Ronald Lopez
DREU 2014
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Week 1:

I was thrilled to arrive at North Carolina State University (NCSU) in Raleigh and couldn't wait to start my research. After getting settled in my dorm/apartment I explored a little around my village and walked around until I found some food. As I was tired from my flight and journey I went back to my room and went to sleep until tomorrow for my orientation. Furthermore, orientation was here and I was excited to meet the other students and ready to see what today was going to be about. I met the other students and our coordinator who showed us a tour of the university which was huge and took us to the computer science department where we met all of the mentors and had a big lunch. After lunch, each mentor gave a presentation about their lab and projects they did over the past years. Then each student was assign to their mentor and was given a tour of their lab. My mentor, Dr. David Roberts, introduce me to his entire team and what each of his students was working on in the lab. He then took some of students and me to a bar and grill restaurant called Players Retreat where we talked more and enjoy some great burgers. As for the following days before my second week, Dr. David Robert's graduate student, Ignacio, help me test some games to get familiar with what they do and the difference between them as well as read some research papers of past projects and currently working projects.

Week 2:

My two lab partners and I received an assignment of making a simple application of our choice using Android Studio as training before we begin our research project as a team. Android Studio is an integrated development environment (IDE) for the android platform. We each had to write a short proposal of what we were going to do so our mentor can see if it was good practice towards our research project. Throughout the week, I build an amusing calculator with animation and graphics, background sound, and generating sounds on events. The calculator had two empty textboxes where the user was able to input any 2 random values they wanted to know the answer to. It had 4 buttons each indicating a type of math operation: addition, multiplication, division, and subtraction. There was another empty textbox on the bottom which show the result of the problem. When the application would open background music would play. Every time a button was tapped it would make a funny sound. It had a background picture as well as random animations moving around on the app. My mentor, David Roberts, loved all of our apps and couldn't believe he didn't have to help one bit. We were ready to begin our research project.

Week 3:

Finally, we received our research project description and game plan on how we will work on it throughout the summer. My job was to design the layout of the game like the background picture, animations, music, sound events, fonts, and more for each activity or page of the game. Also, I had to work on the settings for the game and the application itself. Lastly, I would have to take screenshots of each page of the game when I finish the design. It was exciting and interesting about how the game should look like. I didn't know where to start and what to add like the type of animations to use, the specific color for the background, how the buttons should be, and so on. Besides wasting time on thinking of what I was going to do for the game design, I started on making all the pages we needed with buttons that will go on to the next page after being tapped. Also, I included some loading bars as well that will load up before going to the next page. I looked up free pictures, animations, and sounds for personal use because anything I will use for the app can't be stolen from other companies or people. I was trying to put all of my ideas and tools together that I was going to use for my design so I can be organized for next week and work efficiently.

Week 4:

I was programming the settings of the app. While I was coding I also earned a new task that I had to put within the flow of the activity layout. I had to put a consent form and survey form after a user would open the application which wasn't hard to install. So after the app would finish downloading, open the consent form and if they accept open the survey as well and submit. If they would say no then it would go straight to the main menu of the game. This consent and survey form was used so we can collect data from those that wanted us to for research. The problem coding the settings for these forms was when the user had either accepted or denied the consent form it should not show again the next time they launch the application, at the same time having a setting that would allow for those that said no and wanted to change their mind so they can have their data being collected and used for research and vice versa. These settings were interfering with one another while I was coding because of showing the activity (consent form) which I said don't show after the first time but then got stuck where I had to show it again if they selected the checkbox so they can see the consent form again as well as save the state the checkbox was in. It was frustrating to code and I needed more time to finish.

Week 5:

I finish the game setting with the help of my mentor's graduate student. I also got a new task to help one of my other partners with the scoring algorithm of the game which was going to be the hardest part of the app. We had to come up with the easiest way to implement code for a single player game where the user would earn points for their drawing. As for me designing the game myself it was turnover to all of us doing instead of just me. This happen because it was going to be more fun and fair for all us to call a shot of what it should look like. So we save that part for the end or until me and my partners finish the rest of the requirements needed. There were also a couple of meetings that I went to this week about our app with my mentor and another meeting with all of the REU students about how to make a good poster. The meeting with making the poster was pretty interesting and useful for when we were soon going to present sometime in July and another time before we leave probably the last day. As for the meeting with my team and mentor we had to come with a date with finishing up the app design so we can get permission from the IRB for our app and start collecting data.

