Photo of Souti Chattopadhyay
Souti Chattopadhyay, graduate student of computer science.

Souti Chattopadhyay, graduate student of computer science in the College of Engineering at Oregon State University, was first author on a paper that won the Honorable Mention Award at the 2020 ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. The distinction is given to the top 10% of the papers presented.

Other authors include her advisor, Anita Sarma, associate professor of computer science, and colleagues at Microsoft and University of Tennessee-Knoxville.

“This award means that our research matters and provides deeper insight into what the future can hold in terms of accessible and inclusive computing,” Chattopadhyay said.

Chattopadhyay’s research examines how data scientists make decisions when interacting with programming interfaces. The goal is to make programming tools contextually assistive with freedom to delay and review the outcomes of decisions along the path.

What’s Wrong with Computational Notebooks? Pain Points, Needs, and Design Opportunities

Souti Chattopadhyay1, Ishita Prasad2, Austin Z. Henley3, Anita Sarma1, Titus Barik2

Oregon State University1, Microsoft2, University of Tennessee-Knoxville3

ABSTRACT

Computational notebooks—such as Azure, Databricks, and Jupyter—are a popular, interactive paradigm for data scientists to author code, analyze data, and interleave visualizations, all within a single document. Nevertheless, as data scientists incorporate more of their activities into notebooks, they encounter unexpected difficulties, or pain points, that impact their productivity and disrupt their workflow. Through a systematic, mixed-methods study using semi-structured interviews (n = 20) and survey (n = 156) with data scientists, we catalog nine pain points when working with notebooks. Our findings suggest that data scientists face numerous pain points throughout the entire workflow—from setting up notebooks to deploying to production—across many notebook environments. Our data scientists report essential notebook requirements, such as supporting data exploration and visualization. The results of our study inform and inspire the design of computational notebooks.

Photo of Jordan Bartos.
Jordan Bartos, president of the OSU Hackathon club.

The coronavirus pandemic didn’t stop the OSU Hackathon Club from holding BeaverHacks Spring 2020 on March 27-29. Seventy-four participants formed 17 teams to develop a website, app, or API on the theme of community building.

It was held online — the usual venue for the club’s events, since the organizers are computer science students in the online baccalaureate program. However, the global health emergency still had an influence on the event.  

“We had a lot of submissions that somehow tied to the pandemic,” said Jordan Bartos, postbaccalaureate student in computer science and president of the club.

Teams were judged by a panel of instructors and industry representatives. The club distributed $400 in prizes to the following winners:

  • First place: The Reading Room by Mae LaPresta, Elizabeth Tackett, Manda Jensen.
  • Second place: Where the Heck by Zach Tindell, Jeremy Binder, Chia-Tse Weng.
  • Third place: barterNow by Lifang Yan, Cameron Grover, Felipe Teixeira Groberio
  • New student category: Community Request Board by Jung Min (Judy) Lee, Wei Yu Tang, Angela Dimon.

All submissions are posted on the Hackathon website.

“It was incredibly gratifying to win, because the focus of our project was something all of us felt very passionately about,” said Mae La Presta, postbaccalaureate student in computer science. She was part of the winning team that created the Reading Room app to help foster a sense of community when social distancing has become the new norm.

Although the club was started by students from the online program, they welcome all Oregon State students. Bartos says his priority as president is to grow the membership of the club and raise awareness of their events. Future events could include collaborations with other clubs on campus.

“I feel pretty strongly about the benefits of the Hackathon club because when I competed in the first one, it really ignited something in me for coding in general,” Bartos said.

Participants say that learning new technical skills, building relationships with other students, and having the reward of creating something new were the main benefits of the experience.

“I was impressed by what everyone was able to accomplish by the end of the weekend. The presentations were incredible, and it was so cool to see what everyone’s ideas were,” said Manda Jensen, postbaccalaureate student in computer science.

Minsuk Kahng and colleagues at Georgia Institute of Technology and Western Washington University were recognized by the prestigious journal, ACM Transactions on Interactive Intelligent Systems, for their research that impacts mobile health technologies.

