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Machine Learning at Loyola

Dligach_FacultySpotLight

CTSDH Graduate Fellow Aman Meghrajani recently caught up with Dmitriy Dligach, Assistant Professor of Computer Science, to learn more about his work on the topic of machine learning, an important field in the Digital Humanities. Prof. Dligach received his PhD in computer science from the University of Colorado Boulder, his MS in computer science from the State University of New York at Buffalo, and his BS in computer science from Loyola University Chicago. Prior to joining the faculty in computer science here at Loyola this year, Dr. Dligach was a researcher at Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School. 

What made you feel so passionate and motivated to study computer science in depth?

My interest was initially ignited when I realized that computer science gives its practitioners a power to build things. I decided to study computer science in-depth when I learned about artificial intelligence (AI) that focuses on building *intelligent* things.

For a novice student, machine learning might sound like a very broad and vague term. How would you define the term? What are some of the resources that can give a broader perspective on machine learning for new students in the field? Why might machine learning matter to students outside of computer science?

Machine learning is our best bet right now at building intelligent systems. Students interested in machine learning should consider enrolling a free online course such as the one offered by Coursera. Machine learning is likely to be of help to researchers in data-driven disciplines who are interested in deriving insights from large quantities of data automatically.

Where do you see machine learning going? How is it going to change our day-to-day activities? How is it going to impact human interactions and knowledge?

I like to say that machine learning is about predicting the future (you are typically given some historic data and the task is to predict what will happen when the computer is presented with future data). The more I work in this field the more I realize how hard this task is. Therefore, I will refrain from making predictions.

You've performed extensive research at Boston Children's Hospital & Harvard Medical School in deep semantic analysis and data mining. Data mining is well known in the software industry to help gain insights out of daily-generated raw data. What skill sets in data mining particularly helped you perform your research and what suggestions would you like to provide to Loyola students (business, computer science, biology, etc) who might be potentially interested in data mining careers?

To work in machine learning in general and data mining specifically, one needs training in calculus, linear algebra, statistics, and programming, although it is possible to succeed with a subset of these disciplines.

In the Spring 2017 semester, Dr. Dligach is teaching COMP 170: Introduction to Object-Oriented Programming and COMP 398: Independent Study.

Honors Students Author Book on Big Data and Discrimination

Big Data Discrimination

Students in Dr. Mark Albert's Honors course on automated discrimination.

Big data meets big ethical problems for students in Dr. Mark Albert’s computer science course this semester.

The honors students enrolled in this unique class are working to put together a textbook that explains the rise of big data and its implications on discrimination and privacy concerns.

 Intended for beginners in the field of data science, the book explores legal and ethical issues with the collection and use of seemingly innocuous personal data we share on social networks and other websites.

“The book will serve as a source of information to provoke, spread, and assist discussion about the fundamental issues in applying current discriminatory policies to current practices, and to bringing to light additional concerns in the use of big data.”

The 30 students in the class oversee the entire production process of the book, from text editing to publicity and advertising. The book now has a Kickstarter campaign to help cover the publishing costs of the book, which will be available in print and online later this year. Backers pledging $20 or more will receive a PDF copy of the book as well as recognition for their donation.

Students Gage Grapperhaus and Anne Miller work on the advertising and publicity team. Grapperhaus is also working on a chapter of the book which explains how personal data can be used to fuel discrimination in processes that were once protected, such as applying for bank loans. Miller is interested in the use of big data by the healthcare industry to work around healthcare privacy laws.

Although neither of them have experience in the computer science field, they said taking this honors course has opened their eyes to the topic and its relevance in society.

"The great part of the Honors program is that it exposes you to new fields and experiences," Miller said.

Grapperhaus said they hope the book can work to inform others about the Big Data and what it means for them.

“It’s part of our everyday life,” he said. “You need to understand how it works to avoid being used.”

Exploring social: Computer Science major Salomon Smeke spent his summer interning at 4C working on social media ads

Exploringsocial

Salomon Smeke, right, a computer science senior, works alongside Loyola computer science alum Brian Gathright, left, in his internship working on social media apps and advertising at 4C. (Photo: Natalie Battaglia)

Intern profile:  Salomon Smeke
Loyola senior Salomon Smeke is a Mexico City native who spent his summer being a sort of Mr. Fixit as an intern for 4C—a social media advertising and technology company based in Chicago. In this internship, Smeke was lured by his longtime interest in computer technology but soon discovered a newfound interest in advertising. In this interview, he talks about the impact of the internship and how it has influenced his career goals after graduation.

