The University of Kentucky Center for Visualization & Virtual Environments

Seeing Math in a New Way

For most freshmen, the easiest part of Math 109 is looking at a graph. Actually understanding how the graph relates to the equation may be another story, but seeing the points and general shape of the graph causes no problem. However, Haden Pike, a visually impaired freshman studying computer science, has the opposite problem – “I understand what the function was, but exactly how it was graphed, I had no idea.”

As a computer science student, he must take certain math classes. Haden had a math tutor, but he needed a way to visualize the graphs when he was studying on his own. The Math Department enlisted Bill Gregory of the Vis Center to develop a way to help Haden succeed in class.

Originally, Bill wanted to use the Vis Center’s 3D printer to make a 3D print of each graph. However, it took two or three hours to print one graph, so it was not a practical way to help Haden visualize the graphs. Instead, Bill used a laser cutter and GeoGebra, a freeware program, to generate a graph. The line of the function was indented, so Haden could run a pen along the indentation and gather enough information about the graph to understand the function’s graph.

With Haden relying totally on tactile feedback, Bill needed to work out some kinks. The extra grid lines often confused Haden, so Bill made these lines very faint. Haden also had trouble finding the graph’s origin, so Bill put a hole on the graph to denote it.
Haden says, “It helped me understand visually what the expression was.” The Vis Center’s models allowed Haden to review on his own time; he could refer back to his notes and have a physical representation of the graph examples from class. Haden is considering a career in teaching computer science; he said, “So along with computer science that I also enjoy, why not teaching?”

As Cases Surge, a Professor’s Son Leads Him to Autism Research

Sen-Ching Cheung, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Kentucky, never expected to become an autism expert.

But Mr. Cheung, the father of a 5-year-old boy with autism­, has seen his career take a twist that mirrors the unpredictable nature of the disease itself: He is putting his digital-imaging skills to work on what he hopes will be a promising technological therapy for autistic children. He is one of a number of scientists seeking federal support for their approaches to autism research, which has an increasingly vocal public constituency and is nearing what could be crucial advances.

Read the rest of the article here.

Integrating Digital Papyrology (IDP)

Learning how people lived during ancient times requires piecing together clues likes a jigsaw puzzle. One good source of these clues is the bits and pieces of papyri that have been preserved across centuries. These bits of papyrus may contain a shopping list, a land contract or other information that tells us how these ancient people lived their day-to-day lives.

However, studying these various papyri has been a great challenge given their fragility and difficulty of access. Recently Vis Center researchers collaborated with a team from Duke University to create a new online system for papyrological research. Dr. Joshua Sosin from Duke University and Ryan Baumann from the University of Kentucky were part of the team that worked together on the project called Integrating Digital Papyrology (IDP). The final product is an online editing system for collaborative editing.
The greatest challenge of this project was to make the system user-friendly. In order to create the editing tools, the team had to create a new programming language called Leiden+ which combines XML and papyrological markup language. The system also allows for translation edits for each papyri and for other notes to be made. The user submits the changes to a board that then authorizes the changes to be made.

Allowing easy access for researchers to communicate about revisions for the text accelerates the pace of research. The team hopes that the online system will replace the slow pace of print mechanisms for publishing these papyi. Dr. Sosin points out that given the rarity of these papyri that “every bit of data is deadly precious” which means the online system presents a real opportunity for deepened research for the e-papyrological community.

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