Friday, June 10, 2016

SRL MS Thesis Defense of Swarna Keshavabhotla. Friday, June 10. Title: PerSketchTivity: Recognition and Progressive Learning Analysis

Thesis Defense
Friday, June 10

Title: PerSketchTivity: Recognition and Progressive Learning Analysis

Swarna Keshavabhotla
3:30pm Friday, June 10, 2016
Room 326 Teague Building

Abstract
Development of novice computing technologies has opened the door for computer- based tutoring systems in areas where it was previously not possible. Sketch-based tutoring systems are being developed for subject domains, which involve diagram- matic representations for problem solving. In this thesis, we present PerSketchTivity, a sketch-based tutoring system for design sketching that allows students to hone their skills in design sketching and self-regulated learning through real-time feedback. Students learn design-sketching fundamentals through drawing exercises of reference shapes starting from basic to complex shapes in all dimensions and subsequently receive real-time feedback assessing their performance.
PerSketchTivity consists of a recognition system, which recognizes the correctness of the sketch on the fly, on completion, feedback system provides real-time feedback and the evaluation system evaluates the sketch based on various features like error, smoothness and speed. The focus of this thesis is to evaluate the performance of the system in terms of the recognition efficiency and also the impact on the drawing skills of the students practicing with this system.

Biography
Swarna Keshavabhotla is a MS candidate at Texas A&M University department of Computer Science and Engineering. She is a member of Dr. Tracy Hammond's Sketch Recognition Lab. The focus of her research is development of sketch recognition algorithms for assessment in Intelligent Tutoring Systems and feedback mechanisms for enhancing the impact of the system on students' skills. Swarna received her Bachelors degree in India.

Advisor: Dr. Tracy Hammond

SRL MS Thesis Defense of Siddhartha Karthik Copesetty. Friday, June 10. Title: Labeling by Example

Thesis Defense
Friday, June 10
 
Title: Labeling by Example

Siddhartha Karthik Copesetty
1:00pm Friday, June 10, 2016
Room 326 Teague Building

Abstract
Sketch Recognition is recognition of hand drawn diagrams. Recognizing sketches instantaneously, is necessary to build beautiful interfaces with real time feedback. There are various techniques to quickly recognize sketches into ten or even twenty classes. But, what if we have 100,000 sketches and want to classify them into 3000 different classes? Using the existing techniques, it takes forever and ever to accurately classify an incoming sketch into one of these 3000 classes. For example, a class of hundred sketches takes two hours to get classified into one of the 3000 classes. This is very very slow, takes significant computation overhead and is not practical. So, to make things faster, we propose to have multiple stages of recognition. In the initial stage, the sketch is recognized starting from the outer level, moving level by level into the center of the sketch. This recognition is done by matching it against a set of sketch domain descriptions, resulting in a list of classes that the sketch could possible be, along with the accuracy and precision for each. For the ones with accuracy less than a threshold value, they go through a second stage of recognition. In this stage, feature values are calculated and evaluated against our model to accurately classify the sketch. Thus, the time taken to classify such huge datasets of sketches decreases significantly with increase in accuracy and precision.

Biography
Siddhartha Karthik Copesetty is a master’s student in the Sketch Recognition Lab. He completed his undergraduate degree in Computer Science at National Institute of Technology, Tiruchirappalli, India. He was a software engineering intern at Yahoo!, Sunnyvale last summer.

Advisor: Dr. Tracy Hammond

SRL PhD Dissertation defense Stephanie Valentine. Friday, June 10. Title: Design, Deployment, Identity, & Conformity: An Analysis of Children's Online Social Networks

Dissertation Defense
Friday, June 10

Title: Design, Deployment, Identity, & Conformity: An Analysis of Children's Online Social Networks

Stephanie Valentine
10:00am Friday, June 10, 2016
Room 326 Teague Building

Abstract
Preadolescents (children aged 7 to 12 years) are participating on online social networks whether we, as a society, like it or not. Enacted by the United States Congress in 1998, the collection of online data about children under the age of 13 is illegal without express parental consent. As such, most mainstream social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram limit their registration by requiring new users to assert that they are at least 13 years of age, an assertion which is often falsified. Researchers, bound by the same legal requirements regarding online data collection, have resorted to surveys and interviews to understand how and why children interact on social networks. While valuable, these prior works explain only what children say they do online, and not what they actually do on a daily basis. In this work, we describe the design, development, deployment, and analysis of our own online social network for children, KidGab. This work explores common social networking affordances for adults and their suitability for child audiences; analyzes the participatory behaviors of our users (Girl Scouts from around central Texas) and describes how they shaped KidGab's continuing growth; discusses our quantitative analysis of users' tendencies and proclivities toward identity exploration; leverages graph algorithms and link-analysis techniques to understand the sociality of conformity on the network; and finally, this work describes the lessons we learned about children's social networks and social networking througout KidGab's 450 days of active deployment. 

Biography
Stephanie Valentine is a PhD candidate in the Department of Computer Science & Engineering at Texas A&M University. A Nebraska native, Valentine completed a BA in Computer Science with a minor in Electronic Publishing from Saint Mary's University of Minnesota. Valentine is an NSF Graduate Fellow, winner of the Susan M. Arseven ’75 Make A-Difference Award, and Vice President of the CSE Departmental graduate student association. Valentine's research focuses around understanding how children communicate in online social networks and empowering children to have safe, healthy, and expressive digital friendships. Valentine is also the founding president of Wired Youth, Inc., a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that works to educate the community about safe social networking for children as an active prevention strategy for cyberbullying, online predation, and other cyberthreats.Stephanie Valentine is a PhD student in the Department of Computer Science & Engineering at Texas A&M University. A Nebraska native, Valentine completed a BA in Computer Science with a minor in Electronic Publishing from Saint Mary's University of Minnesota. Valentine is an NSF Graduate Fellow, winner of the Susan M. Arseven ’75 Make-A-Difference Award, recipient of the 2016 NCWIT Collegiate Award (Honorable Mention), and winner of the 2015 Texas A&M University Department of Computer Science & Engineering Mentoring Excellence Award. Valentine's research focuses around understanding how children communicate on online social networks and empowering children to have safe, healthy, and expressive digital friendships. Valentine is also the founding president of Wired Youth, Inc., a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that works to educate the community about safe social networking for children as an active prevention strategy for cyberbullying, online predation, and other cyberthreats.