4C describes their company as a global leader in data science and media technology that is transforming the way advertising and content are measured, planned, bought, and sold. In plain English, what does that mean?
It’s a lot of big words. Just to simplify things: advertising and social media are the cornerstones of this company. There’s a bunch of ads on Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Twitter. These are our four platforms. 4C is a way to manage advertisements on these platforms.

What attracted you to this internship opportunity?                                                                                                               Honestly, advertising is not something I ever really was that interested in. Then one of my friends started working there and kept telling me how amazing 4C was as a place to work. He told me he was learning a ridiculous amount EVERYDAY. And that’s what I want to do: learn more.

What interests you about working at 4C?
4C has a lot of interesting features some of which aren’t available on native tools. For example, if you were to go through Pinterest tools to make ads you wouldn’t see them, you wouldn’t have some of the features that 4C offers. The company also offer analytics on your advertisements. What’s working, what’s not working.

What are you currently working on at 4C? 
Much of my job is about fixing problems. Every product has bugs. A very large chunk of my job is to fix those bugs. QA (Quality Assurance) finds them and we fix them. There is a part of my job that also works on adding features: For example if you wanted to grab a set of ads and label them. Adding that feature to a platform like Pinterest is something that I’d do.

What’s something interesting you’ve discovered during your internship? 
You learn a lot from classes but it’s something else to work in the field that you study. Going from building a project in the classroom to this internship where there’s 22 people working on platform and there’s standards, you have to adapt. For me it was a change in perspective. It allowed me to see what my job is going to be like as a software engineer hopefully.

What’s your favorite part of 4C? 
When you’re working on a large advertising system it becomes very apparent that working with others is the cornerstone of this field. I assumed for a very long time, I could do anything by myself if I tortured myself: Eat a bunch of bagel bites and stay up all night. But no. There’s no way. I realize now that it’s a bigger art to work in a group with experts in your field. It’s way more critical than just powering through by myself.

How do you think this internship will help you in your career? 
Previous to going to 4C, I had no idea what half of this technology was. If you had told me CoffeeScript is something we used, I would have drawn a blank. Since I started my studies at Loyola 4 years ago, I’ve been angling toward web development and design. 4C has allowed me to discipline myself and expand my knowledge. So who knows? 

Creating the Next Generation of Programmers

02-18-16-CS-stars-story

Loyola students Uljana Sejko (left) and August Meyer volunteered with an elementary school’s robotics team last fall. “I didn’t even know really what programming was until high school,” Meyer said, “so the fact that I was able to help teach kids about programming in elementary school is pretty cool for me.” (Photo: Natalie Battaglia)

By Anna Gaynor

Uljana Sejko wanted to know why all the ­­boys at her high school were taking the same class. So she enrolled in her first computer science course and unexpectedly found herself on a new career path.

“I was like, ‘Why are so many guys doing this?’ ” said Sejko, now a sophomore at Loyola. “So I took an introductory course in high school. There were two girls, including me.”

To her, computer science felt like a puzzle, one that required critical thinking and logic to make everything fit—though that wasn’t the only thing that appealed to her. The idea of making a difference in a male-dominated field also played a role as well.

Today, Sejko is giving Chicago-area students—many of them girls—a much earlier introduction than she had. Through a service-learning course from the Department of Computer Science, Loyola students are going out in the community to introduce children and teens to computer programming.

The class, Broadening Participation in Computing and STEM, works with the STARS Computing Corps, a national organization that aims to increase the number of young people interested in science and technology. The goal for these Loyola students, however, is to not just promote careers in computer science. They also want to improve diversity in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields.

Ronald Greenberg, PhD, associate professor of computer science at Loyola, started reaching out to local schools when the number of college graduates in his field began declining across the country.

“I said to myself, ‘We also need to be getting out there into the high schools and telling students that they should be looking at computer science,’ ” Greenberg said. “Most high schools don’t really offer instructional computer science or not very much, so there’s a lot that people aren’t seeing and need to know about opportunities they can pursue.”

The mechanical approach

In the fall of 2015, Sejko spent her Friday afternoons at Skinner North Classical Elementary School in Chicago’s Near North Side neighborhood.  As part of her class, she helped Skinner’s FIRST Robotics team, a club that programs robots for LEGO Mindstorm competitions. But she also did much more.

“I come from another country, so I never had the opportunities they have,” said Sejko, who grew up in Albania. “To me, what they have is very, very important, and if they don’t utilize it, it’s useless. Exposing them early—at least they get to see it first and decide if they like it or not.”

Sejko isn’t the only Loyola student who helped the FIRST Robotics team. Senior August Meyer and other members of LuTech, a student organization focusing on social justice and computer science, volunteered every week as assistant coaches.

