Spotlight on DC ACM member and Vice-Chair Shahnaz Kamberi

As part of her dissertation research study, “Gam(h)er: How to Increase Girls’ Interest and Knowledge of Computer Science via a Gender Specific Educational Game with Two Dimensional and Three Dimensional Game Components”, Shahnaz Kamberi developed a 2D educational game prototype called Array[7] to teach Java Programming to girls ages 13 – 17 years. She also developed a companion 3D virtual world to the game as the ‘affinity space’; where girls can socialize learn and communicate regarding their game progress. Her study involved conducting all-girl Java programming workshops where the girls played and evaluated the game developed. She also surveyed and quizzed the girls to determine the effectiveness of gender specific game based learning. A total of 78 girls participated in the workshops held at DeVry University Arlington, VA campus. Kamberi is currently analyzing her research results and preparing for her Grace Hopper Conference presentation in October 2014.

To read more about her research please Click Here….

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Girls in the 3D Virtual World

What is the DC ACM?

dcacmlogo2008jpgformatAs the DC ACM embarks on another hopeful year, we find ourselves exploring new collaborative initiatives. The DC ACM is connecting with other organizations to create professional development opportunities for ACM members in the DC metro area. One common initial question asked of me as I introduce our community is “What is the DC ACM?”

We are the DC area chapter of the Association of Computing Machinery. The ACM is a professional association for computing professionals and students. It has a broad membership of over 100,000+ members, internationally. The organization’s mission is to create professional development opportunities for our members. Professional development includes networking opportunities, educational opportunities, and conferences.

IMG_20110915_185852Many members first hear about the ACM in college, as universities with computer science departments naturally have student ACM chapters. For example, several DC area universities, have student chapters, including Howard, George Washington University, American University, and George Mason University. Universities connect with the ACM because it offers many resources tuned to academic research, for example  digital libraries of published academic papers.

A vast number of cities have professional chapters which members can join after graduation. The DC ACM, founded in 1958, is one of these professional chapters. Today, we are an active community group. We openly organize events on our meetup group, communicate on social media (@dcacm), and include non-acm members at our events.

DCACM_Group_Photo_2013-11-14Locally, we create professional development opportunities for our members. Our group creates  opportunities through events; we also connect with events from other organizations in the DC area that are of value to our members.

The DC ACM has evolved quite a bit since 1958. Members who have been around for decades, since the early days of computing, have shared numerous stories of what computing communities were like prior. Why have we changed? Our groups adaptations are intended to complement the elevation of grassroots IT communities and emerging startup companies in DC.

DC ACM members are very technical, possess in-depth practitioner knowledge, and generally hold degrees in computer science or related fields. Our group has many entrepreneurs,  managers, practicing lawyers, programmers, and IT architects. This diversity is an outcome of how many members begin their careers by learning computers and engineering in college, and over time professionally branch out as their professional endeavors develop. As a result, the DC ACM has a wide network of individuals beyond programmers.

Our board consists of five members: Amar Zumkhawala, Chair; Shahnaz Kamberi, Vice Chair; Bob Downs, Treasurer; Ronnie Dasgupta, Secretary; and Ray Van Dyke, Member-At-Large.

As chair, I encourage interested individuals to join (http://dcacm.org/join) and stay in touch. Please consider either joining our meetup group, subscribing to our mailing list, or following us on twitter from our join web page.

Contact the chair of the DC ACM at chair@dcacm.orgacmlogo.png

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Announcing Candidates for 2014

Greetings DC ACM followers! Please read below for our list of 2014 election cycle candidates.  We’ll be voting in the new board at the next meetup on June 30th at WeWork.  We also have 1 vacant spot, and several uncontested spots.

Do you have an interest in creating some local Comp Sci community activity by joining our board or our organizer team? Contact me for details, Andrew Conklin, aconklin@dcacm.org

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GeoGit and MapStory

Big Data, Cloud Computing, and virtual teams are all big trends in the field of computer science. That’s why GeoGit and MapStory are outstanding technologies worth a DC ACM tech talk.

