BOOM Bits on Our Minds (BOOM) BOOM explodes with student invention

CIS Professor Geri Gay [right] looks on as a student describes her project at BOOM ’04.
CS Professor Gün Sirer [left] with a student at BOOM ’04.

Above: CIS Dean Robert Constable and CS Professor Gün Sirer talk with Kathy Okun, wife of Cornell president Jeffrey Lehman at BOOM.

With soccer-playing robots downstairs and computers that can play chess upstairs, this year’s eighth annual BOOM (Bits On Our Minds) exhibition looked like something out of “The Jetsons.” Some 120 presenters with a total of 64 projects crowded three floors in Cornell’s Upson Hall on March 3 to partake in the annual expo hosted by the Department of Computer Science and the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

“We have this expo every year for two reasons,” said Emin Gün Sirer, assistant professor of computer science and faculty coordinator for BOOM. “We want to reach out to undecided majors and to people who are not in college yet to show them the opportunities computer science holds. We also do it as a teach-in, to show colleagues what the cutting-edge research is.”

Irene Chung’s project is an example. Chung’04, college scholar, displayed her Web concept managing tool, a program that allows the user to generate many different Website styles for the same information. Chung already has sold her program to Production IG, a prominent animation firm in Japan. Production IG used Chung’s technology to configure the animation in the recent feature film “Kill Bill.” “I have a lot of work to still do with this program,” Chung said.“But I think what is going on right now with the project is awesome, and I’m glad a company likes it.”

The RoboCup team drew a big crowd. The team’s soccer-playing robots operate on artificial intelligence programs that team members write. “Every year we build the project from the ground up,” said graduate student Nathan Pagel, M. Eng.“It is great to see the robots through to completion.” Cornell’s team “rules the world in robotic soccer,” Sirer said, referring to the university’s success in competition. The theme of robotics was common to many projects, including a robot built by Ithaca High School students for the FIRST (“For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology”) Robotics competition.

Cornell undergraduates work as mentors to the Ithaca High students. This year’s team will compete in the second round competition in Toronto in April. Not all projects came from the computer science school of thought. Lindsay Lyman-Clarke, a graduate student in textiles and apparel, displayed her project, which uses body scan data to design clothing sizing systems. She uses lasers to acquire body scan data, in conjunction with computer patterning programs, to design clothing.

BOOM was sponsored by Bloomberg and Credit Suisse First Boston, which now has sponsored BOOM for three years in a row.“We see BOOM as a way to tap into the talent here at Cornell,” said Carolyne Phillips of Credit Suisse First Boston.

Other BOOM projects ranged from computer animations to a selfguided submarine to types of computer games.“It is wonderful to see what students are doing,” said Kathy Okun, wife of President Jeffrey Lehman. “There are lots of interesting things going on in computer science, and it’s so great that students have the opportunity to do these things.”

(reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, March 11, 2004)