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Dr. O'Kane Receives NSF Research Award for Robot Controllers

Dr. Jason O'Kane has received an NSF research award for his project entitled "Why is automating the design of robot controllers hard, and what can be done about it?" This project seeks to bring together new techniques for filtering and planning to improve reasoning and analysis steps employed during robot design. By understanding those parts of the design process that are typically conducted by hand and by asking which parts can be practically automated, the research has the potential to assist practitioners by scaling up the problems tackled, optimizing systems automatically, and ultimately freeing designers from low-level detail and elevating their use of time.

Dr. Terejanu Receives NSF Research Award

Dr. Gabriel Terejanu has received an NSF research award for his project is entitled "SciLAF: Scientific-based Learning Assessment Framework for Student Knowledge Tracking". The project addresses the fundamental challenge of assessing individual student's knowledge in cornerstone engineering classes with high student-to-faculty ratios. The goal is to develop a computational assessment framework that easily integrates into an instructor's routine efforts to track student knowledge, suggest remedial interventions, and guide future examinations.

NSF Award for Research on Coastal Robot Team

Dr. Rekleitis, Dr. Beer, and Dr. O'Kane have received an award from the NSF for their project "A Heterogeneous Team of Field Robots for Research into Coordinated Monitoring of Coastal Environments". The award will support the acquisition of a multi-robot team that can operate in coastal environments. Project Abstract:
This infrastructure proposal supports the acquisition of a multi-robot team suited for operations in coastal environments. The robot team consists of two underwater vehicles (AUVs), three surface vehicles (ASVs), as well as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs): two fixed-wing UAVs and two quadrocopters. The target domain is the coastal waters of South Carolina. In several applications such as environmental monitoring, homeland security, resource utilization, and contamination tracking, there is a need to track a mass of water, record a set of properties, such as salinity, temperature, presence of different substances, and also record the position and boundaries of the said body. The proposed infrastructure will enable computing research for addressing the above problems. This project revolves around enabling research on several CISE research fields at the University of South Carolina, including algorithmic development for multi-robot coordination, path-planning and state estimation; planning under uncertainty; sensor fusion from different modalities; and human-robot interaction.

Data Mining and Analytics of Transportation Data Grant Award

Dr. Jianjun Hu has received a grant award from the South Carolina Department of Transportation for his Data Mining and Analytics for Transportation Management project. This project will analyze large existing data sets concerning the usage and maintenance of equipment at the South Carolina Department of Transportation. The effort will assess SCDOT repair shop capability needs, capacity, skills, and tools/equipment. The analysis is expected to yield correlations and insights about the equipment, so that it can be maintained more effectively and at lower cost. The work will be performed by a team of graduate students in computer science and engineering under the direction of Dr. Hu.

CSE Department Named National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research

Under the leadership of Dr. Farkas, the department has been recognized as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research (CAE-R). We offer an undergraduate Cybersecurity specialization and a graduate Information assurance certificate under this program. The notification states:
Your ability to meet the increasing demands of the program criteria will serve the nation well in contributing to the protection of the National Information Infrastructure. The Presidents’ National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace, 14 February 2003 and the International Strategy for Cyberspace, May 2011, addresses the critical shortage of professionals with these skills and highlights the importance of higher education as a solution to defending America’s cyberspace. “Like all nations, the United States has a compelling interest in defending its vital national assets, as well as our core principles and values, and we are committed to defending against those who would attempt to impede our ability to do so.” Education is the key to promoting these ideals.
Official notification letter.

Cyber Defense Team Wins First Prize

Our Cyber Defense Team won first place at the Palmetto Cyber Defense Competition. The team also has the distinction of having the Most Valuable Player of the contest, Catharine West. Congratulations to all of them! The team members are, from left to right, Marshall Hollis (mentor), Ronni Wilkinson (mentor), Alex Cummings, Saljin LaRocca, Yasemin Pak (Co-Captain), Catharine West (Captain), Matt May, Adam Formenti. Charleston paper coverage. USC Cyber Security Club homepage. College coverage.

Graduate Student Awards

We are pleased to announce that two of our graduate students have received awards. Ping Liu has received the USC Outstanding Graduate Researcher award, and Daniel Pade received the Outstanding Graduate Instructor award. They are listed in the Graduate Student Day Awards Ceremony bulletin.

