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The University of Alabama

UA Computer Science Students Recognized for Research in National Contest

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Two University of Alabama students studying computer science recently finished in the top five at a national computer-science contest.

Matt Bowen, a sophomore from Madison, placed second at the Association for Computing Machinery Student Research Competition earlier this month. Also, Christina Noe, a sophomore from Scottsboro, placed in the top five.

Both are part of the UA Emerging Scholars Program that provides freshmen with the opportunity to create research partnerships with UA faculty. For the program, Bowen and Noe were paired with Dr. Jeff Gray, a UA professor of computer science.

The contest was part of the ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education held in Kansas City, Missouri. Sponsored by Microsoft Research, the Student Research Contest challenges graduate and undergraduate students to submit research of their own for evaluation from professional computer scientists.

Students’ research is evaluated on the quality and significance of the work and the quality and clarity of both an oral and visual presentation.

Bowen’s second-place finish earned him $300 and entry into a larger contest where his work will be judged against winners from other ACM conferences and symposiums.

His research developed a way for smart phones or tablet computers with a camera to track a baseball as it travels from the pitcher to home plate, allowing the application to display the speed of the pitch and the ball’s place in the strike zone.

The technology is not unlike that used by television broadcasters during a baseball game that overlays computer graphics on the screen after a pitch to show the viewer the pitch’s speed and placement over the plate, except Bowen’s program uses mobile computing devices.

The program, called Mobile Video Velocity Estimation, or MoVVE, knows the distance of the ball from the camera by the size of the image and the time the ball is in the air based on the camera’s frame rate. The program calculates the velocity by knowing the distance of the baseball from the camera at specific times.

Bowen tested the MoVVE application against a radar gun, finding the program was highly accurate in estimating the ball’s velocity. His next steps will be modifying the program for other sports with a round ball, and incorporating changes to the program’s code to allow for more flexibility in camera placement.

Noe placed in the top five with a program created for LEAP, a motion-capture hardware device for personal computers, that allows people to perform some arm rehabilitation and physical therapy at home.

The program, called Web-based Application for Virtual Exercise Regimen, or WAVER, presents drawing exercises to a patient that can be performed at home and are tracked by the computer for feedback on therapy progress. The at-home sessions would be cheaper than visiting a therapist, but Noe hopes to expand the program to allow results to be sent to a therapist who could provide real-time feedback to the patient.

Noe is also part of the STEM Path to the MBA program at UA’s Culverhouse College of Commerce, a program that provides students majoring in science, technology, engineering or math the opportunity to earn their undergraduate degree in four years and an MBA with one additional year of study.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.