Iowa State students will compete at premier human-computer interaction conference

AMES, Iowa - Ten Iowa State University graduate students will rub elbows with the top professionals and academics in their field when they compete in May at the premier international conference on human-computer interaction. They will present their work in the Student Design Competition at the CHI (Computer Human Interaction) 2011 ACM (Association of Computing Machines) Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Vancouver, British Columbia.

According to Conference, CHI (as it's known) is the conference of first rank in human-computer interaction. First held in 1985, the highly competitive conference draws thousands of attendees and presents the world's best new research addressing human-computer interaction.

Using technology to appreciate differences

Based on this year's conference theme, "Connecting," the international student competition asked students to design an object, interface, system or service intended to help users appreciate our human differences through the novel use of technology. In round one, teams submitted "extended abstracts" of up to six pages describing their design solutions.

The ISU teams' entries are among the top 12 chosen from more than 60 submissions from around the world. In round two, the 12 semi-finalists will give poster presentations for a panel of judges at the conference in Vancouver. The judges will select four finalists to give oral presentations, then identify an overall winner and two runner-up teams (second and third place).

Two teams: SignBright and Entrust

The two Iowa State projects are "SignBright: A Storytelling Application to Connect Deaf Children and Hearing Parents" and "Entrust: Connecting Low-Income HIV-Positive Individuals with Health Care Providers." The first involves developing a prototype iPad application to encourage language development (signing and speech) and parent-child bonding through a storytelling system. The second introduces the use of cell phones to facilitate communication between HIV-positive clients and their case managers, provide incentives for clients to follow the medical regimen prescribed by their health-care providers, and enable communication with relatives and other caregivers.

The SignBright team includes Melissa Burton, Simi Valley, Calif., psychology; Ji Young Choi, Ames, graphic design; Chad Harbig, Boise, Idaho, human computer interaction; Mariam Melkumyan, Yerevan, Armenia, graphic design; and Lei Zhang, Zhengzhou, Henan, China, graphic design. Their faculty mentors for the competition are assistant professor Paul Bruski and professor Steven Herrnstadt, graphic design.

The Entrust team includes Douglas Choi, Ames, graphic design; Stefan Ganchev, Des Moines, graphic design; Clifford Gentry, Ollie, interior design; Marisol Martinez, Ames, mechanical engineering; and Philip Vander Broek, Holland, Mich., mechanical engineering. Their faculty mentors are assistant professor Ana-Paula Correia, Center for Technology in Learning and Teaching, and associate professor Sunghyun Kang, graphic design.

Interdisciplinary collaboration

The students developed their entries in the fall 2010 CHI Student Design Competition workshop class led by associate professor Debra Satterfield, graphic design. Collaborating faculty included Bruski, Correia, Herrnstadt, and Kang; associate professor Brian Mennecke, supply chain and information systems; Stephen Gilbert, associate director, Virtual Reality Applications Center and research assistant professor in psychology; assistant professor Jon Kelly, psychology; assistant professor Seda Yilmaz, industrial design; and postdoctoral student Hen-I Yang, computer science. All are affiliated with the human computer interaction graduate program.

"The CHI Student Design Competition is an excellent way to engage our students with a real-world design challenge that integrates many of the aspects of human computer interaction. To compete successfully, you must field an interdisciplinary team that includes members from engineering and design. The human computer interaction program and its close collaborations with the College of Design are the ideal fertile ground for these teams to grow," Gilbert said.

"When design students and faculty collaborate with peers and colleagues from other technology fields such as computer science, engineering and human computer interaction, we can create high-quality design solutions for a wide variety of human and society-scaled problems," Satterfield said.

This is the second year Satterfield has coordinated Iowa State's entries to the CHI Student Design Competition. In 2010, one team's project, "WAND: Walk Around Navigation Device for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders," was among the 12 semi-finalists selected for presentation at the CHI 2010 conference in Atlanta.