‘Maker’ within Constraints: Exploratory Study of Young Learners Using Arduino at a High School in India
Contributors: Sowmya Somanath, Lora Oehlberg, Janette Hughes, Ehud Sharlin, Mario Costa Sousa

Do-it-yourself (DIY) inspired activities have gained popularity as a means of creative expression and self-directed learning. However, DIY culture is difficult to implement in places with limited technology infrastructure and traditional learning cultures. Our goal is to understand how learners in such a setting react to DIY activities. We present observations from a physical computing workshop with 12 students (13-15 years old) conducted at a high school in India. We observed unique challenges for these students when tackling DIY activities: a high monetary and psychological cost to exploration, limited independent learning resources, difficulties with finding intellectual courage and assumed technical language proficiency. Our participants, however, overcome some of these challenges by adopting their own local strategies: resilience, nonverbal and verbal learning techniques, and creating documentation and fallback circuit versions. Based on our findings, we discuss a set of lessons learned about makerspaces in a context with socio-technical challenges.

https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=3025849 

 

A Pedagogical Framework for Computational Thinking
Contributors: Donna Kotsopolous, Lisa Floyd, Steven Khan, Immaculate Kizito Namukasa, Sowmya Somanath, Jessica Weber, Chris Yiu

This research proposes a Computational Thinking Pedagogical Framework (CTPF), developed from constructionism and social-constructivism theories. CTPF includes four pedagogical experiences: (1) unplugged, (2) tinkering, (3) making, and (4) remixing. Unplugged experiences focus on activities implemented without the use of computers. Tinkering experiences primarily involve activities that take things apart and engaging in changes and/or modifications to existing objects. Making experiences involve activities where constructing new objects is the primary focus. Remixing refers to those experiences that involve the appropriation of objects or components of objects for use in other objects or for other purposes. Objects can be digital, tangible, or even conceptual. These experiences reflect distinct yet overlapping CT experiences which are all proposed to be necessary in order for students to fully experience CT.

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40751-017-0031-2

 

Engaging ‘At-Risk’ Students through Maker Culture Activities
Contributors: Sowmya Somanath, Laura Morrison, Janette Hughes, Ehud Sharlin, Mario Costa Sousa

This paper presents a set of lessons learnt from introducing maker culture and DIY paradigms to 'at-risk' students (age 12-14). Our goal is to engage 'at-risk' students through maker culture activities. While improved technology literacy is one of the outcomes we also wanted the learners to use technology to realize concepts and ideas, and to gain freedom of thinking similar to creators, artists and designers. We present our study and a set of high level suggestions to enable thinking about how maker culture activities can facilitate engagement and creative use of technology by 1) thinking about creativity in task, 2) facilitating different entry points, 3) the importance of personal relevance, and 4) relevance to education.

https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2839482

 

ReservoirBench: An Interactive Educational Reservoir Engineering Workbench
Contributors: Sowmya Somanath, Allan Rocha, Hamidreza Hamidi, Ehud Sharlin, Mario Costa Souza

ReservoirBench is an interactive workbench for educational geological science and engineering tasks. It is designed to facilitate education of novice audiences to teach them basic concepts of reservoir modeling and simulation workflow. Traditional training using lectures and software practice can lead to information overload, and retainability is questionable. As an alternative, we propose a physical workbench that is coupled with digital augmentation for the purpose of learning. We take advantage of the crucial role that spatiality and 3D representations play in petroleum reservoir modeling and allow basic domain concepts to be introduced and explored in a tangible and experiential manner. We describe the design of our prototype and reflect on the findings from our preliminary design critique.

https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-22701-6_26

 

The Concept of DIY as an Educational Model for Indian Public Schools
Contributors: Sowmya Somanath, Janette Hughes, Ehud Sharlin, Mario Costa Sousa

This research presents the concept of do-it-yourself (DIY) as an education model for Indian public schools. The concept explores introducing physical computing as a tool for bolstering learning and creative exploration of STEM concepts.

http://utouch.cpsc.ucalgary.ca/docs/IndiaDIY_SowmyaSomanath.pdf 

 

Grasping the t-test: Designing an Interactive System to Communicate Statistics
Contributors: Sowmya Somanath, Ian Hargreaves, Ehud Sharlin, Kazuki Takashima, Edward Tse

