UMBC Team Participates in White House Game Jam

For three days beginning September 6 the White House Educational Game Jam invited a select set of professional game developers and academics to create innovative educational game prototypes over single weekend, with the resulting games presented at the White House Executive Office Building.

There were 23 teams and about 100 participants. The team sizes ranged from 1 to 9, with most around 4-5. It was a mix of major companies and schools. Examples of large companies were: Ubisoft, Sony and Rovio. Small companies were: BrainPop, GlassLab and RocketMind. Academic teams included the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Carnegie Melon University, American University, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, the Smithsonian and UMBC.

UNC and UMBC fielded teams of undergraduates, rather than grads or professionals. The event wasn’t a competition, just brainstorming and prototyping educational games.

“Our game came out quite well, and we got a bunch of great comments,” says Marc Olano, faculty advisor and associate professor of computer science and engineering.

Participating students were:
  • Eliot Carney-Seim, BS, Computer Science, Junior
  • Paul Tschirgi, BA, Visual Arts, Senior
  • Calvin Kumagai, BA, Visual Arts, Senior
  • Alex Grube, BS, Computer Science, 2012

The students developed the game Bob Blob Bomb Lob. It is a 3D game to teach step-by-step algorithmic thinking and debugging while you save a hapless blob from the bomb he has ingested. You can see a video of the game below.

Tom Cronin, Biology, Washington Post on Camouflage

In a recent story the Washington Post wrote about what animals, specifically octopus, cuttlefish, and squid otherwise known as cephalopods can teach us about camouflage.

The ability of humans to camouflage themselves is very important in military applications.

UMBC biology professor, Tom Cronin, is quoted as saying:

Military applications will come first, predicts Thomas Cronin, a biologist at the University of Maryland Baltimore County who is part of the research community with octopus-to-gadget ambitions. “When a machine or person moves to a different environment or background, these camouflage systems could automatically reduce the level of detectability to any imaging system,” he says.



Renetta Tull: Equity in STEM

Renetta Tull, Associate Vice Provost of Graduate Student Development and Postdoctoral Affairs, is seeking equity in STEM for all.

RenettaTull was recently the lead author on an article for peerReview titled, “The Jessica Effect: Valuing Cultural and Familial Connections to Broaden Success in Academe.” The article begins:

Jessica Soto-Pérez, daughter of Antonio Israel Soto and Luz N. Pérez, received her undergraduate degree from the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez. She was a promising chemical engineering graduate student at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) and peer mentor for its National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) program—PROMISE: Maryland’s AGEP.

Jessica’s future plans included returning to her native Puerto Rico to pursue a career as an engineering professor. Unfortunately, she didn’t reach that goal because in 2004, she was tragically killed by her husband.

Tull makes the argument that institutions need to “definitively invite and actively include the family members and friends of graduate students in informative and celebratory events and programs.” She writes:

This practice of “family and friend” inclusion is the legacy of Jessica. It ultimately achieves several purposes including, but not limited to (1) serving as an advising model that faculty and administrators can utilize to both recognize and value the cultural and familial connections of their graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and colleagues in the STEM disciplines, (2) promoting an understanding of the university experience among those who may not be familiar with academic processes and timelines, (3) reducing feelings of isolation on the part of students and family members, and (4) expanding the opportunities for family members to offer their students the support necessary for degree completion.

Tull is now heading to the Microsoft Innovation & Policy Center in Washington, D.C. to participate in “A New America: Empowering Hispanic Millennials for Tech Leadership,” organized by the National Journal and The Atlantic.

Tull will discuss how we can reverse the trend of Hispanic underrepresentation in STEM professions and better prepare Hispanic students for high tech careers. Other event participants include U.S. Representative Tony Cárdenas; Cecilia Muñoz, Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council for the White House; Rafael Bras, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, Georgia Institute of Technology; Alejandra Ceja, Executive Director, White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics; and Deborah Santiago, Co-Founder, COO and Vice President for Policy of Excelencia in Education.

Julia Ross, Dean of the College of Engineering and IT, receives $3 million grant for engineering education

Julia Ross, Dean of the College of Engineering and Information and Technology along with her colleagues: Jon Singer and Chris Rakes from the Department of Education at UMBC and Richard Weisenhoff from Baltimore County Public Schools, received an NSF $3 million grant for engineering education.

Dr. Julia Ross (UMBC)In this study UMBC will partner with the Baltimore County Public School System to implement a professional development model that incorporates engineering curriculum in high school biology and technology classrooms.

Erle Ellis: Nature

Erle Ellis, Geography and Environmental Systems, was recently quoted in the Nature article written by Virginia Gewin, Science and politics: Hello, Governor.

“Although there is little disagreement that abrupt shifts occur in Earth systems, including climate and the composition of ecosystems, some scientists baulk at the suggestion that there is enough evidence to predict a single tipping point for the whole planet. “I thought it was a great review of the evidence for rapid shifts in ecology, but then it switched to a series of unsupported statements — at best a hypothesis — about how a global tipping point in the biosphere could happen,” says Erle Ellis, a landscape ecologist at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, who was involved in a response to the paper.

Yet Ellis understands why the term appeals to politicians. “It’s an extraordinarily simple way to look at human-induced global change. It effectively creates a binary Earth; a line drawn in the sand,” he says. “Doing so gives a false sense of security on the ‘safe side’ and a false sense it is too late to act on the other.” But the concept has power. In fact, game-theory simulations have shown that the kind of coordination needed to solve global environmental problems is much easier to achieve if a tipping point can be predicted with high certainty.”

Read the article

Meyerhoff Expansion Program: Nature Jobs

Virginia Gewin writes in Nature, about diversity in science and the problems facing minorities in science. Gewin writes that, Neil deGrasse Tyson has suggested that the low numbers of minorities and women in the US science workforce are due in large part to a lack of equal access to opportunities for entering that workforce.

“To solve that problem, universities are now looking to the example of the Meyerhoff Scholars Program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). It has crafted a formula for mentoring students from minority groups underrepresented in the sciences and helping to guide them into science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) careers. And that formula seems to work — African American Meyerhoff scholars are five times more likely than their counterparts at other US universities to pursue STEM PhDs (K. I. Maton et alMt Sinai J. Med. 79, 610–623; 2012).”

“Now, with US$7.75 million in funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) in University Park and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) are trying to replicate the programme, which for two and a half decades has led the nation in the number of its minority graduates who go on to earn STEM PhDs.”

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