“I take working with kids and technology very seriously because I wish I had had the opportunity,” Meyer said. “I didn’t even know really what programming was until high school, so the fact that I was able to help teach kids about programming in elementary school is pretty cool for me.”

The broad approach

While taking Greenberg’s class in 2014, Meyer taught basic computer programming to elementary school students through Right At School, which offers afterschool enrichment programs. Many of the children had never used a computer to do anything beyond surf the Internet or type homework.

“I feel like I’m doing good, and it’s also just fun for me,” Meyer said. “I like technology and any excuse to work with cool stuff—and robots are cool.”

Greenberg has found that his students often get more out of the outreach experience than just helping the community.

“A lot of times students think it helps themselves as well,” he said. “They come back much more motivated about doing computer science and realizing a little more about, ‘Why do I want to do this?’ So it can really change their own views and perspective on the field.”

A different approach

As Greenberg began getting more involved in attracting young talent, he also started working with groups such as the National Center for Women & Information Technology that want to increase the number of women in the industry.

In class, Greenberg shows the students the numbers behind underrepresented groups in the STEM fields as well as the research showing the effects negative stereotypes and a lack of diversity can bring.

“We talked about underrepresented groups and I thought, ‘Yes, this is what I want to talk about,’ ” Sejko said. “It’s nice to focus a little bit on us.

“They see our perspective on it,” she said. “I definitely see that they understand us more after we talk, but you have to take that initiative and communicate with them. Classes like this help with that.”­­­­­­­

More online

Visit the Loyola STARS website for more information.

Non-Computer Science Majors Challenged to Build Android Apps Over J-Term

COMP 125 J-Term

01/27/2014

J-Term is a great way for Loyola Students to get ahead in their studies. The term offers students to pick up essential credits in just two weeks. However, this means cramming in a whole semester of work into a very small time frame.

The ten students who enrolled in COMP 125 were in for quite a surprise. COMP 125 is an intro course to programming designed for non-CS majors. These ten brave souls were tasked with creating their very own custom Apps for Android using AppInventor, a tool freely available for all.

AppInventor makes programming more accessible to those who do not have any experience with programming. While a seasoned CS major could fly through the course rather easily, the course was a daunting task for students with zero programming experience. However, they were up to the task.

The first half of the term was spent with teaching the students the basics and having them build assigned apps, such as a simple app that plays different sounds when different buttons are clicked. Later, Timer events were added, such as changing a displayed image every 5 seconds. One of the more challenging assignments was to design a Xylophone app. The app not only played different notes based on which key was pressed, but also had a play-back feature which allowed the user to record tunes and play them back.

After the initial wave of assignments, students were tasked with coming up with their own app as a final project. This is where the students’ creativities really shined. They selected apps based on their own personal interests. One student designed an alarm clock app that required the user to answer a simple math question before the alarm would stop, forcing the would-be sleeper to actually wake up. The creator commented, “the app was something I wanted for have for myself, due to the fact that I found myself hitting the snooze button and sleeping way past when I actually wanted to wake up!” Another student, who had an interest in yoga, made an app that displayed various poses and gave information on how to make the pose. It also allowed the user to participate in a “mini-yoga session” by displaying the poses in a random order and instructing the user to hold the current pose until a new pose is displayed, all the while soothing background music is playing.

Upon completion of the course one student remarked: “Going from zero knowledge about apps to being able to create my own in two weeks was pretty incredible.” Another agreed: “Having no experience with programming and being able to make my own app was pretty cool.” A lot of the students had no idea what to expect, but most said they “enjoyed it more than they expected” even if it was “much, much, more difficult” than they expected.

If you have any non-CS friends you think would enjoy a fun introductory course to programming, I encourage you to talk to them about COMP 125. Not only is it quite fun, but they can most likely use the credits for whatever major they have. The course is also offered during the Fall and Spring Terms for those who want to take things a little slower than J-term. 

For those who want to try their own hand at AppInventor, head over to http://appinventor.mit.edu/explore/

For those interested in learning more about J-Term, check out http://www.luc.edu/januaryterm/index.shtml

More information on COMP 125 can be found at http://people.cs.luc.edu/whonig/comp-125

Loyola Sponsors Regional Botball Competition

Botball Tournament

12/05/2013

Loyola played a key role in this year's Greater Chicago Regional Botball competition.  This educational robotics program, designed for middle school and high school students, strengthens a wide variety of skills and builds excitement for future work in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).  As a regional sponsor, Loyola hosted the kickoff workshop in January and provided volunteers to assist teams and to judge at the culminating tournament.  Ten teams competed at the tournament on April 14 at the Museum of Science and Industry.  The teams each built two robots from a given kit of parts and composed computer programs to control them.