Advisor: Dr. Tracy Hammond

Thursday, April 14, 2016

SRL wins 5 awards at the 2015 Spring IAP Poster Competition and CSE Banquet

On April 20th, 2015, the Sketch Recognition Lab, directed by Dr. Tracy Hammond, kicked off a busy, bustling afternoon that included both the IAP Poster Competition and, soon after, the Computer Science and Engineering Departmental Banquet and Awards Ceremony. 

Seven members of SRL, six graduates and one undergraduate presented posters at the IAP Competition. Many of the judges later commented on how impressed they were with the work and presentations of the SRL members.


The hard work that everyone put into their presentations was reflected at the awards ceremony later that evening, with Seth Polsley winning second place and Stephanie Valentine tying for first place in the IAP poster competition!

Additionally, Trevor Nelligan won the Undergraduate Research Award, Stephanie Valentine won the Mentorship Excellence Award, and Rafael (Rafa) Moreno won the Undergraduate Leadership Award at the CSE banquet! Congratulations to everyone!! 


Rafa Moreno, who recently joined SRL as an undergraduate researcher working on Smart Strokes with Raniero Lara Garduno, stated, "It feels pretty good to win the award, not for the award itself, but the fact that someone agrees with you on the impact of what you are doing, and how many people it is positively affecting."

Outside of the lab, Moreno is interested in machine learning and computer vision as it relates to artificial intelligence. He is also the president of TAMUHack and helps the organization and growth of the "hackathon".

SRL MS Student Seth Polsley, one of six graduate students who presented in the poster competition, won second place for his research with Mechanix.


Polsley's poster focused on the trends regarding student interaction with the problems given to them in Mechanix. For example, how many times have students tried to correctly answer specific problems? At what point in an assignment did a concept throw students off and caused them to struggle?

Everyone has experienced the stress and frustration that occurs when a problem can’t be solved immediately or even after a few tries. The more frustration that builds up, the harder and more irritating the problem becomes. However, sometimes the best solution is to let it go. Relax. Coming back to a problem an hour or a day later can sometimes make it easier to think logically and solve it. 

“Sometimes you need a break,” Polsley stated about struggling with a question. “Maybe we can add something in Mechanix that pops up after a certain number of attempts on a question. It may just be something like ‘go ahead and continue and come back later.’” 

Like Polsley, Nelligan's research and studies have focused on Mechanix this semester. Trevor Nelligan won the Undergraduate Research Excellence Award for his presentation for the IAP competition.


Mechanix is an innovative and digital learning area for beginners. The program itself allows for instructors to create practice problems for students. Users can then sketch images into the program and add force and force direction to solve the problems and produce formulas.

Once a problem is worked out by a student, they can submit it for instant feedback and correction. This is particularly helpful in a large class where handwritten assignments are necessary – for example, an engineering or mathematics class. While it would take time for an instructor to grade and comment on every student’s assignment, Mechanix allows for students to be automatically evaluated and given feedback to help students understand what was missed in the problem.

SRL PhD Candidate Stephanie Valentine also presented at the IAP Competition and won first place for her research covering her work with KidGab. Valentine’s colorful poster resembled a screenshot of a social media site with the flair of her own touch. 

Along with her poster, Valentine set up a tablet in her presentation that constantly showed a looped video about how sketches on KidGab can become videos of the drawing being created, pen stroke by pen stroke. While this is currently a fun, leisure application found in KidGab, it can be used in an educational setting to make videos about concepts learned in class – for example, a sketch about how to solve a problem using long division.

In her presentation, Valentine gave a brief rundown on her social network for kids aged 7 to 12. Her goal of educating children on how to be safe online and have a responsible digital self were a driving force behind her speech. She also touched on how KidGab is used by children that she has worked with during Digital Friendship workshops to identify and express themselves.
  
Congratulations to everyone who participated and to everyone who was awarded for their posters and involvement with the CSE Department!

With the stress of research competitions out of the way for the moment, SRL attended the end of the year banquet for the Computer Science and Engineering Department at Texas A&M University. The senior capstone groups – who have mentors in the SRL – had posters on display for the first half of the night.

With a beautiful layout and delicious food, the evening was a nice breather to the hectic schedule that members of the SRL usually face. In fact, it became an event for everyone to have fun, chat, and shake the stress off on the dance floor – perhaps while learning a few new steps along the way.

Friday, March 4, 2016

SRL Dissertation Defense Hong-Hoe (Ayden) Kim Friday, March 4, 2016 , Title: A Fine Motor Skill Classifying Framework to Support Children's Self-regulation Skills and School Readiness

SRL Dissertation Defense
Hong-Hoe (Ayden) Kim
Friday, March 4, 2016

Title:  A Fine Motor Skill Classifying Framework to Support Children's Self-regulation Skills and School Readiness

Hong-hoe Kim
3:30pm Friday, March 4, 2016
Room 323 Teague Building

Abstract
Children's self-regulation skills predict their school-readiness and social behaviors, and assessing these skills enables parents to target areas for improvement children to enter school ready to learn and achieve. To assess children's fine motor skills, current educators are assessing those skills by either determining their shape drawing correctness or measuring their drawing time durations through paper-based assessments. However, the methods involve human experts manually assessing children's fine motor skills, which are time consuming and prone to human error and bias. We introduce our fine motor skill classifying framework based on children's digital drawings on tablet-computers. The framework contains two fine motor skill classifiers and a sketch-based educational interface.

