MS defense: Problem selection of program tracing tasks in an intelligent tutoring system

Master's Thesis Defense Announcement

Problem Selection of Program Tracing Tasks in an Intelligent
Tutoring System and Visual Programming Environment

David Walser

2:00pm Thursday, 28 April 2011, ITE 325b

Intelligent tutoring systems (ITSs) have been shown to be an effective supplementary teaching tool or aid for many domains. Applying ITSs in open-ended domains such as computer programming is especially challenging, most notably when trying to assist with the process of programming itself. Existing ITSs for programming focus on a very limited set of problems and concepts and are only useful early in an introductory CS course and a few limited places afterward. Visual programming environments are another tool that have been used in introductory CS courses to help students learn basic concepts. The key idea behind my work is the recognition of the importance of students' ability to read, understand, and trace code in order to write programs successfully. A broader goal of my work is to show that an ITS based on a visual programming environment can be used to support students throughout an entire introductory CS course, without being severely constrained and limited to a small number of concepts and to low-level, simple tasks. In my system, called RUR-ITS, students are given a program and are asked to predict the robot's behavior when running this program in a given environment. RUR-ITS allows each problem to be assigned a difficulty level and multiple concepts that it involves within the conceptual model. RUR-ITS can then use a problem selection algorithm to choose a problem that is most able to help the student master the concepts that they have not yet mastered.

Thesis Committee:

  • Dr. Marie desJardins, Chair
  • Dr. Tim Finin
  • Dr. Tim Oates


Maryland Cyber Conference and Challenge (MDC3)

The Maryland Cyber Challenge and Conference site is up and student teams can now register for the competition, with the first qualifying round early in September. It is a chance to demonstrate your ability to work in a team and your cybersecurity and problem solving skills.

MDC3 is a joint effort between SAIC, UMBC, DBED, TCM and NCSA to bring people together to promote Maryland's commitment to cybersecurity and STEM education. The competition includes three levels: high school, collegiate and professionals from industry/government, providing opportunities to network with cybersecurity professionals, researchers, and scholars.

There will be orientation sessions at the UMBC Technology Center (1450 South Rolling Rd., 21224) on May 2, May 18 and June 21 at 4:30pm for professionals and 6:00pm for students.

Semantic Analysis of XML Schema Matching for B2B (Dissertation Defense)

PhD Dissertation Defense Announcement

A Semantic Analysis of XML Schema Matching
for B2B Systems Integration

Jaewook Kim

11:00am Thursday, 21 April 2011, ITE 346

One of the most critical steps to integrating heterogeneous e-Business applications using different XML schemas is schema matching, which is known to be costly and error-prone. Many automatic schema matching approaches have been proposed, but the challenge is still daunting because of the complexity of schemas and immaturity of technologies in semantic representation, measuring, and reasoning. The dissertation focuses on three challenging problems in the schema matching. First, the existing approaches have often failed to sufficiently investigate and utilize semantic information imbedded in the hierarchical structure of the XML schemas. Secondly, due to synonyms and polysemies found in natural languages, the meaning of a data node in the schema cannot be determined solely by the words in its label. Thirdly, it is difficult to correctly identify the best set of matching pairs for all data nodes between two schemas. To overcome these problems, we propose new innovative approaches for XML schema matching, particularly applicable to XML schema integration and data transformation between heterogeneous e-Business systems. Our research supports two different tasks: integration task between two different component schemas; and transformation task between two business documents which confirm to different document schemas.

Dissertation Committee:

  • Dr. Yun Peng, Chair
  • Dr. Charles Nicholas
  • Dr. Zary Segall
  • Dr. Milton Halem
  • Dr. Hyunbo Cho (POSTECH, Korea)
  • Dr. Nenad Ivezic (NIST)

CSEE IT Jobs Summer 2011 and Beyond

The CSEE Department at UMBC has IT job positions available.  The positions include a Web Administrator and System Administrator.  Full descriptions for each position below.  Details include how to apply and what information is expected to be provided.

Student Web Administrator position.

This position is a hybrid of providing support for the CSEE Web portals, software development, and leveraging the capabilities of UNIX systems as a host platform. Expected projects include Website design and content editing, develop/code dynamic content, and create/edit graphics.  There is a need to understand what good Web design means and the direction of where Web trends are going.
Are you the resource who people come to when they have a computer problem?  Do you find fixing computers easy?  Do you run your own server?  Do you like learning new skills, making people happy, and gaining a sense of accomplishment?  If you relate to these attributes, this is a great opportunity for you.


  • Engineer solutions to Web-related problems in a UNIX environment.
  • Manage Web applications and be able to extend functionality by writing new code.
  • Support the users of Web sites/portals.
  • Assist in ongoing projects.
  • Other duties as assigned.


  • Experience with a Linux/UNIX system.
  • Program UNIX shell scripts, C/C++, PERL, Python, and/or PHP.
  • Understand HTML, CSS, and modern Web technologies.
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills.
  • Excellent troubleshooting skills.
  • Able to quickly learn new skills.
  • Able to work well in a group.
  • Available to work up to 20 hours/week.
  • Active UMBC student.

