Dr. Sharif Gets Additional Funding Through NSF Grant

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Dr. Bonita Sharif, associate professor in the Department of Computer Science and Information Systems at Youngstown State University, has recently been awarded a Community Research Infrastructure grant from the National Science Foundation.

This project grant, totaling $527,806 over three years ($237,196 to YSU and $290,610 to KSU), began in June 2017 and is expected to finish in June 2020. This project relates closely to Dr. Sharif’s CAREER award research on eye-tracking from last year and is in collaboration with a team at Kent State University.

“The purpose of the award is to build infrastructure to help support incorporating eye tracking within the developer’s work environment,” said Dr. Sharif.

Basically, Dr. Sharif and her team are creating an extension for integrated development environments (the platforms developers use for coding) that will allow developers to track their eye movement within the platform. They will be able to replay the eye tracking data to learn from how they look at code.

Dr. Sharif says that this software and research is important because it will help developers’ self-awareness (to learn from their own work and become more efficient) and because it will help educators teach students better. It will also help researchers to conduct large-scale studies in the industry with minimal effort.

“We can show novices how experts fix bugs by what they look at first,” said Dr. Sharif.

It is her goal to release a beta version of the software by the end of the first year and to involve other researchers in beta testing and technical briefing sessions.

“At this point, many researchers have seen a demo of our system,” she said, “but really it’s still just a prototype. We want to make it to a point where it is production ready and people can just download it, install it, and use it. I believe the joint effort with Kent State will be great in moving this forward.”

The full project title is “CI-New: Collaborative Research: An Infrastructure that Combines Eye Tracking into Integrated Development Environments to Study Software Development and Program Comprehension.”

The students involved are undergraduates Ashwin Mishra, Alexander Bonnette, Nicholas Iovino, Chris Hardaway, and graduate student Sahaj Bhattarai.

View the abstract for the project and the full details of the award here.

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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