Biography
Hong-hoe Kim is a PhD Candidate in sketch-recognition lab at Texas A&M University under the supervision of Dr. Tracy Hammond. He received his Masters degree in Computer Science from Texas A&M University and B.S. degree in Computer Science from Soongsil University in Korea. His research area includes Child-Computer Interaction, Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), Machine Learning, and Educational Psychology.

Advisor: Dr. Tracy Hammond

Thursday, March 3, 2016

SRL MS Thesis Defense: Purnendu Kaul, March 3, 2016, Gaze Assisted Classification of OnScreen Tasks and User Activities

SRL Thesis Defense:
Purnendu Kaul
Thursday, March 3

Title:  Gaze Assisted Classification of On-Screen Tasks (by Difficulty Level) and User Activities (Reading, Writing/Typing, Image-Gazing)
Purnendu Kaul
12:30pm Thursday, March 3, 2016
323 Teague, CSE, TAMU

Abstract
Intelligent tutoring systems(ITS) are commonly used to indirectly assist classroom instructors by helping them deliver the learning material and assess students' progress as they learn. Today, such systems put the onus of asking for appropriate help on students, instead of assessing their needs automatically. This provides an opportunity to make systems which are capable of adapting to the cognitive states of students as they learn.

We have shown that Gaze-assisted human-computer interaction is a means of transforming these Intelligent tutoring systems (ITS) into more proactive and adaptive systems. A system with eye tracking capability can be trained to learn cognitive states of a user and offer contextual assistance. In this research, we conducted an experiment using Mechanix, a sketch based ITS system, that helps students learn how to solve truss problems.

Through this experiment, we investigated the possibility of using eye gaze data to classify problems being solved by students as difficult, medium, or hard. We also classify the activity being performed by users as "reading", "gazing at an image," and "drawing/typing." We only used those gaze features which can be calculated in real time, and are not dependent on the duration of activity on the system.  The results show that gaze features can clearly differentiate between the activities with an accuracy of 94%, and classify the problems as easy, medium, or hard with an accuracy of more than 70%.

Biography
Purnendu is a masters student in the Sketch recognition lab. He completed his undergraduate degree at National Institute of Technology Kurukshetra, India and worked at the Indian Institute of Technology for a year before starting the graduate program at Texas A&M University. He was a summer software intern at Schlumberger Information Solutions in Houston during the summer of 2014.

Advisor: Dr. Tracy Hammond

SRL Thesis Defense: Shalini Priya Ashok Kumar Thursday, March 3 Title: Evaluation of Conceptual Sketches on Stylus-based Devices

SRL Thesis Defense: Shalini Priya Ashok Kumar
Thursday, March 3

Title:  Evaluation of Conceptual Sketches on Stylus-based Devices

Shalini Priya Ashok Kumar
9:00am Thursday, March 3, 2016
Room  323 Teague Building

Abstract
Design Sketching is an important tool for designers and creative professionals to express their ideas and thoughts onto visual medium. Being a very critical and versatile skill for engineering students, this course is often taught in universities on pen and paper. However, this traditional pedagogy is limited by the availability of human instructors for their feedback. Using intelligent interfaces this problem can be solved where we try to mimic the feedback given by an instructor and assess the student drawn sketches to give them insight of the areas they need to improve on. PerSketchTivity is an intelligent tutoring system which allows students to practice their drawing fundamentals and gives them real-time assessment and feedback. This research deals with coming up with the grading rubric that will enable us to grade students from their sketch data.
Biography
Shalini Priya Ashok Kumar got her Bachelor of Technology degree in Information Technology from National Institute of Technology Karnataka, Surathkal. She worked for Citrix R&D India, Bangalore for a couple of years after which she joined Texas A&M University in the Masters program. She works in the Sketch Recognition Lab on developing software for Design sketching students. Her interests are Artificial Intelligence, Machine learning and Human Computer Interaction.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

SRL Dissertation Defense: Folami Alamudun Monday, February 29 Title: Analysis of Visuo-cognitive Behavior in Screening Mammography

SRL Dissertation Defense:
Folami Alamudun
Monday, February 29

Title:  Analysis of Visuo-cognitive Behavior in Screening Mammography

Folami Alamudun
12:00pm Monday, February 29, 2016
Room 323 Teague Building

Abstract
Improved precision in modeling and predicting human behavior and the underlying metacognitive processes is now possible thanks to significant advances in bio-sensing device technology and improved technique in machine intelligence.  Eye tracking bio-sensors measure psycho-physiological response through changes in configuration of the human eye. These changes include positional measures such as visual fixation, saccadic movements, and scanpath, and non-positional measures such as blinks and pupil dilation and constriction. Using data from eye-tracking sensors, we can model human perception, cognitive processes, and responses to external stimuli.

In this study, we investigate visuo-cognitive behavior in screening mammography under clinically equivalent experimental conditions. We examined the behavior of 10 image readers (three breast-imaging radiologists and seven Radiology residents) during the diagnostic decision process for breast cancer in screening mammography. Using a head-mounted eye tracking device, we recorded eye movements, pupil response, and diagnostic decisions from each image reader for 100 screening mammograms. Our corpus of mammograms comprised cases of varied pathology and breast parenchyma density.

We proposed algorithms for extraction of primitives, which encode discriminative patterns in positional and non-positional measures of the eye. These primitives capture changes correlate with individual radiologists, radiologists’ experience level, case pathology, breast parenchyma density, and diagnostic decision. We evaluated the effectiveness of these primitives through performance measures using ten-fold cross-validation for training and testing a simple learning algorithm.