"I was delighted with the excitement level of participating students and their parents, and I could see that students were learning a great deal on many levels," said Dr. Ronald Greenberg of Loyola's Computer Science Department, who coordinated Loyola's participation.  "Before the actual tournament competition, the students were required to make several online documentation submissions and an oral presentation, so the students exercised skills in communication and project management as well as mathematics, computer programming, and engineering.  At the tournament itself, students could learn lessons in additional areas such as discipline and sportsmanship."


At the tournament, students competed in a simulated Mars Sample Return mission and could earn points by successfully manipulating a variety of objects on the official game table.  Each team began by completing three seeding rounds with only their own robots on the table.  Then the seeding positions were used for a double elimination tournament, with each round pitting two teams against each other on the game table at the same time.  Overall winners were determined by placing a one-third weighting on each of documentation, seeding, and double elimination scores.  The non-profit KISS Institute for Practical Robotics managed the competition and presented several types of awards.

Loyola students who assisted during the course of the Botball season included Zachary Bruno, Jake Kumar, Jessica Herrera, and Steven Reisman.  Corporate support from regional sponsor Integrated DNA Technologies also was greatly appreciated.

Loyola STARS Computing Corps Members Engage in Diverse Outreach Activities

STARS Diverse Out Reach

03/13/2013

Students at Loyola have engaged in a diverse set of outreach activities, with particular attention now turning to the Greater Chicago Regional Botball Tournament coming up on Sunday, April 14 at the Museum of Science and Industry. Botball is an action-packed robotics competition for middle and high-school students that integrates robot building, programming, documentation writing, and even a bit of mathematical analysis. This year will be Botball's second year in the Chicago area, and it is drawing diverse participants, including many African-American students, a team organized by the American Indian Center of Chicago, and an all-girls team. Loyola hosted the introductory workshop for Chicago teams, with the help of Loyola students, and is continuing to provide assistance to some of the teams. The tournament in April is free and open to the public.

Loyola students have also helped with robotics competitions taking place earlier in the year, mentoring teams at Northside College Prep High School and West Ridge Elementary School.

Two other schools have also benefited from student help in the classroom, ranging from web design at Steinmetz High School to Scratch programming for 6th and 3rd graders at St. Viator Elementary to working with Kindergarteners at St. Viator on iPads.

A number of other community organizations have also proven to be good sites for student activities. Scratch programming was again the topic for children aged 6--12 at the Hamdard Center, a local Social & Health Service Agency. Refugees have also been the beneficiaries of computer skills training at the Pan-African Center and the Indo-American Center. Meanwhile, another STARS student has been working with children aged 9--13 who are categorized as having "High Functioning Autism" (in some cases referred to as "Asperger's Syndrome"). This program encourages social interaction through the process of working as a software development team and uses the creation of a video game as a motivation to learn computer programming.

Anybody in Chicago interested in volunteering for outreach activities or seeking some assistance for their organization can contact the Loyola STARS chapter.

STARS Leadership Corps activities continue

STARS

Loyola's chapter of the STARS Leadership Corps (SLC) of the STARS Alliance is continuing to work towards the goal of broadening participation in computing. The new chapter website includes a blog with reports of recent activities. Some examples are teaching Scratch programming to youngsters at a community center, making presentations about computing at high schools and elementary schools, mentoring a high school robotics team, mentoring high school students in the American Computer Science League contest, and teaching computing skills to refugees.

New members are welcome to join the SLC at any time; it's not hard to identify interesting projects. Students may continue projects initiated by graduating students or proceed in new directions with assignments that benefit the computing community or advance their own computing skills, keeping in mind the overarching goal of broadening participation in computing (especially among women, under-represented minorities, and persons with disabilities).

Under appropriate circumstances, SLC assignments may earn credit and/or a stipend. Many assignments can fit within the context of a service learning course to be run as COMP 390-001 in Fall 2012, while other assignments may proceed more independently (as a for-credit independent study or as a non-credit activity). The service learning course ran successfully in Fall 2011 as COMP 390-002 and is approved for the "Engaged Learning" Core requirement and for the "service learning" requirement of the Honors Program. Stipends of $500 per semester may be available to students fulfilling requirements of the national STARS Alliance.

