PhD student Cory Bart wins Best Research Paper award at SIGCSE

Cory Bart, computer science PhD student, won the Best Research Paper award at the SIGCSE conference in March.  The SIGCSE Technical Symposium is the largest computing education conference worldwide organized by ACM SIGCSE.  It attracts around 1,300 researchers, educators, and others interested in improving computing education in K-12 and higher education. Ryan Whitcomb, computer science undergraduate student, along with CS faculty members: Dennis Kafura, Cliff Shaffer, and Eli Tilevich are co-authors of the paper.

ABSTRACT
To successfully bring introductory computing to non-CS majors, one needs to create a curriculum that will appeal to students from diverse disciplines. Several educational theories emphasize the need for introductory contexts that align with students’ long-term goals and are perceived as useful. Data Science, using algorithms to manipulate real-world data and interpreting the results, has emerged as a eld with crossdisciplinary value, and has strong potential as an appealing context for introductory computing courses. However, it is not easy to nd, clean, and integrate datasets that will satisfy a broad variety of learners. The CORGIS project (https://think.cs.vt.edu/corgis) enables instructors to easily incorporate data science into their classroom. Specifically, it provides over 40 datasets in areas including history, politics, medicine, and education. Additionally, the CORGIS infrastructure supports the integration of new datasets with simple libraries for Java, Python, and Racket, thus empowering introductory students to write programs that manipulate real data. Finally, the CORGIS web-based tools allow learners to visualize and explore datasets without programming, enabling data science lessons on day one. We have incorporated CORGIS assignments into an introductory course for non-majors to study their impact on learners’ motivation, with positive initial results. These results indicate that external adopters are likely to nd the CORGIS tools and materials useful in their own pedagogical pursuits.

 

 

Read More

Assistant Professor Kurt Luther receives National Science Foundation CAREER award

Assistant professor of computer science Kurt Luther has been recognized by the National Science Foundation with a Faculty Early Career Development Award to study and improve the capabilities of crowdsourced investigations. The issue is of particular importance in an era where speed can sometimes best factual and accurate reporting of news. Luther will use an innovative expert-led crowdsourcing approach to collect data using a platform called CrowdSleuth. The software will assist collaboration between crowds and experts, such as journalists, historians, and law enforcement, as they attempt to discover new information and verify details of investigations.

Read Full Story

 

Dr. Kurt Luther

Read More

Dick Nance, former CS department head, to be recognized by NC State Libraries

Dr. Richard Nance and his wife Barbara will be recognized by the NC State University Libraries (NCSU) as Life Members of the Friends of the Library.  Dr. Nance is an emeritus professor and former department head of Computer Science at Virginia Tech.  NCSU Life Members have made a long standing commitment to helping improve the collections and services of the NCSU Libraries.  Dr. Nance is one of the founding members of the Simulation Archive (http://d.lib.ncsu.edu/computer-simulation/) and continues to serve on the Advisory Board that guides the development and building of the Archive.  As a leader in the field of simulation, Dr. Nance has also contributed to a unique collection of oral history interviews with simulation pioneers.  Dr. Nance and his wife Barbara have also helped to build the Simulation Archive Endowment to enhance and sustain the Archive for generations of students and scholars.  They will be recognized at the annual Friends of the Library Spring Meeting, on Friday, March 31 at the James B. Hunt Jr. Library. The event is a lunch with an exclusive look at upcoming renovations of the D. H. Hill Library and a special viewing of rare books and materials from our Special Collections Research Center. Items from the Simulation Archive will be on view for attendees before the lunch.

He received BSIE and M.S. degrees from N.C. State University in 1962 and 1966 respectively, and the Ph.D. from Purdue University in 1968.  He has served on the faculties of Southern Methodist University and Virginia Tech.  Nance has held research appointments at the Naval Surface Weapons Center and at the Imperial College of Science and Technology (UK) as well as visiting appointments at Old Dominion University and Brunel University (UK).  He was also appointed Visiting Distinguished Honors Professor for the spring semester 1997 at the University of Central Florida. Nance is the author of over 150 papers on discrete event simulation, performance modeling and evaluation, computer networks, and software engineering.  He has held several editorial positions and was the founding Editor-in-Chief of the ACM Transactions on Modeling and Computer Simulation (TOMACS).