Our results suggest that a combination of machine intelligence and new bio-sensing modalities is an adequate predictor for the characteristics of a mammographic case and image readers’ diagnostic performance. Our results also suggest that primitives characterizing eye movements can be useful for biometric identification of radiologists. These findings are impactful in real-time performance monitoring and personalized intelligent training and evaluation systems in screening mammography.

Biography
Folami Alamudun is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Texas A&M University working directly with Dr. Tracy Hammond in the Sketch Recognition Laboratory (SRL) and in collaboration with Dr. Georgia Tourassi at the Oak Ridge National laboratory's (ORNL) Biomedical Sciences and Engineering Center.

His research focuses on machine intelligence and bio-sensing device applications in user behavior modeling.

Advisor: Dr. Tracy Hammond

Monday, October 12, 2015

Sketch Recognition Lab Summer Outings

Members of the Sketch Recognition Lab and Director Dr. Tracy Hammond are always busy - the stack of research, projects, and classes can almost seem unending. However, the time consuming schedules of SRL members are not so jam-packed to keep them from enjoying time with one another during lab outings.

Some outings consist of going out to movies like The Avengers or The Martian, eating together, or going for coffee. Some are more publicly situated than others. Recently, SRL went out to Grand Station in College Station to spend an evening bowling with one another. Grand Station has become a top pick for lab outings, when it’s convenient for a larger group.

(SRL Bowling outing - Left to Right: Katya Borgos-Rodriguez, Josh Cherian, Dr. Tracy Hammond, Hannah Conrad, Raniero Lara-Garduno, Jung-In Koh; Bottom: Angelica McMurty)
While most lab outings are spontaneous times for everyone to relax and enjoy some much needed downtime, the latest was also a farewell party to Katya Borgos-Rodriguez and Angelica McMurty, who helped Stephanie Valentine with KidGab updates and research over the summer, and Javier Anguas, Omar Garcia, Cristopher Cortes, and Aldo Haro (CANIETI Students, who were unfortunately unable to attend the bowling night).
While at Texas A&M University this summer, the CANIETI Students worked together on a project in the Sketch Recognition Lab. Their final prototype, called Smart Cap, is a hat which monitors the air quality and UV radiation that the wearer is exposed to and calculates Ultraviolet Index (UVI) and Air Quality Index (AQI). The cap is connected via Bluetooth to a smartphone, which then displays the findings.


Borgos-Rodriguez and McMurty, meanwhile, worked on new quizzes, drawings, plugins, and updates to KidGab. They also aided in summer Digital Friendship programs, hosted Digital Parties, and tracked information for KidGab until returning to their home universities.


(SRL Bowling Outing)

“I applied for the DRE Program. It was kind of a random encounter: I found it through a Facebook post. Someone posted it and I went ahead an applied and crossed my fingers and hoped for the best,” Borgos-Rodriguez explained how she found herself traveling from her home in Puerto Rico to Texas A&M University for the summer. “They assign you specific universities according to your interests.”

Once the DRE Program assigned her to Texas A&M University, Dr. Hammond contacted Borgos-Rodriguez via email with a description of projects that were available to work on over summer break. Stephanie Valentine, the creator of KidGab, was copied on the email because of her involvement with previous DRE students.

Borgos-Rodriguez mostly worked on new illustrations and styles for the cartoon avatars in KidGab. McMurty, on the other hand, mostly worked on new quizzes for KidGab members to take and participate in.

"My favorite thing about my summer experience," McMurty added later in the fall, "was to be able to work with really strong and amazing people, especially Stephanie [Valentine]." 

SRL loved hosting every one of our summer students, working beside them, and seeing their research take life at TAMU. We hope to see them all again in the near future! 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

SRL Graduate Students Also Awarded 5 Times in Medicine, Education, and CS at 2015 TAMU Student Research Week!

The 2015 Student Research Week (SRW) at Texas A&M University began on March 24 and ended with an awards ceremony on March 27. Many students of the Sketch Recognition Lab, directed by Dr. Tracy Hammond, participated. SRL students won 10 awards; 5 awards went to undergraduates (see prior post) and 5 went to graduate researchers. This post describes the graduate awards.

The following is a list of Sketch Recognition Lab Awards at TAMU Student Research Week 2015. Bolded are those from graduate students.

  1. 2015 Sigma Xi Interdisciplinary Award. TAMU Student Research Week, SRW 2015.  gRec: A Gesture Recognition Interface for CourseSketch. Gutierrez, A.**
  2. 2015 1st Place Undergraduate Oral (Subject Area: Math, Statistics, Computer Science) TAMU Student Research Week, SRW 2015. Wood, H.**, Vangavolu, H.**, Newman J.**  Frontier
  3. 2015 1st Place Undergraduate Poster (Subject Area: Math, Statistics, Computer Science) TAMU Student Research Week, SRW 2015. gRec: A Gesture Recognition Interface for CourseSketch. Gutierrez, A.**
  4. 2015 1st Place Undergraduate Oral (Subject Area: Health, Nutrition, Kinesiology, Physiology) TAMU Student Research Week, SRW 2015. Bowersox, M.**Brown, W.**, Sauers, C.**, Shoot Responsibly
  5. 2015 2nd Place Undergraduate Poster (Subject Area: History, Literature, Fine Arts, Communication, Languages, Philosophy) TAMU Student Research Week, SRW 2015. KidGab: A Social Media Tutorial.  Zhang, H.**, Privett, J.**, Tian, F.**, Mulholland, T.**, Carrasco, M.**, Cestafe, E.**
  6. 2015 1st Place Graduate Poster (Subject Area: Math, Statistics, Computer Science) TAMU Student Research Week, SRW 2015 Poster Competition. Approximate Sketch Matching and Retrieval. Ray, J.*
  7. 2015 2nd Place Graduate Poster  (Subject Area: Math, Statistics, Computer Science) TAMU Student Research Week, SRW 2015. Optimizing Corner Finder. Garg, A.*, Ray, J.*, Polsley, S.*
  8. 2015 2nd Place Graduate Oral (Subject Area: Math, Statistics, Computer Science)  TAMU Student Research Week, SRW 2015. SmartStrokes: Evaluating Sketches from Neuropsychological Tests. Lara-Garduno, R.*
  9. 2015 2nd Place Graduate Poster (Subject Area: Medicine, Biomedical, Neuroscience)  TAMU Student Research Week, SRW 2015. Modeling Radiologists’ Visual Search Patterns during Mammographic Screening. Alamudun, F.*
  10. 2015 2nd Place Graduate Oral (Subject Area: Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology, Business, Education, Political Science, Economics)  TAMU Student Research Week, SRW 2015. CourseSketch. Turner, D.*

