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computer science

mohammadImagine yourself as a law enforcement or homeland security official who could examine a hostage photo and accurately decipher the location of where it was taken to track down the culprits. Or picture yourself as a store owner who is able to analyze photos of people entering your store and be able to tell their precise ages or ethnicities to help with your marketing efforts. Or pretend you’re an anthropologist researching human migration and you are able to see who is moving to which countries or regions through the use of “big data” via thousands of pictures.

The ability to accurately do so does not yet exist, at least not on a consistent basis. Sure, photos can be analyzed for clues as to location, ethnicities of individuals and ages. And sometimes accurate assessments are made. But unless obvious markers – such as a picture of a well-known landmark like the Eiffel Tower – are in the photos, the success rate is not consistently accurate, according to Mohammad Tarik Islam, an assistant professor of computer science at Southern.

But Islam has been developing algorithms with the use of “big data” that are already showing promising results. And he is optimistic that the ability to track down locations and other information from photos will continue to improve.

“It’s a very exciting field of research,” Islam said. “We are basically teaching computers to identify patterns – in essence, to learn.”

Islam has completed a first stage of this new technology with a project called “Geo-Faces.” He had downloaded 1.8 million images of people from Flickr, though most were from the United States and Western Europe. He tested the projected locations via the computer algorithm with the actual location and found it to be 26-percent accurate. While relatively low in accuracy, it was 13 times better than chance as the computer was asked to choose from 50 cities as the location – a 2-percent chance if done randomly.

He followed up that test with a new project, “Geo-Faces X.” It again attempted to determine the location of the photo based on analyzing the faces of individuals in the pictures. But this time, it entailed gathering 40 million Internet images from 173 countries around the world. The test proved to be 22-percent accurate.

“That might not seem very impressive, but the random chance of guessing the right city is less than 1 percent with 173 choices,” Islam said. “We have a lot of work to do, but it’s an impressive start.”

Most recently, Islam has taken that data set from Geo-Faces X and began a project that tested the computer’s ability to link the ethnicity, age and gender of the individuals depicted with location. The preliminary results are encouraging. He said the computer projected the correct location 90 percent of the time using ethnicity, and 70 percent of the time using gender. Age proved not to be a significant factor, he said.

He has begun testing to see if things such as clothing, houses and trees can accurately project location of photos.

Islam, who graduated last spring with a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Kentucky, is a former system engineer in Bangladesh. His co-authored Geo-Faces work was published last year in the EURASIP Journal on Image and Video Processing.

Women and computer science

Southern’s efforts to bolster computer science education in the region have caught the attention of the White House.

SCSU is mentioned in a White House fact sheet released Sept. 14 to highlight the efforts of schools and other organizations across the nation that expand access to computer science, particularly at the K-12 level. A summit was held on the same day at the White House to celebrate recent commitments to improve computer science education as part of President Barack Obama’s Computer Science for All initiative.

SCSU had submitted materials to the White House that showcase the university’s push. Lisa Lancor, chairwoman of the SCSU Computer Science Department, and Winnie Yu, a computer science professor coordinating this effort, were notified last Friday that Southern would be recognized.

“It is great to see this national effort to expand computer science offerings at the K-12 level – an initiative that is certainly needed,” said Lisa Lancor, chairwoman of the SCSU Computer Science Department. “We are merely tying in what we’ve been doing, and it is wonderful to see that the White House is recognizing our contributions.

Yu agreed.

“Being selected by the White House for recognition is a boost to the morale of our students and faculty,” Yu said.

The three principal SCSU projects are:

*A commitment to increase the number of women majoring in computer science at SCSU from the current 13.8 percent to 25 percent within two years. It is part of SCSU’s participation in the National Center for Women in Technology’s Pacesetters program.

*A training program for high school teachers on mobile computing so that the teachers can more effectively teach their students. Mobile computing is being taught in more than 200 schools across the country, including some in Connecticut.

*A mentoring program in which at least 10 Southern computer science students will conduct weekly, after-school mini program lessons in computer programming to 20-30 middle school students at Beecher Museum Magnet School of the Arts and Sciences in New Haven. The program began more than a year ago.

Michael Kuszpa, a middle school science teacher at Beecher, said he is excited that the mentoring program is continuing. He said his students have been learning various 21st century computer coding skills, ranging from building smart phone applications to coding simple computer programs.

“The interaction between SCSU’s students and the middle school students of Beecher has helped spark a much needed interest among our students into the field of computer science — a high demand STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) career field,” said Kuszpa, who also is a student in SCSU’s Ed.D. (Doctor of Education) in educational leadership program.

According to the White House, nine out of 10 parents would like computer science to be taught at their child’s school, but by some estimates, only a quarter of K-12 schools offer a computer science course with programming included. The need for such skills across industries continues to grow rapidly, with 51 percent of all STEM jobs projected to be in computer science-related fields by 2018, the White House said.

Furthermore, some estimates show that three-quarters of U.S. schools do not offer a single computer science course with programming, according to the White House, which adds that lack of access is even worse for communities traditionally underrepresented in computer science and other STEM fields. In fact, the White House said that only 22 percent of students who took the Advanced Placement computer science exam in high school were girls, and just 13 percent were African-American or Latino students.

“Today’s job market, research and development is hungry for computer science-related skills,” Yu said. “We are deeply committed to fostering computational thinking and analytical skills in our students, especially among women and underrepresented groups who might otherwise not consider computer science as a potential career path. To meet these needs, our mission is to provide access, as well as to build inclusive excellence.”

 

 

 

blogdeepweb1
Although not as well known as its Surface Web cousin, the Deep Web can provide people with a wealth of information on myriad topics.

You’ve probably heard that people use only about 5 to 10 percent of their brain. (As pointed out in a previous post, that’s actually a myth. We use our entire brain.) Nevertheless, the 5- to 10-percent figure is popularly believed.

In a similar vein, only about 4 percent of the World Wide Web is part of the Surface Web (sometimes called the Visible Web), the part that is easily accessible to people. And that isn’t a myth.

Lisa Lancor, chairwoman of the Computer Science Department at Southern, points out that about 96 percent of the World Wide Web lives in the “Deep Web.” The precise percentage is impossible to calculate, but most experts believe it falls somewhere between 95 and 99+ percent.

The Deep Web includes those items that are not indexed by popular search engines, such as Google and Yahoo! It can be anything from new Web pages that an agency does not wish to go public with at the moment; to classified information from governmental agencies or other organizations; to searchable databases.

If you are using a library database, you are probably in the Deep Web. Tax collection information controlled by municipalities is another example.

Lancor says that sometimes people confuse the Deep Web with the Dark Web. The Dark Web is only a relatively small part of the Deep Web. Many illegal operations, such as “Silk Road” until it was shut down by the FBI, exist on the Dark Web. (Silk Road was an electronic marketplace for illegal drugs.) She notes that the Dark Web is rife with illegal activity. But she points out that not everything on the Dark Web is bad or illegal. For example, conversations with political dissidents by journalists or U.S. government officials, are conducted on the Dark Web as a means to try to maintain anonymity.

But the Deep Web has much in the way of valuable information that is not as easily accessible as on the surface Web. Many databases on a vast array of subjects are part of the Deep Web.

“A slew of resources are available to explore the Deep Web, including meta-search engines, semantic databases and some pay-for-search services,” Lancor says. She points to a list of Deep Web tools recently published by Online College Blog as potentially valuable to Internet users.

Other special pieces of software are also available to surf the Deep Web (including the Dark Web) with the intent of doing so anonymously. But Lancor cautioned that it is best to assume that those networks have been compromised by government intelligence operations.