Thursday Extra: "Enhancing Myro Java using Android"

On Thursday, April 17, Nora Bresette Buccino will discuss the development of an application programming interface for small robots in Java, with extensions to the Android environment:

The use of personal robots in computing is becoming more ubiquitous as robots are a good way to attract students and introduce them to the subject of computer science. Therefore, it is important to make use of all the features of the robots to give users a sense of the capabilities provided by robotics. The API (Application Programming Interface) defined by the Institute for Personal Robots in Education, called Myro, originally created in Python, has now been adapted to many other popular programming languages including Java. The Myro Java API created for the Scribbler robots by Professor Douglas Harms of DePauw University included most of the features of Myro Python. Our goals in this project were to add features to the Myro Java API, to enhance the user's capabilities, and to attempt to incorporate Android development into Myro Java.

Smart phones and tablets have become an integral part of the way we communicate and learn. Not only can these devices be used to communicate with other people, but they can also communicate with other devices through Bluetooth and infrared sensors. Thus these types of devices can interact with devices such as robots and applications can be created to control these robots. Therefore, we decided to integrate Myro and Android to provide the opportunity to not only learn about robotics but to also learn about Android programming and mobile application development.

At 4:15 p.m., refreshments will be served in the Computer Science Commons. The talk, “Enhancing Myro Java using Android,” will begin at 4:30 p.m. in Noyce 3821. Everyone is welcome to attend!

Thursday Extra: "A Refined C-based Infrastructure and Curriculum to Support Robots in Introductory CS"

On Thursday, April 2, 2015, Professor Walker and his student development team will discuss on-going work on the infrastructure and curriculum for CSC 161.

Context: On Friday, April 10, students, Vasilisa Bashlovkina, Anita DeWitt, Nicholas Knoebber, and Anqing (Jason) Liu — with Professor Walker, will be presenting a talk to the Central Plains Regional Conference of the Consortium for Computer Science in Colleges. This presentation will serve as a preliminary offering of that talk.

Abstract: Since 2011, a student-faculty team at Grinnell College has developed and refined a complete course package, called MyroC, comprising a C-based infrastructure, course materials, laboratory exercises, problem sets, projects, etc. for introductory computer science. Using a lab-based pedagogy, the course emphasizes imperative problem solving and utilizes the control of robots as an integrative application theme. Although this approach has had much success, on-going technical challenges have included the lack of portability, unintuitive image processing, and forced sequential processing of robot commands. This paper describes improvements to both the C library and course materials (e.g., examples, laboratory exercises, and projects) that enhance student learning through laboratory experiences. Refinements have focused upon transforming the infrastructure from an extensive, largely non-portable C++ package to a simple C environment, allowing users to work with images directly as 2D arrays of pixels, non-blocking alternatives for many robot-motion commands, and concurrent control for the movement of multiple robots. The paper also describes assessment of effectiveness, including student reactions and enrollment statistics. Finally, this paper demonstrates the effectiveness of student-faculty collaboration in course development.

Scheduling Details: Refreshments will be served at 4:15 p.m. in the Computer Science Commons (Science 3817), and the talk will begin at 4:30. Everyone is welcome to attend!

CS Table for Friday, February 27: "Research Priorities for Robust and Beneficial Artificial Intelligence"

This Friday at CS TAble, we will discuss a recent document entitled “Research Priorities for Robust and Beneficial Artificial Intelligence.” The paper was selected by Stelios Manousakis, Grinnell's Artist-in-Residence for this part of the semester. Manousakis will join us for the discussion.

In selecting the paper, Manousakis noted that the paper “caused quite a stir some weeks ago as Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates, and Elon Musk—who are among those who signed it—came out publicly warning that Artificial Intelligence is the biggest threat to humanity.”

Computer Science Table is a weekly meeting of Grinnell College community members (students, faculty, staff, etc.) interested in discussing topics related to computing and computer science. CS Table meets Fridays from 12:10 to 12:50 in the Day PDR (JRC 224A). Contact Sam Rebelsky, rebelsky@grinnell.edu, for the weekly reading. Students on meal plans, faculty, and staff are expected to cover the cost of their meals. Visitors to the College and students not on meal plans can charge their meals to the department.

CS Table, Friday, February 20: Onion routing

This week in CS Table, we will consider a widely used technique for using Internet services anonymously: onion routing. The leading free implementation of onion routing is Tor. The Tor Project provides a variety of software packages incorporating or building on this technique, of which the best known is the Tor browser, a Firefox derivative that uses onion routing for interactions with Web servers.

The readings are:

Packets containing copies of these readings are available on the bench near Noyce 3821.

There is also one optional reading (on-line only):

Computer Science Table is a weekly meeting of Grinnell College community members (students, faculty, staff, etc.) interested in discussing topics related to computing and computer science. CS Table meets Fridays from 12:10 to 12:50 in the Day PDR (JRC 224A). Contact Sam Rebelsky, rebelsky@grinnell.edu, for the weekly reading. Students on meal plans, faculty, and staff are expected to cover the cost of their meals. Visitors to the College and students not on meal plans can charge their meals to the department.

CS Table, Friday, 30 January 2015: Redundant Arrays of Inexpensive Disks (RAID)

This week in CS table, we will read the first major paper on RAID (not the bug spray, but the disk technology - Redundant Arrays of Inexpensive Disks). This classic paper not only led computer scientists to think differently about storage, but also saw wide adoption in the real world. Copies are available outside Professor Rebelsky's office.

