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Vol. 7, No. 18; May 31, 2007

Around Campus

139th Commencement Celebrated

Deborah Dunsire, MD, president and CEO of Cambridgebased Millennium Pharmaceuticals, speaks at the May 19 Commencement ceremony at WPI.

WPI's 139th Commencement ceremony was held on May 19 in Harrington Auditorium. Set amongst a sea of black and crimson robes, and featuring the university's new regalia, WPI dignitaries awarded 653 degrees, including 480 bachelor of science degrees, a total of 152 master's degrees (135 master of science, eight master of engineering, five MBA, and four master of mathematics for educators), and 21 PhDs.

Thousands of students, their families and friends, trustees, and other special guests were on hand to experience the inspirational messages delivered by keynote speaker Deborah Dunsire, MD, president and CEO of Cambridge-based Millennium Pharmaceuticals, and WPI President & CEO Dennis D. Berkey.

In addition to Dunsire, honorary degrees were conferred upon Bernard M. Gordon, founder and chairman emeritus of Analogic Corp., who is known as "the father of analog to digital conversion" for his contributions to signal translation, medical tomography, and other high-precision instruments; and Neil deGrasse Tyson, Frederick P. Rose director of the Hayden Planetarium of the American Museum of Natural History in New York and host of the PBS television series NOVA scienceNOW.

In her address, Dunsire told students to remain true to growth and integrity, and their education at WPI will help their careers and lives flourish. "Your experiential, project-based learning sets this school apart in wise and valuable ways," she said. "I imagine that every one of you realizes you're lucky to be here. I predict, as time goes by, you'll appreciate even more your WPI education.

"I urge you to go for the growth and to seize opportunities to add breadth to your experience," Dunsire said. "Don't just focus on moving up in your career, but also on branching out."

As part of the Commencement ceremony, President Berkey presented the WPI Presidential Medal to Lt. Gov. Tim Murray.

The Chairman's Exemplary Faculty Prize was presented for the first time during WPI's 2007 Commencement. The prize was established this year through the personal philanthropy of Donald K. Peterson '71, current chair of the WPI Board of Trustees. It recognizes faculty members who, as true exemplars of the university's highest aspirations and most important qualities, excel in all relevant areas of faculty performance. Two prizes, each in the amount of $10,000, were awarded this year to John A. McNeill, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering; and Richard D. Sisson Jr., professor of mechanical engineering.

In his closing remarks, Dr. Berkey told students that lifelong learning is more than a slogan at WPI. "It is a habit of mind that arises from the experience of a truly excellent education," he said.

The 2006-07 academic year may be over, but as of May 29, construction on the new residence hall continued on a lot between Boynton and Dean streets. The "green," or environmentally friendly, residence hall for upperclass students is scheduled to open in fall 2008, and a parking garage will be constructed adjacent to it.

@WPI Goes on Summer Schedule

This is our last biweekly issue for the academic year. @WPI will be published on June 14, July 19, and August 16 to keep the campus informed during the summer. We encourage you to use @WPI to share news about people, programs, and events. Email items to atwpi@wpi.edu or Editor Lorraine Urbanski at lurbans@wpi.edu.

U.S.-Africa Business Conference June 11-13

WPI will host the 4th annual U.S.-Africa Business Con-ference from June 11-13 in the Campus Center Odeum. The U.S.-Africa Business Conference aims to promote partnerships and linkages between the edu-cational, economic, and technological needs of U.S.-based businesses and African companies and governments.

Sectors to be discussed at the conference are: education (new approaches to teaching and the meth-ods necessary to help develop new business enter-prises in African nations), energy and water, health (biotechnology, medical equipment, and related tech-nology), developing information technology (IT) in Africa, and tourism.

The conference came about through collaboration between WPI, the U.S. Department of Education's Business and International Division and the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce. WPI's strong con-nection to Africa was cemented in 2002 when the university's project center in Windhoek, Namibia was founded as part of WPI's Global Perspective Program.

People

WPI Receives $2M to Develop Intelligent
Tutoring System to Improve Math Education

Researchers at WPI and Carnegie Mellon University have received a four-year, $2 million award from the federal Department of Education to continue develop-ment of a powerful computerized tool designed to help middle school students master mathematical skills.

With the award, researchers will enhance an intel-ligent tutoring system called ASSISTment, giving it new capabilities and transforming it into an unparal-leled tool for both educating students and tracking their progress. The system will give school systems the long-term data on student performance they must report under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. More important, it will provide teachers—and parents—immediate, day-to-day feedback on what stu-dents have and have not learned, making it easier to offer individualized instruction to help students master concepts they may be struggling with.