Folami Alamundun won 2nd Place for Poster in Medicine, Biomedical Engineering, and Neuroscience.

Alamundun’s poster, Modeling Radiologists’ Visual Search, visually presented his research pertaining to gaze data and radiologists looking at mammograms. Medical procedures are emotional enough for the patient and provider without the worry of human error and honest mistakes that may happen.

Using eye tracking devices strapped onto radiologists’ heads, Alamundun recorded where radiologists looked during a screening. His goal was to analyze and identify common habits of radiologists which could then be used to develop diagnostic tools, decision support, and better training methods.
(Folami Alamundun standing with his poster)

“In this experience, in particular, one of the judges I talked to was in health sciences,” Alamundun stated about what he took away from SRW. “She asked a very certain question that I just never thought about, so I had very interesting feedback. She gave me her contact information and she introduced me to someone who is working with similar ideas, but in a different domain. You get a chance to create a local network and collaborate with others who have similar interests to you.”

Winning 1st Place for Poster in Math, Statistics, and Computer Science was Jaideep Ray, the second member of SRL who was awarded.

In his poster, titled Approximate Sketch Matching and Retrieval, Ray researched and created an algorithm-based program that could automatically recognize what a hand-drawn sketch is of. The program acts in a similar fashion to trying to find books or articles on certain topics via an online database. 

For example, if a person drew a pig, there are certain parts of the animal’s anatomy that almost everyone draws – the iconic curly tail and a snout. Using basic geometric shapes, the algorithm relates the parts of the picture to the whole image. So, once an image is input into the system, it searches for 'key terms' to identify what the user has drawn.


(Jaideep Ray [second from the left] holding his award with Seth Polsley, Harish Vangavolu, and Abram Gutierrez)

The third SRL member is Anurag Garg, who was awarded with 2nd Place for Poster in Math, Statistics, and Computer Science.

His poster, Optimizing Corner Finder, aimed at improving the performance of the ShortStraw algorithm introduced by Wolin et. Al in 2008. One issue that occurs in sketch recognition is finding corners in free-line drawings. ShortStraw takes the points of a stroke, recognizes them, and then uses the distance between the points to predict whether the points are from straight lines or corners. This makes coding and programming much easier.

Through analysis of Wolin’s corner finder algorithm, Garg found that there was gap between the run-times of individual segementers and ShortStraw. After tests and further evaluation of the process, Grag’s research resulted in an improved algorithm using 'parallelization techniques'.

Fourthly, David Turner was awarded 2nd Place for Oral Presentation in Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology, Business, Education, Political Science, and Economics.

CourseSketch, as described by Turner, is an online learning experience and system that allows for the submission of handwritten homework and a unique course management functionality.

“CourseSketch is a system to make education smarter,” Turner stated. “Our mission is to deliver an intuitive, as well as interactive, learning experience that simplifies instructor and student interactions.”

There were three driving motivations behind the creation of CourseSketch. Firstly, Turner was unsatisfied with the current state of education in regard to the long feedback loop between the learning of material and the evaluation and response given to students based on completed work. Secondly, while there are current web-based education platforms, such as eCampus, the online tools are limited in function, efficiency, and practicality. Finally, while its predecessor, Mechanix, aided in the resolution of the first two motivators, it was limited by which domains it could support.

Currently, CourseSketch has been used in an introduction to logic course and a mathematics course at Texas A&M University.

When asked about where he wants to see CourseSketch implemented in the future, Turner responded with a quick “Everywhere!”

“I believe this can improve how education is done,” he continued his answer. “Improving how people learn and integrating technology to make education ‘smarter.’”

The fifth member of SRL to be awarded for his research was Raniero Lara Garduno, who won 2nd Place for Oral Presentation in Math, Statistics, and Computer Science.

His project, Smart Strokes, is a digitalization of traditional, sketch-based neuropsychology tests. By digitalizing the tests, Smart Strokes allows for a more thorough evaluations – including information that could not normally be gathered by pen-and-paper tests, such as the age of the patient.

Since the previous post published about Smart Strokes, Lara Garduno has been working on interface changes and improvements requested by his neuropsychologist consultant, Dr. Nancy Leslie.

“For instance, I changed the way patient IDs are generated, from a random 16-digit number to a format that is used by neuropsychologists in the field,” he commented. “This is the kind of feedback that is very valuable for us as the developers of software intended for other fields, as these details are the difference between a novelty application and one that is actively used by the intended field.”

Looking toward the future, Lara Garduno wishes to develop a way to define what it means to be ‘unhealthy’ as it can be seen in sketches. That can then be integrated into the program, allowing it to identify problems right after the patient has taken the test. This would speed up the process of medical staff being able to identify problem areas for patients and make a diagnosis.

