Flanked by conference officials, Danny Dig and students accept their award
Flanked by conference organizers, Danny Dig (in black) and collaborators (left to right) Semih Okur, David Hartveld, and Arie van Deursen, accept the ACM SIGSOFT Distignguisted Paper Award.

Danny Dig and his Ph.D. student Semih Okur, along with international collaborators David Hartveld and Arie van Deursen, presented a paper at the prestigious International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE’14) in Hyderabad, India last week, which won the ACM SIGSOFT Distinguished Paper Award. The companion website to the paper “A Study and Toolkit for Asynchronous Programming in C#” is an educational resource with examples from real code on how to use async constructs. The winning paper was one of three that Dig’s Ph.D. students presented at the conference which he said is more selective than the top journals in the field of software engineering. Oregon State students Caius Brindescu, Mihai Codoban, and Sergey Shmarkatiuk collaborated with him on the other projects presented at the conference.

Oregon State was also represented at the conference by Rahul Gopinath, Carlos Jensen, and Alex Groce who presented a paper, and by Margaret Burnett who gave an invited presentation.

“I am happy that OSU is so well represented at the top event in the field of software engineering,” Dig said.

Abstract of winning paper: A Study and Toolkit for Asynchronous Programming in C#

Semih Okur, David L. Hartveld, Danny Dig, and Arie van Deursen
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA; Delft University of Technology, Netherlands; Oregon State University, USA

Asynchronous programming is in demand today, because responsiveness is increasingly important on all modern devices. Yet, we know little about how developers use asynchronous programming in practice. Without such knowledge, developers, researchers, language and library designers, and tool vendors can make wrong assumptions. We present the first study that analyzes the usage of asynchronous programming in a large experiment. We analyzed 1378 open source Windows Phone (WP) apps, comprising 12M SLOC, produced by 3376 developers. Using this data, we answer 2 research questions about use and misuse of asynchronous constructs. Inspired by these findings, we developed (i) Asyncifier, an automated refactoring tool that converts callback-based asynchronous code to the new async/await; (ii) Corrector, a tool that finds and corrects common misuses of async/await. Our empirical evaluation shows that these tools are (i) applicable and (ii) efficient. Developers accepted 313 patches generated by our tools.


Corwin Perren and Billy Edwards of the Oregon State Mars Rover team
Corwin Perren, electrical team lead, and Billy Edwards, team leader for the Mars Rover, traveled with three other teammates to the 2014 Sample Return Robot Challenge in Worcester, Mass..

Five members of Oregon State’s Robotics club on the Mars Rover team took their finals early so they could travel this week to Worcester, Mass. for the 2014 Sample Return Robot Challenge. The event on June 9 to 14, is hosted by NASA and Worcester Polytechnic Institute and has nearly $1.5 million available for prize money.

Before leaving, the team disassembled the robot and each packed part of it into their luggage to avoid the costly shipping charges. For a team that is concerned about expenses, the prize money is a big incentive.

“Building a robot from scratch is a pretty expensive venture. So if we can win some money at the competition, then we can concentrate more on the engineering and the project itself,” said Billy Edwards, Mars Rover team leader and junior in mechanical engineering. The money would go towards scholarships, projects, and supplies for the lab.

During the challenge, the robot must work on its own to find a specific object in a park and return it to a designated point. The autonomous robot is guided by a computer program, and the team members are not allowed to control it during the task. The idea is to simulate conditions on Mars where GPS is not available, so the robot navigates by using cameras and other sensors.

“It’s really cool,” Edwards said. “It’s almost like seeing AI — to see something work on its own.”

The competition has two challenges. For the first challenge there is only one object to retrieve. Those robots that are successful compete in the second phase which has multiple objects. The week-long event also includes demonstrating the robot to the public.

Mars Rover by the Oregon State Robotics club.
The Mars Rover built by the Oregon State Robotics club.

Joining Edwards on the trip is Corwin Perren, electrical team lead, Lane Breneman, software team lead, Richard Cook, software senior design team member, and Erich Merrill, software senior design team member, all from the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Beyond the prize money the team is excited about representing Oregon State.

“We want to show that OSU has successful teams and very good engineers. We want to show what we can do,” Edwards said.

–by Rachel Robertson


Oregon State Student at HWeekend
Caleb Schmidt (mechanical engineering) works on modifying a TekBot to retrieve and deliver a coffee cup.

The inaugural hardware weekend (HWeekend) at Oregon State gave 19 engineering students a taste of creating a prototype under time pressure. Six teams developed their ideas as far as they could in 30 hours, starting in the morning of May 31 and finishing June 1. Hosted by the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science the free event was sponsored by Eaton Corporation that provided hardware and food. Mentors from Eaton Corporation and Hewlett-Packard were on hand to help guide the projects.

“There are start-up weekends and app development weekends, but there wasn’t a program for something that covered the whole gamut of engineering, and included user experience. And I thought, ‘We can do that,’” said Don Heer, organizer of the event and instructor for the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

The theme for the weekend event was automation and non-obtrusive technology. Projects were as diverse as a moving trash can, and a cane for people who are visually impaired that would vibrate the handle when nearby objects were detected.

Oregon State students at a hardware weekend
HWeekend participants had a “speed dating” session to get to know each other before forming teams.

The teams formed after having a chance to interact with each other one on one. Students with ideas for a project wrote them up on a white board and other students shopped around for a group. Cross-disciplinary groups formed with students from electrical and computer engineering, mechanical and industrial engineering, computer science and chemical and biological engineering.

Cory Rea, a power systems engineer for Eaton Corporation who served as a mentor, said the weekend was a great way for students to get some real-world experience.

“Every day in my job I work with a team across multiple disciplines — mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, sales, project managers. So, it’s important to be able to collaborate effectively,” he said.

Hannah Marvin, a freshman in electrical in computer engineering, said she came because she wanted to make connections with students outside her major. Marvin was a winner of one of the “Ironman Awards” given to 17 students who stuck it out the whole 30 hours.

“It went a lot faster than I perceived it would. It’s really cool looking at everybody else’s projects, so that makes it go by faster,” she said. And even after several hours with no sleep, she was still positive.

Oregon State students Ryan Skeele and Soo-Hyun Yoo at HWeekend
Ryan Skeele (mechanical engineering) and Soo-Hyn Yoo (computer science) show off their winning project.

“It’s really fun! Everyone should have a chance to do this,” she said.

It was a collaborative atmosphere where students helped out other teams when they could. One team stood out to win the “Helper Award.” Elliott Highfill, Travis Hodgin, Austin Hodgin, Max Schmidt, and Bradly Thissen worked on a project to play a game of tag with the TekBot robots, but were also a great help to the other teams by loaning tools, offering ideas, and help with coding.

The top award for execution went to a team that built a device to augment the function of a human arm as an aid for people with limited strength or other disabilities. Kyle Cesare, John Fritter, Ryan Skeele and Soo-Hyun Yoo intend to continue to work on the project which they hope to eventually be an exoskeleton suit including both arms and legs that can be easily reproduced by others without highly specialized equipment.

Heer hopes that events like these will show people how cool engineering is. “Engineers should be rock stars…they are the ones that make the world run,” he said.

–by Rachel Robertson