Desired (will train as needed):

  • Major in Computer Science, Computer Engineering, or a related field.
  • Exposed to content management system and revision control system.
  • Manage databases and write SQL queries.

Please submit resumes by email to cseeit-jobs AT cs DOT umbc DOT edu . Resumes accepted until the position is filled.  Also provide an example of something cool that you have done with a Web site.

UNIX Student System Administrator position.

This position will provide computer hardware, software, and network support for the operational needs of the CSEE department at UMBC.  The CSEE computer infrastructure is extremely diverse, dynamic, and challenging. This position will be part of a technical team of experts, who support over 700 user accounts and over 600 Linux, Solaris, Windows, and MacOS machines in office, data center, and research environments.  The computers range from individual desktops to production servers which run 24 hours per day (such as Web portals, email, and database servers).

Are you the resource who people come to when they have a computer problem? Do you find fixing computers easy?  Do you run your own server?  Do you like learning new skills, making people happy, and gaining a sense of accomplishment?  If you relate to these attributes, this is a great opportunity for you.


  • Engineer solutions to problems in a UNIX environment.
  • Support desktop and server computers for end-users (operational staff, graduate students, and faculty) and networking needs through the installation and configuration of computer hardware and software.
  • Support the daily operations and maintenance of the CSEE computing and networking facilities (such as accounts, printers, applications, etc.).
  • Support real/virtual server environment and real/virtual disk storage systems
  • Assist in ongoing projects.
  • Other duties as assigned.


  • Experience with one or more types of Linux/UNIX system.
  • Program UNIX shell scripts, C/C++, PERL, Python, and/or PHP.
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills.
  • Excellent troubleshooting skills.
  • Able to quickly learn new skills.
  • Able to work well in a group.
  • Available to work up to 20 hours/week (up to 40 during summer or breaks).
  • Active UMBC student.

Desired (will train as needed):

  • Major in Computer Science, Computer Engineering, or a related field.
  • Familiar with the CSEE Department's computing environment.
  • A working knowledge of Sun/Oracle Solaris/OpenSolaris operating system and/or Windows.

Please submit resumes by email to cseeit-jobs AT cs DOT umbc DOT edu . Resumes accepted until the positions are filled.  Also provide an example of something cool that you have done with UNIX/Linux.


Dissertation Defense: Towards Relational Theory Formation from Undifferentiated Sensor Data

Dissertation Defense

Towards Relational Theory Formation
from Undifferentiated Sensor Data

Marc Pickett

10:00am Monday, 18 April 2011
ITE 325b, UMBC

Human adults have rich theories in their heads of how the world works. These theories include objects and relations for both concrete and abstract concepts. Everything we know either must be innate or learned through experience. Yet it's unclear how much of this model needs to be innate for a computer. The core question this dissertation addresses is how a computer can develop rich relational theories using only its raw sensor data. We address this by outlining a "bridge" between raw sensors and a rich relational theory. We have implemented parts of this bridge, with other parts as feasibility studies, while others remain conceptual.

At the core of this bridge is Ontol, a system that constructs a conceptual structure or "ontology" from feature-set data. Ontol is inspired by cortical models that have been shown to be able to express invariant concepts, such as images independent of any translation or rotation. As a demonstration of the utility of the ontologies created by Ontol, we present a novel semi-supervised learning algorithm that learns from only a handful of positive examples. Like humans, this algorithm doesn't require negative examples. Instead, this algorithm uses the ontologies created by Ontol from unlabeled data, and searches for a Bayes-optimal theory given this "background knowledge".

The rest of the dissertation shows in principle how Ontol can be used as the "workhorse" for a system that finds analogies, discovers useful mappings, and might ultimately create theories, such as a "gisty" theory of "number".


  • Tim Oates, Associate Professor, UMBC
  • Tim Finin, Professor, UMBC
  • Rob Goldstone, Professor, Indiana University
  • Sergei Nirenburg, Professor, UMBC
  • Matt Schmill, Research Faculty, UMBC

Serial entrepreneur David Turock to talk at Baltimore Emerging Technology Center

The Baltimore ACM Chapter, the Greater Baltimore Technology Council, and the Emerging Technology Center are hosting a free, public lecture on entrepreneurship by David Turock at 7:00pm, Wednesday 27 April in the ETC Canton facility (2400 Boston St., Baltimore).

David Turock will present a side-by-side comparison of two telecommunications start-ups that he launched: one successful, and one not. He compares and contrasts their funding sources, agility and scalability of their business models, hiring practices, and more. His experience and lessons learned will be valuable for aspiring tech entrepreneurs. He finishes with how his interests have shifted to using technology to promote social and environmental causes.