“I’m honored that our paper has been nominated for the best paper. Our work addresses an important challenge of supporting analysis of large-scale mobile health data, by unifying scalable data mining and human-centric visualization techniques,” said Kahng, assistant professor of computer science in the College of Engineering.

The paper, titled Chronodes: Interactive Multifocus Exploration of Event Sequences received the Best Paper Award, Honorable Mention. The authors are Peter Polack, Shang-Tse Chen, Minsuk Kahng, Kaya De Barbaro, Rahul Basole, Moushumi Sharmin, and Duen Horng Chau. ACM TiiS is one of the prestigious journals at the intersection of AI and HCI (Human-Computer Interaction), and this award is given to top selected papers.

Margaret Burnett, Distinguished Professor of computer science, was awarded the 2020 iGIANT Champion Award for her outstanding research contributions to inclusive software design. iGIANT® (impact of Gender/Sex on Innovation and Novel Technologies) is a nonprofit corporation that promotes best practices for gender/sex-specific design elements.

“I am honored to be recognized for my work with iGIANT, but all of it was a team effort,” Burnett said.  “None of it would have been possible without the help of many other volunteers, including Larissa Letaw and Jillian Emard here at OSU, working together to help iGIANT’s mission of inclusiveness and equitable experiences for all genders.”

Over the last decade, much of Burnett’s research has focused on gender inclusiveness in software. Her internationally recognized work in this area with students and collaborators has shown gender differences in ways people problem solve with software.

Burnett developed a method called GenderMag with her collaborators that enables IT professionals to identify and eliminate gender biases in the software. She and Anita Sarma, associate professor of computer science, lead the research team that is helping academic and industry partners develop inclusive design for software and websites. Their work was featured in the story, “Oregon State leads fight against gender bias in software,” published by Oregon State’s news and research communications office.

2019 Cyberforce Competition team.
2019 OSU Cyberforce Competition team
2019 Oregon State University Cyberforce Competition team.

For the third consecutive year, a team of Oregon State University computer science students placed first regionally in the Cyberforce Competition hosted by the Department of Energy on November 15-16, 2019. They competed against 17 teams at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland, Washington. The team placed sixth in the nationwide competition, which included over 100 teams.

The team included members from the Oregon State Security Club: Cody Holliday, Ryan Kennedy, Matt Jansen, Khuong Luu, Zach Rogers, and Zander Work. Yeongjin Jang, assistant professor of computer science, advised the team.

“This competition is a highlight of the year for me,” said Zander Work, president of the OSU Security Club. “I really enjoy getting to test out my defensive skills in a live environment against a skilled red team. I also enjoy the added twist of securing some real-world industrial infrastructure, rather than a typical IT environment.”

Anita Sarma
Anita Sarma, associate professor

“Open source software is changing the technology and workforce landscape. Our work will help open source software tools and technology support diverse cognitive styles that will help bring diversity in thought by enabling diversity in open source contributors.”

 – Anita Sarma, associate professor of computer science in the College of Engineering at Oregon State.

Principal investigators:

  • Lead PI: Anita Sarma, associate professor of computer science, Oregon State University
  • Co-PI: Margaret Burnett, Distinguished Professor of computer science, Oregon State University

In collaboration with:

  • PI: Igor Steinmacher, assistant professor, Northern Arizona University
  • Co-PI: Marco Gerosa, associate professor, Northern Arizona University

Agency:

National Science Foundation

Award amount:

$1.4 million between the two universities, $870,773 to Oregon State.

Research objectives:

This research will investigate whether and how open source software tools and technologies have gender biases tied with diverse problem-solving styles, and how to remove any such biases.

This work will harness foundational gender research to provide theory-based yet practical solutions and redesigns of open source software projects to address the underrepresentation of women.

The redesigns and the process of creating inclusive tools will be empirically evaluated to create a compendium of “best practices” for fixing gender-bias bugs, in both products (what suitable fixes are to such bugs) and processes (how open source software teams can work together to fix gender-bias bugs).