Student seeking membership in the SLC and/or a stipend should email Dr. Ronald Greenberg with an explanation of the activities they would like to carry out and how the student's SLC membership and activities will further the goal of broadening participation in computing. Especially favored will be students enrolling in the COMP 390 service learning course. Students in this course will meet in Fall 2012 on Wednesdays from 2:45 to 3:35 at Lake Shore Campus and must perform at least 25 hours of service in the community. (Graduate students signing up for any section of COMP 490 can also follow a similar path, though Core requirements do not apply.) In any case, enrollment in COMP 390 can count towards the 6-credit practicum requirement in undergraduate degrees, and graduate programs can include up to 6 credits of COMP 490.

Per the broad guidelines of the STARS Alliance, SLC assignments generally fall within the following categories, and include three components: written reflection, presentation to peers, and outreach to community

  • Outreach Ambassadors in K--12
  • Service Learning
  • Research Experiences for Undergraduates
  • Internship Experiences
  • SLC Peer Coordinators, Peer Ambassadors, Peer Mentors
  • Tiered Mentoring

Some more specific suggestions of activities that might fit well in the context of the service learning course include:

  • visiting high schools and/or other schools to make presentations to students about computing
  • mentoring/tutoring high school students in computing and other STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) subjects
  • helping to coach robotics team, e.g., for FIRST competitions
  • working with organizations such as the Chicago-based i.c.stars that provide technical preparation and mentoring for young adults to achieve career-redirection into IT
  • working with groups like Girl Scouts, Aspira, BDPA, etc., to provide computing experiences to students
  • run after-school or weekend workshops to help students and parents with concrete computing needs
  • mentor less experienced university students
  • run university or high school computing clubs possibly focused on underrepresented demographic groups

Students should feel free to combine various activities and/or propose new ones.

(Note that the STARS Leadership Corps, as a chapter within the STARS Alliance is distinct from the older but more local STARS mentoring program run by Loyola's Office of Student Diversity. These programs do, however, share some goals and may be able to build positive synergies between them.)

CS Department participating in EduPar Curricular Initiative

Under the leadership of Drs. Konstantin Läufer, Chandra Sekharan, and George K. Thiruvathukal, Loyola University is in the forefront of curriculum initiatives on Parallel and Distributed Computing.  In Spring 2011, Loyola joined the first group of early adopters in the "NSF/IEEE-TCPP Curriculum Initiative on Parallel and Distributed Computing – Core Topics for Undergraduates".  Recently, Loyola has received a graphics card equipment award from NVIDIA for early adopters in this program.  More information can be found at http://www.cs.gsu.edu/~tcpp/curriculum.

Dr. Harrington serves as judge at the 2012 World Programming Competition

The Finals are the culmination of regional competitions that last year, started with 22,000 of the finest students and faculty in computing disciplines from over 1,931 universities from 82 countries on six continents. In the Finals, the top 103 teams competed for the World Championship.

The contest fosters creativity, teamwork, and innovation in building new software programs, and enables students to test their ability to perform under pressure. The contest will pit teams of three university students against eleven complex problems, with a grueling five-hour deadline. Huddled around a single computer, competitors will race against the clock in a battle of logic, strategy and mental endurance. For a well-versed computer science student, some of the problems require precision only. Others require a knowledge and understanding of advanced algorithms. Still others require totally original thinking, appropriate for the top collegiate programmers in the world.

Dr Harrington also serves as a Chief Judge for the Mid-Central Regional Competition that sends teams to the Finals, and he has coached Loyola's teams in the regional competition since 1991.

Recent Graduate Receives Two Fellowships

Her project for a Google Summer of Code Fellowship is described at http://informatics.nescent.org.  Currently, she is completing a research project in Vietnam under a Fulbright Fellowship.

Dr. Peter Dordal Author of New Open Textbook

Technology, as we all know, is constantly in flux. But how academic institutions react to its ever-changing nature can underscore the success of students. Dr. Peter Dordal’s free online/open textbook, An Introduction to Computer Networks, offers a technology-based learning opportunity to students. The book is drawing strong attention from commentators in the technology community, as noted through Hacker News. This measures the pulse of ideas and interest is this field.


Dr. Dordal talked about the interest in the book and what it means in both the academic and professional fields of technology.

 “This is an experiment for textbooks and I wanted to make it accessible to many,” Dr. Dordal said. “I tried very hard to write a book that would be attractive to use even if it were not free.”

This rising trend for open textbooks is modeled after open source projects such as Wikipedia. According to Dr. Dordal, writing an open textbook has many benefits. Costs are low and content can be updated more quickly. Open books are also particularly easy to incorporate into classes as a supplemental text. Dr. Dordal’s textbook can be downloaded for free by anyone, and he uses the text in both his undergraduate and graduate courses.

This is also an experiment for Dr. Dordal, whose purpose in writing this particular book was to make it accessible to students, faculty, and industry professionals alike. Computer networks instructors across the nation are comfortable using this online textbook, and the technology community was very interested in advancing the text.

