Category Archives: Collaboration

Site Visit

On January 17, a few faculty and the dean of the School of Science visited the new science building at University of Scranton. This building was designed by EYP, the architects for our new STEM complex, and the visit provided us with the opportunity to get a better understanding of the collaborative / interactive spaces described by EYP.  It also enabled us to get some feedback about how the spaces are being utilized as well as the impact on students and faculty interactions and engagement.

Here are some pictures we took during that visit (click on a picture to advance to the next one).

Reflection: S. Qureshi and F. Estevez

Reflections on ITiCSE Conference 2013

By Francisco Estevez and Shahzore Qureshi
Supervisor: Professor S. Monisha Pulimood

This summer, a poster on CABECT (Collaborating Across Boundaries to Engage Undergraduates in Computational Thinking) was accepted at the 2013 ITiCSE Conference, which was held from July 1st to July 3rd at the University of Kent in Canterbury, England. The goal of CABECT is to create an engaging learning environment in which Computer Science and non-Computer Science majors can collaborate on interdisciplinary projects and apply the concepts of computational thinking to these projects from different perspectives.


The first interdisciplinary project that CABECT has started is called SOAP (Students Organizing Against Pollution), which is an initiative aimed at empowering the citizens of the state of New Jersey with an online system that encourages learning, sharing, and contributing information pertaining to pollution. Such information includes existing pollution sites, hazardous chemicals that have yet to be cleaned up, and legislation that may promote or hinder pollution. The participants of this project are TCNJ undergraduate journalism and computer science students. The Journalism team is in charge of populating the SOAP system with thousands of data entries that are not only accurate, but also, interconnected in a way that can be replicated and represented by computers. The Computer Science team is responsible for developing an online database that can hold such data and its interconnections as well as designing an intuitive user interface that is both aesthetically pleasing and fully accessible. So far, the project has been successful in allowing students and other users to learn and share information about pollution in their area or any designated area in New Jersey.

We are both Computer Science students who worked with Professor Pulimood for about a year on SOAP. Our main objective was to take previous database work done by our predecessors and incorporate that work into a web platform that is fully accessible to the public and that meets the needs of our fellow Journalism students. Some of our accomplishments include online backend database management, web system framework implementation, modern user interface design, and social media incorporation. A versatile, cross-platform mobile version of the web system was also successfully developed for smart phones and tablets of all brands and sizes. Part of the learning experience of the project was purposefully researching and eventually integrating SOAP with the latest and most advanced web technologies the (mostly) open-source developer community could offer: this included Amazon’s cloud services, HTML5, Twitter Bootstrap, the CakePHP framework, and a few other important bits. We are proud of our work, and we are truly grateful to Professor Pulimood for letting us participate in SOAP, and on a larger scale, CABECT as well as presenting SOAP and CABECT to an international audience in England.


Attending the ITiSCE conference in the United Kingdom was a very insightful and educational experience. The conference itself was targeted at teachers, not students, so it gave us a fun look at the other side of Computer Science education. Each day of the conference (there were three in total) saw a different keynote speaker, who touched on a different theme within the overarching topic of Computer Science education. The first keynote speaker, Professor Simon Peyton Jones, mainly discussed primary education (pre-university), and the need for Computer Science to become as much of a staple within the education curriculum as other disciplines, like physics or math. During his presentation, Dr. Jones also discussed the need for computational thinking to reach beyond the borders of a Computer Science classroom and extend into every discipline being taught to children, which really goes hand in hand with the “computational thinking across boundaries” idea that spawned the CABECT project we were there to present. It was very encouraging to see that one of the most important presenters of the conference shared our project’s goal for Computer Science education!

The remainder of the conference was filled with paper presentations, coffee breaks, poster presentations, and more coffee breaks. We attended a variety of presentations, with topics ranging from voice-activated school administration software via phone-line (like if you could call a phone number and navigate through PAWS or SOCS with voice commands) to online student cheating resources (we promise we didn’t take any notes on that one!). These presentations were usually around half an hour, and were very informative and thorough; some of the professors who authored these papers had been working on the same project for decades at a time.

Using Social Computational Concepts to Enhance Project Dissemination and Sustainability

Computer Science Research Collaborators: Joseph Canero and Conor Kelton.
(Samantha Swartz, IMM major, designed the CABECT logo and site.)

This project was funded in Summer 2013 by TCNJ’s MUSE program and the School of Science.

The primary goal of the project was to investigate how social computational concepts can be leveraged to address the challenges of effective dissemination of the results and artifacts of the CABECT project, as well as sustaining the project beyond the funding period.

Here’s what Conor has to say about the experience:

“This Summer my MUSE experience was unique in all regards. Working with a partner to develop a project from the ground up was initially a task I thought to be overwhelming. The research, Human and Social Computation, and Technologies, Web Development Languages and Database systems, were all factors of which I had not previously worked with in the classroom. However MUSE provided an environment suited for learning as much as possible, and so I planned to do just that. Taking the project step by step, small term goal by small term goal, my partner and I began to gain better understanding of not only the topics relevant to our project but our project goal itself, refining our work each and every day. Relevant filed trips to a graduate school class at the University of Pennsylvania as well as a trip to New York City to see WeWork Labs, a big city company that helps small software start ups  gave me insight as to environments outside the undergraduate setting and allowed me to start a plan for post graduation. When the project was finished we were in fact astounded with what we had done and learned, so much so that we felt we could share it with our peers in a very thorough presentation of our topic. Overall, not only did I learn how to become a better researcher in topics relative to my field, and not only did I grasp knowledge of technology used every day by professionals in my field, but I was able to feel for the first time what it is like to carry the responsibilities of teamwork and project creation, principles that I will carry when transitioning into a professional myself.”

Project Background:

The term “social computing” generally refers to the use of social software such as blogs, Facebook, etc. Increasingly, websites are taking advantage of users’ engagement with social computing to obtain and share information. However, there are concerns about the reliability of data provided and validity of reviews. A stronger term, “social computational system,” refers to the intersection of social behavior and computational systems that supports gathering and dissemination of information by large groups of people. This emerging area of research, leverages the collective intelligence of a community, to solve complex problems or gather and manage data. Such systems tap into uniquely human abilities that can produce results that are of higher quality and reliability than machines. For example, ESP and Foldit motivate people to perform image recognition, an ability that is trivial for humans but computationally intensive for machines, by packaging the tasks as games. Similarly, Duolingo takes advantage of people’s desire to learn foreign languages, to translate Wikipedia into other languages. Students in my “Topics” class in the Fall 2012 semester designed prototypes for systems that engaged users in innovative ways to perform tedious tasks like typing captions for videos or lyrics for songs. We posit that leveraging social computational concepts in a web-based collaborative framework for a project can similarly motivate potential adopters and interested people to become active participants in the dissemination and sustainability of a project.