Computer day at UF draws in hundreds with video games


University of Florida computer science and engineering majors Joseph Wonesh, 21, standing, and Bernard Marger, 19, discuss the game "Snakes on a Plain" during "Game Day" in the CSE building on the UF campus Monday.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Monday, April 22, 2013 at 5:57 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, April 22, 2013 at 5:57 p.m.

The basement of the Computer Science and Engineering building at the University of Florida was overrun with animals Monday. Angry cats rising up against their masters. Snakes squiggling across a grassy plain. Ants invading the planet.

“The cats rise up against the crazy cat lady,” said Brian Sunter, a senior in computer science, explaining his mobile device game, “Grumpy Cat,” named after the popular meme. He said he designed it for both iOS, Android and Windows phones.

Those were among the dozens of computer games on display Monday at the annual Computer Science Day and Artificial Intelligence for Computer Games, sponsored by the Association of Graduate Students in Computer and Information Science and Engineering.

Hundreds of students turned out for the event, which was spread out over Turlington Plaza and the CSE building. They checked out graduate programs, tried out the computer games and talked to recruiters.

“We want to raise awareness of computer science in the Gator Nation,” said Nuri Yeralan, president of the graduate student association.

Topside, about a dozen booths were set up displaying some of the ongoing research and computer labs in which graduate students were involved. Those projects ranged from virtual patients designed to teach medical students empathy and using computer cameras to teach distance learning.

Xin Yang, a doctoral student, demonstrated a project in collaboration with the Florida Museum of Natural History that used cloud computing to “push” information to the mobile phone devices of museum visitors. The program finds visitors in the museum and sends information about an exhibit as they get close to it.

Michael Borish said his project helps medical students learn soft skills, things that are difficult to train objectively, such as generating empathy. Also, he said, his program can create a virtual patient with cranial brain damage and a bad pupil, things an actor portraying a patient cannot.

Yeralan also showed his project -- a system that allows viewers to select photos of a location they click onto on Google map. Other booths show off hardcore analytics used in military applications such as landmine detection, he said.

In the lower courtyard, 20 teams of professor Daisy Wong's graduate students displayed their projects displaying their ability to conduct large-scale advanced data analytics to various disciplines using cloud computing and machine learning technologies, among other things.

“I'm very excited about the turnout,” she said.

The projects on display had applications that benefit nutrition, health and medicine, social media, computer-based journalism and legal research. One used E-Discovery to find legal decisions relevant to a case. A third showed public health tracking using twitter. Yet another analyzed movie dialogue for frequency of words used to define moods.

Avinash Ravi and Sowmya Hariharan explained that their Wiki Discovery program enabled users to find all the possible related articles between two topics, help discover new topics and find relationships between different communities.

Plenty of talent was on hand to impress recruiters from Mobiquity, Infotech and other companies.

“We're trying to talk to as many students as we can today,” said Mike Fabiano, talent acquisition specialist for Mobiquity. “We're looking for students who have devoted time to developing software.”

Mobiquity, a company that develops mobile apps and advises companies on their mobile strategies has been in talks with state and local officials about bringing as many as 260 jobs to Gainesville over four years.

“What makes Gainesville attractive is the pool of talent coming out of the college,” Fabiano said, stressing that he didn't know if a decision had been made. “There are great schools all over the country where we can set up shop.”

Infotech, which has been in Gainesville for 37 years and has 250 employees, also was looking for talent, said Executive Recruiter Brandon LaBonte.

“We are looking for aptitude,” he said. “We are looking for the ability to be a critical thinker.”

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