David Turock is a veteran entrepreneur and currently a Director of Counsel RB Capital. He holds a patent on VoIP, and is an expert on telecommunications technologies and their applications. Mr. Turock began his career working with AT&T Bell Laboratories in 1982 and Bell Communications Research in 1988, and subsequently founded enhanced telephone service provider, Call Sciences. He later formed Interexchange, which designed and operated one of the world's largest debit card systems. Most recently, from 2001 to 2007, Mr. Turock was Chief Technology Officer of Therap Services, a provider of informatics services to disabled patients. Mr. Turock received his B.S. in Experimental Psychology from Syracuse University, his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Cognitive Psychology from Rutgers University, and his M.S.E. in Computer Science from the Moore School of the University of Pennsylvania.

The Baltimore ACM chapter invites attendees for pizza starting at 6:30pm. There is no charge, but please RSVP to Emil Volcheck at

The ETC Canton facility is located at the American Can Company complex, 2400 Boston Street in Baltimore. ETC is on the 3rd floor of the building that houses the Austin Grille restaurant and the entrance is next to the Lenscrafters store. There is a 3 hour visitor parking in front of the building on the Boston Street side.

Cyber Defense Team meeting, Noon 4/4 ITE 325b


The UMBC Cyber Defense Team, aka the Cyberdawgs, will host a technical briefing on Monday April 4 featuring two guest speakers from the DoD. The topic will be the cyber competitions between the service academies, and other cyber-related topics may come up as well. The meeting will be held in the CSEE conference room, ITE 325b, from Noon to 2:00pm.

The Cyber Defense Team is a SGA recognized student organization whose members share a common interest in computer and network security and participating in cybersecurity competitions and events. It is open to everyone regardless of your major or current knowledge level. If you are interested in joining come to this meeting or any of the weekly meetings held on Monday's from Noon to 2:00pm. You can also subscribe to its mailing list by sending a message to

Lecture on Distributed Quantum Algorithms, 2:30pm Web 3/30

Classical computers use binary “bits” of ones and zeros. Quantum computers encode such bits in physical systems where we can also harness the quantum mechanical properties and obtain a more powerful system of quantum bits, or qubits. Thanks to the amazing rules of quantum mechanics, qubits can be in a “superposition” of zero and one simultaneously.

Professor Samuel Lomonaco will present a lecture on Distributed Quantum Algorithms from 2:30 to 3:45 on Wednesday March 30 in room ITE 325b. In the talk, Professor Lomonaco will show how quantum entanglement can be used as a mechanism for controlling a network of quantum computers. The talk is open to all.

Curt Tilmes dissertation defense, Data Provenance, 10am Thr 3/31

Dissertation Defense

Enabling Reproducibility of Scientific Data Flows
through Tracking and Representation of Provenance

Curt Tilmes

10:00am Thursday, 31 March 2011
ITE 325b, UMBC

Reproducibility of results is a key tenet of science. Some modern scientific domains, such as Earth Science, have become computationally complicated and, particularly with the advent of higher resolution space based remote sensing platforms, tremendously data intensive. Over the last few decades, these complexities along with the the rapid advancement of the state of the art confound the goal of scientific transparency.

This thesis explores concepts of data identification, organization, equivalence and reproducibility for such data intensive scientific processing. It presents a conceptual model useful for describing and representing data provenance suitable for very precise data and processing identification. It presents algorithms for creating and maintaining precise dataset membership and provenance equivalence at various degrees of granularity and data aggregation.

Application of this model will allow more specific data citations in scientific literature based on large datasets and data provenance equivalence. Our provenance representations will enable independent reproducibility required by scientific transparency. Increasing transparency will contribute to understanding, and ultimately, credibility of scientific results.


  • Yelena Yesha (co-chair)
  • Milton Halem (co-chair)
  • Tim Finin
  • Anupam Joshi
  • Jim Smith (NASA)

2011 Google Summer of Code open for applications

The 2011 Google Summer of Code pays students $5000 to work on one of a set od approved open source projects

Still looking for a summer internship? Check out the Google Summer of Code (GSoC).

This is a is a global program funded by Google that pays undergraduate or graduate students a $5000 stipend to write code for open source projects. GSoC has worked with the open source community to identify and fund exciting projects for the upcoming summer. The FAQ is a good place to find out more.

A set of open source projects (aka mentoring organizations) has been selected. Students apply to work on one of more of these and each mentoring organization ranks the students interested in working with them. Google facilitates the final selection and pairing. The mentoring organization works closely with the student to define tasks, check progress, help solve problems, etc. Typically the thudent works remotely, interacting with his or her mentor via email, chat, skype, etc.

Students can submit applications via the Google Summer of Code 2011 site from March 28 to April 8. Google says that that the best applications they receive are from students who took the time to interact with one of the participating mentoring organizations and discuss their ideas before submitting an application. Check out the information on the Advice for GSoC Students Page which links to a list of the 2011 mentoring organizations.

I have a plug for a particular project: Elgg. "Elgg is an award-winning social networking engine, delivering the building blocks that enable businesses, schools, universities and associations to create their own fully-featured social networks and applications." One of the people involved with Elgg's GSoC effort works at JHU/APL and may do mentoring locally. They are looking for people who know (or are willing to learn) PHP, JavaScript, and basic web development. Send email to to find out more about the ideas the Elgg project has proposed for GSCO 2011.

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