., built the metal apparatus that holds the camera and software in place. Dave Wagner, network and systems administrator in computer science and information technology services, set up the operating system and installed the software.

The idea for the AR sandbox came from a group of Czech researchers who posted a YouTube video displaying an early prototype that included elevation maps and a basic form of fluid movement, Reese says. A team at the W.M. Keck Center for Active Visualization in the Earth Sciences (KeckCaves) at the University of California Davis then added the topographic contour lines and improved the simulated fluid flow to create the current prototype. UC Davis provides the blueprints to build the system as well as the necessary software free of charge on its website.

Reese estimates that only a couple dozen AR sandboxes exist, mainly at museums. “It’s so new. The day our sandbox went live – Jan. 21 – an article appeared in the New York Times about augmented reality,” he says. “It’s really cutting edge for Allegheny to have this.”

AR 4

Allegheny senior Kristy Garcia digs in the AR sandbox.

In addition to the geology and environmental science departments using the sandbox in labs and for independent research projects, the computer science and biology departments also plan to incorporate the technology into their class curricula.

College students won’t be the only ones digging in the sand. Creek Connections, a partnership between the College and K-12 schools that focuses on hands-on watershed education, plans to incorporate the AR sandbox in activities that explore topographic maps, watersheds and stream geology.

“People are used to street maps and Google maps that are very flat. But when we talk about watershed delineation and where rain will go, the concept becomes much easier when you can use a 3-D topographic map like this,” says Wendy Kedzierski, director of Creek Connections. “With the sandbox, you can see it as the sand builds up and the colors change. It makes the connection so much easier.”

Student Kristy Garcia, who works as a project assistant with Kedzierski and the Creek Connections program, agrees. “It’s definitely easier to understand topography when looking at the sandbox,” she says.

Kedzierski believes another benefit is that the sandbox will give students who prefer hands-on activities another opportunity for learning.

“The education that we provide in schools is a lot different from what they do every day in the classroom. Some of the children who have a hard time with traditional lecturing react differently when we do our Creek Connections activities,” Kedzierski says. “This is another tactile experience for those students.”

Reese believes that the AR sandbox is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to hands-on education.

“I believe virtual reality is going to augment the augmented reality,” he says. “It will be interesting to see how the AR software upgrades will add more bells and whistles to the sandbox over the next year or two.”

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Wenskovitch Publishes in BMC Bioinformatics

Visiting Assistant Professor of Computer Science John Wenskovitch published a paper in the journal BMC Bioinformatics. “MOSBIE: A Tool for Comparison and Analysis of Rule-Based Biochemical Models” describes the accompanying software, an interactive exploration system that enables the highlighting of similarities and differences in the structures and behaviors of rule-based models of cell signaling processes.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Kapfhammer Paper Demonstrates One of the First Mutation Testing Methods That Can Be Readily Applied to Real-World Programs

Associate Professor of Computer Science Gregory M. Kapfhammer and co-authors René Just (University of Washington) and Franz Schweiggert (University of Ulm) recently published a paper in the Proceedings of the 23rd International Symposium on Software Reliability Engineering. “Using Non-Redundant Mutation Operators and Test Suite Prioritization to Achieve Efficient and Scalable Mutation Analysis” demonstrates one of the first mutation testing methods that can be readily applied to real-world programs. More details about this and other papers by Kapfhammer and his colleagues and students are available here.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Come One, Come All

By Heather Grubbs and Nahla Bendefaa ’16

Everyone loves a home-cooked meal.

But when you’re away at college, enjoying grandma’s homemade lasagna is often a sacrifice one must make.

Or is it?

One student-organized group is aiming to change that. The Food Co-op began two years ago as part of Class of 2014 graduate Taylor Hinton’s senior comp titled “Activism through Food: Creating a Housing and Dining Cooperative at Allegheny College.” Hinton says she initially intended for the co-op to “address inequalities in access to cooking spaces, account for a range of dietary needs and food cultures, share cooking knowledge, and provide students with local, cheap, home-cooked food.”

Hinton’s comp then expanded upon her vision by seeking to:
• Create a sustainable organizing structure for the dining cooperative.
• Expand the population that the group was serving as a cooperative.
• Acquire a house that would both support the dining cooperative and provide a second space in which students can live and cook together.

