Tuesday, July 26, 2011

ACM-W Scholarship recipient wins Best Presentation Award

Congratulations to ACM-W travel scholarship recipient Tasneem Kaochar, University of Arizona, who received the Best Presentation Award at the IJCAI 2011 workshop on Agents Learning Interactively from Human Teachers (ALIHT), which concluded this past weekend.

The conference was held in Barcelona. Tasneem's travel was supported by three sources:
The abstract for the paper that was presented follows.

Raquel Torres Peralta, Tasneem Kaochar, Ian Fasel, Clay Morrison, Tom Walsh and Paul Cohen.
Challenges to Decoding the Intention Behind Natural Instruction (Extended Abstract).

Abstract: Currently, most systems for human-robot teaching allow only one mode of teacher-student interaction (e.g., teaching by demonstration or feedback), and teaching episodes have to be carefully set-up by an expert. To understand how we might integrate multiple, interleaved forms of human instruction into a robot learner, we performed a behavioral study in which 44 untrained humans were allowed to freely mix interaction modes to teach a simulated robot (secretly controlled by a human) a complex task. Analysis of transcripts showed that human teachers often give instructions that require considerable interpretation and are not easily translated into a form useable by machine learning algorithms. In particular, humans often use implicit instructions, fail to clearly indicate the boundaries of procedures, and tightly interleave testing, feedback, and new instruction. In this paper, we detail these teaching patterns and discuss the challenges they pose to automatic teaching interpretation as well as the machine-learning algorithms that must ultimately process these instructions. We highlight the challenges by demonstrating the difficulties of an initial automatic teacher interpretation system.

ACM-W, with funding from Wipro Technologies, provides support for women undergraduate and graduate students in Computer Science and related programs who wish to attend research conferences. Exposure to the CS research world can be an important factor in encouraging a student to continue on to the next level (Undergraduate to Graduate, Masters to Ph.D., Ph.D. to an industry or academic position). The student does not have to present a paper at the conference she attends. Interested students should visit the ACM-W travel scholarship page.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Women in technology conferences and women's rights: The Disconnect
Ambassador: Gayatri Buragohain, India

I just returned from Bangalore after attending the first Grace Hopper Conference (GHC) in India organized by the US based non-profit Anita Borg Institute of Women and Technology (ABI). This conference is a celebration of women in technology, a conference to discuss woman's role in technical workforce and find solutions to the challenges faced by women in the technical workforce owing to which there is such low representation of women in technology.

Recently I also attended the 10th Grace Hopper Conference in USA (also organized by ABI) and the Amrita ACM-W Celebration of Women in Computing (A2CWIC) in Coimbatore, India (organized in the Amrita University). The GHC in USA was spectacular. ABI has been organizing this conference for years and they really are good in what they do. The A2CWIC was the first of such conference in India with almost 1200 participants out of which 720 were women, mostly students. I was also involved in organizing the conference as the ACM-W Ambassador in India, but really the team from Amrita University were the real brains and sweat behind it. I intended to blog about it as well, however failed as I anyway expected. Writing is not a very flowing skill for me.

But after attending the GHC India I felt I need to write a piece on my experience after attending 3 consecutive conferences on women and technology. I believe that the new dialogue on women’s role in technology is a critical component of the discussion on women’s role in decision-making and I feel very happy to see this finally happening in India. Three years back when I decided to start FAT, I did massive search for any initiative related to women and technology and found that there was none except the diversity conference organized by NASSCOM, which was not exactly what I was looking for. So this new league of women and technology conferences, though they are still far from having all streams of technology included in them, seem like a breath of fresh air to me. (All these conferences were mainly for women in computing.)

Read the rest of the post on Gayatri's blog.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Elaine Weyuker wins ACM Presidential Award

Our own Elaine Weyuker has been named as a Presidential Award winner by ACM President Dame Wendy Hall. She is cited "For her tireless efforts in the development and growth of the ACM Women's Council. Under her guidance, she built a network of enthusiastic volunteers to help propel ACM-W forward, in the process creating many new ideas for activities, awards, and scholarships to cultivate and celebrate women seeking careers in computing." Elaine will receive her award at at ACM's annual Awards Banquet on June 26, in San Francisco. Congratulations, Elaine! Read the full press release.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Janie Irwin - 2010 ACM-W Athena Lecturer

Ellen Walker, Laura Haas, and Janie Irwin at CAPP 2008We celebrate Ada Lovelace Day today by honoring Janie Irwin, recent recipient of the ACM-W Athena Lecturer Award. I have known Janie for a while now, and she is inspirational both in her research and in her commitment to women in computer science. The photo shows Janie (right) along with Laura Haas and me at the 2008 CRA-W CAPP Workshop - an effort to bring more women into senior positions in academia and industry. Janie was one of the founders of this program.

To quote from the ACM Press Release, " Irwin’s landmark contribution is the design of the first architecture for Discrete Wavelet Transform, a process that decomposes a signal into a set of basic functions. This advance provides optimal performance for signal processing and image compression used in computer-aided design. To address bottlenecks in hardware design progress resulting from poor design tools, Irwin developed a new addition algorithm, known as ELM, which offers superior energy and performance characteristics that are now found in many computers. ... The Evan Pugh Professor of Computer Science at Penn State, Irwin holds the A. Robert Noll Chair in Engineering in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. She serves on the Computer Research Association’s Committee on Women (CRA-W) Steering Committee and the Board on Army Science and Technology as well as the External Research Advisory board of Microsoft Research.