Week 6:

We had a team meeting about finishing up the app as soon as possible because we were running out of time. Our mentor suggested sending some mockups and some screenshots of our app to the IRB so they can approve our app for data collecting instead of wasting time for the entire app to be done and wait for an approval. This was going to buy us some extra time to finish the app while waiting for the approval so as soon as we finish we can start collecting data. We continue on doing the tasks that were needed. I got stuck with doing the scoring algorithm myself because there were changes that had to be made by my team. My partners had to go back to their previous tasks, finish the main game screen and finish the database to record every action, movement, timestamps, and more of the app so we would be able to collect data from everything that would happen in the game.

Week 7:

We were approved by the IRB for our app which was really great and quickly. One of my partners finish his task and came back to help work on the scoring algorithm which was still challenging until our mentor guide us on what to do and found a useful tool that will help us with the scoring algorithm. We follow his guidelines and use the tool which was called Weka, a collection of machine learning algorithms for data mining tasks. The algorithms can either be applied directly to a dataset or called from your own Java code. Weka contains tools for data pre-processing, classification, regression, clustering, association rules, and visualization. It is also well-suited for developing new machine learning schemes. So, with this tool in hand we hope to recognize images and get a percentage on how close the picture is to whatever it was being compared to. As for the weekend of 4th of July, some of the REU students and I took the school bus to downtown Raleigh for the festival. It was really entertaining and awesome to see the fireworks go off at night. Also, enjoy the rest of the weekend with some of the other events that were happening within the village of the apartments.

Week 8:

When using Weka that was mention to us last week for image recognition it did a great job giving us values but there were many problems with implementing into Android. It looks like one of the problems was with memory capacity based on the size of images it was receiving even though we scaled it to a small and readable size. This process was put on hold since my friends and I had to make mini-presentations and prepare to present this weekend for the Charleston trip. This weekend, the REU for Computer Science students and I took a trip to Charleston, SC to give presentations about our research projects. We took a four hour trip on Friday and arrived at 6pm which was tiring but at the same time exciting. When we arrived they took us to our rooms to get settled in and our mentors told us to be ready by tomorrow to give presentations with information of what to do and where to go. In the meantime we were able to go out for the night and explore downtown Charleston. My friends and I enjoyed the walk in downtown and had some great southern BBQ food. We shared our research projects with the other students from the college of Charleston as well as listen to theirs and ask questions about each other's research afterwards. It was a great experiencing learning more about research as well as presenting and talking about your own in a professional manner. Then we all went out for dinner that same night and had a great celebration with some new friends from Charleston. The next morning we all went to the beach to have some more fun and enjoy the last day of our trip relaxing and saying our goodbyes.

Week 9:

We continued using Weka to generate models for each type of object which can be used to calculate a score for an image when inputted into the correct model. The score was based on the comparison of the reference image and user's drawing. The models contained too much data and memory which we couldn't upload them straight into Android and decided to use the web server instead. From this point we had a team meeting about stopping the project because my partners and I had to make presentations for the final talk of REU and the project poster for the poster sessions. Our mentor gave a great talk about how far we came long making this project from scratch and how much determination we had about finishing the project before we left. Even though we did not finish the project he was proud to have us as students. The team and I were upset we couldn't finish in time but at the same time we were happy that we worked together and learned so much from this experience. So, we worked on our own presentations based on the contributions we made towards the project and help each other on the flow of our power points so it can tell a story when we present one after the other. After, we completed our presentations we started working on our poster together and getting ideas from each of our power points to make the perfect poster. As the days got close to the final talk we practice talking and worked step by step on the poster.

Week 10:

The last week of my experience in North Carolina was an intense time. The final talk that was on July 25 was so nerve-wracking. I was so nervous to present. There were so many people in the conference room like all of the REU computer science students, mentors, graduates, and other interested people. In the end, I presented very well said my mentor and teammates. I was so happy to get it over with and celebrate with my team. After this day we finished up our poster and it was ready to attract many people for questions. On July 30, my friends and I dressed up (formal) and were excited to present together about our project we made throughout the summer. When we arrived at the place, it looked fantastic it was filled with other students and their research posters and many people that were interested in learning. We setup our poster and were ready to talk and answer any questions about our research project. The event was for 4 hours and it went smooth my friends and I had a fun time inspiring people about our work. After, we took some pictures of the team and poster, and went to go celebrate at a fancy dining spot for dinner. We enjoy the moment we all had at the dinner talking about our memories throughout the 10 weeks and the future we plan to do. The next morning was my time to go and all I thought about was the fun I had coming here, the friends I made, and the knowledge I learned. This experience in my life will always be remembered.