Cara Brosius ’16 helps to cook one of the food co-op group's Friday night dinners.
Cara Brosius ’16 helps to cook one of the Food Co-op group’s Friday night dinners.

Current students Cara Brosius ’16, Stephanie Latour ’16, and Hawk Weisman ’16, who live in what is now known as the Co-op House on North Main Street, are carrying on Hinton’s vision by hosting Friday night homemade dinners on campus. The dinners seek to accomplish Hinton’s goals, as well as allow students to share family recipes and cultures and enjoy each other’s company.

“Whether you want to share an ethnic meal or your family’s apple pie, this is a welcome space to do that,” says Weisman, who is double-majoring in computer science and environmental studies. “Cooking and eating meals together was something I always did with my family, so this is a way to continue that.”

According to Weisman and Brosius, students sign up to participate in each week’s dinner. Two students are then assigned to the “head chef” role – meaning they are responsible for planning the meal – and two other students are assigned as sous chefs to assist with preparation.

For those students who prefer to stay out of the kitchen, they still can participate by serving as grocery shoppers, by volunteering to clean up, or by simply enjoying the food.

“Everyone here is very friendly, and there is definitely a sense of community since everyone helps out either cooking or cleaning,” says Catherine Schnur ’17. “Also, the food is always delicious!”

“Co-op is a great way to meet people you wouldn’t normally meet. It’s also a very welcoming environment,” adds Kara Van Balen ’17. “My first time here I felt like everyone was immediately my friend.”

Hawk Weisman ’16 and Cara Brosius ’16 work together in Carr Hall to prepare a homemade meal.
Hawk Weisman ’16 and Cara Brosius ’16 work together in Carr Hall to prepare a homemade meal.

The dinners are prepared and consumed in Carr Hall, with about 20 to 30 students attending. The group asks for a suggested donation of $2 to $3 to help cover shopping costs, or students can pay $20 up front for the entire semester.

“We represent a wide variety of majors and backgrounds on campus, which leads to a diverse menu,” Weisman says.

“We’ve had everything from lasagna to soup to Mexican food, and we really try to purchase fresh ingredients when possible, especially from the on-campus garden, the Carrden,” adds Brosius, an economics major and astronomy and mathematics minor. “We’ve also had other groups on campus like Edible Allegheny and the Green Living House volunteer to cook during certain weeks. We’d like to expand this concept by having other groups on campus participate, too.”

Just like Hinton’s original vision, the group stresses that its “come one, come all” approach applies to those with dietary restrictions, as well.

“We have a number of students who are vegetarians or vegans or those who eat gluten-free or have allergies, so we always make sure there are a lot of options,” Brosius says. “Personally, I like co-op because I have problems digesting certain foods, so I like knowing how each meal is prepared. Knowing that it’s homemade is comforting to me. Co-op is kind of like our home away from home.”

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Come One, Come All

Allegheny's food co-op group.

By Heather Grubbs and Nahla Bendefaa ’16

Everyone loves a home-cooked meal.

But when you’re away at college, enjoying grandma’s homemade lasagna is often a sacrifice one must make.

Or is it?

One student-organized group is aiming to change that. The Food Co-op began two years ago as part of Class of 2014 graduate Taylor Hinton’s senior comp titled “Activism through Food: Creating a Housing and Dining Cooperative at Allegheny College.” Hinton says she initially intended for the co-op to “address inequalities in access to cooking spaces, account for a range of dietary needs and food cultures, share cooking knowledge, and provide students with local, cheap, home-cooked food.”

Hinton’s comp then expanded upon her vision by seeking to:
• Create a sustainable organizing structure for the dining cooperative.
• Expand the population that the group was serving as a cooperative.
• Acquire a house that would both support the dining cooperative and provide a second space in which students can live and cook together.

Cara Brosius ’16 helps to cook one of the food co-op group's Friday night dinners.

Cara Brosius ’16 helps to cook one of the Food Co-op group’s Friday night dinners.

Current students Cara Brosius ’16, Stephanie Latour ’16, and Hawk Weisman ’16, who live in what is now known as the Co-op House on North Main Street, are carrying on Hinton’s vision by hosting Friday night homemade dinners on campus. The dinners seek to accomplish Hinton’s goals, as well as allow students to share family recipes and cultures and enjoy each other’s company.