Irwin was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering in 2003, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2009, and was named a Fellow of ACM in 1996. In 2007, she received the Anita Borg Technical Leadership Award. She has also served as a founding Co-Editor-in-Chief of ACM’s Journal on Emerging Technologies (JETC) from 2004 to 2006, and Editor-in-Chief of ACM’s Transactions on the Design Automation of Electronic Systems (TODAES) from 1998-2004. She was vice president of ACM from 1997 to 1998."

Congratulations on your award, Janie, and thanks for your inspiration and all your efforts on behalf of women in computing!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

New Ambassador from India: Gayatri Buragohain

Welcome to our newest ACM-W Ambassador, Gayatri Buragohain of India. We are excited about Gayatri's coming on board since she is has lots of experience encouraging girls and women in IT.

Gayatri is organizing an ACM-W (ACM's Council on Women in Computing) event on the evening of 21st January 2010. This event is an effort to encourage women in computing in India to network and organize to form a community which works towards improving working and learning environments for women in computing in India.

The event will be held on 21st January 2010, from 5.45pm to 7.30pm at the Hotel Taj Residency, Bangalore. It will be held just after the ACM India Launch Event.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Reaching Out and Outreach
Ambassador: Mary Anne Egan, United States

There are several projects keeping me busy this year. First, the Student IMPACT alternative programming contest continues (www.cs.siena.edu/~maegan/impact). The template of a full day program for mathematically talented high school juniors (16 year olds) introducing them to various areas of computer science and using their new found knowledge to compete against other schools has been used across the country. Locally, it was held again at Siena College, Loudonville, NY, in January 2009 during a snow storm. Despite the weather, many schools participated and learned a lot about computer science. The topics this year included database integrity, geographic information systems, programming, computer security and problem solving. The chaperones accompanying each team include a faculty advisor and guidance counselor. Based on pre and post surveys of the adults that accompany their teams, we know we have made a difference. Before attending IMPACT, a majority of the adults were “not very likely to recommend” a computer related major to their talented math students. After attending IMPACT, the responses were “likely to recommend” and that the program made them “more aware of what a college student does as a CS or IS major”. We have already had schools request the date of the next IMPACT day to ensure funding for transportation and substitute teacher costs for the day.

Another project that I have been involved with is a service-learning initiative supported by Siena College and various national grants. The Campus/Community Consortium of the Capital Region (4CR) is an academic service learning network which aims to create and sustain strong community partnerships, integrate the academic service learning pedagogy into the classroom and community, and work towards community development. 4CR is guided by the principles of community voice, student engagement, faculty commitment and social responsibility. With the integration of service to the community into traditional course work, we hope to widen the students’ perspective without sacrificing academic rigor. This semester, I will be teaching Introduction to Computer Science (CS1) and will require students to create animations and interactive games for a local agency working with children. It is my goal to expand this service learning initiative beyond the local community and into the global community with several projects in the planning stages for future semesters.

Work has begun on an international initiative with ambassadors from Australia, Great Britain, United States and Turkey. Several of us will be presenting at Grace Hopper in October on “Multi-level International programs working to change perceptions about IT courses and careers”. More to come on this at a later time.

Finally, the local Women in CS community has grown. The ACM-W student chapter has been officially accepted and now appears in all college listings of clubs and activities for students. Funding through alums and Grace Hopper has provided the ability to bring four undergraduate students and a high school student to the Grace Hopper Conference this year. And, the club is active with local high schools, even providing mentoring and support during the FIRST Robotics build season

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A German Kiwi in Berlin
Ambassador: Annika Hinze, New Zealand

It is an interesting thing to visit your country of origin after several years. The New Zealand ambassador has just completed a six month secondment to the Humboldt University in Berlin.

Just as in other countries, women in computer science are a rare breed in Germany (less than 15%). To strengthen their situation, each German university has a full-time women's representative - some are called 'equal opportunity commissioner' so as not to discriminate against men. Additionally each computer science department has elected one of their female employees or students as a part-time women's representative. One can also imagine how every female faculty member (together with the department-based women's representative) is encouraged to plan girls' days, participate in never-ending appointment boards, run projects for women and so on. Thus the few women available carry a double load: They typically are torn between advancing their own career and supporting other women in Computer Science. On the other hand, a lot of women involved in attracting women to computing are organising these activities in their spare time or give up on computer science research altogether.

FiNCA provides a different solution. FiNCA is a project at the Adlershof campus of Humboldt University (http://www.hu-berlin.de/ueberblick/adlershof/finca) . The project's name- 'Frauen in den Naturwissenschaften am Campus Adlershof'- translates as Women in Science at Campus Adlershof. The under-representation of women at the science park Adlershof, especially in computer science and physics, is addressed by projects, series of lectures, girls-days, and mentoring initiatives. The lynch pin of these activities is Martha Gutsche, who is funded by the university to coordinate the FinCA projects. The main goal of FinCA is the creation of a female network that involves women at all levels: schools, universities and non-academic institutions. One of the recent lectures organized by the FiNCA club was a talk by Annemieke Craig, ACM-W Ambassador Program chair about measuring the success of intervention programmes for women in computing (http://www.hu-berlin.de/ueberblick/adlershof/finca/fincaklub).

For the NZ ambassador, it is now time to go back to New Zealand to organize the 2010 Computing Women Congress (www.cwc.org.nz)