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Winner

Connor Bain We would like to congratulate Connor Bain for receiving the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. The NSF awarded the GRF to 2,000 individuals from among 16,500 applicants in 2015. The GRF provides three years of financial support within a five-year fellowship period ($34,000 annual stipend and $12,000 cost-of-education allowance to the graduate institution) for graduate study that leads to a research-based master's or doctoral degree in science or engineering. Update April 17, 2015, Connor Bain also wins USC Sullivan Award:
The University of South Carolina presented its top honors, the Algernon Sydney Sullivan and Steven N. Swanger awards, to four graduating seniors during the university’s annual Awards Day ceremony Thursday (April 16). Connor Patrick Bain, Adam Michael Mayer and Lindsay Nicole Richardson received Sullivan awards, the university’s highest honor for undergraduates. Sullivan awards are given each year to seniors for outstanding achievements, campus leadership, exemplary character and service to the community. The award, given at colleges and universities across the country, is named for the 19th-century New York lawyer and philanthropist. Bain of Columbia has maintained a 4.0 GPA while working toward dual degrees in computer science and mathematics. He is a Carolina Scholar and a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He was a Goldwater Scholar in 2014, a Magellan Scholar and a Udall Scholar honorable mention in 2013. At Carolina, he is the co-founder and director of Carolina Science Outreach, interns with Sustainable Carolina and the Office of Fellowships and Scholar Programs and he volunteers with Gamecock Connection. He is a member of Omicron Delta Kappa leadership honor society, Pi Mu Epsilon mathematics honorary society and Upsilon Pi Epsilon computing honor society. This year, he is developing an iPad app for Cocky’s Reading Express. Bain was a summer research assistant for computer science at both Harvard University and Duke University, a teaching assistant for the Duke Talent Identification Program and a writer for the Association of Computing Machinery. He has been a member of UofSC’s percussion ensemble for four years, and during his junior year he was a percussionist with the USC Opera Pit Orchestra and a member of the USC Symphony. Connor we are extremely proud of your accomplishments.

Dr. Thatcher Selected for Leadership in Science Policy Institute

Dr. Matt Thatcher has been selected to be part of CRA's Computing Community Consortium (CCC) Leadership in Science Policy Institute (LiSPI). As part of its mission to develop a next generation of leaders in the computing research community, CRA’s CCC holds LiSPI to educate computing researchers on how science policy in the U.S. is formulated and how our government makes and enforces science policy. LiSPI is centered on discussions with science policy experts, current and former Hill staff, and relevant agency and Administration personnel about mechanics of the legislative process, interacting with agencies, advisory committees, and the federal case for computing.

