Alexa, get my coffee: Using the Amazon Echo in Research

“Alexa, get my coffee”:
Using the Amazon Echo in Research

Megan Zimmerman

10:30am Monday, 7 December 2015, ITE 346

The Amazon Echo is a remarkable example of language-controlled, user-centric technology, but also a great example of how far such devices have to go before they will fulfill the longstanding promise of intelligent assistance. In this talk, we will describe the Interactive Robotics and Language Lab‘s work with the Echo, with an emphasis on the practical aspects of getting it set up for development and adding new capabilities. We will demonstrate adding a simple new interaction, and then lead a brainstorming session on future research applications.

Megan Zimmerman is a UMBC undergrad majoring in computer science working on interpreting language about tasks at varying levels of abstraction, with a focus on interpreting abstract statements as possible task instructions in assistive technology.

talk: Matuszek on Giving Successful Technical Presentations, 2pm 11/18

UMBC Professor CYnthia Matuszek

UMBC ACM Tech Talk

Giving Successful Technical Presentations
Prof. Cynthia Matuszek, UMBC

2:00pm Wednesday 18 November 2015, ITE325

Giving talks is one of the core tasks of a researcher. Technical presentations are how we accomplish some of our most important tasks: talks are the first step in getting other people excited about our work, getting suggestions and feedback, teaching, and applying for jobs and grants. Nonetheless, the art and science of giving a really good technical talk is one we are more likely to leave to chance than to deliberately train in. Not only does this mean we aren’t accomplishing everything we could with our presentations; we’re missing a chance to distinguish ourselves by improving a comparatively rare — but learnable — skill.

In this talk, I will describe the idea of the “culture of conveying information,” and give a number of specific suggestions for improving technical talks — including tools, rules of thumb, social conventions, and suggestions for making your talks engaging, informative, and memorable.

Cynthia Matuszek is an Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s Computer Science and Electrical Engineering department where she heads the Interactive Robotics and Language lab. She completed her Ph.D. at the University of Washington in 2014, where she was a member of both the Robotics and State Estimation lab and the Language, Interaction, and Learning group. She is published in the areas of artificial intelligence, robotics, ubiquitous computing, and human-robot interaction. Her research interests include human-robot interaction, natural language processing, and machine learning.

Free workshop on using the Arduino microcontroller, Sat. 11/14 and 11/21


The UMBC IEEE Branch will hold an Arduino workshop on Saturday November 14th and next Saturday November 21st from 2:00-6:00pm in SHER 003 (Lecture Hall 4). It’s a great opportunity for people to learn about microcontrollers and circuit basics and how to use Arduino for building cyber-physical systems for home automation, robotics, games and more.

The Arduino microcontroller is a great device for anyone who wants to learn more about technology. It is used in a variety of fields in research and academia and may even help you get an internship. Our instructors have used the Arduino for researching self-replicating robots and remote-controlled helicopters, hacking into a vehicle’s control system, and using radars to detect human activity in a room. Some of the hackathon projects by our IEEE members include developing a drink mixer that wirelessly connects with a Tesla Model S and a full-body haptic feedback suit for the Oculus Rift. The Arduino is a wonderful tool and is fairly easy to use. Everyone should learn how to use it!

UMBC’s Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers is hosting two Level 1 workshops this semester. They are hosted this Saturday (Nov. 14th) and next Saturday (Nov. 21st). The workshop will be SHER 003 (Lecture Hall 4) from 2pm to 6pm. Please register online to sign up for either workshop. Contact Sekar Kulandaivel () if you have any questions.

The workshop is open to all majors (minimum coding experience recommended). You only need to bring your laptop and charger and download and install the Arduino IDE. We hope to see many of you this weekend! You REALLY don’t want to miss out on this opportunity.

NSF CyberCorps: Scholarship For Service, Nov 20 deadline

UMBC undergraduate and graduate students interested in cybersecurity can apply for an NSF CyberCorps: Scholarship For Service scholarship by 20 November 2015.

The NSF CyberCorps: Scholarship For Service program is designed to increase and strengthen the cadre of federal information assurance professionals that protect the government’s critical information infrastructure. This program provides scholarships that may fully fund the typical costs incurred by full-time students while attending a participating institution, including tuition and education and related fees. Participants also receive stipends of $22,500 for undergraduate students and $34,000 for graduate students.

Applicants must be be full-time UMBC students within two years of graduation with a BS or MS degree; a student within three years of graduation with both the BS/MS degree; a student participating in a combined BS/MS degree program; or a research-based doctoral student within three years of graduation in an academic program focused on cybersecurity or information assurance. Recipients must also be US citizens; meet criteria for Federal employment; and be able to obtain a security clearance, if required.

