Computing Power in Numbers
2017 Computer Science Fair features nearly 200 student projects
- By Andrea Rose Estey
Improving response to humanitarian crises. Holding politicians accountable for their voting records. Sorting “fake news” from real headlines. Today’s world offers no shortage of daunting challenges; last Friday, 354 students presented their solutions to these issues and more in the form of 187 websites, apps, and programs.
The Computer Science (CS) Fair, held every fall semester in the Davis Center, is a chance for Catamounts to show off everything from web design to sophisticated programming to in-depth research projects, and win up to $300 in prizes.
The fair isn’t made up of all CS majors or minors; some are students enrolled in their very first computer science course, like business administration sophomores Maddie Stoops and Maia Parker (below). Over the last semester, the two business analytics concentrators developed a program that delves into pay inequality in the U.S., an issue both students are curious about. It lets users see how education level, age, race, and profession impact wage. The class, says Parker, has been really valuable. “Coming out with programming knowledge is huge in today’s world. It really makes you think in a different way.”
Local pros from potential employers, including IBM, MyWebGrocer, and Logic Supply, stroll the ballroom with clipboards, judging the work. Tyler Van Ollefen with Union Mutual says seeing students in action is inspiring. “I like that there’s a bunch of people who clearly have a passion for what they’re doing.”
And for some students, those passions lie in other worlds, like junior Liv Jensen and sophomores Austin Viveiros and Beau Duval, who developed a website that allows visitors to create their own Star Wars character, and see how its attributes rank among peers. Beyond testing their knowledge of planets and weapons, the trio learned how to work like a true team, each finding their niche. “In a group, you have to change the way you think and match up your skills,” says Duval.
Other projects included an impressive, smart baby monitor by graduate students Anna Waldron and Viktoria Manukyan, developed in an advanced machine learning course to automatically detect a baby’s cry, laughter, and other sounds. And, there was sophomore Phillip Nguyen’s CNC router (he describes it as a “3-D printer in reverse,”) powered by a small, embedded computer that can be controlled remotely via Internet. The machine, which can cut wood, placed second among intermediate projects. “CNC routers are used in the manufacturing industry,” explains Nguyen, below. “They’re usually about three thousand dollars, but this was about two hundred dollars. I wanted it to be as affordable as possible.”