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ATLANTA — A device that helps physical therapy patients improve their grip strength while transmitting the information via an app to their therapists. A watering system that can detect when a plant starts wilting. And an algorithm that tracks how people hold their phones while scrolling through social media content — and alerts them when they’ve had too much screen time.
For eight weeks, four Perimeter College students — Paula Gil, Tandi Long, Trenton Hobby and Sophie Valdez — joined five undergraduate students from colleges across the nation to design and test these prototypes as part of Georgia State University’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) on Smart and Autonomous Internet-of-Things Systems.
The students presented their prototypes July 27 at Georgia State.
This was the first time Perimeter students were invited to do REU research, said Ashwin Ashok, a Georgia State computer science professor and co-principal investigator for the project with Associate Professor of Computer Science Anu Bourgeois.
Graduate teaching assistants Akshita Madavarapu, Aaja Christie, Gowthami Duggineni, Durgabhavani Pothineni and Akshita Maradapu assisted the students in their projects.
“Typically, undergraduates are not required to do research,” Ashok said. “The idea was to get students involved early in research to get excited about it.”
During the REU program, Perimeter students joined students from Swarthmore College, the University of Georgia and Howard University, staying in student housing on the Atlanta Campus as they worked through their research in different teams.
Three of the four Perimeter College students were engineering pathway students participating in the Regents’ Engineering Pathway program. The fourth student, Valdez, recently graduated with an associate degree and is now a computer science major on the Atlanta Campus.
All the students selected for the program were in their first or second year of college and received a $5,000 stipend.
“The students for this program were recruited through faculty recommendations and campus participation,” said Sahithya Reddivari, assistant chair of Computer Science and Engineering.
“The PIs (principal investigators) commented how the Perimeter students were really not sure of themselves in the beginning, but really rose up to the challenge very quickly,” she said.
“I’m really grateful for this experience,” said Paula Gil. “I learned a lot about computer science, which in the beginning I didn’t think I liked, but now I think I may minor in computer science.”
Gil was part of the group working on an algorithm for tracking how people held their phones when interacting with social media.
Hobby was part of the group that designed a grip ball for physical therapy patients.
“This was a great experience,” Hobby said. “I’ve done research data collection before, for my political science class, but it was a different experience to work with computer science data. It was cool.”
Reddivari was encouraged by the students’ enthusiasm.
“I think this is such an important experience for our students,” she said. “They get to meet peers from across the country and work with graduate students. I hope we will be able to continue providing this research opportunity to our students.”
This was the first time two-year students participated in a computer science REU at Georgia State, but it was not the first time Perimeter students have participated in research experiences. Since 2009, science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) students involved in the National Science Foundation-sponsored Peach State Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation have benefited from REU experiences in marine biology, chemistry and engineering at four-year institutions across the country.
Ashwin Ashok is an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science and associate director of graduate studies at Georgia State University. He received his Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Rutgers University in 2014. Dr. Ashok’s research interest is emerging technologies for mobile and robotic systems. He also directs and mentors Georgia State’s Girls Who Code and Robotics for Women organizations. He is a co-PI for Georgia State’s Smart and Autonomous Internet-of-Things Systems REU with Dr. Anu Bourgeois.
Anu Bourgeois is an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science at Georgia State University. She received her Ph.D. degree from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Louisiana State University. Dr. Bourgeois has a keen interest in CS education research and broadening participation in computing. She is the co-PI for Smart and Autonomous Internet-of-Things Systems REU with Dr. Ashok Ashwin.