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Mount Union Senior Participates in Summer Internship Funded By National Science Foundation

August 7, 2006

Mount Union senior Nicholas Hammonds of Minerva is spending his summer as a research assistant at Iowa State University. As a media computing major, Hammonds is participating in the Summer Program for Interdisciplinary Research and Education for Emerging Interface Technologies (SPIRE-EIT). The program, funded by the National Science Foundation, is in its first year and involves fifteen students from across the nation working in multiple disciplines.

Iowa State University created SPIRE-EIT as an undergraduate internship to study the increasing dependence of humans on computers and to develop new and more efficient ways to utilize technology. The program began June 2 and will end on August 5. During the program Hammonds and the fourteen other participants will be working in various research groups. The groups are conducting research in teams that mix multiple disciplines. Participating students have a wide range of educational backgrounds that include computer science, the arts, psychology and engineering. In addition to conducting research they also maintain a blog that reports on their progress and their research findings. The students participate in classes, seminars and are immersed in research projects that focus on Human Computer Interaction (HCI).

Hammonds' involvement began in his Advanced Media Computing class with Dr. Louise Moses, professor of computer science and information systems. The class discussed plans for the summer and Hammonds voiced an interest in a summer internship. Soon after, Dr. Moses received an e-mail from the Special Interest Group for Computer Human Interaction (SIGCHI) in connection with the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) asking for students to apply for the program at Iowa State University. Moses immediately began to encourage Hammonds to submit an application. Hammonds, who is a music minor, in addition to his technical background was equipped to give an artist's perspective to the program.

'There was a national competition to apply for a limited number of spots but Nick, because of his excellent work in the media computing program, was a good candidate,' said Moses.

Once in Iowa, Hammonds was quickly challenged to come up with new and unique perspectives in the programs' 3D modeling course. After orientation the group got right to work on 3D models. Hammonds has developed 3D models of a temple, hammer and a Ford Gt40 race car. Other courses taught within the program were a Human Computer Interaction course that discussed the increasing dependence of humans on technology, an introductory programming course that introduced the basics of C++, and a computer ethics course that discussed the boundaries of computing.

As the program comes to an end, the groups are finalizing their research projects. Hammonds group is working on Haptics-Based Interactive Product Development in Virtual Reality. The things Hammonds has learned are being put to the test, however he revealed his true feelings about the program.

'It's a fascinating combination of coursework and research that has really opened my eyes to the experiences of graduate students. I really enjoyed the learning experience and the opportunity to work with emerging technology,' he said.

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