Neil Heffernan

Remarkably, the system does all this at the same time it tutors stu-dents. In fact, ASSISTments is the only system that can provide longitu-dinal data and a benchmark assess-ment of student skills without taking time out from classroom instruction, says Neil Heffernan, associate pro-fessor of computer science at WPI and leader of the ASSISTments re-search team.

"The No Child Left Behind Act is putting pressure on states to find out what areas student need to im-prove in, which is leading to a rush to do more test-ing," Heffernan says. "Unfortunately, this testing cuts into classroom time, and the tests don't provide the kind of immediate feedback that teachers need to do a better job in the classroom. Our system can do that, and can also help students master concepts they're struggling with, without sacrificing instructional time."

Heffernan, whose expertise is in artificial intelli-gence and intelligent tutoring system design, leads a team that includes experts in cognitive psychology, psychometrics, and Web-based educational technol-ogy. In addition to Koedinger, the principal investiga-tors are Brian W. Junker, professor of statistics at Car-negie Mellon, George T. Heineman, associate profes-sor of computer science at WPI, and Murali Mani, as-sistant professor of computer science at WPI.

With the DOE award, the team will add significant new capabilities to the system, which was developed over the past four years with support from the DOE, the Office of Naval Research, the National Science Foundation, and other agencies and tested extensively by teachers and students in the Worcester, Mass., Public Schools. The school system has adopted ASSISTment for use in all of its eighth grade math classes.

With the changes, the system, which is currently built around more than 900 test items from the MCAS (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System) 8th grade math exam, will be able to dovetail with the mathematics curricula used by individual school systems, so students can receive tutoring tied directly to what they are learning in class. It will be expanded to include content from sixth and seventh grade mathematics curricula, and will be able to generate user-friendly reports that show teachers and parents how individual students are progressing and what topics they are struggling with.

Finally, the system will incorporate new features designed to help students move toward mastery of math topics. The system will keep track of each student's progress and record which skills they have not yet mastered. It will also develop and implement an individualized mastery program for each student and tailor the tutoring it delivers accordingly. The system will let students elect to take tests when they feel ready to demonstrate their mastery. The mastery component of ASSISTment will differ significantly from the approach taken by most intelligent tutors, Heffernan says.

WPI Students’ 3D Computer Mouse Wins an Invention Award from Popular Science

MagicMouse, a three-dimensional computer mouse designed by a team of five WPI undergraduates, is one of 10 inventions honored with the inaugural Pop- Sci Invention Awards, the cover story in the June 2007 issue of Popular Science. The magazine, which has a circulation of 1.4 million, selected the mouse from among hundreds of submissions.

Developed by seniors Christian Banker (Norwich, Conn.), Michael Cretella Jr. (Monroe, Conn.), Jeff DiMaria (Prospect, Conn.), Jamie Mitchell (Worcester, Mass.), and Jeffrey Tucker (Nottingham, N.H.), in fulfillment of a WPI degree requirement, the mouse is designed to permit a computer user to control and manipulate items on a computer screen just by pointing at the monitor. The mouse uses an array of receivers to track the motion of a tiny ultrasonic transmitter worn on the index finger like a ring. The students, all electrical and computer engineering majors, were advised by Brian King, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at WPI.

The ultrasonic transmitter for the MagicMouse is worn on the finger like a ring.

The MagicMouse is a true 3D mouse. Users can move the cursor about the screen simply by pointing and moving their index finger. Zooming is achieved by moving the hand nearer to or farther from the screen. Since both actions can be done simultaneously, the mouse makes it possible to work easily in three dimensions to pan and zoom through 3D maps, for example, or manipulate objects in computer-aided design (CAD) drawing packages. The mouse could also make game play more realistic and interactive, much as the novel 3D remote on the new Nintendo Wii game console has done. For more routine applications, like word processing and web surfing, the WPI students note that controlling a computer with hand gestures should make computer use more intuitive and less intimidating.

The mouse was developed as the student's Major Qualifying Project, a significant design or research project that all WPI undergraduates must complete. In their final project report, the student inventors suggest that the 3D capabilities of the MagicMouse might inspire new types of computer applications. For example, the report states that the mouse could be used to train students to conduct an orchestra, or even play music, with hand motions controlling pitch, tempo, and volume. "With a new interface like this, third party developers could design new applications that would take advantage of the intuitive connection between user input and motion on the screen. This device could pave the way for a new revolution in computer input technology."

COMPUTER TIP
Paste Special Command

Paste Special is a command in Microsoft Office that allows you to decide what kind of formatting to paste into your file along with the text that you are copying. For example, if you copied text from a web page and are pasting the text into a Word document, you can avoid making the formatting and hyperlinks part of your document. After copying, in the Word document click the Edit menu, then select Paste Special. You can now simply insert the selection as Unformatted Text. Then you can apply formatting as you choose. You can use Paste Special in other Microsoft Office applications, too.