“We are also vastly interested in deriving information about humans, not just patients, through these tests,” Lara Garduno added when talking about the motivation behind Smart Strokes. “We believe we still haven't discovered just how much these tests can reveal about us as humans, and digitizing the tests and performing modern sketch recognition on the sketches gives us far more powerful tools to take that particular type of research to the next level.”


Congratulations to everyone who won awards at SRW! Thank you to everyone who participated! 

SRL Undergraduate Students Win 5 Awards at TAMU Student Research Week 2015

The 2015 Student Research Week (SRW) at Texas A&M University marked its 18th poster and presentation extravaganza over the days of March 24th through March 27th.   The Sketch Recognition Lab, directed by Dr. Tracy Hammond won 10 awards at the annual event; five of these awards were awarded to undergraduates taking capstone or senior research credits.

The following is a list of Sketch Recognition Lab Awards at TAMU Student Research Week 2015. Bolded are those from undergraduate students working with lab director Dr. Hammond.


  1. 2015 Sigma Xi Interdisciplinary Award. TAMU Student Research Week, SRW 2015.  gRec: A Gesture Recognition Interface for CourseSketch. Gutierrez, A.**
  2. 2015 1st Place Undergraduate Oral (Subject Area: Math, Statistics, Computer Science) TAMU Student Research Week, SRW 2015. Wood, H.**, Vangavolu, H.**, Newman J.**  Frontier
  3. 2015 1st Place Undergraduate Poster (Subject Area: Math, Statistics, Computer Science) TAMU Student Research Week, SRW 2015. gRec: A Gesture Recognition Interface for CourseSketch. Gutierrez, A.**
  4. 2015 1st Place Undergraduate Oral (Subject Area: Health, Nutrition, Kinesiology, Physiology) TAMU Student Research Week, SRW 2015. Bowersox, M.**Brown, W.**, Sauers, C.**, Shoot Responsibly
  5. 2015 2nd Place Undergraduate Poster (Subject Area: History, Literature, Fine Arts, Communication, Languages, Philosophy) TAMU Student Research Week, SRW 2015. KidGab: A Social Media Tutorial.  Zhang, H.**, Privett, J.**, Tian, F.**, Mulholland, T.**, Carrasco, M.**, Cestafe, E.**
  6. 2015 1st Place Graduate Poster (Subject Area: Math, Statistics, Computer Science) TAMU Student Research Week, SRW 2015 Poster Competition. Approximate Sketch Matching and Retrieval. Ray, J.*
  7. 2015 2nd Place Graduate Poster  (Subject Area: Math, Statistics, Computer Science) TAMU Student Research Week, SRW 2015. Optimizing Corner Finder. Garg, A.*, Ray, J.*, Polsley, S.*
  8. 2015 2nd Place Graduate Oral (Subject Area: Math, Statistics, Computer Science)  TAMU Student Research Week, SRW 2015. SmartStrokes: Evaluating Sketches from Neuropsychological Tests. Lara-Garduno, R.*
  9. 2015 2nd Place Graduate Poster (Subject Area: Medicine, Biomedical, Neuroscience)  TAMU Student Research Week, SRW 2015. Modeling Radiologists’ Visual Search Patterns during Mammographic Screening. Alamudun, F.*
  10. 2015 2nd Place Graduate Oral (Subject Area: Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology, Business, Education, Political Science, Economics)  TAMU Student Research Week, SRW 2015. CourseSketch. Turner, D.*

The Sketch Recognition Lab enthusiastically extends its congratulations to members and groups of the senior capstone course, taught by the Director of the Sketch Recognition Lab, Dr. Tracy Hammond, who were awarded for their innovative projects.

(From left to right: Jaideep Ray, Harish Vangavolu [for Frontier], and Abram Gutierrez)

Held by the Graduate and Professional Student Council (GPSC) in tandem with the Office of Graduate Studies, Vice President for Research, Department of Student Life, and Undergraduate Programs & Academic Services, SRW celebrates and showcases student research in the form of posters and oral presentations.

Moving for a moment away from the academic side of SRW, it is also important to note that the week is specifically an aggie operated event – graduate students initiate the event by planning and organizing it. This allows for the community feeling of support generated by students at the event – competitors, judges, and sight-seers alike. 


As described on SRW’s website, it is a place where academic areas “are connected in hopes to spark collaboration, discover common ground, and challenge students, faculty, and staff at Texas A&M to consider the importance of research in our community and world.”

This striving for a place where students and faculty can come together and share research and support across diverse areas of study was the main driving force behind the theme of the event – Connecting Ideas.

As with all competitions, an awards ceremony is held on the evening of the final day of SRW. It came as a pleasant surprise that SRL and the senior capstone groups placed numerous times in various areas. 


Abram Gutierrez, SRL undergraduate senior, won first place for Undergraduate Poster in Math, Statistics, and Computer Science and was also given the SigmaXI Interdisciplinary Award. 
 “I was quite surprised,” Gutierrez commented. “I wasn’t expecting it, actually.”

Under the mentorship of Paul Taele, David Turner, and Dr. Tracy Hammond, Gutierrez was doing a single person research project on this topic. gRec, his project, is an interface that allows people to control PowerPoint presentations with gesture recognition (hence the play on the name). The end goal of the gRec is to incorporate it into CoreSketch lecture modules to make a more natural teaching environment.

By using hand gestures, a user will be able to advance slides, go back in a presentation, stop a command, play an embedded video, and click on a hyperlink. This allows for a presentation experience that is not weighed down by having to manually control the PowerPoint.

“People typically like to use their gestures in conversations, because it helps demonstrate points more clearly,” he stated. “But sometimes you’re restricted by some of the hardware, like you may have to stick to a keyboard – you can’t necessarily move around and be passionate about your topic.”

gRec would, then, create a natural user-interface. A presenter would not have to use a hand-held device or have pointer gestures to control their slides. They would just have to use the registered gestures that are translated into commands.