Increasingly, decision making is being informed by access to large amounts of data and statistical analysis. However, many decision makers don’t have formal statistical training. In this paper, we propose an interactive system that uses touch and visualizations to accurately communicate statistical concepts to novice audiences. Specifically, we report on the challenges of designing a system to communicate the results of a common statistical comparison (t-tests) to business audiences at a technology company. Our visualization attempts to clarify data anomalies that are often neglected while presenting t-test results (i.e. bimodal data, low sample size, and outliers) via data behaviour and the inclusion of common physical metaphors associated with communication of statistics (i.e. ‘pulling out outliers’). Our iterative design process ultimately led us to draw upon data physicalization techniques such as constructive visualization in order to inform our solution.

http://utouch.cpsc.ucalgary.ca/docs/Graspingt-test_CHIWorkshop_SowmyaSom...

 

Information Visualization Techniques for Exploring Oil Well Trajectories
Contributors: Sowmya Somanath, Sheelagh Carpendale, Ehud Sharlin, Mario Costa Sousa

We present a set of interactive 3D visualizations, designed to explore oil/gas reservoir simulation post-processing models. With these visualizations we aim to provide reservoir engineers with better access to the data within their 3D models. We provide techniques for exploring existing oil well trajectories, and for planning future wells, to assist in decision making. Our approach focuses on designing visualization techniques that present the necessary details using concepts from information visualization. We created three new visualization variations lollipop-up, information circles and path indicator, which present well trajectory specific information in different visual formats. Our paper describes these visualizations and discusses them in context of our exploratory evaluation.

https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2619673

 

‘Explorances’ or Why (Some) Physical Entities Help Us Be More Creative
Contributors: Sowmya Somanath, Ehud Sharlin, Mario Costa Sousa

We believe that every physical entity has a set of attributes that defines the degree of how creatively it can be used. For example, the affordances, abstractness and modular nature of Lego™ blocks allows them to take on different forms of expression that showcases varying levels of human creativity (e.g. building alphabets, creating homes etc.). Similarly, when a DIY designer uses bottles to build houses, it projects his creative skills, but at the same time it speaks about the materiality, affordances and embodiment of the bottle which lends itself readily to creative and novel interaction design efforts. This theory, that every entity has a set of attributes that allows them to lend themselves more or less readily to creative and novel interactive design explorations is what we call explorances and is the focus of our proposed work.

https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2628351

 

Beyond Actuated Tangibles: Introducing Robots to Interactive Tabletops
Contributors: Sowmya Somanath, Ehud Sharlin, Mario Costa Sousa

Tangible user interfaces (TUIs) have been shown to support interaction on tabletops and interactive surfaces. We propose integrating robots as interactive partners in tabletop interfaces. We suggest a continuum of physical interfaces on interactive tabletops, starting from static tabletop TUIs, progressing to actuated TUIs and ending with small social tabletop robots that provide an engaging, partner-like interaction experience. In this report we motivate a vision of interactive robotic assistants and present our design of Spidey, a tabletop robot prototype. We conclude with findings from a focus group observation session reflecting on designing tabletop interaction mediated by touch, actuated TUIs, and social robots.

http://utouch.cpsc.ucalgary.ca/docs/BeyondActuatedTangibles-TEI2013.pdf 

 

Point It, Split It, Peel It, View It: Techniques for Interactive Reservoir Visualization
Contributors: Nicole Sultanum, Sowmya Somanath, Ehud Sharlin, Mario Costa Sousa

Reservoir engineers rely on virtual representations of oil reservoirs to make crucial decisions relating, for example, to the modeling and prediction of fluid behavior, or to the optimal locations for drilling wells. Therefore, they are in constant pursue of better virtual representations of the reservoir models, improved user awareness of their embedded data, and more intuitive ways to explore them, all ultimately leading to more informed decision making. Tabletops have great potential in providing powerful interactive representation to reservoir engineers, as well as enhancing the flexibility, immediacy and overall capabilities of their analysis, and consequently bringing more confidence into the decision making process. In this paper, we present a collection of 3D reservoir visualization techniques on tabletop interfaces applied to the domain of reservoir engineering, and argue that these provide greater insight into reservoir models. We support our claims with findings from a qualitative user study conducted with 12 reservoir engineers, which brought us insight into our techniques, as well as a discussion on the potential of tabletop-based visualization solutions for the domain of reservoir engineering.

https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2076390