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VR-REU 2022: New Research Experience Program to Broaden Participation in Computing

Ten students will be attending the VR-REU research program at City University of New York (CUNY), Hunter College from June 6 – July 29, 2022.

Aisha Frampton-Clerk
CUNY Queensborough Community College

Amelia Roth
Gustavus Adolphus College

Ari Riggins
Princeton University

Deborah Rudin
University of Minnesota Twin Cities

Diego Rivera
Iona College

Mustapha Bouchaqour
CUNY New York City College of Technology

Nairoby Pena
Cornell University

Olubusayo Oluwagbamila
Rutgers University New Brunswick

Talia Attar
Cornell University

Zhenchao Xia
Stony Brook University

New York, NY — June 3, 2022 — The VR-REU program is a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) that enables undergraduate students to undertake multidisciplinary research projects in Immersive 3D Visualization and VR/AR/MR (Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality) at Hunter College. The intended impact is to use the creative potential of Immersive 3D technology to attract and broaden participation of women and underrepresented minorities in STEM and computing fields. Participants will also be provided training in immersive 3D visualization tools and technologies. This experience will include excursions and social events.

“I believe that the virtual, augmented and mixed reality technology helps to unleash the creativity of students and increases their interest in technology,” Wole Oyekoya, Associate Professor of Computer Science at Hunter College, said. “This program also provides the opportunity to be involved in building the metaverse with diversity, equity and inclusion in mind”.

The objective of the program is to inspire participating students to consider STEM as a career path and pursue STEM careers at the graduate level, and specifically target participation of women and underrepresented groups. The program identified research mentors with immersive visualization needs and pair each student with a research mentor. Research mentors include diverse faculty members not just from Computer Science but also from diverse fields including film and media, arts, health, journalism, social sciences and biological sciences. Research mentors include faculty members from eight CUNY colleges, University of Columbia and University of California, Santa Barbara.

Students will participate in mentored research projects in data driven research areas, including scientific visualization and visual analytics. Some of the planned research projects include: VR for aiding students with learning disabilities, MicroRNA (Ribonucleic Acid) as a regulator for cell lineage plasticity, immersive remote telepresence, sonifying the microbiome, and visualization of deep learning model architecture.

In addition to the exposure to cutting edge research, the students selected to participate will receive a travel stipend for one round trip to and from New York City, a housing allowance, a weekly stipend to cover living expenses and access to research faculty and VR/AR/MR resources to help facilitate their success in the program.

Two of our students (Aisha Frampton-Clerk and Diego Rivera) were also selected to receive a $10,000 fellowship through a new program, Last Mile Fellowship to Broaden Computing-Related REU Participation, that aims to improve diversity in computing-related research.

The VR-REU program is sponsored by NSF Grant No. 2050532 and is directed by the PI, Dr Wole Oyekoya. This funding supports Hunter College and CUNY in its mission to continue to provide higher education to a largely disadvantaged population that includes women and underrepresented minorities, immigrants or the children of immigrants and first-generation college students. This year’s program supports a diverse student cohort that is 70% female, 30% male, 40% African American, 20% Hispanic, 60% White, and 10% Asian.

Participants will present the results of their research on July 29, 2022 at Hunter College. Please contact the PI for more information.

Visualization of the food consumed during COVID

Visualization of the food consumed during COVID by Paul Grant, CUNY Hunter College

Frontiers in VR Paper

Our Paper, “Exploring First-Person Perspectives in Designing a Role-Playing VR Simulation for Bullying Prevention: A Focus Group Study” has been accepted in the Frontiers in Virtual Reality Journal.

ACM SUI Paper

Our paper, “Usability Evaluation of Behind the Screen Interaction” has been accepted at the ACM Spatial User interaction, SUI 2021.

PhD Student Position

I am seeking a PhD student to join my research lab in Fall 2022. More information available here.

NSF REU Award

Prof. Wole has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) award.

Title: REU Site: Research Experience for Undergraduates in Immersive 3D Visualization
Abstract: This Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Site award funds a new site to enable ten undergraduate students each year to undertake Immersive 3D Visualization research projects at Hunter College, City University of New York (CUNY). The intended impact is to use the creative potential of Immersive 3D technology to attract and broaden participation of women and underrepresented minorities in STEM and computing fields.

ACM ICVARS Paper

Our paper, “A Comparative Study of Smartphone, Desktop, and CAVE systems for Visualizing a Math Simulation” has been accepted at the ACM International Conference on Virtual and Augmented Reality Simulations, ICVARS 2021.

Immersion – Night-time Forest

Noman Ahmad, Victor Huang, Michelle Lucero, Alyssa Ma

This game examines a virtual reality experience that was created to emphasize environmental immersion. The goal was to combine lighting, sound, and user directional choice to simulate the most immersive experience possible. We incorporated a night-time forest as our environment setting in order to deliver this experience.

Poacher Protection Survival Game

Hannan Abid, Steffen Loh, Joseph Ruocco

This is a ”Poacher Protection” game where users can explore the endogenous (food and reproduction) and exogenous (poachers) factors affecting an ecosystem. The main objective when we first conceived our ”Poacher Protection” game centered around an exploratory animal protection experience. In this experience the user can take part in preventing poachers who are trying to kill the animals and see the consequences they (the poachers) have on the habitat. The goals are for (1) create an day-night environment and ”ecosystem” of randomly spawning wolves that roam the environment and ”consume” the grass objects. (2) a fence building mechanism for users to create a fence that they can place wolves into (3) A light pointing mechanism that can ward off predators that inhabit the environment during the night phase.

Portal VR Replica

Marko Grgic, Nixon Lazaro, Jiancong Lu

The aim of this project is to create a replica of Portal using VR. We ultimately chose the Portal idea because of the amount of features that we could add, such as:

  • Portal traversal – Moving through portals fired from a gun made for some interesting puzzle levels.
  • Object grabbing – Picking up objects and allowing them to interact with the world can add to the immersive puzzle qualities of the game.
  • Particle effects – Visually appealing special effects. This can include: fire, gun blasts, explosions, portal animations, etc.
  • Portal gun – A gun that allows the player to place portals on a particular surface. It is easy to implement and fun to use
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