“If I close my hand, that will be the equivalent of putting a pen down on a sketch pad,” Gutierrez explained the recognition process. “It will read the gesture of a closed fist and when you open your hand, it’s like taking the pen off. Once it stops scanning, it will consolidate all the points it collected and send it to a processor.”

“I’m a graduating senior,” he began when asked about the future of gRec. “So I won’t be able to see it to its full scale. What I’m trying to do is make the framework open, so that students of future generations can go ahead and build upon the framework and improve it, speed it up.”



Fire Mongooses, a senior capstone group advised Dr. Hammond and KidGab creator Stephanie Valentine, was awarded second place for Undergraduate Oral Presentation in History, Literature, Fine Arts, Communication, Languages, and Philosophy. The largest capstone group of the spring semester, Fire Mongooses is comprised of mentor Stephanie Valentine, TA Cassandra Oduola, and students Joshua Privett, Harry Zhang, Frank Tian, Matthew Carrasco, Thomas Mulholland, and Eliezer Cabrera.

“We are taking a previous project called KidGab, which is a safe social media for kids, and expanding it to include moderation,” Thomas described Fire Mongooses’ project. “Things like content flagging, word filter, and bully control.” The bully control moderation is able to find negative posts on the site and automatically delete them.

When asked about how they celebrated their award, Privett responded. “We’ll celebrate when we finish this. We’ve been working hard, so the presentation was kind of like ‘okay, let’s do this and get back to work.’ Even though we got second place, we’re not done with the project, so it’s hard to celebrate.”

The presentation and SRW provided an engaging and interesting break for the group. One which they were able to enjoy and gain positive experience and recognition for updating and crafting a socially aware project.


(Frontier giving their oral presentation)

Placing second for Oral Presentation in Math, Statistics, and Computer Science was the Frontier capstone group. Harish Vangavolu, Hayden Wood, and Joseph Newman make up the Frontier capstone group and are mentored by SRL member, Seth Polsley.

Frontier is working to revamp how web browsers track history and stack websites.

“Instead of providing a linear list, we’re providing a graph structure,” Wood began the explanation.

“If you go to a webpage ten times,” Vangavolu added, “it will appear stamped in your history ten times. But we can consolidate that into one node on a graph.”

“With the traditional back and forth buttons,” Newman continued, “you are limited to just one route. So if you go somewhere else, it overrides what it was previously, so you lose the links to all other pages.”

So, imagine a blue dotted line. This is the current way of tracking history on a browser – each dot is a different webpage that was visited by a user. If you pick a dot, though, in the middle of the line and begin to color over the rest of the dots in red, you’ve lost the original, blue line.

Likewise, when a user goes uses the back command in a browser to return to a previous page to click a different link, all the information from that point and on is lost (for anyone who has lost a webpage because of this system, you know how annoying it can be).

However, if the original dotted line were not a line at all, but a series of circle-graphs, each connected to but not dependent on one another, then users would not lose links by backtracking on the graph, they would just create a new circle section.

“Browsers haven’t changed since the 90’s,” Vangavolu stated, “and we have so much more computing power that can be utilized.”

“It was a mutual criticism of current web browsers,” Wood commented on the motivation behind the project. “There are so many things that you think of when you navigate that you wish existed, but were never developed. Then you get into a group like this and you really start thinking about it.”

If time allows and the program tests well, Frontier hopes to find a way to release and sell their new browsing system as an application for browsers. 

Finally, Shoot Responsibly was awarded first place for Undergraduate Oral Presentation in Health, Nutrition, Kinesiology, and Physiology. Making up this group is Waylon Brown, Chandler Sauers, and Matt Bowersox. Mentoring them is Jory Denny. 

“Our goal is to make gun training as safe as possible,” Brown explained. “Because anyone who wants to fire a weapon needs to go to a gun range and learn with an actual weapon that’s fireable which does include some safety concerns.”

Their solution? A virtual reality gun range and fire arm training program. Using an Oculus Rift and Hydra controllers, Shoot Responsibly creates a digital shooting range that takes a user through a similar gun safety routine as would be seen at a real-world range.

“It’s a fully working range,” Brown continued, moving the camera around the virtual shooting area as he spoke. “So you can actually fire at the targets.” The system critiques you if you point away from the range with your gun, and helps remind you about your safety.

When asked about the SRW experience, Bowersox commented, “I thought it was interesting, just seeing the different projects and how ours fit in with them.”

Shoot Responsibly was in the kinesiology and health category of SRW, making their project an odd man out. “Other projects were about diabetes and cultural things,” Bowersox laughed. “Ours was very different.”


“The main drawback is that it took us about two months to get these,” Bowersox added, gesturing to the controllers. “They’re really snazzy, but hard to find.”

“I feel like there is some actual at home potential,” Brown concluded. “You don’t have to spend money on ammunition and things like that.”


As for the future of Shoot Responsibly, the group hopes to see it implemented as an alternative to current gun training.

Hammond states "Guns are a part of Texas. I am excited to aid in the development of software to improve gun safety. I am super proud of the Shoot Responsibly team and all of my students." 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Stephanie Valentine's Digital Friendship Workshop in Eagle Lake

Stephanie Valentine, the creator of the social networking site, KidGab, co-founded the nonprofit Wired Youth, Inc. to aid in tackling the problems that arise for children in the digital age. Valentine, with help from fellow founders Dr. Tracy Hammond, the Director of the Sketch Recognition Lab, and Catherine Miller, aims to spread internet safety through programs operated by the nonprofit organization.  

In a digital age, social media sites (SNS) have become incredibly important to communication with and connection to one another. SNS increases a person's ability to stay in contact with friends and family on a worldwide scale. Yet while most sites require a user to be at least 13-years-old due to legal and safety reasons, there are people who have skirted around rules and regulations.

