Campus is still abuzz from last week’s announcement that IBM will give a version of its Watson system to Rensselaer. The computer rose to fame in early 2011 after if defeated the two all-time human champions of the quiz show Jeopardy!. The Internet is also abuzz with the news, and our own Jim Hendler is at the very center of the media merriment.
Professor Hendler, who is the head of our Department of Computer Science and one of the lead researchers on the Watson project at Rensselaer, recently did a Q&A with the Washington Post about the future of Watson at Rensselaer. A snippet is below, and you can read the entire story here.
WashPo: What will be the first steps in introducing Watson to the RPI team?
Hendler: Programming Watson requires understanding its particular flow of control in Question-Answering. For those people on campus who have not already been involved in the project, we will have several faculty, staff and students take a 2-day training course led by the IBM team, and then those people, in turn, will be able to teach others as well as jump-starting our work.
What “classes” will Watson be taking? Additionally, will this be, perhaps, the opportunity to create a “curriculum,” if you will, for other systems when it comes to processing the large volume of unstructured data out there?
We will be looking at a number of different projects that explore what Watson can do.
(High school senior Samantha Scibelli – named yesterday as one of 40 finalists in the prestigious pre-college Intel Science Talent Search 2013 – wrote this excellent post for The Approach, to tell us about her research with Professor Heidi Newberg. Enjoy!)
My name is Samantha Scibelli, I am currently finishing up my senior year at Burnt Hills–Ballston Lake High School. I have always had a love for science, starting from the time I was young, polishing rocks in my rock tumbler and analyzing fingerprints with my forensics kit. My passion for science escalated the summer before my sophomore year. That summer I attended a career exploration program at Cornell University where I took a workshop on astronomy. Immediately I fell in love with the field and the exciting research it was producing. I was fascinated by dark matter, exoplanets, parallel universes, and all of the mysteries in the farthest depths of our universe.
News sites were abuzztoday with a fun update from 400 kilometers above the surface of the Earth. NASA on Monday released new video footage of its friendly-faced robotic astronaut, Robonaut 2, working aboard the International Space Station (ISS). NASA has been running tests and experiments with R2, as the robot is called, since it was ferried to the ISS early 2011. The goal is for R2 to one day serve as an assistant or stand-in for astronauts during spacewalks, or perform overly dangerous or complex tasks.
Often times, when we think of the Olympics, the image that comes to mind – well at least to me – are the series of sport events held over multiple days, featuring competition in many different sports between organized team of athletes.
At Rensselaer, it’s a different story.
Student members of the Entrepreneurship Club are getting ready to host the preliminary round of the University Hacker Olympics. The event will make its official debut tomorrow, from 2 to 6 p.m, in the Center of Industrial Innovation (CII) room 4034.
In a span of only four hours, students from Rensselaer and several universities will work to write a piece of code to solve a puzzle. If it works, then the students will continue to tweak the algorithm. Students creep up the leader board (we are not talking about the reality television show Dancing With the Stars) by refining the code to make it run faster and more efficiently.
One of the perks of having friends in high places is the “behind-the-scenes tour,” and this past weekend, the Rensselaer community got a multimedia tour from some very well-placed friends: the Rensselaer School of Science Dean Laurie Leshin, and three Rensselaer alumni, all of whom are working on NASA’s Curiosity Rover mission, currently roving the surface of Mars.
Before an audience of hundreds in the concert hall of the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center, Leshin and alumni Michael Meyer, Frederick Serricchio, and Kobie Boykins took us though the challenges of designing the launch vehicle, spaceship, and rover, surviving the spectacular “seven minutes of terror” between space and the Martian surface, and some of the findings (including 3-D images) now being transmitted to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.
Here’s why: Looking at a back-lit display for two hours can trick your brain into producing less melatonin, the hormone that helps regulate our internal clocks. Essentially, since your eyes are looking at a bright screen, your brain thinks it’s still early and puts off getting ready for bed. Sadly, this kind of disruption to our circadian rhythms has been implicated in all sorts of nastiness including sleep disturbances and increased risk for diabetes and obesity.
(Senior Hannah Fix wrote this excellent post for The Approach to tell us about her educational outreach work with Professor Patrick Underhill. Enjoy!)
My name is Hannah Fix, I am a senior undergraduate studying aeronautical and mechanical Engineering. I work with Professor Patrick Underhill on the “Fluid Dynamics Demo Kit: Fluid Physics on the Road” project, which is funded through the American Physical Society Division of Fluid Dynamics.
The Fluid Dynamics Demo Kit is an educational outreach project designing kits that contain experiments to teach students basic fluid and flow concepts. The aim of the project is to use exciting experiments aimed at high school students to teach them practical applications of the concepts they learn in the classroom. These experiments include a water gun, a siphon, Heron’s fountain, and a viscous drag experiment. There is a list of topics covered for each experiment and the assumption is that the topics will have previously been covered in class.
Now that NASA rover Curiosityis safely on the ground, it’s starting to take its bearings and perform its mission—analyzing the rock and soil of the Martian surface for clues to the planet’s past, particularly with regard to the presence of water, and the potential for habitability.
At 1:32 a.m. Eastern time, the NASA rover Curiosity safely touched down on the surface of Mars after a journey of more than 300 million miles and a harrowing descent from orbit, complete with parachutes, rockets, and the perilous ”sky crane manuever.”
Given the technical challenges that stand in its way, the “holodeck” (as envisioned on Star Trek:The Next Generation) may not actually arrive until the 24th century. But that’s not stopping a group of Rensselaer researchers with the under—construction Emergent Reality Lab (one of them a former Star Trek producer) from exploring how the elements of a good holodeck program can be harnessed as a tool for teaching and learning.
The researchers—Lee Sheldon, Ben Chang, Mei Si—are using a mixture of narrative, game design, and augmented and virtual reality to teach Mandarin Chinese. For the past year, tantalizing whiffs of the project have been floating around campus, always accompanied by the phrase “the Mandarin Project.”