“Whether you want to share an ethnic meal or your family’s apple pie, this is a welcome space to do that,” says Weisman, who is double-majoring in computer science and environmental studies. “Cooking and eating meals together was something I always did with my family, so this is a way to continue that.”

According to Weisman and Brosius, students sign up to participate in each week’s dinner. Two students are then assigned to the “head chef” role – meaning they are responsible for planning the meal – and two other students are assigned as sous chefs to assist with preparation.

For those students who prefer to stay out of the kitchen, they still can participate by serving as grocery shoppers, by volunteering to clean up, or by simply enjoying the food.

“Everyone here is very friendly, and there is definitely a sense of community since everyone helps out either cooking or cleaning,” says Catherine Schnur ’17. “Also, the food is always delicious!”

“Co-op is a great way to meet people you wouldn’t normally meet. It’s also a very welcoming environment,” adds Kara Van Balen ’17. “My first time here I felt like everyone was immediately my friend.”

Hawk Weisman ’16 and Cara Brosius ’16 work together in Carr Hall to prepare a homemade meal.

Hawk Weisman ’16 and Cara Brosius ’16 work together in Carr Hall to prepare a homemade meal.

The dinners are prepared and consumed in Carr Hall, with about 20 to 30 students attending. The group asks for a suggested donation of $2 to $3 to help cover shopping costs, or students can pay $20 up front for the entire semester.

“We represent a wide variety of majors and backgrounds on campus, which leads to a diverse menu,” Weisman says.

“We’ve had everything from lasagna to soup to Mexican food, and we really try to purchase fresh ingredients when possible, especially from the on-campus garden, the Carrden,” adds Brosius, an economics major and astronomy and mathematics minor. “We’ve also had other groups on campus like Edible Allegheny and the Green Living House volunteer to cook during certain weeks. We’d like to expand this concept by having other groups on campus participate, too.”

Just like Hinton’s original vision, the group stresses that its “come one, come all” approach applies to those with dietary restrictions, as well.

“We have a number of students who are vegetarians or vegans or those who eat gluten-free or have allergies, so we always make sure there are a lot of options,” Brosius says. “Personally, I like co-op because I have problems digesting certain foods, so I like knowing how each meal is prepared. Knowing that it’s homemade is comforting to me. Co-op is kind of like our home away from home.”

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

American Colors Inc. Prefers Blue and Gold

By Kathleen Prosperi ’11

Jim Wible ’71, co-founder and president of American Colors in Sandusky, Ohio, has long believed in the potential of Alleghenians. Not only does he advocate for students as a College trustee, he believes the Allegheny graduate to be a quality investment for his company, having recruited and hired Gators since the company’s inception in 1975.

“I know that the skills it takes to handle the pressure of getting a degree from Allegheny apply to the business world as well,” says Wible. His company provides high-quality liquid pigment systems and other products to the coatings, composites, plastics and allied industries. It serves customers from two manufacturing facilities, one in Sandusky, and the other in Lebanon, Tenn.

Finding committed, long-term employees has produced challenges, and a need for change has blossomed into what appears to be the next revolutionary idea in corporate recruitment.

Jim Fitch, assistant director of career education at Allegheny, explains: “Jim (Wible) came to me and proposed hiring a group of graduating seniors as a team, interviewing and hiring them as one unit … a unit with a variety of majors, skills and talents.”

The hope is to promote future success and satisfaction at American Colors through pre-existing, forged relationships while nurturing a critical mass of Allegheny alumni who contribute as employees.

Invited to apply as a group, Tyler Hogya ’14 (Economics/Computer Science), Jordan Encarnacion ’14 (Chemistry/Economics), John O’Donnell ’14 (Economics/Communication Arts), RC Kunig ’14 (Biology/Economics/Psychology), and Elliott Hasenkopf ’14 (Chemistry/Economics/Biology) were one of four cohorts to express interest.

“Over the past four years, we have become great friends through living, working and playing together,” said Hasenkopf.

“Being able to come right out of college and enter the real world with four of your best friends seemed surreal. I was extremely surprised to hear of this opportunity, mainly because I’ve never heard of such a strategy before. It was new to all of us,” O’Donnell added.

The idea was new to everyone involved, including the hiring team, which was comprised of Wible, Matt Kosior, chief operating officer, and Kayla Beatty ’12.

“We saw huge, exceptional talent,” says Wible. “This group, the one we chose, was the most enthusiastic and seemed to have a cohesiveness that I liked.”