Nance has consulted for major private businesses and organizations, and his long-term research relationship with the U.S. Navy led to the establishment of the Systems Research Center at Virginia Tech in 1983.  He was named to the John Adolphus Dahlgren Chair in Computer Science in 1988. He was instrumental in the development of the Simulation Archive at N.C. State and currently chairs the advisory committee.  Nance has received several awards for his editorial and professional contributions, most recently the INFORMS Simulation Society Lifetime Professional Achievement Award in 2007.   He was elected a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery in 1996 and a Fellow of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS) in 2008.  In 2006 he was recognized by the faculty of the Edward P. Fitts Department of Industrial & Systems Engineering of N.C. State as one of the 12 Distinguished Alumni over the first 75 years of the department’s history.

Read More

Notes from Department Head Cal Ribbens

Today we are seeing a large spike in undergraduate computer science enrollment.  There have been two previous spikes in CS, one in the late 80’s (following the debut of the PC) and one in the early 2000’s (the “dot com boom”).  So here we go again?  Is this another enrollment bubble?  This one feels different to me.  While the current growth rate will surely level out, I believe CS enrollments will be sustainably high for the foreseeable future.  Computing is just so pervasive, and a CS degree is such good preparation for deep computational thinking and creative problem solving—exactly what is needed to address virtually all of the most important problems and opportunities society faces today.  And as we make progress on broadening participation in our field to include historically under-represented groups, the potential for new talent and growth is even more exciting.

Here are a few numbers, to give you a sense of CS undergraduate enrollment trends at Virginia Tech.  This year we will award almost 250 bachelor’s degrees, our largest group ever, and almost twice the size of the class that graduated only four years ago.  Our current sophomore class numbers 341, a number which ranks second in the College of Engineering, trailing only Mechanical Engineering.  The average GPA of this group is an impressive 3.37.

We are thrilled at the number of talented students that are streaming into our field!  It is a great privilege to help the next generation build on what has come before.  In a future post, I’ll have more to say about the great jobs our students are moving into, and about the exciting growth we are experiencing in other dimensions of the department.

 

Read More

Daphne Yao running for office!

Dr. Danfeng Yao, associate professor in computer science and Elizabeth and James E. Turner Jr. ’56 Faculty Fellow, will run for the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) SIGSAC secretary/treasurer officer position this spring. SIGSAC is the ACM’s society on security, audit and control. “I feel quite excited about the possibility of serving the community”, Dr. Yao said.  Her candidate statement is below.

ACM SIGSAC is a strong, successful, and inclusive organization. I am extremely excited to have the opportunity to serve this large international community that makes my 15-year academic life interesting and fulfilling. Besides the duties of managing SIGSAC finances and correspondences, the secretary/treasurer officer will be a member of the executive committee and participate in decisions that improve SIGSAC’s ability to support its members. Several challenges that I hope to help address include encouraging constructiveness in paper reviews, supporting women in security, and facilitating international exchanges. From serving on numerous PCs I found that security paper reviews tend to be overly negative and sometimes inconsistent, leaving junior researchers confused and discouraged. This is partly due to the critical nature of security and the breadth of the field. However, I believe that constructive criticisms foster our scientific community without reducing its competitiveness. I am also committed to increasing women’s participation in security. Diverse groups with the capacity of anticipating and working with alternative viewpoints are more innovative. The immense task of securing cyberspace demands a diverse and sustainable workforce.  Through organizing workshops and exchange programs, I will help create opportunities to broaden the participation of female security professionals around the world.

