March Update

My project is going well, though a lot more time is going towards preparing for NCUR and URAD than I expected. The platform should still be presentable, if not complete, by the end of the month. I need to keep to the schedule I have planned, and possibly spend more time in the lab testing. Really, making sure I put in the hours is the only thing I can do to make sure that the system is ready for the conferences.

On a separate note, I rather enjoyed the reception hosted at President Baker and Dr. Stover’s home on March 2nd. It was a great chance to get to know more of the Research Rookies and talk with some of their mentors. As a whole, the Research Rookies Program has provided me many opportunities to network with faculty and fellow students who share similar interests. This program has set the foundation for a successful and productive time at NIU and will hopefully prepare me for the work I will be doing in a professional setting. By developing this early research experience, I will hopefully have a leg up on other Computer Scientists, opening a whole new job market.

In relation to the “I ❤ NIU” campaign, NIU has provided me a ton of opportunities that many of my friends at other colleges don’t have access to as freshmen. Many of them have no opportunity to start performing formal research, something that I’ve grown to love thanks to NIU. I’m not allowed to talk about what has been the greatest impact so far as of now, but it’s an opportunity that I haven’t heard anything close to it being offered from other colleges. I don’t think I would have been as encouraged to apply for it if it weren’t for the Research Rookies program and the friendliness of the NIU faculty.

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February Update

First off, I could not be happier with my mentor. He is helped me understand the process more and is helping me find money so that I can present at the National Conference of Undergraduate Research (NCUR) this spring.  I’m hoping that both of this and NIU’s Undergraduate Research and Artistry Day (URAD) will be good points to spread my experience in research. Also, I hope to be able to attend open houses and similar events to talk about my time in the research rookies program. In regards to my research, it is a little behind from where I was hoping to be by this time. However, I believe I will still have something presentable for both URAD and NCUR. At worst, the assets that in the VR will not be as pretty. In my plan, I left two weeks for improving the models other assets, but those weeks can be used for in developing the system instead. This summer, I plan on remaining at NIU and continuing my research by conducting an experiment to compare this VR system to more traditional styles of learning, such as books or video lectures and seeing which medium is a better learning instrument.

First Semester as an Undergraduate Researcher

I’ve had a wonderful time as a researcher. I’ve developed strong relationships with my fellow undergrads and some graduates in the computer science program, not to mention how great my mentor is. It’s given me the opportunity to extend my knowledge and work on something that I strongly believe is needed for our world. Because of Research Rookies, I have the joy of presenting my research at NCUR this April, developing necessary skills that will help me succeed, and make friends that I probably wouldn’t have had the chance to even meet.

The time requirement, however, is the most difficult part. For whatever reason, I’ve decided to overload my schedule this semester and become more active on campus all at once. I’m trying my hardest to make time for my research while staying on top of my studies and staying active with the groups I’ve joined. So far, I seem to be managing. The gaps in between my classes are the perfect opportunity for homework or stopping by the lab to work on my research for an hour or two. I’m trying to squeeze an hour in wherever I can so that I can continue making progress. Overall, I’m nothing but happy with my life as a research student.

Research Rookies Reception

On Monday, December 1st, the Research Rookies program held a reception to recognize everyone involved in the program. Each rookie was required to give a short elevator pitch about their research topic. I didn’t think it would be as intimidating as it was since I’m use to teaching large groups of people. It’s strange how talking about yourself for 20 seconds can be so much more intimidating than teaching groups of 50 people for 2 hours at a time. I did, however, enjoy getting to mingle with the people who were there and talk about all of our research. In addition, I was personally mentioned when President Baker when he was giving specific recognition at the beginning of the reception. As a freshman computer scientist, that felt great since we’re typically seen as ignorant want to be programmers for the first couple years.

My favorite part, however, was being honored as a recipient of the Simmons Scholarship. I’m excited to use this honor to inspire current, future, and potential computer scientists into using what they learn in their classrooms to projects outside of school. I would like to thanks the Simmons for this wonderful opportunity to inspire future researchers. I think it’s important that I am able to communicate with the next wave of Computer Scientists, and even potential researchers in other fields, so I can share my positive experiences with as many people as possible. Hopefully, this will influence more people into attempting research at any level, either on their own or with a program like Research Rookies.

Research Update

My research proposal is coming together quite well. I’m not finding any of the parts too difficult to write about and it’s interesting to read up on all the materials for the background section. I’ve decided that I would like to use human subjects to evaluate the effectiveness of a Virtual Reality for education, so I will be applying for permission for that as well. I’ll be administrating a pretest for my initial data, then allowing people to learn via paper, video, or virtual reality. I’ve been spending some time working on the physical environment as of late so that the testing doesn’t seem as bland while I work on developing the physics.

Dr Papka has been helpful in the creation of my proposal, as have the other students who are conducting research under Papka. I’m considering trying to boost the immersion by mimicking hand motions inside the VR using an xbox kinect or another piece of hardware called the leap. This will be a finishing touch on the environment once everything else is in place, since it is unnecessary to conduct tests. I am most excited to continue to watch this project grow. In the end, I’m looking forward to seeing how the actual environment looks through the Oculus Rift and hopefully furthering my understanding of mechanical physics along the way.

The Search Is Over

I’ve decided to work with Dr Papka. We’ve decided that I will be doing my research in Virtual Realities in Education. Most likely, the system will try to teach 3 dimensional mechanical physics. The process right now, as I’m starting the proposal, involves me learning a few new libraries, mainly the features offered by Unity and the library that integrates the oculus rift into that reality.

The plan right now is to have most of the world generate on runtime to keep the program size small. Lessons will generate in a small room with voice instructions leading people through the examples. Most likely, the experiment will consist of a pretest, a few different styles of learning the same topic, and a post-test to measure learning among the samples.

Mentor Search

The journey begins! I’ve already met with the three faculty members that I wish to work with and they all seem amazing. Dr Freedman is working on an intelligent tutoring system that will be teaching people C++ and making assumptions to produce proper learning conditions. After meeting with her, I met with Dr Duffin, who wants to try some work with CUDA GPU processing being applied outside of the graphics system. This would allow for heavy parallel processing work to be applied to other fields than graphics like it was before. Another professor, Dr Papka, has so many projects going on that I don’t even know where to begin. He’s working with massive data collection in Chicago, multiple topics of in virtual realities, immersion techniques for graphics and hardware, visualization of data, and a few other things that are escaping me at the moment.

I am having so much trouble picking whom to work with. All of their research fascinates me so much. However, I’ve developed a strong interest in virtual realities being applied to teaching and simulations. How cool would it be to be able to visualize how gravity on other planets would effect the same virtual ball or being able to walk around enlarged chemical structures? I’d like to work with Dr Papka the most, since his work is actually in virtual realities, and the work environment he described seemed like it would be the most fun to work in. I’ll see how this plays out in the coming weeks.