Recent Grants

Chemical Engineering

Wilcox, Jennifer, for “Alloy Design for Optimal Hydrogen Separation,” from the U.S. Army, $37,335

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Ray, Malcom, for “Development of Verification and Validation Procedures for Computer Simulation Used in Roadside Safety Applications,” from the National Academy of Sciences (National Cooperative Highway Research Program), $150,000

WPI Baseball Wins ECAC Championship
Ryan Patrick Jones ‘05

On May 17, Mark Dignum’s two-run single in the bottom of the ninth inning gave WPI a dramatic 6-5 victory over visiting Suffolk to win Game 2 and clinch the ECAC Division III New England Baseball Championship series. Earlier in the day, WPI had taken the first game of the best of three set 2-1 behind a complete game pitching performance from Coner Fahey. Dignum and Fahey shared “Tournament Most Outstanding Player” honors.

WPI entered the ninth inning of the nightcap trailing 5-4 before Scott McNee and Mike Swanton were both hit by pitches to start the inning. After a fielder’s choice out on an attempted sacrifice bunt, Ethan Brown single to left field to load the bases. That set the stage for Dignum’s heroics. On a 1-2 pitch, he laced a base hit down the left field line that plated Swanton and pinch runner Brian Connor and clinched the first postseason championship in the 103-year history of WPI baseball.

Suffolk jumped out to a 4-1 lead in game two by tallying a pair of runproducing singles from Tom Kelly and Nick Exarhopoulos in the first inning and a Greg DiMarco RBI single and an Exarhopoulos sacrifice fly in the third. The Engineers chipped away in the bottom of the sixth with a two-run single off the bat of Paul Galligan.

Galligan collected three hits in the nightcap for the Engineers while Matt Fiore, Ryan Rainone, Brown and Dignum each registered a pair of hits. Freshman Alex Hanson improved to 4-2 by working a perfect eighth inning in relief of Brian Duncan. Pitching was the name of the game in the opener as Fahey was victorious in a pitcher’s dual versus Suffolk’s Steve Durant. The sophomore scattered five hits and fanned six while only allowing a first inning run. Fahey improved to 6-3 on the season while posting his 11th career victory.

Durant was equally impressive, yielding just six hits and a pair of runs in 7 1/3 innings of work. Staked to 1-0 lead following an Exarhopoulos RBI single in the first, he kept the Crimson and Gray off the scoreboard for the first six innings. WPI finally tied the game in the top of the seventh on a Scott MacDonald RBI single to the left side. The Engineers then pushed across the game-winning run an inning later when Rainone scored on a wild pitch with the bases loaded.

The Engineers, who did not commit an error in either game, end the season with a program-best 24-16 record. They won their final seven games and 11 of 12 to close the season. The Crimson and Gray went 20-8 after returning home from a 4-8 trip to Florida over Spring Break. Suffolk completed its season with a 23-17 mark.

Monday, June 4

Workshop: “Finding Scholarly Information on the Web” • Gordon Library, Anderson Lab A, 2pm

Tuesday, June 5

Theatre: “French Vanilla,” a play written by WPI graduates Catherine “Cat” Darensbourg and Elliot Field • Little Theatre, 6:30pm

Wednesday, June 6

Workshop: How to navigate Pub- Med, the premier medical/health database of the National Library of Medicine • Gordon Library, Anderson Lab A, 1pm

Thursday, June 7

Reunion: WPI Reunion Weekend through Sunday, June 10 Workshop: “Can’t Get It? Searching WorldCat to Find Elusive Research” • Gordon Library, Anderson Lab A, 10am

Monday, June 11

Conference: WPI’s fourth U.SAfrica Business Conference through June 15 • Campus Center, Odeum, 5pm

Tuesday, June 12

WPI Venture Forum: “Spectacular Business Failures” • Campus Center, Odeum, 6pm

Friday, June 15

Robotics: BattleCry @ WPI • Harrington Auditorium, 4pm Saturday, June 16 Robotics: BattleCry@WPI Robotics Tournament • Harrington Auditorium, 7am

Monday, June 18

Workshop: “Wikipedia: Go Ahead, Dig in and Edit Something” • Gordon Library, Anderson Lab A, 2pm

Wednesday, July 11

Seminar: WPI Archives and Special Collections tour • Gordon Library, Third Floor Archives, 11am

Tuesday, July 24

Workshop: “WHOA. 43 Things in 43 Minutes” • Gordon Library, Anderson Lab A, noon

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Last modified: June 29, 2010 13:39:59