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Independent Work Seminar Offerings - Fall 2015

Title: COS IW 01 - Analyzing relationship networks: social networks and beyond 

Instructor: Prof.  Andrea LaPaugh

Meeting time: Fri 1:30-2:50PM in Room CS 301

Abstract: Information is not only found in objects such as HTML documents, databases or images, but in the relationships between objects. The person-to-person interactions captured by social networking services such as Facebook and Twitter are excellent examples of the rich source of information provided by relationships. However the class of relationships containing useful information is much broader than friends and followers. Some examples include the win-lose relationship between sports teams and the contact relationship of individuals with respect to the spread of disease. The tools of social network analysis can be applied broadly to discover useful information about relative strengths, pivotal roles, community structure, and other properties within a set of related objects. It can be combined with other data mining techniques for deeper analysis. This independent work seminar will support projects in social network analysis. The typical project will focus on a particular collection of data containing relationships (possibly compiled from multiple sources), formulate a set of question about the data, and apply social network analysis to answer the questions. Projects that develop new analysis techniques are also possible. The seminar will provide background in social network analysis, resource lists of tools and datasets, and, most importantly, the opportunity for students to discuss their work and problem solve together. Some projects from past years using social network analysis: “Connecting Congress: An Analysis of Congress as a Social Network” and “An Analysis of Public Bicycle Sharing Programs.” Keywords: social network analysis, graph properties, data mining, metadata


Title: COS IW 02 - Understanding the World with Sensors

Instructor: Prof.Thomas Funkhouser

Meeting Time:  Wednesday 7:30-8:50 PM in Room CS 402

Abstract: The theme of this seminar is to investigate algorithms and applications where computers utilize sensors to understand the world around them. Today's computers are equipped with numerous sensors, including cameras, microphones, and radio antennae, and new sensors are being developed at an amazing rate. For example, cameras that capture 3D depth (like Microsoft's Kinect) are just now becoming available for tablets and soon will be available for cell phones (e.g., Google's Tango and Intel's RealSense, Apple's acquisition of PrimeSense, Occipital's Structure Sensor, etc.). These sensors provide great opportunity for computers to gather information and behave intelligently in their environments. Classical applications include human-computer interfaces, tracking, localization, communication, etc. However, new applications are now possible too -- including smart rooms, mobile navigation, scene recognition, etc. Students in the seminar will choose a target application and then develop and test a prototype system in which one or more sensors is used to help a computer understand the world for that application. It is expected that new RGB-D cameras and/or other sensors could be made available to students for these projects. 


Title: COS IW 03 - Invention and Innovation:  Entrepreneurial Lessons for Computer Scientist

Instructor:  Dr. Robert Fish

Meeting Times:  Thursday,  3:00-4:20PM in Room CS 301 and Friday, 11:00AM-12:30 PM in Room  CS 401

Abstract:  How does an idea for an invention actually become an innovation in the marketplace? You may be a computer programming wizard, but there is a lot more to it than just fingers on the keyboard. This seminar, in concert with your developing an independent project of your choice, introduces some of the elements of thinking and developing an idea into a going concern. Your project will include a software prototype and a paper/poster presentation that captures the feasibility of your idea as a business. To help you frame and complete your project, we will discuss distinctions between invention and innovation, various brainstorming and invention methodologies, the DARPA methodology for idea screening, an introduction to intellectual property including patents, a simple business plan, and the elements of an “elevator” pitch. For the more adventurous, the possibility exists for you to share your idea in a real startup pitch event and report on the results.


Title: COS IW 04 - Online Learning and MOOCs

Instructor:  Dr. Robert Fish

Meeting Time:  By Appointment

Abstract:  Recent years have seen a tremendous upsurge in both the interest and technology of online learning. Several companies and startups have been formed around the idea of massive open online courses (MOOCs). Technology developments in user interfaces, machine learning, and high speed networks have helped create a large catalog of online courses. However, most evaluations of online learning have not been able to show effectiveness that is on a par with traditional classroom-based courses. In this seminar, you will pick an online learning platform (e.g., Moodle, Google Course Builder) and develop a small lesson of your choice. Students will be expected to develop some pedagogical innovation on that platform. You will then evaluate your software prototype in terms of effectiveness against a similar face to face and/or paper-based learning experience. Your project must include suggestions for further improvements in the online learning environment.


Title: COS IW 05 - A Brave New Data World

Instructor: Prof.Thomas Funkhouser

Meeting Time:  Friday, 3:00- 4:20PM in Room CS 301

Abstract: This seminar is an opportunity for students to develop individual or small-team software projects in the still new and emerging area of Data Science, which combines concepts, methods, and tools typically taught in Probability and Statistics, Data Mining, and Programming Languages courses, among others. The projects will use the Python stack for data crunching and analysis, including iPython, pandas, matplotlib, SciPy and NumPy. Each team is expected to develop a relatively complete data processing and analysis pipeline, including components for data extraction, cleaning, normalization, transformation, aggregation, statistical analysis, classification, and interactive visualization. Students may choose their own data sets and project objectives, in consultation with the instructor. Objectives may include contributions to the open source software libraries used in the seminar. The end goal of each project is to draw relevant conclusions based on sound methods and reliable data, processed and analyzed using the Python stack. Conclusions may consist of explanatory theories, predictions, or proposed courses of action regarding the phenomenon that generated the data. Alternative end goals may include demonstrations of the limitations, or unintended consequences (e.g., privacy concerns) of the availability of increasingly large and inter-related data sets in recent years. 


Title: COS IW 06 - Apps for the Environment

Instructor:  Dr. Alan Kaplan

Meeting Time:  Friday, 11:00 AM-12:20 PM in Room CS 301

Abstract: Our environment - climate, food, health, air, water, vegetation, wildlife, etc. - is increasingly changing. And as our environment changes, so does the need to become more aware of the problems that are occurring in it. Given their sheer number - many estimate that there over two (2) billion smartphone and tablet users worldwide - mobile devices offer an opportunity to help crowdsource environmental data. The overall goal of the independent work projects in this seminar is to explore the use of mobile technology to help better monitor environmental data and events. Specifically, projects will involve developing innovative Android apps, possibly integrated with third party sensors/devices and/or open source platforms, that help capture, analyze, visualize, and ultimately, better understand environmental data. The are many, many possible project ideas. Here are a few:

  • Develop a mobile noise pollution mobile app based on the Noisetube open source platform to help communities understand how pollution impacts their lives. Part of this work would involve contributing updates to Noisetube to the open source community
  • Create an Android app to help people identify whether a vacant lot would work as a community garden, based on exposure, soil, proximity of other gardens, lack of fresh food options, location of hydrants, etc. (This work would be done in conjunction with Isles.org, a community organization based in Trenton.)
  • Create a mobile geo-based framework that integrates commercial-off-the-shelf sensors (e.g., biometric, microscopes, radiological, UAVs, etc) an Android app (smartphones and tablets). Such a framework would enable collection and analysis of samples (such as medical or environmental) in the field.
  • Create an Android app that can discover and access a publically available sensor, such as the Air Quality Egg, and then publish the data via a social app, such as Facebook, Twitter, etc.


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