ASSETS 2016 Slides & Paper on Appropriating Minecraft for Youth with Autism

Earlier I posted a blog summarizing my findings from my ASSETS 2016 paper. I’m happy to report the slides from my talk can be found in pdf form, as well as here as a slide show. I hope to have a more accessible YouTube version of my talk soon.

ACM is allowing free downloads of the official version of the paper for a year. So go ahead and download that now!

Kathryn E. Ringland, Christine T. Wolf, LouAnne E. Boyd, Mark Baldwin, and Gillian R. Hayes. 2016. Would You Be Mine: Appropriating Minecraft as an Assistive Technology for Youth with Autism. In ASSETS 2016. [PDF]

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ASSETS 2016 Best Paper Award

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ASSETS Best Paper Finalist

Our ASSETS 2016 paper, “Would You Be Mine: Appropriating Minecraft as an Assistive Technology for Youth with Autism” is a Best Paper Finalist! I will be presenting this work at ASSETS October 24.

Kathryn E. Ringland, Christine T. Wolf, LouAnne E. Boyd, Mark Baldwin, and Gillian R. Hayes. 2016. Would You Be Mine: Appropriating Minecraft as an Assistive Technology for Youth with Autism. In ASSETS 2016. [PDF]

UCI Summer Research Symposium 2016

 

Cover of a booklet for the summer research symposium. Has images of students posing in a group and working together to finish an obstacle course.
Cover to the Summer Research Symposium program.

Today was the end of the summer research programs on the UCI campus. This summer I was a mentor to both an incoming PhD student in the Competitive Edge program and an undergraduate student in the SURF program. The summer ended with a wonderful research symposium where half the students presented their work via oral presentations and the other half presented posters. We then had an awards ceremony lunch where everyone was recognized for the great work they did this summer.

A woman giving a presentation at a podium. To her right is a slide projected with the title "Developing a user friendly system to 3D print minecraft creations for autistic children"
SURF Undergraduate, Aminah Tamimi, giving her presentation on 3d printing from Minecraft.
Woman stands next to a podium and a slide that says "Who watches the overwatchers?"
Competitive Edge PhD Student, Amanda Cullen, giving her presentation on Overwatch.

These programs are a really nice way to help students prepare for graduate school. As someone who participated in a similar program (DREU) as an undergrad and in the Competitive Edge program, I can attest to their usefulness.

As a mentor for students in these programs I am also extremely grateful to the programs for the opportunity to give back and be a mentor. As someone who is passionate about increasing diversity in academia and in STEM programs, I am always excited about chances to “do my bit.” In this instance, working with both Aminah and Amanda was a wonderful experience. Not only are they both hardworking students who are going to go great places, but they are generous with me as I felt my way through my role as a peer mentor. I plan on staying in touch with them (especially Amanda since we sit next to each other in lab) as they progress along their careers and continue to be helpful when I can.

A big thanks to everyone who made this summer fun and full of learning!

A flock of birds silhouette against a yellow-orange sky.

Competitive Edge 2013, Week 4 & 5- New XP

It has been five weeks since I started this Competitive Edge program and got a jump start on graduate school life. I will admit that it has had its ups and downs. However, I can safely say that I am doing something that actually inspires me to wake up in the morning and go into work every day. The only other time I felt this way was when I was doing my DREU project last summer at UMBC- my first taste of life as a researcher. I have definitely found something to be passionate about and if there are bumps along the way, they are well worth the effort to overcome them.

In the last two weeks, I have accomplished a lot and gained a lot of new experience points. I’ll just talk about some of my experiences so that you can get an idea of all the different things going on in my life at the moment.

Presentations. It’s the dreaded event that anyone doing research has to deal with. Being able to present effectively is important for disseminating findings from your work. During Week 4, I was asked to give a short presentation of my planned research project to the STAR Group. We have weekly meetings where people have a chance to get the group’s opinion on research ideas or project planning. I gave a short talk on my project that I had just started planning. I will be honest that my presentation style still needs work, but that’s why we practice. I was also very nervous because this was the first presentation I was giving as a graduate student to my peers (and advisor). I had extreme anxiety over being judge “not good enough”. Anytime I have tried something new this summer, I will admit that I have fears that people will realize that I got into grad school as a fluke and they’ll realize I really don’t belong here. I am told by many more senior grad students that this is a perfectly normal feeling and that it does not really ever go away. Awesome.

