Information Systems Ph.D. Student is Co-Developer of an iPhone App in iOS8 Package

Brian Frey, UMBC Ph.D. student in information systems, has been collaborating for the past several years with colleagues at Georgia Tech University on a very simple concept: How can one infuse braille communication with the iPhone? Over these past few years the team has been refining their Braille Touch App in support of that concept. Their efforts were validated with the recent release of the Apple’s new mobile operating system, iOS8. Of the millions of apps that Apple has approved for release in the App Store since the release of the first generation iPhone, only a select few have been tapped for inclusion as a “native” app, included in the iOS software package itself. Braille Touch provides a familiar braille layout for the vision impaired user as well as audio feedback to give the user instant feedback that they are typing the message as they intended.

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.

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.

Anne Spence, Mech. Engineering, to Participate in Rep. Cummings’ Roundtable Discussion

Anne Spence, mechanical engineering, will participate in a roundtable discussion hosted by Congressman Elijah Cummings.

The panel is part of a Congressional initiative to learn about issues women educators encounter in building and sustaining economic security. The discussion will also focus on strategies to increase the number of women pursuing STEM fields. Spence has conducted extensive research on engineering education and seeks to identify best practices for educating teachers and engaging students.

The discussion will take place on August 13 from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the University of Maryland Biotech Park Conference Center. Click here to learn more about Spence’s research.

U.S. News, Colleges Work to Engage Women, Minorities in STEM Fields, Penny Rheingans

Delece Smith-Barrow of U.S. News & World Report, recently wrote about the importance of engaging women and minorities in STEM fields. Smith-Barrow interviewed UMBC’s Penny Rheingans, director for the Center of Women in Technology (CWIT).

Smith Barrow wrote: “If students struggle in class and have few peers and faculty that look like them, it’s easy for them to think, “maybe I’m not supposed to be here, either,” says Penny Rheingans, director for the Center for Women in Technology at the University of Maryland—Baltimore County.

Prospective college students who are women or underrepresented minorities can determine if a school can help them in their STEM endeavors by finding out what resources colleges offer these kinds of students.

The Center for Women in Technology at UMBC​ provides mentoring services, ​seminars that discuss topics such as networking and time management and a number of other resources, Rheingans says. A living and learning residence community provided through the program caters to women and men in STEM, but the former group dominates.

“Eighty-five percent of students who live on our floor are women,” she says.

Rheingan encourages prospective students to keep an eye out for school environments that have structures in place that support women. “You’re looking for a community,” she says. Visiting the college and talking to current students is one way to find out about the community, she says.”