Alumni Profile: Aaron LaBerge

Aaron LaBerge ESPN has a profile on Aaron LaBerge, who received his BS from this department in 1996. LaBerge was named Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at ESPN in January.
LaBerge leads ESPN’s Technology division and is responsible for oversight and strategic leadership and direction of technology, and its marriage with ESPN’s content, across all media and businesses. He also serves on the The Walt Disney Company’s CTO Council and the Disney Research Advisory Board.
Full article from ESPN: Aaron LaBerge was named Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer in January 2015, reporting to John Skipper ESPN President and Co-Chairman, Disney Media Networks. LaBerge leads ESPN’s Technology division and is responsible for oversight and strategic leadership and direction of technology, and its marriage with ESPN’s content, across all media and businesses. He also serves on the The Walt Disney Company’s CTO Council and the Disney Research Advisory Board. Adoption and embrace of technology has been one of ESPN’s central hallmarks throughout its 35 year history. Under LaBerge, ESPN Technology works with all divisions of the company to create exceptional experiences for sports fans; develop and manage platform-agnostic technological solutions and standards; unleash the benefits of ESPN’s world-class technological infrastructure and facilities; design and build next-generation data, video and audio platforms; drive the company’s industry-leading innovation and advanced development work; as well as identify and service all other current and future technology needs. A passionate technologist and sports fan, LaBerge was named the successor to Charles E. “Chuck” Pagano in 2014, when Pagano announced his intention to retire. LaBerge is on his second stint at ESPN, having returned to ESPN in January 2013 as senior vice president, technology and product development after six years away as a technology entrepreneur. During his original stint at the company he was an integral leader in the growth and development of integrated technology solutions that help power, deliver and enhance ESPN’s content across all media. With Pagano and others, LaBerge was a key architect in the development and design of ESPN’s second Digital Center at its Bristol, Conn. headquarters. The 194,000-square-foot, future-proof facility is a format agnostic facility, capable of constantly adapting to the continued fast change of the technological landscape. It is capable of production of content in both 4K and 8K, can handle all existing media formats and future industry standards, handling data in multiple ways, signals at various rates and utilizing technology standards which haven’t even been adopted by the media industry yet. Additionally, under LaBerge, ESPN Technology supports the technological management and continued development of ESPN’s state-of-the-art facilities in Los Angeles, Charlotte, NC and Austin, Texas, as well as data centers in Bristol, CT, and the technological infrastructure that connects ESPN facilities around the world, including Seattle, Sao Paolo, Rio De Janeiro, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, London, Bangalore and Sydney. He played a central role in the technology design and development to support the launch of the SEC Network, including software applications and production technology, fiber connectivity between SEC-member schools and ESPN’s Charlotte facility, and has led the technology development that delivered exponential expansion of ESPN’s media encoding and distribution capability for live streaming of sports. Throughout his ESPN career, LaBerge has been instrumental in the growth of ESPN Digital Media, having been involved from its very early years through to its industry-leading position. He played an integral part the technological development for many of its most ambitious and challenging projects and played a key role in establishing ESPN’s position as a leader in the digital media landscape and in new technology development. Prior to his return, LaBerge was CEO of Fanzter Inc., a venture-funded consumer software and digital product development company he co-founded in 2007. He directed the development and launch of a variety of consumer-focused Internet and mobile products. In 2003, LaBerge was vice president, technology and business operations for, a role that expanded two years later to vice president, technology, for ESPN Digital Media where he was responsible for managing company wide digital technology initiatives and product development. In this role, he oversaw ESPN’s pioneering work in online and mobile video technologies and digital streaming technology development. He first joined ESPN in 1997, through Disney’s acquisition of Starwave Ventures, the company that produced ESPN’s earliest Internet products. Before joining Starwave, LaBerge worked as a senior software engineer at Renaissance Interactive, an early Internet development and consulting firm. He specialized in Internet-based publishing and content management systems. LaBerge is a native of Charleston, S.C. and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical and computer engineering from the University of South Carolina. He lives in Connecticut with his wife Michele, their sons John Douglas and Grayson, and their daughter Hanna. Aaron LaBerge LinkedIn profile

Outstanding Senior Awards

We are proud to announce the following winners of the CSE Annual Undergraduate Awards:
  • The Outstanding Senior in Computer Information Systems award goes to Alison Lucas.
  • The Outstanding Senior in Computer Science award goes to Connor Bain and Tyler Smith.
  • The Outstanding Senior in Computer Engineering award goes to Daniel Boydstun.
  • The South Carolina Professional Engineers' Award in Computer Engineering goes to Alexander Drake.
Outstanding Senior award winners will be honored at University Awards Day, April 16th at noon on the Horseshoe.

