YSU CSIS Runs Jackson-Milton Coding Camp

From July 31 to August 4, 2017, the Computer Science and Information Systems Department at YSU conducted a week-long coding camp at Jackson-Milton High School. The camp was created to introduce Jackson-Milton high school and middle school students to various aspects of the computer science field.

With the help of Dr. Bonita Sharif, recent Computer Science and Mathematics graduate Benjamin Clark coordinated several activities that allowed students to experiment with coding and programming. Together, Sharif and Clark created activities that taught the students about computer science topics like binary numbers, error checking, graph coloring, and learning how to give computers commands.

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Throughout the entire camp, students could work individually while focusing their efforts toward a similar goal. Almost every student walked into the camp without any knowledge about coding or programming.

To start off the first part of the camp, each student was introduced to the Raspberry Pi. Through this system, they all learned about programming, basic circuitry, and interacting with their prototype circuits using C++. Shortly after learning these skills, they were then able to use the Raspberry Pi to control the motors on their robots. On their last day, they were introduced to a programmed eye tracker system that allowed the students to play a video game with only their tracked eye movements, nothing else.

All equipment provided in the camp came specifically from the NSF outreach funds presented to Dr. Sharif. The NSF grant was awarded to Dr. Sharif in 2016. To read more about the grant click here.

When speaking to each of the students, it was obvious that they truly loved the aspects of the camp. A high school student, Mackenzie Martin (junior), entirely enjoyed her time in the camp.

“I really loved how easily everyone was able to catch me up with missing the first few days of the camp,” said Martin. “They broke everything down really well even though I was behind everyone else.”

Another high school student, Garrik Cataina (freshman), commented that “the entire camp was so well rounded. I enjoyed all of it: the socializing at lunch time, talking with the volunteers, and learning how to code.”

Dr. Sharif also spoke very highly of her experience at Jackson-Milton, saying “we are very thankful to Mr. Vega, Jackson Milton High School’s principal, for the venue to conduct the camp.”

She would also like to give credit to the YSU SERESL volunteers that assisted with the program throughout the week: Alex Bonnette, Alexandra Fountaine, Devin Patrick, Christopher Hardaway, Mark DeGenova, Bob Collins, Natalie Halavick, and Nick Iovino.

“My favorite part about the camp was getting the students to understand what computer science is about,” said Dr. Sharif. “I enjoyed being able to provide them with hands-on experiences where they could troubleshoot and debug issues what popped up.”

This was the first coding camp YSU has done at Jackson-Milton, but they intend to continue doing them annually. For more information about the camp, or future computer-related camps, contact Dr. Sharif at bsharif@ysu.edu.

To keep up to date with the YSU’s CSIS Department, make sure to follow them on Facebook!

CSIS Professor and Student Participate In Summer Research Project

Dr. Lazar and Zackary Harnett at Lawrence Berkeley National LaboratoryDr. Alina Lazar, Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Information Systems, and her student Zackary Harnett traveled to the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab this summer.

They joined efforts with the lab as part of the Scientific Data Management Group. Dr. Lazar and her student, Zack, were sponsored by the Department of Energy through the Visiting Faculty Program. They worked closely with the Energy Technology Area on a research project titled “Sequence Cluster Analysis for Identifying Long-term Lifecycle Trajectory Patterns.”

This research project was performed to further study the relationship between life-cycle patterns and decisions or choices (such as the choices of purchasing a home, owning a car, or investing in new technologies). Dr. Lazar and Harnett assisted the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab to show the wide availability of mobile devices and sensors that are connected to the internet. They collected research in data sets to model long-term user behavior of both test variables.

The research Dr. Lazar and Harnett assisted with observed sequence data representations, as well as several methods designed to test similarity algorithms. Methods to test these algorithms can range from classical approaches to a system called Optimal Matching. The methods used can then display what it would take to overcome the issues present between life-cycle patterns and decisions. It can also use strategies to model real sequence data to identify life-long behavior and produce descriptive self-explanatory visualizations even in the presence of disturbances and missing values.