Broader impacts:

Open source is having a significant impact on society, in the products it produces and the career paths that it facilitates. However, women are vastly underrepresented among open source developers. This is a significant concern to these communities because it prevents them from receiving the benefits of a larger talent pool and of team diversity. The problem is perpetuated when women developers miss the learning and professional growth opportunities that open source software projects provide, and are overlooked when open source contributions are used to make hiring decisions. Our work will help break down these gender-bias barriers in tools and technology used in open source software.

More information is on the NSF website.

Photo of Jennifer Parham-Mocello.
Jennifer Parham-Mocello (left), assistant professor of computer science, specializes in computer science education.

Researchers at Oregon State University are taking an innovative approach to teaching computer science concepts to middle school students using tabletop games such as Connect Four and Battleship. Working in partnership with teachers and administrators at Linus Pauling Middle School in Corvallis, Oregon, the team will develop and investigate a new curriculum to teach algorithmic thinking to sixth and seventh graders.

The project is part of a national movement called CSforALL and funded by a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation. This is the second grant impacting K-12 education that Jennifer Parham-Mocello, assistant professor of computer science, has received this year; the first was funded by Google.

The co-principal investigators on the National Science Foundation grant are Martin Erwig, Stretch Professor of Computer Science, and Margaret Niess, emeritus professor of education.

This year, the team is working on curriculum development, which will be completed by the summer of 2020 when the middle school teachers will conduct classes for an Oregon State University STEM Academy summer camp. In the fall of 2020, the teachers will deliver the new curriculum in their sixth and seventh grade classes. The third year, the team will be refining the curriculum and adding more games.

The purpose of the grant is to make computer science more accessible and interesting to a broad range of young people. As a dual language immersion school, Linus Pauling Middle School offers an opportunity for the researchers and teachers to impact students from diverse backgrounds.

In addition to the regular curriculum, the group will be hosting family game nights twice a year at the school so that students can show their families and friends what they have been learning.

“One of the reasons we picked games for teaching computational thinking is because they involve social interactions,” Parham-Mocello said. “So, we thought the game nights would be a fun way for the students to practice and get the families involved.”

Jennifer Parham-Mocello
Jennifer Parham-Mocello (left), assistant professor of computer science, works with a high school student.

Oregon does not have a policy to support computer science education, even though computing jobs are the No. 1 source of all new wages in the U.S. economy, according to The Conference Board Help Wanted OnLine, which tracks labor demand.

To face this challenge, Jennifer Parham-Mocello, assistant professor of computer science in the College of Engineering at Oregon State University, has an idea to work computer science fundamentals into the existing K-12 mathematics curriculum.

Google is supporting her idea with funding for a project to teach computational thinking — the foundation of computer programming — to future secondary math teachers studying at Oregon State. The research project is a collaboration with Elise Lockwood, associate professor of mathematics in the College of Science, and Rebekah Elliott, associate professor of mathematics education in the College of Education.

“It’s great that this Google Education K-12 grant will support educating future teachers. It’s an area that’s been ignored,” Parham-Mocello said. “Everybody wants to start new computer science courses in K-12, and I just don’t think that’s realistic, especially when you’re talking about rural areas.”

The one-year award of $141,800 will support undergraduate and graduate students over the 2019-20 school year to develop new curriculum in pre-service secondary mathematics courses at Oregon State University, then test it in Corvallis middle and high schools.  In the process, the Oregon State students will learn the basics of computational thinking, which they can apply in their future positions as teachers.

“Computational thinking helps people better understand their field. But it also makes them literate in the world of computation,” Parham-Mocello said. “When you have to think in terms of the process — the algorithmic steps — you internalize it differently and gain a deeper understanding.”

The researchers will begin teaching the curriculum in fall term to the secondary mathematics pre-service teachers. During the winter term, the pre-service teachers will develop and deliver units on computational thinking to students in Corvallis schools. The one-year project will help to define and develop a multiple-year program with broader reach.

“My vision is that all of Oregon will benefit from this,” Parham-Mocello said. “Most of the education students at Oregon State will become teachers in Oregon schools of all types. So, the impact will be broadening participation in computing for schools of all sizes in both rural and urban communities.”

