Andrew's COSMOS '05 Blog

Monday, August 01, 2005

Let's try this again

Ok, so I'm a little mad that I typed a few pages of text and for some reason, blogger lost it and my last entry is blank. I will try to reproduce what I had, but it will probably be shorter...

So this is finally the last week. It went by really quickly. Last week ended in a fun-filled field trip Friday. First, it was off to the neurosciences institute. After a really long walk, we made it there and played with robots. The highlight was riding the soccer playing segways. In the afternoon, we went and saw Stealth. Beforehand, we had the chance to witness Bennet playing Dance Dance Revolution, which was amazing. The movie was actually better than we all had hoped (we had low expectations). Today we have been mostly focused on projects aside from Joe doing some more abacus and slide rule computations. The projects seem to be going well. Hopefully they all get a lot accomplished. Class is almost over now...

The Final Week...

Monday, July 25, 2005

Week 3 is under way...

The program seems to be going by very quickly. I can't believe it is already the third week. I haven't posted in a while, so I may have forgotten some of the things that happened at the end of last week. Let's see...

The students had some quality guest speakers like Stefan Savage, who spoke about the Internet and worms and viruses. They also wrote some text recognition programs with Christine using C#. (After this, they realized that my program was not so great after all because they were able to make a similar one in very little time). Oh well. They also played and modified Larry's Tic-Tac-Toe program. I think they really enjoyed this because there were modifications to be made depending on skill level, so everyone was able to accomplish something. The students also formed groups and started thinking about their projects. The week concluded with a college fair and the students went to Sea World over the weekend.

Today Larry talked a bit about algorithms and the students are currently playing with his traffic simulator program using Linux. More to come soon...

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The greatest program ever, broken glasses :(

Week 2 is underway. Yesterday morning, we discussed a little about how google works. Then we acted out some sorting algorithms like bucket sort, bubble sort, and quicksort. Remarkably, when the students were just told to sort themselves, they did it really quickly.

In the afternoon, Christine talked about some psychological principles like the Gestault rules and the students drew some shapes to illustrate them. While some of this was going on, I was on a wild goose chase to track down a knife to cut some cake that Christine brought in from this weekend. After wandering around for a long time, I just decided to suck it up and walk to Canyon Vista dining hall in Warren College. :) I made it back after missing only about 10 minutes and everyone enjoyed the cake.

Then we went down to the lab to work on some text recognition. This was my favorite part of the day because they used some programs that I had written. Greg even declared the program "the greatest program ever!" I sincerely doubt that this was true, but I enjoyed his comment anyway. The students drew many random things on the screen and tried to get them recognized in various languages. I think they liked playing with it a little too much and didn't focus enough on answering the questions that Christine had prepared. Oh well. Then they coded a small example in C#, which helped them see how to design forms and implement action events.

On Tuesday morning, we watched an interesting speaker talk about robots with the ability to learn. The highlight was seeing the robots (including dog-like robots) play soccer. His presentation reached the kids well because they loved the soccer videos. I thought they were amazing too. Apparently his organization beat the CMU team in a few recent games at the RoboCup world championship. (It's the world championship because they are the only 2 teams in the world!)

After Lara's discussion of error in scientific experiments, we went to lunch. Jeff and I left early to go to student health because his glasses are broken. We got there at about 12:40, but the office is closed from 12-1. Darn. So we waited until 1 only to find out that there was nobody there with the tools to fix them. Darn again. I guess Jeff will have to leave campus with an RA and go to a private repair shop. Hopefully the tape on his glasses doesn't bother him too much. He said it's not a huge deal because it has been like this for a few days, but it would be nice to get them fixed.

This afternoon we are off the the San Diego SuperComputer Center! I guess we could say it's field trip, but it is still on campus. I think the kids will enjoy an afternoon out of the classroom though.

That's it for today...

Friday, July 15, 2005

End of Week 1

So week 1 is winding down. There were some difficulties, but I think the students learned a lot and (hopefully) enjoyed themselves.

Today we heard about some more AI from Christine in the morning and then Joe posed the question whether humans were simply machines in the afternoon. This was a very philosophical day and I think the students handled it well and provided many meaningful commentaries. At this point it seems impossible to prove these ideas either way, but I'm sure that in the future many things will become clear. At the end of the day, my brain was a bit tired though so I'm sure the students were ready for a break as well.

Ok, that's all for now. I am definitely ready for a break this weekend. I'll be back Monday....

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Day 4

The students seem to be enjoying themselves more, which is good. Yesterday we had a nice talk about AI and then a fun lab. We used AIM to perform the Turing test where one person interrogates another to determine whether they are a human or computer. I played along and worked with Justin. He was able to guess when I was acting for Eliza (the computer program) and when I was myself because Eliza is not very convincing.

Today, the students did a small lab in the morning with Lara where they performed pendulum experiments while varying the weight and height to see which variable affected the speed of the swing.

Then we walked to lunch. Walking to lunch takes a long time. Its just too bad that it is not closer. On the bright side, it is a good chance to chat with the students, but it takes a big chunk out of the day especially since students walk at very different speeds. Today we tried to determine which path to the cafeteria was faster, but since some people started running, the experiment was flawed. Oh well.

After lunch we had a talk from Pavel Pevzner about Bioinformatics. I dont know much about the subject, so I really enjoyed the talk. He talked about converting mouse genomes to human genomes and how it is a computational problem. This is definitely a hot research subject.

Right now we are all updating our blogs, so that brings us up to date...

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

I'm getting the hang of this

So the first few days have been a bit hectic, but still fun. Don't get me wrong, I love this new building, but it is definitely an adventure trying to get things to work. Yesterday, the Internet connections were questionable and we couldnt access the blogs. Today we had some trouble in the lab with some programs like Visual Studio and Windows Messenger. All in all, it was a good lab though. Larry provided the students with many different tasks, so I think that every student, regardless of computer science knowledge, was able to work on something interesting. Some did spend a lot of time messing with google earth!

After class I met with Christine and just as we were ragging on ACS for not installing any programs for us...the programs were there! This is nice because now we can give the students the assignments that we had intended.

Thats all for today.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

My First Post

I am the TA for COSMOS '05. I am looking forward to helping the students learn about Computer Science. I will be around to answer questions and help out in the lab. It should be a fun month!