March 2011 Archives

Doctoral candidate Kate Tsui, a member of Prof. Holly Yanco's Robotics Lab, presented research on telepresence robots at the 6th Annual ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction in Lausanne, Switzerland in March 2011. The conference was highly selective, with an acceptance rate of 22%.

The paper, Exploring Use Cases for Telepresence Robots, was co-authored by Kate Tsui, Munjal Desai, Holly Yanco, and Chris Uhlik of Google. The studies of the telepresence robots were conducted by Kate and Munjal at Google in Mountain View, California, in July and August 2010.

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Tsui’s dissertation research focuses on designing telepresence robot systems for use by people with special needs. In continuing work, the VGo robot, above, has been augmented with additional sensors and processing using a BeagleBoard. VGo’s custom necktie, designed by Adam Norton, lights up and provides status to the user.
Alexander Baumann, a PhD candidate advised by Prof. Georges Grinstein, will present his paper, “Enhancing STEM classes using Weave: a collaborative web-based visualization environment,” at ISEC (Integrated STEM Education Conference), held in Ewing, NJ, April 2nd.

ISEC is co-located with the Trenton Computer Festival, and is intended to encourage "thought-provoking discussions on how the 'silos' separating instruction in and, ultimately, comprehension among STEM fields can be removed and, subsequently, on the various ways 'integrated STEM methods' take shape in K-16 classrooms."

Baumann described how Weave (WEb-based Analysis and Visualization Environment) could be used to support STEM education by way of collaborative visual analysis.  

Weave is a framework that provides advanced data visualization capabilities on the web. Some unique features of the system are high flexibility in aesthetic and interaction choices in the software to handle a wide range of audiences; session histories to record user actions taken in the system for use in restoring, reviewing, and analyzing previous work; and collaboration capabilities to allow multiple users at the same or different locations to work together from separate computers.  

The use of collaborative tools to support STEM learning is a major focus of this paper. Students can learn from and interact with the teacher in live training sessions, break off into groups to study data sets and provide results, and use smaller subgroups to divide up work that can be shared with the group at any time.  


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A screenshot of data loaded in Weave (with some modifications for presentation purposes).
UMass Lowell's robotics faculty and students will be presenting four new papers at the IEEE International Conference on Technologies for Practical Robot Applications (TePRA). The conference will be held on April 11 and 12, 2011 in Woburn, MA.

The TePRA conference is based in the greater Boston area, and has the goal of introducing students to “the state-of-the-art in practical robotics R&D and representatives of both industry and the military.”

Prof. Holly Yanco's Robotics Lab will be presenting two papers: Hand and Finger Registration for Multi-Touch Joysticks on Software-Based Operator Control Units, by Mark Micire, Eric McCann, Munjal Desai, Katherine M. Tsui, Adam Norton, and Holly A. Yanco, and Essential Features of Telepresence Robots, by Munjal Desai, Katherine M. Tsui, Holly A. Yanco, and Chris Uhlik.

Prof. Yanco has a third paper based on her collaborations at MITRE, Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for UAV Landings and UGV Navigation, by Nathan Rackliffe, Holly A. Yanco, and Jennifer Casper.

Prof. Fred Martin's doctoral student Haiyang Zhang will present the fourth paper, entitled Robotic Mapping Assisted by Local Magnetic Field Anomalies

Prof. Yanco notes that when a previous robotics student, Erin Rapacki, presented at TePRA two years ago, “her work was picked up by New Scientist and Popular Science based on exposure at this conference.”

So it promises to be a high visibility event, with excellent representation this year from UMass Lowell.
In January 2011, Professors Jesse Heines and Fred Martin both traveled to India to teach courses as part of the Indo US Collaboration for Engineering Education. Heines and Martin were each accompanied by UMass Lowell undergraduate and graduate students.

The Indo US Collaboration for Engineering Education (IUCEE) was initiated in 2007 to improve engineering education and to “find solutions to the global challenges facing humanity such as energy, environment, health and communications.” It was established by Dr. Krisha Vedula, formerly dean of UMass Lowell's College of Engineering, and presently Special Assistant to Provost for International Partnerships.

As Executive Director of the IUCEE, Vedula recruited Heines and Martin to teach courses during the January 2011 semester break. Heines was introduced to the K.L. University in Vijayawada, and Martin was partnered with the Chitkara Institute of Engineering and Technology in Chandigarh.

Heines' course, Programming for the World Wide Web, was taught to approximately 280 university students, all enrolled in K.L. University. Martin's course, Introduction to Mobile Robotics, was taught to about 28 faculty of several member schools of the IUCEE, including about 15 faculty at Chitkara itself.

Both Heines and Martin brought UMass Lowell students to co-teach their courses. Heines brought undergraduates Zori Babroudi and Elad Shahar, and graduate student Sreeja Kaimal. Martin brought graduate student Mark Sherman.

Heines and Martin both reported that their course materials and teaching approaches received a great reception from their respective audiences, who were happy to participate in American-style education, with its high degree of engagement and discussion as a natural part of teaching and learning.

The contributions of the UMass Lowell students in conducting the courses were invaluable, and Heines notes that “to my great pleasure, some of the students are still corresponding with Zori, Elad, Sreeja, and me.”

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UMass Lowell graduate student Sreeja Kaimal discussing the course and life in the USA with K.L. University students

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Faculty testing their Sumo robot at Chitkara University

Derfen Lin, a PhD candidate advised by Prof. Jie Wang, presented her paper, “Producing Automated Mosaic Art Images of High Quality with Restricted and Limited Color Palettes,” at the IMAGAPP conference, held in Algarve, Portugal, March 5-7, 2011.