For more information and instructions on how to apply see the UMBC CISA site or the OPM SFS site. Contact Dr. Alan Sherman () for questions not answered on those sites.

jobs: Find out about jobs & internships at Google, Oct 29-30

Jobs at Google

Google will be on campus on Thursday and Friday, October 29 and 30 to talk with students about opportunities for full-time positions and internships. See their message below.

Hello UMBC students!

Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. It’s an enormous goal to accomplish and we need great people to help us achieve it!

We invite you to come learn about Google and meet some of our Googlers at this exciting event!

Who: All Computer Science and Engineering students, but anyone with an interest in software development is welcome!

What: Culture at Google and Laying the Groundwork for a Successful Tech Career
Date: Thursday, October 29th
Time: 4:00pm – 8:00pm
Location: PAHB 132

What: Culture at Google and Preparing for Technical Interviews
Date: Friday, October 30th
Time: 12:00pm – 3:00pm
Location: PAHB 132

RSVP here. Have any questions? Check out our FAQs below.


Jonathan Bronson (Google Employee)
Loryn Chen (Google Student Ambassador for UMBC)


“Okay, Google, I’m ready to apply.”

What roles are you hiring for?

Most of our available opportunities for technical students are within our software engineering teams. Check out the roles below for more details. For all other opportunities, visit

Can I apply for multiple positions?

Yes, you can apply for as many roles and locations as you’d like. We’ll review your resume and transcript to determine the best match.

When are the application deadlines?

Apply now! We encourage you to apply sooner rather than later, since most of our full time roles and internships accept applications on a rolling basis. If there is a deadline for a specific position, it will say so on the job posting.

What do I need to submit when I apply?

Please upload your resume and a copy of your transcript (unofficial is fine).

So I really don’t need a cover letter?

Correct! Have your resume tell your story!

I applied previously and wasn’t selected. May I reapply?

Yes, but we generally recommend that you’ve gained at least six months of additional technical experience and knowledge before reapplying.

Are international students eligible to apply for internships or full-time roles?

Yes, international students can apply for internships and full-time roles.

I’m planning to graduate this academic year, can I apply for an internship?

Unfortunately you aren’t able to do an internship after you graduate, so you’ll need to apply for a full-time role. If you’re graduating, but plan to pursue a graduate degree, then you can apply for an internship.

I want to intern on Android/Maps/[insert Google product here]. How do I apply for those teams?

You’ll first need to pass two technical phone interviews then a recruiter will work with you to determine a project match for the summer. You’ll have the chance to express interest in certain teams, tell us more about your background/skills, etc. once you’ve completed the technical interviews.

I applied online but haven’t heard back from anyone. Help?!

First, make sure you received the confirmation email that we received your application. Second, reply to us at so we can check the status of your application.

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship applications due Oct. 27

If you plan on applying to graduate school for next year or are currently a graduate student in your first or second year and are a US citizen or permanent-resident, you should consider applying to the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP). This program makes approximately 2000 new fellowship awards each year.

The GRFP program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based Master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited United States institutions. Fellows benefit from a three-year annual stipend of $32,000 along with a $12,000 cost of education allowance for tuition and fees, and opportunities for international research and professional development.

GRFP is the country’s oldest national fellowship program directly supporting graduate students in STEM fields. The hallmark features of the program are: 1) the award of fellowships to individuals on the basis of merit and potential, and 2) the freedom and flexibility provided to Fellows to define their own research and choose the accredited U.S. graduate institution that they will attend.

US citizens and permanent residents who are planning to enter graduate school in an NSF-supported discipline next fall, or in the first two years of such a graduate program, or who are returning to graduate school after being out for two or more years, are eligible. Applications for computing and engineering areas fields are due October 27. The applicant information page and the solicitation contain the necessary details.

HueBots game created by UMBC students now on Steam

Huebotics developers Jasmin Martin, Erika Shumacher, Tad Cordle and Michael Leung Baltimore reports that the HueBots robot-building game made by a four UMBC students has been added to the PC game platform Steam.

“HueBots is a deceptively challenging top-down puzzle game. You control a team of colorful robots that will only interact with objects that match their color; they will also keep moving in one direction until they collide with something that matches their color.”

You can try a demo version of Huebots at and also download the demo version for use on a Mac or PC.  The release trailer will give you an idea of what it’s like.



The UMBC Entrepreneurs group reports that the student team that developed the game includes lead Michael Leung ’16, computer science; Tad Cordle ’16, computer engineering; and Erika Schumacher ’17; and Jasmine Martin ’15, both visual arts students with interactive media concentrations. This summer Graham Dolle ’18, computer science, contributed special visual effects.