Travis Whitehead

Guest post by Travis Whitehead

Working at the Open Source Lab has been the highlight of my computer science experience at Oregon State University. It was just by chance that I came across a job listing for the OSL. I had never heard of the organization, and it certainly was not a factor in my decision to pursue computer science at Oregon State University.

I’d been running Linux as my primary operating system since high school, and over time I found myself becoming more and more deeply invested in the ideological underpinnings of FOSS (Free Open-Source Software). I appreciated the transparency of FOSS, and the benefits available through free licenses that allow anyone to use the software, change how it works, repurpose it, and distribute it.

Despite my strong interest in free software, I never imagined myself in the position of getting paid to contribute to open source. At the OSL I learned valuable skills and gained work experience, but the biggest thing to me was that I was able to do work that was ethical and important.

In a world shaped by a for-profit economy, our interaction with software and intellectual property is exclusive. If users cannot afford to pay for software, they are excluded access to the software or must access it illegally. Or worse, we become the products ourselves, subjected to all kinds of data collection and surveillance in exchange for access to services. The Open Source Lab offered me the opportunity to support open-source software projects, ultimately allowing me to contribute to The Commons, and better the world that we live in. It’s been very fulfilling for me to know that our projects create solutions that anybody and everybody may use.

Ethics aside, the work itself has provided me many opportunities to learn things that I couldn’t in the classroom. Experience with configuration management and automation tooling reshaped how I manage my personal systems at home. And I worked in a real datacenter! Tinkering with powerful hardware in a real production environment is way cooler than any academic project.

Looking forward, I hope that the Open Source Lab continues to grow and expand so that more students may have these same opportunities. The OSL is truly one of a kind, and I feel really thankful to have been able to work with the lab for the past several years.

Excitingly, this is my last term at Oregon State. I’ll be going on to work with Tag1 Consulting, where I will continue to tackle exciting infrastructure challenges and contribute back to the open-source community whenever I can.

Photo of scholarship recipients
Scholarship recipients at the Grace Hopper Celebration: (left to right) Elisabeth Mansfield, Stephanie Hughes, Sharlena Luyen, Sumegha Aryal, Clair Cahill, and Kaitlin Hill.

Attending the world’s largest gathering of women technologists was transformational for Stephanie Hughes, a computer science undergraduate. But it wasn’t enough for her.

“I was just one person and I wanted to make sure other women at Oregon State had that experience,” said Hughes who is the president of Oregon State’s women’s chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM-W OSU).

She teamed up with Sharlena Luyen who was similarly motivated to help women attend the Grace Hopper Celebration.

“I have huge passion for helping women expand their career paths in STEM and when I found out that OSU doesn’t offer any type of funding to send women to go to this conference, I thought something had to be done,” said Luyen a computer science undergraduate who is the outreach coordinator for Leadership Academy and an ambassador for College of Engineering.

Hughes and Luyen worked with staff in the College of Engineering to make the scholarship a reality. The funding was made possible through a joint effort of the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, the College of Engineering, the OSU Women’s Giving Circle, and the Association for Computing Machinery—Women’s Chapter.

Seven undergraduates in computer science, including one Ecampus student from New York, received scholarships to attend the Grace Hopper Celebration which was held in Houston, Texas this year.

“I loved all the opportunity it provided through internships and professional development, but also meeting other women in computer science and seeing what they are up to was really interesting to me,” said Katlin Hill, a computer science student who received one of the scholarships. At the conference, Hill had nine interviews and received internship offers from Macy’s, Nike, and Juniper Networks.

There were over 500 exhibitors and 20,000 attendees at this year’s conference.

“It was valuable because not all of these companies come to Oregon State’s campus. And not only that, but they were looking specifically for women in computing,” said Luyen who had over 30 interviews with companies including Apple, Facebook, Google, Sonos, Purview Solution, and Northwestern Mutual.

All of the scholarship recipients will be sharing their experiences at an awardee presentation on November 14, 2018 3:00 – 4:00 p.m. People can show their support for promoting and retaining women in computer science by attending the presentation or filling out a Google form.