“Through my dissertation work, I created KidGab. It’s a social network and is sketch based. You can sketch pictures, which become videos, send text and pictures, and earn digital badges,” Valentine explained as she connected her social network site to Wired Youth. “But the Digital Friendship program is through Wired Youth, which is almost a year old, now.”


(Girl Scouts at the March 8 Digital Friendship workshop editing their KidGab avatars)

KidGab fills the void before children join social media. Just as people practice a sport before playing a game, KidGab is practice for social media. It is a safe, online environment for children to interact with others. It acts as the pre-social media site that also can be interacted with via sketch tools.

Pre-social media plays an import role in internet safety. With such easy access to a wide variety of SNS, the age at which people are exposed to online connections and social outlets has become younger and younger. Consumer Reports in 2012 found that 7.5 million Facebook profiles are owned by people who are under the age of 13. 5 million users were reported to be 10-years-old or younger.

“It’s scary,” Valentine stated. “Children under that age don’t understand the fact that there is no context on the internet. They don’t understand how to keep themselves safe in real life environments, let alone online.”

Through KidGab, children are provided a place to learn and make mistakes online. They are able to explore and understand what it means to be a digital person in a constantly expanding virtual world. A short video-description created by Valentine to introduce KidGab can be found here.


(Video outlining the features of KidGab)


Currently, KidGab is only available to a few groups of people, for the technology is still being finalized and tested. Among these groups are troops from the Girl Scouts of Central Texas.

During workshops with Girl Scout troops, Valentine and Wired Youth unite to present a program called “Digital Friendship.” Through Digital Friendship, children are educated on how to safely create and maintain a digital self. Valentine helps girls set up KidGab accounts and teaches how to have a safe online presence through creative and fun activities, such as making friendship bracelets, during these days.

Digital Friendship focuses on exploring the safe transition of real world friendships to a digital setting. For example, when and to whom can friends appropriately give out contact and personal information online?

Here, she took time to reiterate an example that is used during gatherings – an online predator asked someone’s best friend for a girl’s address so that he could send her roses. When he obtained the address, he abducted the girl.


“There are aspects of digital friendships that are different from 'real life' that kids need to be aware of,” she concluded. “It is not just your own information that you need to protect. That’s a big part of the program.”

Wired Youth educates people – parents and children alike – on how to prevent and respond to cyber threats. While many internet-savvy people today are used to handling themselves and content online, there is room for misunderstanding between the generations. Many parents do not know how to respond to cyber threat situations, by no fault of their own. They did not have the access to the technology and social platforms that are so readily available today.

“Because of this, children may not tell parents about things that happen,” Valentine commented somberly. “It’s so important that kids keep their parents involved with what’s going on and I think that all starts with a whole-family approach to online safety.” The latest workshop for Digital Friendship was held on March 8 in Eagle Lake, Texas. Valentine and fellow SRL member, Jung In Koh, ran the workshop.



(Stephanie Valentine and members of the Central Texas Girl Scouts at Digital Friendship)

“The girls were great,” Valentine smiled. “I had girls between 9 and 18-years-old. I didn’t know that 18-year-old girls would be interested in this, but they were interested and according to the girls' program evaluations, they loved it!”

14 girls attended the workshop and all of them were automatically 'friends' with one another once they created a profile on KidGab. While the workshop does have a demonstration of KidGab and the girls have a chance to customize their avatars, it is not the main focus of the day.

The workshop kicked off with an introductory game called ‘Great Wind Blows.’ Afterward, the girls took a personality test to learn more about themselves. Based on the results of the True Colors personality test, the girls broke into four groups and create a poster about what they like and dislike in a hypothetical friend.

“The test isn't a silly magazine-type quiz about what they like or what annoys them, the test classifies according to years of psychology research,” Valentine commented, “The results tend to be spot on. It’s amazing how well it works.”

An additional exercise in the workshop was presented at this point – making "Digital Friendship" bracelets.

In this exercise, the girls imagined that the room was split into four corners with a different color representing each corner. Valentine asked the girls a series of personality questions -- for example, how they respond to being in a large crowd. Each answer corresponds to each corner of the room, where an adult is standing with a cup of beads of a specific color. When a girl chooses an answer to a question, she takes a bead from the cup and adds it to her bracelet.
 

 (Girls making digital friendship bracelets)

“At the end, everyone has made a bracelet. But they are all different in terms of color frequency and ordering,” she explained. “It shows the girls that everyone is inherently different and that the approach to befriending them should reflect those differences.”

After making bracelets, the attendees played cyberthreat Bingo to better understand what is meant by cyberbullying and online predators. With more knowledge about the subject, the girls transitioned into performing skits about how to be safe and handle cyber threat situations – cyber bullying, cyber predators, sharing too much information, etc.

Another activity was introduced to the Digital Friendship program during the workshop at Eagle Lake. The girls explored ‘choose your own adventure’ stories about cyber threats like cyberbullying, online predators, and talking to strangers online.

“I had to communicate that this activity was about exploring choices, it wasn't about right or wrong. The girls get to see what happens when they make choice X verses Y,” Valentine explained. “The idea is that they can learn from the characters' mistakes, and hopefully not make the mistakes themselves.”

While the majority of the workshop is upbeat and positive, the ‘choose your own adventure’ stories brought reality into the teachings. The tone of seriousness was solidified when Valentine revealed to the girls that the stories were fictional adaptations of real life situations.

“In the last 10 minutes of the workshop, I sat down with the girls and told them about my own experiences with cyberbullying and how it’s affected my life,” Valentine concluded. “I think it ended up being a really powerful experience for them and a perfect capstone for the program.”


“I couldn’t have done this without the support of Emily Magnotta from the Girl Scouts of Central Texas,” Valentine commented. She also wanted to thank the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Texas A&M University for donating drawstring bags for the workshops.