Speaking Clearly about CyberSecurity

Dr. Csilla Farkas Dr. Farkas talks about cyber security to USC News:
"There is a demand to explain cyber security concepts in a way that is understandable to the general public," says Csilla Farkas, a computer science professor in the College of Engineering and Computing. "We can’t expect business leaders to become cyber security experts, but the experts can learn to express cyber security threats in such a way that business executives can make informed decisions."
If you are interested in cybersecurity, apply for our cybersecurity specialization or certificate and drop by the Cybersecurity club. The full article: Imagine you’re a CEO trying to decide how much budget to devote to cyber security for your company. News headlines about disruptive hacks and cyber attacks have you worried, and the detailed technical explanations from the IT staff aren’t helping. "There is a demand to explain cyber security concepts in a way that is understandable to the general public," says Csilla Farkas, a computer science professor in the College of Engineering and Computing. "We can’t expect business leaders to become cyber security experts, but the experts can learn to express cyber security threats in such a way that business executives can make informed decisions." To that end, Farkas is using a grant awarded jointly from the Center for Teaching Excellence/Carolina Leadership Initiative to introduce a stronger communications component to a cyber security course. The idea was to introduce the students to leadership characteristics and public speaking attributes --- then have the students demonstrate those skills in a "shark tank" competition. "Students worked in small groups developing novel security technologies. In addition to detailed project reports, each group presented its proposed technology before a panel of external judges to obtain funding," Farkas said. "The catch was that some of the panel members were not computing professionals and the students couldn’t use any technical jargon to convince them about the significance of their research. I think the students improved a lot in communication skills." Computer information systems major David Brookins came into the course with a rudimentary understanding of cyber security issues and personal experience with attempting to explain the importance of safe browsing habits to his mom. "The course was structured in a way that explained the core concepts to us early on," he said "Once you have a thorough understanding of something, breaking it down to its core concepts and explaining those in a way a lay person would understand becomes much easier." "Over the break, for example, I was able to break down the idea behind a Distributed Denial of Service Attack to my mom to explain why I couldn't log into my Playstation." Student Aaron Hein liked the challenge of the course, especially the presentation to the judges. That exercise will probably become a routine reality when he joins the work force, he said. "The reality today is that business people hold the purse strings, and even in taking a corporate job one must often sell ideas, designs or the need for security to the people who have to pay for it," Hein said. "It's often not an easy sell. Dr. Farkas included that problem in with her security class in a meaningful way and gave us some insight into how to prepare for that type of presentation."

SpeedTree Software Wins Academy Award

Michael Sechrest, Chris King, and Greg Croft, all alumni of the Computer Science & Engineering department, have been awarded the Scientific and Technical Academy Award for SpeedTree. Their software has been used to generate trees for movies such as Avatar, The Avengers, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Iron Man 3, Maleficent, and many others.
Full press release:

Michael Sechrest

Chris King

Greg Croft
COLUMBIA, SC – SpeedTree®, the virtual vegetation software that has grown to dominate the worldwide visual effects and video game industries since its introduction in 2002, has received a Scientific and Technical Academy Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The announcement may be viewed at…. A Technical Achievement Award (Academy Certificate) will be presented at a ceremony in Beverly Hills, California, on February 7, 2015, to the three developers of SpeedTree: IDV cofounders Michael Sechrest and Chris King, and Senior Software Architect Greg Croft. The Scientific and Technical awards ceremony, first held in 1931, will be followed on February 22 by the globally-televised Oscars® presentation. "The list of people who made this possible is literally in the thousands," said Mr. Sechrest. "For more than a decade, we have received support, encouragement and invaluable insights from the best artists and engineers in the visual effects and game development industries. These customers, along with the rest of the SpeedTree team, deserve tremendous credit." This isn't SpeedTree's first brush with the Oscars. SpeedTree was featured prominently in 2009's Avatar, which received nine Oscar® nominations and three Oscars. Since then, dozens more movies have added SpeedTree to their special effects, including Oscar-winning and -nominated films like The Great Gatsby and The Wolf of Wall Street, as well as blockbusters like The Avengers, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Iron Man 3, and Maleficent. "SpeedTree is one of countless technologies and innovations that have enriched the cinematic experience for more than a century," observed Mr. King. "We are incredibly humbled by the Academy's recognition of our work. We’re in amazing company." SpeedTree, the 3D tree/vegetation toolkit featured in a growing list of high-end feature films and the best video games since 2002, delivers amazingly natural real-time trees and plants for realtime projects, high-end animations and architectural fly-throughs. SpeedTree includes SpeedTree Modeler, which offers a unique hybrid of hand and procedural modeling options. SpeedTree was created by Interactive Data Visualization, Inc. (IDV), founded in 1999 to develop graphic and visualization tools for a wide variety of industries. For more information, visit Coverage in The State Newspaper, CEC News. You can view their official press release.

Alumni Profile: Irene Au

Irene Au The USC News has a profile of Irene Au, who graduated in 1994 from the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) department. Our current CSE department is the result of a merger between the computer part of ECE and the Computer Science department.
She started at Netscape as an interaction designer, went on to Yahoo where she established the company’s user experience and design practice, then joined Google as head of design. With that foundation, Au built her career as a major strategist in the Web industry. Now 20 years after graduating from Carolina, she has taken another career leap as a partner for a venture capital firm, while also purposefully finding a place of balance in her life.
Her linkedin profile .