University of Calgary

More than programming

UToday HomeDecember 12, 2012

St. Martin De Poores students from Airdrie tour the LINDSAY lab. Photo by Riley BrandtSt. Martin De Porres students from Airdrie tour the LINDSAY lab. Photo by Riley BrandtFrom going beyond the fingerprint to recognizing your walk, to better understanding viruses, to human-computer interactions, to bringing human physiology to life in LINDSAY the Virtual Human, junior-high and high school students saw firsthand some of the areas they could pursue in computer science at the University of Calgary.

On Dec. 11, about 100 students from the Calgary area toured six labs in the Computer Science Department as part of Computer Science Education Week. This is an international event highlighting how computers have transformed our world and the need to increase computer science at all educational levels.

“We wanted to show the students that computer science is not just about math. It’s not just about programming,” says Mea Wang, assistant professor in the Computer Science Department in the Faculty of Science. “We wanted to show them that programming is a stepping stone to get to something bigger and higher.”

Wang says five out of the six labs are very visual, incorporating graphical elements for everything from designing robots and interfaces, protecting information from hackers to measuring the motion of speed skaters to improve their technique. The biometric lab, for example, is taking big strides in using human physiological data for screening and security.

“Right now we use fingerprints as a way of recognizing passwords, but they’re looking at how you walk,” says Wang. “Everyone walks with certain pattern and they’re working on how to distinguish one pattern from another, then the computer will be able to know if you are the actual person that is trying to get authorization from the system.”

Students eyed up the labs for SurfNet, LINDSAY, Video and Motion Analysis, Biometric Technologies, Interactions and the Institute for Security, Privacy and Information Assurance.

“When I was in high school, even when I was an undergrad, tours like this would have definitely broadened my vision about computer science,” says Wang.

The Computer Science Department worked with local junior-high and high school teachers through the Computer Science Teachers Association to organize the tours.