IMAGAPP is part of VISIGRAPP, a joint international conference on computer vision, imaging, and computer graphics theory and applications. 

Lin studied the problem of mosaic art images, which are made from bricks, tiles, or counted cross-stitch patterns.

Artists need to divide the original image into small parts of reasonable sizes and shapes, and represent the colors of each part using just one closest color selected from a given color palette, a process called “dithering.”

Using standard methods to automate this process, the resulting mosaic image may contain undesirable visual artifacts of patches and color bandings.

In her study, Lin presented a new error-diffusion scheme, called Four-Way Block dithering (FWB), which corrects certain artifacts caused by existing dithering methods.

Lin showed that FWB can better retain the original structure and reduce unstructured artifacts.  She also showed that FWB dithering produces much better peak signal-to-noise ratios on mosaic images over those generated by previous methods (please see image below for an example).


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Image (a) shows dithering with previous approach; it is clearly noticeable that Mona Lisa’s right eye is blurry and looks half-closed. Image (b) shows use of the FWB algorithm. The eye problem is corrected. 
Dr. Jie Wang received a donation of $16,000 from the Massachusetts International Academy (MAIA). The donation will be used to support his research. 

Prof. Wang played an important role in assisting the MAIA, which opened a facility in Marlborough, MA.  MAIA's mission is to bring Chinese students directly to the United States for English-language courses and cultural acclimatization. UMass Lowell has a partnership with the school.

MAIA is owned by CERNET Education of China.  
Shawn Konecni, a doctoral student in UMass Lowell's Biomedical Engineering and Biotechnology Program, successfully defended his doctoral dissertation, entitled “Scenario Design for Evaluation of Visual Analytics Tools to Support Biomedical Research,” on March 23, 2011.  Konecni's research was advised by Prof. Georges Grinstein of the Computer Science department.

Konecni's research aims to increase awareness of important visual analytics problems, and improve evaluation methodologies for complex visual analytics systems.

In his doctoral project, he leveraged the Visual Analytics Science and Technology (VAST) challenge framework, a contest designed to advance visual analytics tools and methods.

Konecni developed custom scenarios and synthetic data sets, including multiple mini-challenges, based on a hypothetical pandemic outbreak involving a rapidly evolving fictitious virus. After analyzing the data sets made possible by his scenarios, Konecni presented a series of recommendations, to “enable the design of scenarios that push the forefront of visual analytics research relevant to real-world biomedical research problems.”

Prof. Grinstein noted that Konecni's work “integrates not just biological and chemical knowledge, but also modeling and computer science to solve extremely complex problems including for example bioterrorism and drug discovery. Whereas most work is often done as prototypes that provide examples of the research, his work has been immediately used both by Pfizer and analysts around the world. He has handled this pressure quite well, and his work is broad and superb.”

Konecni's dissertation committee readers were Dr. Haim Levkowitz (Computer Science) and Dr. Kenneth Marx (Chemistry).

Computer Science undergraduates Caleb Brandon, Michael Feole, Matt Fielding, John Huynh, and Elad Shahar participated in MIT's 3rd annual Business in Gaming Conference on March 10, 2011.  The students are the core members of UMass Lowell's Game Developers Group, an official student organization at the university.

The conference had panels for topics such as How Tech is Changing Games, Marketing AAA Video Games, The Games Entrepreneurs Play, and Games On-the-Go.

Aside from the great panels, the conference had keynote addresses by Richard Bartle and Nik Davidson. Matt Fielding, a junior, commented, “I am glad I went, the networking opportunities were fantastic.”
Bo Yan, a doctoral student advised by Prof. Guanling Chen, will present his paper on AppJoy at the Ninth ACM International Conference on Mobile Systems, Applications, and Services (MobiSys). MobiSys is a prestigious conference on mobile and wireless systems with a low acceptance rate of 18% this year.

AppJoy is a service that helps Android users to discover interesting applications through personalized recommendation algorithms. It is available in Åndroid Market and has been used by more than 5000 users worldwide. For more information, see the AppJoy web site.
Professor Fred Martin has received a $50,000 award from Google's education group to create resources for users of App Inventor for Android.

App Inventor is a system developed by Google to allow novice programmers to develop applications for their Android phones with an easy-to-use visual programming environment.

With the award, Dr. Martin's group will develop a web site for App Inventor users to publish and share their projects.  This “Community Gallery” site is being modeled after MIT's successful Scratch site.

The project team includes faculty and students from Wellesley College, Mills College, Trinity College, the University of San Francisco, and MIT.
Professor Benyuan Liu was chosen by Microsoft Research as part of a university engagement program for an equipment grant.  

UMass Lowell is one of twenty schools selected for an award.  The grant consists of a dozen Windows 7 phones, development SDK, and free access to Windows Azure and other cloud services.

Prof. Liu is using the equipment this spring's graduate course 91.564 - Data Communications II, and for his research in mobile cloud computing.
Dear students, parents, alumni, colleagues, and everyone, 

Thank you for visiting the web pages of the Computer Science department at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

We have just established this blog to share our news with you.

We look forward to posting reports of events, projects, grants, and other newsworthy items.

Please get in touch with us if you have questions, comments, or feedback of any sort.

Yours,
Fred Martin, fredm@cs.uml.edu
Acting Chair, Computer Science

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