Hiram College

Stefan Maurer, a senior computer science major, recently won third place at the Association for Computing Machinery Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education’s (ACM SIGCSE) Student Research Competition. Because of his third place finish, Maurer will be moving on to compete in the Grand Finals competition.

The Student Research Competition is one part of the ACM SIGCSE Symposium on Computer Science Education, an 1100-attendee conference, which took place on March 10 through 13 in Milwaukee, Wis. Maurer presented his research on “Intrusion Detection: Analysis of Student Behavior” from Professor of Computer Science Ellen Walker’s Artificial Intelligence (Spring ‘09) class.

Placing third was no easy task. Maurer first had to present a poster detailing his research to both competition attendees and a panel of judges.

“Primarily, my poster had a table on it that described how the Smith-Waterman Algorithm was used in my project, and was what I used more than anything else off of my poster,” Maurer said. “Aside from the regular people that asked about the poster, there were also three judges that were assigned to evaluate my poster as well as how well I was able to explain my research. It was up to the judges to decide whether or not they let me know they were a judge, so I had to assume everyone approached me was a judge.”

From here, Maurer had to give a presentation on his research. Luckily, through his Artificial Intelligence class and his Independent Research Component (IRC) presentation, he had experience giving his presentation.

“Only the top 5 posters made it to the presentations,” he said. “Each presentation was to last about 15 minutes, including time for questions and answers. When I presented my research for my second IRC in artificial intelligence, I was given 20 minutes – 15 for my presentation, five for questions and answers. Even during my IRC presentation, I was short on time, and was not able to present all the information I wanted to. With five less minutes, I had to cut out a lot of information I would have otherwise covered, as well as consolidate the rest of it. In the end, my 15 minute presentation was over before I knew it, and I just barely got though my entire presentation. My presentation covered sections such as: why my research is relevant, approach to solving the problem, how I went about my research, results, and conclusions.”

Being selected to attend the competition wasn’t easy either. Maurer had to submit an extended abstract about his research and was one of eleven chosen for presentation.

“There are several reasons I submitted my abstract to the conference,” he said. “First of all, I am proud of my work, and was happy to show other people what I had accomplished. Presenting my work was just another challenge I was eager to conquer – whether I won or not. Either way, it was good experience for later in life. Second, it gave me an opportunity to show people what computers were capable of.”

These are not the only reasons why he wanted to participate in the competition, however. He said that he knew before he entered college that he wanted to pursue computer science, and that the faculty at Hiram have only broadened his love of the field.

“The last reason I chose to participate in this competition was to represent not only Hiram College, but also the computer science department,” he said. “Although as a department we are fairly small, I feel that Ellen [Walker, professor of computer science], Louis [Oliphant, assistant professor of computer science], and Obie [Slotterbeck, professor emeritus of computer science] have all done an excellent job in expanding my knowledge of the field, and that the department could always use some kind of recognition.”

Maurer said he is strengthening his presentation to prepare for the Grand Finals.

“One of the weaknesses in my research is my lack of significant results,” he said. “In order to get significant results, I would need more accurate behavior data from a variety of people. As part of my independent research this semester, I am gathering data to not only test my intrusion detection system so that I can gather more significant research, but also so that I may improve the efficiency of my system through the use of a genetic algorithm. The next round of competition requires that I submit a 5 page description of my research, and I hope to include all that I am doing now in my Independent Research in this paper.”

He is also gaining more valuable practice for giving his presentation.

“On April 8 at 6 p.m. the computer science department will be presenting all the research done this semester, as well as my independent research on this project,” he said.

After Hiram he plans to enter the workforce.

“I am currently planning on seeking an industrial programming job that will challenge my abilities to a greater extent,” he said. “At some point, I plan on returning to education in order to achieve a Masters degree, and perhaps even a doctorate so that I may become a professor of computer science.”