December 5, 2019
Emmanuel Computer Science Research Team Presents At Blocks & Beyond Workshop

Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Director of Integrated Digital & Data Sciences Initiative (IDDS) Mark Sherman and two Emmanuel students presented at the Blocks & Beyond workshop at the Visual Languages and Human-Centric Computing Conference in Memphis, Tenn., on October 18th.

Emma Brousseau '20 and Michael "Mickey" Barron '22 served as research assistants to Dr. Sherman over the past year, working on research regarding computational identity and blocks-based programming. Both students had the opportunity to present on their own research.

"The Blocks and Beyond Workshop was an interesting and exciting opportunity," said Barron. "It provided numerous ideas and allowed for constructive and interesting discourse amongst researchers from around the world. It also helped nurture new and continuing research opportunities."

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Symposium on Visual Languages and Human-Centric Computing (VL/HCC) is the premier international forum for research on this topic. Established in 1984, the mission of the conference is to support the design, theory, application, and evaluation of computing technologies and languages for programming, modeling, and communicating, which are easier to learn, use, and understand by people.

Geared toward a very niche audience, as computer science is an ever changing field, the conference provides an opportunity for attendees to learn more about their field and even readjust based on the information they receive while participating.

"Having never been to a conference before, I found this to be an incredibly welcoming beginning," said Brousseau. "Not only did I see a wealth of research on blocks that has opened my eyes to new research opportunities, I left with a better idea of what I would be interested in pursuing in graduate school."

The other presentations given at the conference were centered around computational learning and how it can help students learn in a range of disciplines. For Dr. Sherman, one of the most beneficial aspects of the conference was getting a new perspective on the research he and his student researches had conducted.

"My biggest takeaway as a professor was the awareness of projects that reflect well with the research work my students and I were doing here at Emmanuel over the last year," said Sherman. "There were three projects in particular that appear to be an interesting application of our framework on computational identity."

Emmanuel students interested in learning more about computational learning can participate in the IDDS initiative, a comprehensive umbrella for an academic and co-curricular approach to introducing digital citizenship and literacy, data analytics and communication, and computer science. Starting with the recently created IDDS Digital Citizenship course and Intro to Programming course, the College is developing a series of scaffolding courses that can both stand alone in providing broad/deep content in the areas of data analytics and computer science, as well as provide links to other programs of study.

"Dr. Sherman and our students' participation in this conference offers a great reflection on the impact that the IDDS Initiative has already had on Emmanuel," said Chief Academic Officer/Vice President of Academic Affairs Josef Kurtz. "I look forward to seeing this initiative continue to grow and strengthen our students understanding and application of key concepts within these in-demand fields."

(From left to right): Dr. Mark Sherman, Emma Brousseau '20, and Michael Barron '22 at the Visual Languages and Human-Centric Computing Conference in Memphis, Tenn.

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