Dr. Alina Lazar is a Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Information Systems. She completed her PhD in Computer Science in 2002 from Wayne State University. She specializes in several areas like data analysis, algorithms, and data mining.

HackYSU 2017

Youngstown State University’s annual hackathon, HackYSU, took place February 17-19, 2017. This event, hosted by the Penguin Hackers student organization, allows students to “hack” for 36 hours straight. Projects include apps, websites, games, robots, and everything in between.

Students came from colleges and universities from all over Ohio and even beyond to participate in HackYSU this year in the DeBartolo Stadium Club Room. The attendance this year was incredible, with more than 140 participants, 23 mentors, and 26 total projects submitted for judging.

Judging was based on originality, creativity, technical difficulty, and execution, among other things.

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The group that received first place created an app that allows users to turn a smart phone into a computer mouse. One of the students from the University of Akron came up with the idea when he realized he’d forgotten his mouse at home. Rather than go without a mouse, he and his group created one.

Many groups utilized the several 3D printers that were available for the weekend, even with no previous experience in additive manufacturing.

All of the sponsors were critical in the success of the event, especially Major League Hacking, who provided the winners’ prizes, some really cool equipment, and some great advice on projects.

The projects were judged by a diverse group of judges from different businesses and backgrounds, including Dr. Kriss Schueller of YSU’s Department of Computer Science and Information Systems.

To learn more about HackYSU, visit hackysu.com. For more information and events from the Penguin Hackers group, visit penguinhackers.io.

Local Hack Day

Following a lot of interest in HackYSU from incoming freshmen at STEM IGNITE and the STEM Student Organizations Fair at the beginning of the semester, a 12-hour Local Hack Day was held on December 3. It was a great opportunity for students to experience the environment of hackathons without committing to a 36-hour event like HackYSU for the first time.

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13 speakers hosted 16 talks on topics including game development, functional programming, generating music, and how to land an internship. Mark Tareshawty, an engineer from GitHub, also spoke at the event about how Git enables software engineers to collaboratively write code, highlighting its importance in the industry.

Almost every participant said that they learned something new at Local Hack Day, and more than half said they researched a topic further after the event.

Those who attended and enjoyed the Local Hack Day are encouraged to register for HackYSU, which will take place February 17-19 at the DeBartolo Stadium Club. This will be a full 36-hour hackathon where participants form teams of up to four people to create, well, anything.

HackYSU participants are always fed, there will be prizes, and guest mentors will be giving talks and hosting workshops. Registration is open at HackYSU.com.

Dr. Sharif Receives NSF CAREER Award

Dr. SharifDr. Bonita Sharif, associate professor in the Department of Computer Science at Youngstown State University, has recently received a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation.

The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is a Foundation-wide activity that offers the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.

The award was the result of Dr. Sharif’s application last July with her proposal for her ongoing research with eye tracking studies in software engineering. The grant money will go toward eye tracking equipment and supplies as well as three paid student research positions over five years.

The new equipment is to be given a space in addition to Dr. Sharif’s current Software Engineering Research and Empirical Studies Lab in Meshel Hall.

“I am looking forward to working on this,” said Dr. Sharif. “I’ve been wanting this for a long time. It’s just amazing that I’ve finally got it and it’s super exciting to have students working with me on this that will now get financial assistance as well.”

Dr. Sharif and her students will soon be able to work closely with the new eye tracking equipment on campus in the future designated lab. Thanks to this award, students who have been volunteering to do this research will now be able to spend more time and energy on it because of the availability of the new paid positions.

Project Title: CAREER: Empowering Software Engineering with Eye Tracking

You can read the details of the award on the NSF website.

You can read about the award that Dr. Sharif received earlier this year from NCWIT here.

Student Organization Spotlight: Association for Computing Machinery

Each month, we try to highlight a student organization in STEM to show everyone what they do and why they’re an important part of STEM. This month, the Association for Computing Machinery is our featured organization.