Dr. Chris Tucker. Photo courtesy DC ACM member Gene Gaines.

Dr. Chris Tucker. Photo courtesy DC ACM member Gene Gaines.

On Monday, 3/31, Dr. Chris Tucker, founder of MapStory, discussed various technologies used to help people tell stories through maps. These are no ordinary maps. What makes MapStory stand out is that the maps visualize data and can tell a story through visually presenting data as it changes over time.

The simple idea of telling stories through maps requires very powerful technology. One piece of the technology stack, GeoGit, helps MapStory makes manage the large amounts of data. Based on the concepts of GitHub, the open source GeoGit offers data versioning, change history, and distribution capabilities, much like GitHub, though highly tailored for geospatial data.

Dr. Tucker offered a tremendous amount of technical information on GeoGit, MapStory, GeoNode, and other pieces of technology. His slides are available online.

Attendees listening to Dr. Tucker speak on GeoGit

Attendees listening to Dr. Tucker speak on GeoGit

The event drew a diverse crowd of students, professionals, and hobbyists. We also got a surprise visit from ACM President and Turing Award winner Dr. Vint Cerf! After the educational talk, attendees went out for a SIG-BEER at Capital Brewing Company.

The DC ACM would like to thank Google DC for graciously hosting the well attended event.

Travelling Salesmen: Q&A with Director Timothy Lanzone

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Computer science and math are two fields of study with common roots. Students of either inevitably come across a famous mathematical combinatorial problem referred to as “the travelling salesman problem,” and its associated theoretical problem “P vs. NP.” The Travelling Salesman is also an intellectual pulse-throbbing film written and directed by Timothy Lanzone.  The DC Chapter of Association for Computing Machinery (DC ACM) in partnership with the Washington INFORMS Chapter (WINFORMS), Data Community DC (DC2), the INCOSE Student Chapter, and GWU EMSE premiered the Travelling Salesmen film on Tuesday, October 29th, 2013. The screening was held on George Washington University’s campus in Lisner Auditorium.

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Movie night attendees

The film narrates the ethical dilemma faced by four world class mathematicians who discover the solution to a famed math optimization problem with the potential to systemically transform the technological foundations of the entire human race. When the potential for the discovery is picked up by United States Department of Defense the mathematicians must choose between safety and risk, freedom and secrecy, the potential to change the world forever and the ability to make sure that it is never jeopardized. This is the story of what happens when a solution powerful enough to solve every problem of the modern world is at once dangerous enough to return it to its medieval state.

DC ACM also had the distinct pleasure of interviewing director Timothy Lanzone about the inspiration behind the film, the process for tackling a unique topic in computer science, how he entered film making, and what advice he would give to young luminaries in mathematics and computer science.

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DC ACM: What got you interested in film making?

TL: It’s always been a passion of mine. Since I was a kid, I’d be making movies at any opportunity I had—carrying my passion to the London Film School where i received my MA alongside some truly talented filmmakers. I enjoy the creative freedom and the entire process of dreaming up a story and watching it come to life through filming and post-production.

DC ACM: What other films have you completed?

TL: Immediately out of film school I completed a semi-autobiographical film called Road to Pecumsecah about a film school grad with big dreams struggling to make ends meet. Currently, I do a lot of commercial and short-form creative work for NBC and NBC Sports.

DC ACM: What was the creative process to take a brainy idea, a math problem, and turn it into a film that is exciting and gripping?

TL: After finishing film school, I had the opportunity to make a very small indie feature that was nicely received but had very, very limited exposure. I wanted to make another film but knew I’d have to do it on extremely limited resources. So I began challenging myself to tell a dramatic story that didn’t involve too many locations, too many actors and therefore could be shot in less than 2 weeks.  Film school professors always warn that the hardest and most difficult scenes to shoot occur around kitchen tables–limited shot selection, confusing actor positioning, and overall lack of dramatic punch. That stuck with me. So, naturally, I wanted to see if I could contain drama in one room–keeping most of the activity centered around a table!