This is a welcome product, because in the computer science community, there are few open-textbook choices. While there are many open-source applications/programs out there, open textbooks are still in the newer phase of development.

But the trend is picking up speed, with many companies now producing digital textbooks. In 2012, California Governor Jerry Brown even signed state bills to develop 50 online textbooks for the University system and the creation of a digital library.


Dr. Dordal's textbook is available online


 

Spring 2014 Student Presentations

On top of celebrating a great semester and recognizing the achievements of individual students this Wednesday, nine groups of students would like to demonstrate their project accomplishments over the past semester. 

Some will be demos or posters, but most will be in the form of 5-10 minute presentations starting roughly at 2pm in the CS department office following the celebration.

It is guaranteed you will learn more in the 1+ hour of demos and presentations than 1 hour of cramming for finals, so come celebrate the collective work of our independent study students.

Projects

Click here for brief descriptions (google doc)

Android Wall
Hugh Adam, Luiz Barboza, Breno Carvalho, Zachary Herr

An environmental monitoring and control system integrating local and external data
Md Asraful Alom, Keerthana Aravamudhan, Michael Dotson

Activity recognition in incomplete spinal cord injury
Michael Courtois, Yohannes Azeze (Biomedical engineering, IIT), Arun Jayaraman (PT/Ph.D. at RIC)

Activity-recognition graphical front-end development
Carol Klann, Daneih Ismail, Alex Thornburg

At-home passive tremor measurement for Parkinson’s patients
Alex Thornburg, Santiago Toledo (MD, RIC)

ECG signal detection and ML-based beat classification
Neil Rao

Binocular depth perception scoring for visual development models
Gordon Kratz

VIBES: tactile sensitivity estimation using touch screen vibration
Tara Raj

HMM-based activity recognition on SCI patient data
Ranulfo Neto

Arduino Music Visualizer
Michael Kwak

New Course COMP 366/450: Microcontroller Design and Interfacing

New Course COMP 366/450: Microcontroller Design and Interfacing

04/14/2014

Ever wonder what runs your microwave ( or automobile, printer, …)?

In Fall 2014 you can find out! Build computer controlled systems using a modern microcontroller and the famous Arduino open source electronics prototyping system. Learn what it feel like to really be in control of a whole computer based system – no other software to get in your way!

“In this course I show folks the kind of software that makes real world products tick," said Dr. William Honig, the course's instructor.

 

"When I was working in industry R&D before joining Loyola building embedded systems, it used to be hard to do something like this in a university; but the Arduino board solves all the hardware complexity. We can just tinker and have fun building things!”

Programming will be mostly in C (a smaller earlier predecessor to C++, Java, C#, etc.) The course will review basic electronics (amps, volts, watts, ohms). More information can be found at http://cs.luc.edu/whonig/comp-366-488

Loyola Professor Highlights Computer Science for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts

Loyola Professor Highlights Computer Science for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts

01/27/2014

Dr. Ronald Greenberg provided some fun activities at Science Nights recruiting events for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts (November and December in Gurnee and Winthrop Harbor).

Hundreds of youngsters and parents attended, and Dr. Greenberg provided three main activities: Doodle Cars, computer science magic tricks, and robotics videos.

The younger students especially were captivated by the five Doodle Cars.  These toys carry out one simple task that more advanced students often program into robots at educational robotics competitions.  These cars will follow a black line on a lighter surface.  Participants at the Science Nights were able to watch the cars navigate a pre-printed track, or they could draw their own track with a black marker on a white paper and set the car to follow it.  (One place to purchase Doodle Cars is amazon.com .)

Following on the robotics theme, a computer was also set up to loop repeatedly through a robotics video from the Rehabilitation Institute (here in Chicago) showing a man with a bionic arm.  Having obtained this prosthetic arm after losing his arm in an accident, the man was able to perform complicated motions just by thinking about moving his arm the way he would with his original arm.  Other robotics videos were also available, for example a very realistic looking women, and a four-legged robot that could navigate rough and/or slippery terrain.  (Some robotics videos can be viewed at illinoiscomputes.org .)

Finally, Dr. Greenberg performed two magic tricks.  The principal trick that was repeated hundreds of times, often for the same youngsters who kept coming back for more, was a number-guessing trick.  Participants were asked to select a secret number from 1 to 125.  Then they were asked to look at seven different number grids that each contained about half the numbers in ascending order and to indicate which grids contained the secret number.  After getting this information, Dr. Greenberg would instantly determine the secret number to the amazement of all.  (This trick is based on exploiting the way that numbers are represented in computers in the binary number system.)  Another trick, performed occasionally, is based on a simple error detection scheme used by computer scientists.  (Both magic tricks and the underlying secrets can be found at illinoiscomputes.org .)