ACM logo

The ACM is actually a much larger organization that is composed of many professional and university chapters. Here at YSU, all CSIS majors are welcome to join and to attend meetings and presentations.

The new student president of YSU’s chapter, Ricky Elrod, explains that students and faculty alike have given presentations on a wide range of topics.

“We’ve had presentations on bitcoin, on Linux-related stuff, on functional programming, robotics—all sorts of computer-science-related subfields,” said Ricky.

Students are also given opportunities to collaborate with others that share their interests in “hack” sessions. Similar to a hackathon, students bring computers and small projects that they work on with other students who attend.

One major goal of YSU’s ACM is to get students interacting with one another (and with faculty) and learning from one another.

Ricky says that another goal for the future of the group is to try to work more with the local professional chapter in Northeast Ohio. He says that networking is a strong asset within the organization.

Students interested in joining or learning more about the ACM can check out their Facebook page or e-mail student president Ricky Elrod.

YSU’s Dr. Sharif Wins NCWIT Undergraduate Research Mentoring Award

Dr. Bonita SharifDr. Bonita Sharif is an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science and Information Systems at Youngstown State University.

In her five years at YSU, Dr. Sharif has mentored 14 students, almost half of which were women and almost a third of which went on to graduate studies. It’s because of these students that she’s mentored that she won the award.

Dr. Alina Lazar nominated her for the award. The two of them are attending the Summit on Women and IT. The award will be presented to Dr. Sharif on May 17th. It is also a great way to connect with others in their field and learn about how to engage more women in IT.

“NCWIT provides a lot of resources to help educators in supporting women in CS and IT,” said Dr. Sharif.

The National Center for Women and Information Technology awards both men and women who work toward this goal of promoting gender diversity in IT. YSU is an NCWIT Academic Alliance member. By mentoring these students, Dr. Sharif and this year’s other three award recipients have helped to inspire young women to pursue ambitious careers in information technology.

Her advice to students is to try to get involved with research at the undergraduate level, no matter what their majors are.

“A lot of students don’t even know that we do research. I try to get students early on in their degrees to start doing research. It’s never too early.” said Dr. Sharif.

She wants more students to actively look for research opportunities to get the experience and the recognition before they’ve even graduated. She gives students the opportunity to help draft and rewrite research results when submitted to a conference or journal. They also have the opportunity to present their results at national and international conference venues.

“It’s all about the students in the end,” said Dr. Sharif.

HackYSU is Back, All 36 hours!

Penguin Hackers logoThis year’s hackathon begins at 10 p.m. on Feb. 5 and will run until 10 a.m. on Feb. 7.

Doors open at 7 p.m. on Feb. 5.

Joe Duncko, chair of Penguin Hackers, said that they have made many changes from last year’s HackYSU.

“The biggest one that people will notice is the venue,” he said. “We’re not doing it in Meshel Hall this year; we’re going to be in the DeBartolo Stadium Club in Stambaugh Stadium . So I’m really excited. It’s a great view, really great room.”

Major League Hacking is scheduled to return this year, bringing with them Oculus Rifts, fitness trackers, and other hardware for participants to tinker with.

According to Joe, not only are staff from the CSIS department and YSU’s IEEE student chapter going to be involved in this, but representatives from Drund and the Youngstown Business Incubator are also going to be present to act as guides and mentors.

The goal for this hackathon is to bring in 100 YSU students to participate.

“It looks like we’ll have no problems hitting the non-YSU student quota—we have a bunch of groups from Waterloo, Kent, and more that have registered and are planning to drive up here. So right now we are just working on hyping YSU students,” Joe explained.

For penguins new to the hackathon, this is a free event where you can experiment with new software and hardware and work with a team of fellow students to create something fun and unique. You may even win a prize from Major League Hacking.

Students and mentors looking for more information should e-mail contact@HackYSU.com or visit HackYSU.com to register.