After the STAR Group presentation (where I did learn a little bit about how to deliver a more effective presentation and no one told me I shouldn’t be in grad school), I gave another presentation, this time to my fellow Competitive Edge students and mentors. I will be honest, I was not nearly as nervous about this presentation. Partly, I knew that this group wouldn’t be judging me as harshly (not that my STAR Group was judging me harshly, but it’s all perception…). And, partly, I had a little more experience to go off of.

I have at least one more presentation practice with Competitive Edge this summer and then I have to give my presentation at the Summer Research Symposium on August 15th. People ask me if I am nervous about it, but I have to honestly say “not really”. I know by the time I reach the 15th, I’ll be adequately prepared and there’s no use wasting energy being nervous now. Talk to me 20 minutes before I go on stage and you’ll get a much different answer.

IRB. The Institutional Review Board (IRB) is put in place to protect those that are participating in human subjects research. I whole-heartedly believe it is a very important process to have in place for a number of reasons. However, when one is the researcher that has to get their project approved by IRB, it can be a fairly intensive process- especially for newbies like myself.

The perks of the process were that I got to put myself down as Lead Researcher (and consequently take all the responsibility for the paperwork that that title implies). Nothing boosts the self-confidence like seeing your name next to the title “Lead Researcher”. The process also helped me clarify exactly what I wanted to do step-by-step for the study. It was like writing out a detailed research plan, which I think would be really helpful for any project. It forced me to work with my advisor to clarify details I was unsure of and helped me focus my research questions.

The downside, of course, is that I spent five days filling in paperwork and creating all the required documents. It was extremely time consuming and exhausting. When it was finished, I felt like I should have been relieved to turn it in, but instead I just felt anxious about whether or not I did everything correctly. The other downside to the process, is that now I have to wait. I cannot recruit subjects or start my study until I receive approval, which could take several weeks. Luckily, I have plenty to do in the meantime!

Spending Other People’s Money. This probably sounds weird, but I am finding spending money that is not mine extremely unnerving. As part of the preparation process for my project, this last week I have had to start procuring all the equipment needed. I was fine with the idea of doing this, but when it came to that actual deed, I had a minor panic attack. I realize, I’m not your average bear and do have a tendency to react with stronger emotions than most. But it was something that happened, so I will still write about it. I had all sorts of guilt and questioned everything I bought. “Is this the right thing? Am I going to get in trouble?” Completely irrational. My solution is to either never require equipment again (unlikely, unfortunately) or to somehow deal with these irrational fears. Hopefully, with experience, it will get better. I guess I didn’t expect to be the one to actually do the buying. We needed a computer for the study, so I give my advisor the specs. She says “Ok, go down to the bookstore and get whatever you need…” It’s very intimidating when all the responsibility falls on your shoulders, I guess. I’ll be honest, I haven’t even opened the box for the computer yet because I am so scared I bought the wrong thing or did something wrong. Pretty crazy, I guess.

Allowing Myself Downtime. This is a super important point that I keep forgetting. It’s okay to work hard and push until something gets done (especially with deadlines involved), but I have to remember that it is equally okay to take time off. This weekend, for instance, with the exception of wanting to write this blog, I am not even thinking about work. And this blog is more therapeutic anyway.

Learning To Be Myself, Whoever That Is.  I am finding that I am not like a lot of the other students in my cohort. And that’s perfect alright. We get along during workshops and are quite friendly. But I am not the sort of person that goes to bars or clubs. I don’t feel a burning need to do things on the weekends. I am actually perfectly happy curling up at home with a good book or video game. And that’s okay. I am just in a different space than many of the other people I’ve come across. I guess I could categorize myself as “settling down” or more sort of family oriented. It was different at WSUV because a lot of people had families and lives outside of school. There wasn’t a lot of pressure to drink, party, or stay up late. I’m happy for people who want to do those things, I just don’t want to do them myself.