Loyola Students and Faculty Engage in Spring and Summer Outreach

Spring and Summer Outreach

Loyola undergraduate Vinh Tran (standing) demonstrates the Nao robot while August Meyer (seated) demonstrates his "magical ability" to guess spectators secret numbers.  In the foreground is a Doodle Car, and on the floor in the background is part of the setup from the 2013 Botball educational robotics competition.

08/29/2014

Dr. Ronald Greenberg and several students have engaged in activities in the Spring and Summer focused on broadening participation in computing. These activities respond to the shortage of computing students relative to workforce needs and the underrepresentation of certain demographic groups in computing careers.

In February, Dr. Greenberg and undergraduates Vinh Tran, August Meyer, and Cole Grover showcased robotics and other computer science activities at Family Science Days 2014. The two-day event in February during the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science drew over 3,300 public visitors. One of the popular attractions was the humanoid Nao robot, which executed maneuvers programmed by Loyola students. Young visitors also enjoyed drawing tracks for cars with a simple robotic capability pre-programmed, sensing and following a black line on a white background. Dr. Greenberg also presented a stage show "Computer Science Magic".

Loyola undergraduate Vinh Tran demonstrates the Nao robot while other robotics demos play on the laptops.

On May 17, Loyola students participated in two different events. Undergraduates August Meyer and Dale Stout brought the Nao robot and other activities to STEM-O-Rama for Chicagoland boy scouts and girl scouts at the Kane County Fairgrounds; they reached about 300 people. At the same time, undergraduate Safa Faheem presented at Scratch Day at the West Ridge Elementary School. (Scratch is a computer programming environment particularly suited to novice programmers, and Scratch Day provided a variety of computing-related activities.) Safa demonstrated one of the robots of a middle school team that competed in the 2014 Greater Chicago Regional Botball Tournament and performed a magic trick based on computer science that involved "guessing" a participant's secret number.

In August, undegraduates Safa Faheem and Elliott Post, and graduate student Fuad Folu-Oso attended the STARS Celebration conference in Washington, DC. Loyola has a local chapter of the STARS Computing Corps comprised of students who engage in activities directed towards broadening participation in computing. Many of these students earn academic credit through the service learning course COMP 390.

 

Exploring social: Computer Science major Salomon Smeke spent his summer interning at 4C working on social media ads

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Salomon Smeke, right, a computer science senior, works alongside Loyola computer science alum Brian Gathright, left, in his internship working on social media apps and advertising at 4C. (Photo: Natalie Battaglia)

Intern profile:  Salomon Smeke
Loyola senior Salomon Smeke is a Mexico City native who spent his summer being a sort of Mr. Fixit as an intern for 4C—a social media advertising and technology company based in Chicago. In this internship, Smeke was lured by his longtime interest in computer technology but soon discovered a newfound interest in advertising. In this interview, he talks about the impact of the internship and how it has influenced his career goals after graduation.

4C describes their company as a global leader in data science and media technology that is transforming the way advertising and content are measured, planned, bought, and sold. In plain English, what does that mean?
It’s a lot of big words. Just to simplify things: advertising and social media are the cornerstones of this company. There’s a bunch of ads on Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Twitter. These are our four platforms. 4C is a way to manage advertisements on these platforms.

What attracted you to this internship opportunity?                                                                                                               Honestly, advertising is not something I ever really was that interested in. Then one of my friends started working there and kept telling me how amazing 4C was as a place to work. He told me he was learning a ridiculous amount EVERYDAY. And that’s what I want to do: learn more.

What interests you about working at 4C?
4C has a lot of interesting features some of which aren’t available on native tools. For example, if you were to go through Pinterest tools to make ads you wouldn’t see them, you wouldn’t have some of the features that 4C offers. The company also offer analytics on your advertisements. What’s working, what’s not working.

What are you currently working on at 4C? 
Much of my job is about fixing problems. Every product has bugs. A very large chunk of my job is to fix those bugs. QA (Quality Assurance) finds them and we fix them. There is a part of my job that also works on adding features: For example if you wanted to grab a set of ads and label them. Adding that feature to a platform like Pinterest is something that I’d do.

What’s something interesting you’ve discovered during your internship? 
You learn a lot from classes but it’s something else to work in the field that you study. Going from building a project in the classroom to this internship where there’s 22 people working on platform and there’s standards, you have to adapt. For me it was a change in perspective. It allowed me to see what my job is going to be like as a software engineer hopefully.

