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Student Team Earns Second in
Computer Science Research Contest

Posted March 6, 2001

HOLLAND -- A team of researchers consisting of undergraduate students from Hope College and Xavier University of Ohio recently placed second in the ACM International Student Research Contest, held Thursday- Friday, Feb. 22-23, in Charlotte, N.C.

The students were Prakash Ojha from Dhangadhi Nepal; Abigail Walker from Louisville, Ky.; and Jennifer Wanner from Marion, Ohio. Their project compared methods of using the computer to handle institutional course scheduling.

Ojha is a junior at Hope, while Walker and Wanner are students at Xavier University. The students were advised by Dr. Gary Lewandowski, visiting associate professor of computer science at Hope College, who is presently on leave from Xavier University.

"Course scheduling is known to be among the hardest computer science problems to solve optimally," Lewandowski said. "Many variations of the problem and approximations that work well on a particular instance of data have been demonstrated in the past, but this research project presented the first comparison of scheduling methods on a uniform problem formulation and on common sets of data."

According to Lewandowski, the students implemented several methods for course scheduling and also designed a model for generating random sets of data to do the empirical comparison.

The project originated at Xavier University during the 1999-2000 academic year with the support of a "Collaborative Research Experience for Women" grant from the Computing Research Association which funded Ms. Wanner. Ms. Walker and Mr. Ojha joined the project during the summer of 2000, when they participated in the Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates at Hope College, funded by the National Science Foundation and Hope College. Lewandowski served as an advisor in the program while on sabbatical from Xavier, through an NSF-sponsored visiting professor program at Hope.

The ACM International Student Research contest is sponsored by the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM), the primary professional organization of computing professionals in the world. The contest takes place annually at the ACM Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education (SIGCSE) Technical Symposium.

Students present their work in poster form, allowing for informal discussion with the contest judges, who are professional computer scientists attending the conference activities. Poster presentations are evaluated on the quality and significance of the work, and the quality and clarity of both the oral and visual presentation.

The judges' evaluations determine the group of semifinalists, who then make a formal conference presentation. The top three winners in each category are determined by the judges' evaluation of the presentations.

At the same conference, other Hope researchers presented a paper titled "Using Handheld Computers in the Classroom: Laboratories and Collaboration on Handheld Machines." The paper concerns research by Dr. Mike Jipping, associate professor of computer science, and junior Sarah Dieter of Colorado Springs, Colo.; senior Joshua Krikke of Hudsonville; and junior Samantha Sandro of Scottville. Jipping and Krikke presented the research group's results to more than 100 computer science educators from all over the world.

The paper documented the case for using handheld computing devices in the classroom to aid in teaching computer science. During their presentation and in their paper, which appears in the conference proceedings, they showcased two applications that the team developed that are presently being used in classes at Hope.

The work on the project was done with support from two grants from the National Science Foundation. The students performed their work under Jipping's supervision during the summer of 2000 on the Hope campus.

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