Grace Hopper Celebration 2010 : Day 2 (29 September)

This morning I obtained a Poken (this little USB device that acts as an electronic business card when you match it with another Poken) and filled out my profile a bit.

My Vampire Poken

My Vampire Poken

I also went to the New Investigations #1 presentations, which were on a lot of interesting subjects (music, collaborative learning, games, and nursing). The first presentation was about using computers to generate song accompaniment, in the same vein as Microsoft Songsmith. The presentation began with an overview of the difficulties in doing this (for example, trying to figure out the correct chord progressions to use and figuring out the tone of the song and the genre of the song through analysis of the vocals), and the presenter showed a humorous comparison of an original song clip and a Microsoft Songmith rendition of the same song based solely on a vocal track to demonstrate how this is not a trivial task. She then explained how her work involved analyzing the chords that a particular artist tends to use, generating all the possible chord types, and teaching her system about how to choose the best chords to use at particular parts of the song, by training it with other songs that the artist has produced. She was actually able to test this system by choosing a song off an artist’s album, training the system with the other songs on the album, and generating accompaniment that, while being different from the original, fit the vocals just as well as the original accompaniment. It was really impressive!

The second was a presentation on some ongoing research involving collaborative learning through the use of computers, with the intent of facilitating collaboration between students from different schools, states, countries, etc, and of demonstrating the value of collaborative learning (versus typical solitary computer science learning experiences). In order to do all this they are developing a game based on the regional education requirements in which elementary school students would have tasks which would require them to complete quests and learn about ecosystems and landforms through collaborate both with other students and with non-player characters (NPCs). The NPCs would hopefully, through working with the students in the game, both inspire the students’ curiosity and give them motivation to learn more about the science, while working with other students (by dividing up responsibilities for particular quests) would hopefully also improve the learning experiences of all students involved. I’m very curious to see the results of this study.

The third project was on studying trends among different groups of people and why they enjoy the games they play; participants were given a game where they could customize levels, avatars, and could play the levels they created, and the researchers documented what participants spent more time on based on a number of factors, such as their gender and their gaming experiences. For example, female participants were the most likely to do any sort of customization and the least likely to actually play the levels (a trend that, though slightly diminished, still stood with female gamers). 44% of female participants and 52% of male participants were described as “strategic” designers (in other words, they actively tried to create a story with their level, and had specific reasons for designing the levels they created. There were also differences between participants who had experience playing more involved games such as RPGs and participants who had experience with less involved games such as online social games, or participants who played board games. RPG gamers tended to revise their levels more often but tended to use less items in the levels themselves; other gamers and non-gamers tended to revise their levels less frequently, but tended to stick more into their levels.

The last presentation was made by a graduate student who had been creating ways of making the lives of nurses easier by consolidating the information they have to know throughout the day, giving them newer technology such as Smart boards and voice communication systems, and by allowing for remote access of patient information. She had received a lot of positive feedback about how having one program that nurses could access data from was extremely helpful for their jobs. The research was more straight-forward than some of the other presentations, and was a great end to the session.

After NI#1, I visited all the companies I did not have a chance to chat with last night, visited some graduate school tables, and then went to lunch. Lunch was interesting; as a vegan I was given tofu seasoned with paprika, salt, and oregano, what tasted like sweet and sour soba noodles, and fresh spinach. There were waiters carrying plates to and from the tables, and it felt like I was in a fancy restaurant. After this did an interview, and overwhelmed myself with the amount of free stuff I had come across. I definitely should have brought a suitcase with me, rather than just a backpack and laptop bag…I have also attempted to collect as many ribbons as possible during my stay at the conference. I have eleven so far! Soon came the Job Search Part 1 Panel and the Defense Career Panels, which gave me a lot of good insight on how to apply for jobs and what Defense jobs are available and what they involve.

Soon came dinner and the poster presentations, which were rather interesting; many were about getting more girls interested in computer science early and many were about educational games, but there were also quite a few about more mathematical and theoretical concepts. After this I hung out with a few of my friends, did some homework, and got ready for another exciting day of Grace Hopper.

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