CSEE Professor Marc Olano notes that it is the first game to go for sale to the larger public from UMBC’s Game Developer’s Club.

“The Steam greenlight process requires the game to get strong community feedback before it is approved, which it could only have gotten with wider interest than just UMBC,” Olando said in an email to

The group has already sold about 100 copies of the game and has a mobile version that is waiting for approval from iOS and Android in the coming weeks.

Nielsen Audio Data Science Day event, Thr. June 25

Nielsen Audio, a consumer research company that collects and analyzes listener data on radio broadcasting audiences, invites UMBC faculty and students to attend events focused on data science from 11:00am-2:30pm on Thursday June 25 at its headquarters in Columbia MD.

In the past few years, data science has become one of the top career opportunities for students with a background in computing or mathematics, offering interesting challenges and top salaries. Nielsen has been actively recruiting on campus and has hired three graduating UMBC students into its leadership rotational program, as well as several summer interns. They will be recruiting for full-time positions in the Fall.

The Nielsen Data Science Day event will take place in lobby and auditorium of Nielsen Audio's headquarters at 9705 Patuxent Woods Dr #200, Columbia, MD 21046 (map). Activities will include presentations, data science themed games and group discussions.

Between 11:00 and 12:00 participants can engage with interactive games with a Math/Data Science/Audio theme, including Data Science Jeopardy, Name that Tune, and Sampling Marbles. In the auditorium, a short video on data science produced by Nielsen will play continuously.

Lunch is available at Noon, followed by an introduction to data science at Nielsen Audio and presentations from managers of Nielsen's data science groups.

In the afternoon there will be a chance to meet with data scientists and find out what they do and opportunities for internships and positions.

If you have questions, contact the Columbia Data Science Day Committee leads: Kelly Dixon () or Freddie Navarro ()

UMBC Game Developers Club Summer Game Jam, 5-7 June 2015

The UMBC Game Developers Club will hold its annual Summer Game Jam Friday, June 5 to Sunday June 7 in the GAIM lab in Engineering 005. The game jam theme is Art and Code out of a Hat.

There will be one "hat" from which a team will pull three random art assets, and another "hat" from which they will pull three random code samples. Then, the team must use as many of those six items as possible in their game!! Here's the catch: At some point, you'll have to decide on a game idea and form a team around it.

If you pull from the hats before you make the idea, you have to use four of the six items. If you pull from the hats after you form the idea and team, you only have to use two of the items. The team that receives an item is free to do whatever they want with the art and code they receive.

Opportunity for students to attend cybersecurity conference at JHU/APL June 17

The GovConnect conference seeks college sophomores, juniors and seniors interested in cybersecurity to apply for free admission to its showcase event:

   GovConnects' 6th Annual Cyber Conference: Migration to the Cloud:
   Vulnerabilities and Challenges/ Opportunities and Solutions
   Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab Kossiakoff Center, 
   Wednesday, 17 June 2015, 9:00-5:00

Resumes are currently being accepted by GovConnects for a one day internship that provides free attendance.  Participation options: 8:00am–12:00noon or 12:00noon — 4:00 pm.
GovConnects, a program of the Howard County Chamber of Commerce, is the organizer of this event. Over 300 industry and government professionals are expected to attend the all-day conference. Student interns will be provided with breakfast and lunch. Parking is free and there is no charge for internship participants.
Keynote speakers are Dmitri Alperovitch, Co- Founder and CTO of CrowdStrike Inc., and LTG (R) Rhett Hernandez, Chair, Army Cyber Institute.  The conference has multiple paths of interest including breakout sessions in Mobile IT, Insider Threat, Health IT, and FedRAMP. Interns will be able to attend a breakout session of choice and have access to the who's who of the conference cyber speakers. Tech Talks will feature new products and ideas pitched by companies and judged by a panel of industry experts including representatives from Leidos, Ciena, Honeywell, Dell Federal, and Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab.
Cyber 6.0 is an excellent opportunity for technical candidates (For example, Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, and Computer Engineering, but not limited to these fields.) to meet and interact with industry and federal government officials. Conference sponsors have agreed to review internsÕ resumes for potential employment eligibility, if interested.
Several sponsors have current programs in place that support technical students close to graduation in obtaining federal clearances.
The opportunity to attend the conference, gain valuable information about the trends/forecasts for cybersecurity issues and technology, and meet companies, speakers and potential employers is a day well spent!
If you are interested in attending, explore the conference details and send your resume to Tom Sabia, Conference Intern Coordinator at   or

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