NCUR 2009 Day 1 afternoon

The afternoon held an interesting group of sessions. It turns out that the organizers tried to group together similar sessions into groups. However, multiple sessions were running in parallel meaning that there were multiple interesting things happening at the same time. In my case, there was a robotics group and a computer networks group running at the same time. I made the choice to go to the robotics session with a vague idea of leaving after the first two to run half way across the La Crosse campus to get to the networks session. I actually did do that, but the second robotics presentation ended early letting me walk at a brisk pace to the Computer Science building.

The robotics presentations I attended were both by West Point students who were developing robotic equipment for use in the battlefield. The first session was about an unnamed, remote controlled vehicle which would be at the head of a convoy and was also equipped with sensors which would detect obstacles and possible explosive devices in their path. The on-board systems would automatically stop the vehicle waiting for an override from the operator. The system is really interesting and I was impressed by the combination of electrical engineering and computer science that had to come together to make this happen. The fac that they wrote their own device drivers for some of their electronics makes this even more awesome. The second presentation was about smaller autonomous robots which could find their way through mapped rooms. A user would only need to select a point on a map and and the robot would find its own way to the destination, avoiding obstacles by moving around them. The concept was interesting, but the presentation could have been better.

After that a quick walk took me to the Wing Technology building where the computer science presentations were taking place. I had missed the first two, but was in time for the next two. The first was about a simple music-production system called COMPOSE which allows users to select notes and beat patterns by clicking on icons and buttons. The user interface is simple enough for kids and non-musicians to use. The software is simple and would be fun to use. Eventually it is supposed to be part of AI research to understand how humans identify pleasing sounds and note sequences. The next presentation was about using neural networks to predict battery status in solar-powered vehicles. Once again, this is at the combination of computer science and electrical engineering and so very interesting to me. 

I decided to stick around for the next set of conferences. The next 4 presentations were on a variety of subjects. The first was about automating genome research by building a set of extensible, online tools; the second showed a way to classify medical images from different sources (MRI, CAT, X-ray etc.) by analyzing the images themselves. The third one was about using simple image color analysis to look for anomalies. It’s meant to be used for rescue agencies to quickly analyze aerial video footage to look for lost people. The final presentation was about a digitization project to make available all the data collected by the Freedmen’s Bureau. This Bureau was created by Lincoln to help the slaves who were being freed and contains a very large amount of information about the people and their lives. I think digitization projects are important because they help preserve a large amount of history and make it available for other interesting research projects.

That was the end of the presentations I could attend. I went on a river cruise which I spent by mostly talking with one of my professors. I’m now back in my room, watching old House episodes. I have to touch up my presentation a little for tomorrow. I don’t have any plans for tomorrow and I’ll just make up my plans as I go along. I’ll try to keep posting as often as I can.

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Shrutarshi Basu

Programmer, writer and engineer, currently working out of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

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