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Projects Win Awards at Spring 2009 Design Expo


April 2009

More than 70 students from two Computer Science classes exhibited their projects at the Spring 2009 Engineering Design Expo, held recently in the Integrated Teaching and Learning Laboratory. These students are members of ten teams completing Senior Projects (CSCI 4308-CSCI 4318) this year, as well as four teams from GEEN 1400 Engineering Projects: Computing in Social Networking Sites.

The expo showcased more than 60 projects from throughout the College of Engineering and Applied Science. One of the GEEN 1400 Engineering Projects: Computing in Social Networking Sites projects was runner-up for the "People's Choice Award", as selected by attendees at the expo:

  • Magic Mailbox

    Magic Mailbox - A Safe and Easy-to-Use Communication System for Children

    • Tyler Blake
    • Ethan Boor
    • Blake Buchannan
    • James Busch
    • Brittany Kos
    • Elizabeth McNicholas
    • Gregory Miller
    • Katherine Otero
    • Jonathan Severns
    • Bryon Wells

    Magic Mailbox provides children with the ability to easily send and receive notes, drawings, or images of small arts and crafts to friends and family. The first year engineers found that children between the ages of four and eight do not have the necessary skills to operate modern communication devices like computers, fax machines and cell phones. In addition, parents want tight control over their children's use of such technology for security reasons. The Magic Mailbox addresses these problems.

    One of the main influences of the Magic Mailbox was the Peek-A-Drawer: Communication by Furniture by Itiro Siio, Jim Rowan, and Dr. Elizabeth Mynatt from Georgia Tech and Caring Families by Dr. Clayton Lewis. For the Peek-A-Drawer, a child could easily use this device to take a picture of a doll or macaroni picture and send it to a relative. A camera inside of the dresser takes a picture, an image is created and another Peek-a-Drawer receives the image over a web-based connection. Caring Families had some of the same basic functions of Peek-a-Drawer and Magic Mailbox (receiving email, sending email, and printing), but was geared towards older adult populations. For Caring Families, a fax machine was used to scan letters and forward them to appropriate loved ones.

    Physically, the Magic Mailbox resembles a traditional mailbox from a single family home. The user can place papers or small objects inside, and a camera mounted in the ceiling will take a picture. Then, using a simple touch-screen interface, the user can see a preview and choose who to send it to. Incoming messages were prototyped and mock messages are printed inside the mailbox. Parents and teachers also have strict, white-list based control over approved senders and recipients. The Magic Mailbox was evaluated with children and caregivers to test its usability and functionality.

The project also received a "Best in Section" award. This recognition was given by industry judges based on interviews with each project team, demonstrations of each project, and evaluation of each project's results by the judges. The class was taught by Katie Siek along with teaching assistant Swaminathan Ananthanarayan.

Two Computer Science Senior Projects also received "Best in Section" awards at the expo:

  • AutoCat

    AutoCat - Automatic Content Categorization System
    sponsored by Lijit Networks, Inc.

    • Eric Baer
    • Daniel Delany
    • Rafer Hazen
    • Daniel Kopelove
    • Andrew Noonan

    Lijit Networks is a fast-growing startup located in downtown Boulder. The company, funded by the leading venture capital firms in Colorado, provides search applications for publishers of online content such as blogs and blog networks. To improve the quality of this search and to aid in specific applications such as ad placement, Lijit needs to categorize blogs based on their content. For a variety of reasons it is desirable to group similar publishers into categories, or taxonomies. Examples of such categories are "Automotive", "Beauty and Style", "Business", "Sports", "Tech", etc. Furthermore, these taxonomies may be hierarchical in nature with sub-categories specifying more specific topics within the parent category. For example, "Sports=>Basketball" and "Sports=>Football" are two sub-categories of the "Sports" category.

    Currently, Lijit manually categorizes a small handful of the most popular blogs. As Lijit expands and the number of blogs that need classification increases, this task will become more costly, more time-consuming and ultimately impractical. AutoCat provides an automated "categorization engine" that can be trained to automatically categorize blogs with minimal human interaction.

    The categorization engine is trained using Lijit's relatively large collection of manually classified blogs. Each blog in the training set consists of multiple posts, or short articles, that the blogger has written, as well as other data associated with the blog such as tags and search terms. These two pieces of data, the manually assigned categories and the data/posts associated with a blog, are fed as training pairs into the categorization engine. The engine uses this training set to inform its algorithm to better predict the categories of uncategorized blogs. For each category that is assigned to a new blog, the engine also returns a number indicating its confidence that the category is correct, allowing a human using either a command-line interface or GUI to intervene if the classification's certainty is below a certain threshold. This human classification can then be fed back into the engine as an additional piece of training data.

  • SketchCraft

    SketchCraft - A Sketch-Based, Physics-Enabled Video Game
    sponsored by

    Kerpoof is a Boulder-based company, recently acquired by Disney, that develops the website -- a kids' website that is "all about having fun, discovering things, and being creative". SketchCraft is an online, sketch-based, physics-enabled video game in which players sketch various objects to complete the tasks set before them.

    By detecting the approximate shape of the object drawn, the game automatically adjusts the drawn shape to be composed of straight lines, rounded curves and square corners. Once the shape has been corrected, it enters the physics world, where gravity and other objects can act upon it. Based on the "material" that the user used, the shape is assigned a set of physical properties such as friction, mass and restitution. These properties govern the objects' behavior in the physics world, bringing shapes to life. A rubber object bounces higher than a metal one; an ice object is slipperier than one made of stone. Using various shapes and materials, the user must intelligently develop a method of "beating" each level. Level goals range from building a simple tower to catapulting objects into a goal area. This combination of drawing and physics-based game play makes SketchCraft unique.

    In addition to this basic game play, SketchCraft also provides a level editor and a framework for further extending the game's capabilities. Ultimately, users will be able to construct and share new levels with each other. Developers will be able to use the framework to extend the game in new directions. The system was developed in ActionScript 3.0 and uses the Box2D physics engine as well as the SuperDoodle shape recognition engine.

The Senior Projects course was taught by Bruce Sanders along with teaching assistants Guy Cobb and Benjamin Robinson.

See also:
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