What’s your favorite part of 4C? 
When you’re working on a large advertising system it becomes very apparent that working with others is the cornerstone of this field. I assumed for a very long time, I could do anything by myself if I tortured myself: Eat a bunch of bagel bites and stay up all night. But no. There’s no way. I realize now that it’s a bigger art to work in a group with experts in your field. It’s way more critical than just powering through by myself.

How do you think this internship will help you in your career? 
Previous to going to 4C, I had no idea what half of this technology was. If you had told me CoffeeScript is something we used, I would have drawn a blank. Since I started my studies at Loyola 4 years ago, I’ve been angling toward web development and design. 4C has allowed me to discipline myself and expand my knowledge. So who knows? 

Programming Skills : Eighth grader Calvin Osborne shares game programming skills with Loyola students

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Calvin Osborne presented a guest talk to Loyola University Chicago Computer Science students from several sections of Introduction to Object Oriented Programming (Comp 170) on this November 8, 2016. Calvin, an eighth grade student at Lake Forest Country Day School, demonstrated his work to update and customize Minecraft with a mod called Mineautica, explained how he implemented the changes in java, and how he worked with a small team to create new graphic elements for the game.

Calvin’s customizations included adding water features to the game; areas could be filled with water, then plants and other objects made to appear floating in the water. These changes required programming original logic in java which Calvin explained to the Loyola students.

The Comp 170 students are in a first serious programming course and their programs are still limited to simple text input and output. Calvin encouraged the class to continue building on their programming knowledge.

“I only got interested in programming a year ago”, Calvin said. The Department of Computer Science students were wowed by Calvin’s skills and could not believe he was only in 8th grade.

In addition to his guest talk, Calvin joined Dr. Honig in explaining lecture slides on Object Oriented Programming to the Loyola students and describing some example programs using the java "for each" control structure. Calvin and his mother, Ms. Rachel Osborne, consulted with students during a classroom exercise called “Finding Objects” to encourage Object Oriented Development skills.

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Calvin and Ms. Rachel Osborne consulting with Loyola student.

Information Systems student wins big with music app idea

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Information systems student Jonah Murray hopes to roll out his award-winning concert-review app this summer in time for the Lollapalooza music festival.

By Gabrielle Barnes | Student Reporter

Senior information systems major Jonah Murray spends a lot of time on techie gadgets like most young adults. But there’s one big difference—he’s setting out to create an app that he hopes will become a trend.

Murray’s idea for Emurse came to be after he spent a summer going to alternative, lesser-known artist performances. He discovered the lack of artist variety in music-rating apps such as Songkick.

“I was going to a lot of concerts and I wanted something I could just go to and see what people think [about an artist], and I could not find that. If an artist wasn’t incredibly well-known, they just wouldn’t have that data at all,” said Murray, whose app will give concert goers a chance to scope out venues and artists before buying tickets to performances. “I decided a lot of people would value this.”

Although Murray said he wouldn’t consider himself a tech mastermind, he has always been interested in learning more about how technology affects the world. He chose to go into information systems because “it’s a place where business and technology meet," and to minor in computer science.

Ideas to actions

It wasn’t long before one of his computer science professors encouraged him to enter in the Chicago Innovation Challenge to put his ideas into action.

The competition, hosted by the Jules F. Knapp Entrepreneurship Center of the Illinois Institute of Technology, invites qualifying Illinois high school and college students to solve a real-world consumer need and demonstrate their inventiveness and originality at solving their chosen problem. Participants compete for prize money, along with 6-weeks of free rent at mHub Co-Working Space to work on the invention.

Murray was chosen as a finalist and was given the opportunity to present his concept to a panel of independent judges. His idea and execution of Emurse awarded him third place in the university/college division.

“Emurse really won based on the value of its creativity and usefulness as there were other app competitors but not in the music space,” said Donna Rockin, executive director of the Jules F. Knapp Entrepreneurship Center.

Turning passion into a career 

Murray is proud of his accomplishment and grateful to have had the opportunity to test his idea in a competitive, but innovative environment.

“Taking [my] idea and presenting it to the judges was satisfying and fulfilling, with or without a win,” he said.

After graduation, Murray will start his “dream job” in a tech position at Discover Financial Services. However, he doesn’t plan on abandoning Emurse. He plans to share a portion of his $500 prize with the people who helped him. Then, he will use the remaining money to put the final touches on Emurse.

Murray’s goal is to have a skeleton prototype of the app by spring 2017, and hopes Emurse will be available to consumers in time for Chicago’s biggest music event, Lollapalooza, in August.

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