Large-Scale Multitasking. I have to juggle a lot of different tasks at once. I have my project (which has several balls in the air right now), Competitive Edge requirements (which don’t especially overlap with my project), networking inside my lab and outside, maintaining my household, and making sure Kyle remembers who I am. I am working on my research project which I am hoping will turn into a submission to a conference while simultaneously working on my NSF GRFP proposal (will give all the dirt on this in a separate blog post) and working on past research (my ASSETS poster was accepted, YAY!). I feel like there is a lot in the air and I’d better not let anything drop!

Stay Tuned! I’ll be keeping you posted on my research project progress and I am planning a blog entry dedicated to NSF GRFP. Until then, DON’T PANIC!

On Getting Into Grad School, Part 2

Did you miss Part 1?

Summer 2012: DREU Internship, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

I won’t go into all the great details of my life during this summer internship. Most of it can be found other places on this blog already. The highlights I will mention are: after working at UMBC I began to realize that going to grad school could really happen and that I might actually enjoy it, Amy and others at the school really mentored me and helped me get a deeper understanding of the whole process of grad school applications, and I started actually writing my grad school application material.

Having this internship gave me a perspective into what grad school could be like. I can’t imagine applying to grad school without knowing that experience and knowing whether or not it was something I could handle/enjoy. I was also able to talk with Amy about potential schools and make a list of schools I would consider applying to in the fall. It was the mentorship and guidance that I really appreciated. Just being able to talk to someone who knew the field and could give solid feedback about my ideas was great.

I also got to do some really cool research and see other people working on some equally awesome stuff. I got the chance to write a paper (which I later submitted, more on that later) and present a poster at the end of summer festival. I was even selected to present my work to the entire festival, which was a huge learning experience. I had to put the power point together (make a video for it!), write the presentation, and then speak to a room with at least 100 people in it. It felt like every step I had taken that summer was a new one, going deeper into a mysterious cave of wonder or something.

August 2012: Home Again (And Time To Get To It!)

By the time I had come home and started back at school for my senior year, I had already completed my list of schools I was going to apply to, started a rough draft of my statement of purpose, and signed up (and taken the week before classes started) for the GREs.

It was at this point I made one of my bigger mistakes. I really should have asked for more help. It’s hard when you’re at a small university and very few people truly understand why you would even want to apply to a PhD program. As has been a consistent theme for me, I felt isolated and, therefore, isolated myself. I could have reached out to more mentors (at home and at UMBC), but I decided to go it alone. This was especially difficult to write and edit my statement of purpose(s) and the essay for the NSF GRFP.

I sorted out my references as soon as classes began. I committed one of those faux pas where I only had three letter writers. Fortunately, they all pulled through and I didn’t to materialize another letter writer at the last minute. I used two professors from my home institution that I had worked with on research and with my ACM-W Chapter. My third reference was my mentor from UMBC.

September 2012: Keeping it All Straight

I think the hardest thing from September on was keeping everything organized. I had to keep track of all the materials I was submitting to each institution. It felt like every single one had different essay requirements (not to mention all the other requirements!). Some wanted multiple essays, others wanted just one. And the length was different for each as well. Some only wanted 500 words or less, while others were 2000 words. There was no real way to write just one essay and tweak it for each. I had to write fresh essays for almost every university I was applying to.

Next week: lots of traveling and the submissions in Part 3!

Week 10

In a whirlwind of getting everything done, the summer is over!  This past week I created a video showcasing all of the tagging systems I put into clothes.  I also wrote a presentation, which I gave at the Summer Undergraduate Research Festival on Wednesday, August 8th.  This was the same festival that I  created and presented a poster at.

Here are the slides from my presentation.  The video I created followed these slides.

Tagging Systems to Assist Visually Impaired Users Identify Visual Data in Clothing.

And here is the video I created:

 

All in all, I’m really sad to be going home and leaving this project behind.  I had a lot of fun working on it and learned a LOT.  It was wonderful working with so many great people.  I’m super excited to be continuing on with school and working on graduate school applications this fall!