Patterson, D. A., Gibson, G., and Katz, R. H. 1988. A case for redundant arrays of inexpensive disks (RAID). In Proceedings of the 1988 ACM SIGMOD international Conference on Management of Data (Chicago, Illinois, United States, June 01 - 03, 1988). H. Boral and P. Larson, Eds. SIGMOD '88. ACM, New York, NY, 109-116. DOI=http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/50202.50214.
Increasing performance of CPUs and memories will be squandered if not matched by a similar performance increase in I/O. While the capacity of Single Large Expensive Disks (SLED) has grown rapidly, the performance improvement of SLED has been modest. Redundant Arrays of Inexpensive Disks (RAID), based on the magnetic disk technology developed for personal computers, offers an attractive alternative to SLED, promising improvements of an order of magnitude in performance, reliability, power consumption, and scalability. This paper introduces five levels of RAIDs, giving their relative cost/performance, and compares RAID to an IBM 3380 and a Fujitsu Super Eagle.

Computer science table is a weekly meeting of Grinnell College community members (students, faculty, staff, etc.) interested in discussing topics related to computing and computer science. CS Table meets Fridays from 12:10-12:50 in the Day PDR (JRC 224A). Contact Sam Rebelsky, rebelsky@grinnell.edu, for the weekly reading. Students on meal plans, faculty, and staff are expected to cover the cost of their meals. Visitors to the College and students not on meal plans can charge their meals to the department.

CS Table: Back to Basics (2014-12-05)

This week in Computer Science Table, we're exploring a different side of things. In particular, we are considering some under the hood issues in common programming areas, such as strings, memory allocation, and databases. Our reading is

Spolsky, Joel (2001, December 11). Back to Basics. Joel on Software. Web page at http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/fog0000000319.html.

Some questions to think about for this meeting: How are strings represented internally in your favorite programming languages? If you had a choice of how to represent strings internally, what would you do? Are all versions of malloc created equal? What flaws do you see in Spolsky's comments?

Computer science table is a weekly meeting of Grinnell College community members (students, faculty, staff, etc.) interested in discussing topics related to computing and computer science. CS Table meets Fridays from 12:10-12:50 in the Day PDR (JRC 224A). Contact Sam Rebelsky rebelsky@grinnell.edu> for the weekly reading. Students on meal plans, faculty, and staff are expected to cover the cost of their meals. Visitors to the College and students not on meal plans can charge their meals to the department.

Thursday Extra: "Summer Opportunities in Computer Science"

On Thursday, December 4, in Noyce 3821, Professor Samuel A. Rebelsky and the other faculty of the Department of Computer Science will present the department's annual discussion of summer opportunities in CS:

It may be hard to believe given the forthcoming sub-freezing temperatures, but it's about time to starting thinking about what you're going to do this coming summer (and maybe even in subsequent summers). If you enjoy computer science (or at least computer programming), summer is an opportunity to explore new approaches, to develop new skills, and perhaps even to make some money. But what kinds of things can you do? While students tend to focus on a few options (e.g., research with faculty), a wide variety of opportunities are available. In this session, we will discuss goals you might set for the summer and some opportunities that can help you achieve those goals.

Refreshments will be served at 4:15 p.m. in the Computer Science Commons (Noyce 3817). Professor Rebelsky's talk, Summer opportunities in computer science, will begin at 4:30. Everyone is welcome to attend!

Class Presentations: Designing Software to Design Sports Schedules

At 11:00 on Wednesday, December 3, 2014, students in section 1 of CSC 207 will present their work on developing software that creates competition schedules for college athletic teams. Presentations will be in Science 3813.

At first glance, scheduling seems easy. In the standard form, each team must play every other team twice, once home and once away. But real scheduling is much more complicated. For example, some schools may be on a quarter system while others are on a semester system, so not every team can play on the same set of dates. Many teams also have severe restrictions on how far they can travel during weekdays. And when teams play multiple games on a weekend, they typically do all of those games at home or all of those games away. With enough of these kinds of restrictions, forming a schedule that meets all of the restrictions is impossible.

In a sequence of lightning presentations, student project teams will discuss their creative approaches to solving a concrete version of this problem and in generalizing those approaches.

Refreshments will be provided.

Thursday Extra: "Historical map processing"

On Thursday, November 20, Toby Baratta 2017, Bo Wang 2016, and Kitt Nika 2016 will present their summer research on the automatic detection of place names on historical maps:

This past summer we did research on toponym detection and recognition on historical maps. Overall, our research goal was making historical maps more search-friendly and making information in the maps more accessible. Kitt Nika and Shen Zhang worked on detecting text strings on map images with maximally stable extremal regions (MSER). With this, they implemented a binarization method for future research in text detection. Kitt will discuss MSERs and the methods involving them in regards to text detection. Toby Baratta and Bo Wang worked on linking geographic datasets and recognizing toponyms from the detected text strings. With the alignment between historical maps and real-life geography, we used a Bayesian model to calculate probabilities of possible toponyms. Toby and Bo will discuss their work on increasing the range of our recognition system by adding area features such as lakes.

At 4:15 p.m., refreshments will be served in the Computer Science Commons. The talk, “Historical map processing: text detectors, database linking, and region models,” will begin at 4:30 p.m. in Noyce 3821. Everyone is welcome to attend!

CS Table: "Shellshock"

This Friday at CS Table, we discuss a recent security failure in Unix, GNU/Linux, and Mac OS X operating systems: the Shellshock bug. Our reading is:

Computer Science Table is a weekly meeting of Grinnell College community members (students, faculty, staff, etc.) interested in discussing topics related to computing and computer science. We meet on Fridays from 12:10 to 12:50 in Rosenfield 224A (the Day PDR). Students on meal plans, faculty, and staff are expected to cover the cost of their meals. Students not on meal plans can charge their meals to the department.

Contact John Stone for a copy of this week's reading.

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