I’ve always admired the power of mathematics–and that’s a tenant that we discuss a lot in the film. The ability to take the unknown or the unexplained and to quantify it or simplify it has always fascinated me–so I’ve always had a draw to the subject.

The first draft for Travelling Salesman was about a team of mathematicians who explored the power of factoring the prime number. It was a bit more mythical. I sent the script to my brother (Andy) who is an electrical engineer (he graduated from Univ. of Michigan with a Masters in computer science) and he basically said, “This is great, but have you ever heard of PvsNP?”  After lots of discussion, we re-molded the script into its current form. Coincidentally the original draft focused on the same themes/plot points that ended up being in the final draft of TS–so the re-writing was fairly easy.

I was always fascinated by the Manhattan Project–the successes and failures–but mostly how they achieved something pretty extraordinary by bringing in the best available minds from around the world–and having them all focus on one common goal.

Q: What advice would you give a young mathematician or computer scientist?

TL: Find a niche and be great at it. The digital world, seemingly, is expanding exponentially every day. It’s simultaneously exciting and scary—and mathematicians and computer scientists are at the forefront of it all.  It’s funny that they’re often grouped or portrayed as simply intellectual—”good with numbers.”  However, contrarily, I think they may be the most creative and innovative people on the planet. Use that inherent creativity and innovation and don’t limit yourself—you have the ability and talent to blaze a trail that no one else can.

Ask Me About My STEM Career

Within the United States, many communities are rallying to increase interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) among young people. The motivation to create more future professionals in the sciences is precipitated by hundreds of organizations expressing a need for more people to fill roles that require technical knowledge and scientific aptitude.

The National Science Foundation organized a local career fair at the Dulles Town Center, inviting over sixty organizations to create exhibits encouraging young people to consider STEM careers. The DC ACM attended this two-day fair, creating an exhibit featuring 3D printers. Additionally, the DC ACM partnered with a local makerspace, Nova Labs, who’s members brought hand-assembled 3D printers to demo at our joint exhibit.

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Young people attending the NSF STEM Fair

Over a dozen DC ACM volunteers staffed the exhibit over the two days, availing themselves to young people to talk about their careers. DC ACM Officer & Member-At-Large, Varetta Huggins designed t-shirts for the volunteers with the slogan “Ask Me About My STEM Career.” DC ACM Secretary Matt Piekarczyk assembled a video from several sources, including exclusive unreleased footage from NASA of 3D printer tests in zero-gravity conditions. Additionally, other DC ACM members, Roger Fujii, Isaac Christoffersen, Eric Noriega, Bob Downs, Gene Lloyd, and Gene Gaines all volunteered hours at the mall talking to young people and inspiring them to learn more about a future in the sciences.

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DC ACM Volunteers

The event was an overwhelming success. Hundreds of high school students and their families stopped by, giving DC ACM volunteers the opportunity to talk about 3D printing, science, and hold conversations about their careers. Gene G. posted dozens of photos to the DC ACM meetup group which evince the crowd and interest the DC ACM/Nova Labs exhibit drew.

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The crowd around our joint exhibit

Young people were intensely interested in 3D printing, what it can do today, and what researchers are looking into creating in the future. Many parents and high schoolers asked us great questions about the technology. Many had questions 3D model creation process which precedes the printing, initiating discussions around 3D modelling software, 3D visualizations, and the software which controls the printers themselves.

The interest in 3D printing, in turn, created an opportunity to talk about science. My favorite question to young people that day was “Are you considering a career in science?” I received a variety of responses, from strong answers detailing which specific field was of interest, to more open responses conveying interest still yet perfectly formed.

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3D Printed Chess Pieces

At the event, many other organizations approached DC ACM volunteers about exhibiting at future events over the next six months regarding young people and sciences. If you are interested in volunteering for one of these events, please email info@dcacm.org expressing your interest.