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.

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ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest

Each year, Youngstown State University’s Association for Computing Machinery participates as one of four host sites for the International Collegiate Programming Contest in the East Central North America Region.

The programming contest attracts students from colleges and universities throughout Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Western Pennsylvania, and Eastern Ontario.

Dr. Bonita Sharif and Robert Gilliland from the Computer Science and Information Systems Department are the Site Directors for the YSU location, and Dr. Robert Kramer, also from YSU’s CSIS department, is the Regional Director for the competition.

This year, the competition took place on October 28 & 29 in Meshel Hall.

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For the contest, each team of three students is given a set of ten problems to solve on one computer station within five hours, each independent and a different level of difficulty. The students must come up with a computer program to solve each problem while being timed and checked for errors.

Backpacks were awarded as prizes to the top teams at YSU this year, awarded by Regional Director Dr. Kramer. Every participant received a shirt, a flash drive, and a certificate of achievement signed by the ICPC Executive Director, Dr. William Poucher.

Winners selected from this region will advance to the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest World Finals, to be held in Rapid City, South Dakota on May 20-25, 2017.

This year was the tenth year that Youngstown State University has been a competition site and has been the largest competition site in the region since 2007.

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.

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.