The benefits will be twofold—for the graduates and for American Colors.

“Over the last few years, after we hired students from Allegheny, we noticed they would say, ‘I came here [to Sandusky, Ohio] and didn’t know anyone. I’m having trouble getting involved in the community and finding it tough to meet people,’” says Wible.

Although other Allegheny graduates were pleased with American Colors, assimilation in other areas of their lives proved to hamper their overall happiness. That won’t be the case with this group. “These graduates will now get to go into the real world with an immediate support system. We hope this will provide them with a smooth transition into the workplace with a sense of belonging,” Wible says.

The students also see the benefits: “When entering the professional workplace, it is essential, not only that you have many positive relationships, but that you continue to build upon them while continually adding new ones. Our pre-established relationship will also allow us to feel comfortable more quickly in our working environment,” says Kunig.

“We see this as a potential for longevity for the company, as well,” Wible adds. “We are hoping that all five of the new hires will like and form a long relationship with American Colors.”

“I believe our team chemistry will translate into a professional environment seamlessly. Not only are we able to achieve goals together, but we also challenge each other. I think the ability to bring in five new workers who already work well together will serve American Colors well, especially in project-oriented tasks,” says Hasenkopf.

American Colors wiblepic_web

At this point, the future of group recruitment can only be imagined. After all, it is not the norm. The benefits can be seen as huge, though, for all parties involved.

“We’re hoping that it can become a model … that other employers who can do this will think, ‘What a great idea. …Why don’t we do this too?’” says Fitch. “If we had 20 employers who did that, we would have huge diversity in the types of job opportunities we are providing to students.”

President James H. Mullen, Jr. adds: “Jim is a great Alleghenian who has long been committed to affording opportunities to our students. In hiring this very talented group of our graduates from diverse disciplines, he is at once implementing a very innovative business approach and reinforcing the strength of Allegheny’s liberal arts curriculum.”

No matter what comes from this unique hiring strategy, the future is bright for American Colors’ new team. The team began its first day at American Colors. Each person had their own job description: Encarnacion, Kunig and Hasenkopf are project chemist trainees and Hogya and O’Donnell are operations trainees. However, it should be pointed out that they will have the opportunity to work on a project together as a team, to exhibit abilities learned at Allegheny.

As graduation day approached in May, Hasenkopf reflected, “As graduation is upon us, everyone has started to say goodbye to Allegheny and the friends they have made here, but we have this amazing opportunity which will allow us to see our closest friends every day. We are all very excited to hit the ground running and apply our Allegheny College educations to our endeavors with American Colors.”

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Kapfhammer Publishes in Proceedings of the 6th 
International Conference on Genetic and Evolutionary Computing

Associate Professor of Computer Science Gregory M. Kapfhammer and co-authors Chu-Ti Lin (National Chiayi University, Taiwan) and Kai-Wei Tang (Institute for Information Industry, Taiwan) published a paper in the Proceedings of the 6th 
International Conference on Genetic and Evolutionary Computing. “Reducing the Cost of Regression Testing by Identifying Irreplaceable Test Cases” shows how to automatically create a reduced test suite with a lessened execution cost. The empirical study shows that, in comparison to prior methods, the presented technique is the most effective at decreasing the cost of regression testing. You can learn more about this and other papers by visiting http://www.cs.allegheny.edu/~gkapfham/research/ or following @GregKapfhammer on Twitter.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Kapfhammer and Former Students Publish in ACM SIGMETRICS

Associate Professor of Computer Science Gregory M. Kapfhammer and co-authors Philip F. Burdette ’09, William F. Jones ’09, and Brian C. Blose ’06 published a paper in the ACM SIGMETRICS Performance Evaluation Review. The paper, “An Empirical Comparison of Java Remote Communication Primitives for Intra-Node Data Transmission,” presents a benchmarking suite that measures the performance of using sockets and eXtensible Markup Language remote procedure calls (XML-RPC) to exchange intra-node messages between Java virtual machines (JVMs). The paper’s experimental results reveal trade-offs in performance and thus represent the first step toward determining if Java remote communication primitives can support the efficient exchange of intra-node messages. You can learn more about this and other papers by visiting http://www.cs.allegheny.edu/~gkapfham/research/ or following @GregKapfhammer on Twitter.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research