Martin, Fred: April 2011 Archives

Harshavardhan Achrekar, a PhD candidate advised by Prof. Benyuan Liu, presented his paper titled “Predicting Flu Trends using Twitter Data” at the International Workshop on Cyber-Physical Networking Systems (CPNS) 2011, in conjunction with IEEE INFOCOM 2011, held in Shanghai, China, April 10–15, 2011.

Seasonal influenza epidemics result in about three to five million cases of severe illness and about 250,000 to 500,000 deaths worldwide each year. Reducing the impact of seasonal influenza epidemics and other pandemics such as H1N1 is of paramount importance for public health authorities.

Studies have shown that effective interventions can be taken to contain the epidemics if early detection can be made. The traditional approach employed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) includes collecting influenza-like illness (ILI) activity data from “sentinel” medical practices, resulting in a one to two-week delay between the time a patient is diagnosed and the moment that data point becomes available in aggregate ILI reports.

In this paper, the authors investigated the use of a novel data source, namely, messages posted on Twitter, to track and predict the level of ILI activity within US population. Their approach treats Twitter users as “sensors” and the collective message exchanges with a mention of flu-based keywords such as “I got Flu” and “down with swine flu” as early indicators and robust predictors of influenza.

Based on the data collected during 2009 and 2010, they found that the volume of flu-related tweets is highly correlated with the number of ILI cases reported by CDC, and can provide real-time assessment of ILI activity.

This work in supported by the National Institutes of Health under a Small Business Innovation Research Award. The co-authors of the paper include Avinash Gandhe, Ssu-Hsin Yu at SSCI and Ross Lazarus at Harvard.

A copy of the paper is available at http://cse.unl.edu/~byrav/INFOCOM2011/workshops/papers/p713-achrekar.pdf.

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Harshavardhan Achrekar presenting at CPNS 2011.

Five Computer Science undergraduates presented at the 3rd Annual New England Undergraduate Computing Syposium (NEUCS), held on April 9, 2011 at Tufts University.

The event is supported by the Empowering Leadership Alliance, and is organized to “celebrate excellence and diversity in undergraduate computing in New England.” Past NEUCS symposia were held at Wellesley College and Boston University.

As in the past, this year’s event attracted a wide range of undergraduate student work, including research projects, course projects, and personal projects. 

Five UMass Lowell undergraduates presented at the conference:

  • Krithika Manohar and Kyle Monico presented “Open Source Data Visualization for the Masses,” based on their work on the WEAVE project in Prof. Georges Grinstein’s research group.
  • Eric Fairbanks presented “Repurposing the Nintendo Gameboy for Computational Music,” a personal project in which he developed a custom programmer for the classic GameBoy platform, and is writing code to generate computational music.
The symposium was a great opportunity for networking, sharing, and appreciating the range of creative work done by the region’s undergraduate computing students.

Fairbanks’ poster, which included a large image of a GameBoy device, attracted a lot of attention.  Afterward, he commented that “I met some cool people, and it was fun to learn they were really interested in what I was doing.”

Students from UMass Lowell have participated in all three years that the event has been running, and the Computer Science department may host a future NEUCS symposium.

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UMass Lowell students at the NEUCS 2011 event. From L-R: Eric Fairbanks, Mario Barrenechea (UMass Amherst), Kyle Monico, Patrick Stickney, Krithika Manohar, and John Fallon.
UMass Lowell’s Robotics Club brought “Stark,” its student-designed outdoor autonomous robot, to a three-day exhibition and demonstration held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. from April 9 through 11. Prof. Fred Martin provided travel funding for the team.

The visit was part of an event organized by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) to bring the capabilities of autonomous robots to the attention of lawmakers as part of National Robotics Week.

UMass Lowell graduate student Nat Tuck and undergraduates Armand Chery Jr., Ken Cramer, Michael McGuinness, and Ian Ndicu participated. UMass Lowell was one of eight collegiate teams to exhibit a robot at the event.

The team left Lowell in the early morning of Saturday April 9, after waking up to learn that Congress had agreed on a federal budget.  The National Parks Service operates the National Mall, and until the budget agreement was in place, the whole event would have been canceled.

In their haste to get on the road, the team forgot to bring a crucial component: an electronic compass required by the robot for navigational guidance.

While there in D.C., the team figured out how to transmit data from the compass built into a team member's Android phone to the robot.  The solution worked, and the team was able to successfully demonstrate autonomous outdoor navigation among several waypoints whose GPS coordinates were provided.

Team member Ian Ndicu, a dual major in computer science and electrical & computer engineering, reflected, “It was great to witness the admiration and awe that the robots brought to all of the people walking by, and I really felt a sense of pride—that we are doing some pretty cool stuff here at UMass Lowell.”

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Robotics Club members and Stark, 
Mass Lowell’s autonomous robot platform.
 (L-R): Ian Ndicu, Michael McGuinness, Nat Tuck, Armand Chery Jr., and Ken Cramer. Photograph courtesy of the AUVSI Foundation.

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Teams from eight colleges and universities brought their robots to the National Mall for the event.  See more pictures at a story on the AUVSI web site.
With support of a $15,000 grant from Google, Prof. Fred Martin has organized a two-day workshop and conference for regional middle- and high-school computer science, mathematics, and technology teachers.

The event is sponsored as part of Google's CS4HS (Computer Science for High School) initiative, intended to “promote Computer Science and Computational Thinking in high school and middle school curricula.” UMass Lowell joins an elite group of schools to that have received funding to organize a CS4HS event, including MIT, CMU, and ETH Zurich.

UMass Lowell's program will be held Monday June 27 and Tuesday June 28, 2011. It includes three hands-on workshops, five research talks, and sessions for teachers to network and share ideas around topics of mutual interest.  

The research talks will be given by CS department faculty members James Canning, Karen Daniels, Georges Grinstein, Haim Levkowitz, and Benyuan Liu. Faculty members Jesse Heines and Alex Ruthmann (Music) will present a workshop on computing and music, and Byung Kim will present a workshop on media computing with Python.

Prof. Martin was excited to receive the funding. “It's great to have the support and endorsement of Google,” he says. “Based on our years of work with area teachers, we've already had a great response, and we expect teachers will bring lots of ideas back to their classrooms.”

For more information or to register for the event, go to www.cs.uml.edu/cs4hs.

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CS4HS @ UML logo designed by Adam Norton

Dr. Robert Tamarin, Dean of the College of Sciences, has renewed the “Pathways to Computer Science” scholarship program for undergraduate students.

The merit-based scholarship provides a $5,000 annual award toward tuition and fees for an incoming student majoring in the sciences, including Computer Science. The award is annually renewable for a total of four years.

To be eligible, students must have participated on one of the Computer Science department's outreach programs, including Botball, Botfest, iCODE/TechCreation, and Artbotics.

Applications are due no later than June 1, 2011. To apply, complete and submit the 2011 Pathways to CS Scholarship application form.

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