Read More

 

Danfeng Yao

Read More

Technology on the Trail

Through support from Virginia Tech’s Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology, Center for Human Computer Interaction, and Computer Science Department, we are beginning an initiative we call Technology on the Trail.

This initiative seeks to explore the influences, both positive and negative, of technology when used on extended trail hikes and similar activities. Technology is often targeted for use in heavily populated urban environments, but thousands of people take technology away from cities on their hiking adventures, raising questions about appropriate use when in a more isolated and natural environment. These environments provide some level of separation for most people from technologies, but a need for community and communication still exists for hikers and their friends and family. Widely available technologies and apps, including mobile devices, GPS, biometric sensors, photo and video apps, and mobile blogging tools allow the capture of data and information related to a hike, but the right ways to use it are not well understood.

Our Technology on the Trail initiative seeks to understand and develop ways that technology is used (or avoided!) on trails and in trail-like settings, such as extended and multi-day hikes, where different user goals and desires affect our behaviors and interactions with others.

We have divided this initiative into three main thrusts: preparation, experience, and reflection.

Read More

 

Scott McCrickard

 

Read More

Naren Ramakrishnan and colleagues explore big data analytics to plan for smart communities of the future

We already have smartphones, smart clothing, and smart appliances, but emerging “smart cities” are still a concept of our imagined future. A Virginia Tech team wants those smart cities to feature zero energy, zero outage, and zero congestion. Their tools: big data and interdisciplinary technology.

Walid Saad, the Stephen O. Lane Junior Faculty Fellow and assistant professor in electrical and computer engineering; Harpreet Dhillon, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering; and Naren Ramakrishnan, the Thomas L. Phillips Professor of Engineering and director of the Discovery Analytics Center in the Department of Computer Science, are leading a three-year, $1.4 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to develop a new planning framework for smart, connected, and sustainable communities.

 

Read More

Read More

Kurt Luther Awarded NSF CAREER Award

Dr. Kurt Luther, assistant professor of computer science, has been awarded an NSF CAREER award for his project entitled “Transforming Investigative Science and Practice with Expert‐Led Crowdsourcing.”  The prestigious NSF CAREER award recognizes creative and high-impact research proposals submitted by early-career faculty members.  Dr. Luther’s project will study how best to combine experts and crowds to improve the effectiveness, ethics, and efficiency of investigations, with applications in domains such as history, journalism, and national security.

Read More

 

Dr. Kurt Luther

Read More

3rd Virginia Tech High School Programming Competition

The 3rd Virginia Tech High School programming competition took place on Saturday, Dec 10, 2017. Dr. Godmar Back served as contest director and head judge. 101 teams from 25 high schools from 5 states took part at the 3rd online Virginia Tech High School contest that is run by volunteers from the ACM ICPC Programming Team at Virginia Tech. This was the first year that the event was advertised on a national site (Google CS4HS), which attracted teams from California, Alabama, North Carolina, and Maryland in addition to teams from Virginia.

The popularity of the event continues to expand. The competition has grown in 3 years from 24 to 58 to 101 teams. Dr. Back said, “We know that there is demand for more”.

More than 1,200 submission was entered in 5 hours, with 430 successful solutions. You can find the scoreboard and problem set (html, pdf). 100 out of 101 teams solved at least one, 56 solved 4 or more. The problems were developed by students from the programming team (Neha Kapur, Peter Steele, Harrison Fang, Daniel Moyer, Andriy Katkov) and Dr. Back.  Much to Dr. Back’s surprise, 4 teams solved all 10 problems (one in half the time).

To participate, teams needed to be sponsored by a teacher or parent coach. At most schools, the students got together at their school for the day with their teacher to participate in the contest. Teachers from several schools provided very positive and expressed that their students enjoyed the contest.

This year, for the first time, a team from Blacksburg High School participated. Prizes were sponsored by Eastman Chemical, the Computer Science Resources Consortium, and stack@cs

More detailed information about this year’s contest can be found here. Please spread the word about this contest to colleagues or teachers!

 

 

Read More