March 6, 2008

Duffield makes room for BOOM

Q: What are Cornell students doing with computers?

A: Just about anything you can think of.

Each year the campus community gets a glimpse into the wide range of student computing projects at the BOOM (Bits on Our Minds) exhibition, held this year Feb. 27 in the Duffield Hall Atrium. Although presented by the Faculty of Computing and Information Science, BOOM is open to all students, and participants ranged from computer scientists and engineers to artists, sociologists and musicians.

According to Amy Fish, BOOM 2008 project coordinator, "BOOM is a chance to say, 'Congratulations, you've been working hard. We think your project is really fabulous; let's show it off!'"

Through hands-on demonstrations, exhibitors showed visitors how a computer could be controlled with gestures or a listener could select music from a collection by using head movements. Games created by students in the Cornell Game Design Initiative were there to be played, and robots walked, rolled or wriggled on command.

Not so visible but still intriguing to learn about were social science projects, like tools to help teams work better together and a system to detect lying in chat rooms. One group studied the social climate in the A.D. White House by monitoring such events as whether or not the teapot was turned on.

BOOM was sponsored by Cisco, Morgan Stanley, Yahoo! and Lockheed Martin, all of whom unabashedly admitted they were there to nurture and recruit new talent. Cisco presented its Sponsor's Award to the creators of ArtLinks, a project to allow Johnson Museum visitors to interact while viewing a sculpture; Morgan Stanley's Sponsor's Award went to Live Objects in Office Automation Systems, a framework for building office workflow applications.

The Where's the BOOM? Award, chosen by computer science faculty, went to CUmotive, a project using sensors attached to a person's body to control just about anything from a computer to a music system through body movements. The People's Choice Award, chosen by attendees, went to the Cornell Minesweeper, a robot designed to detect landmines.

Tyler Steele '08 was selected by a faculty committee to be honored in the BOOM Student Spotlight as a "student whose star is on the rise."