December 2022 concluded the 15-month journey of students in the master of software engineering (MSWE) and master of data science (MDS) programs. The two professional programs, offered by the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS) at UC Irvine, culminate in a capstone project, ensuring students graduate with hands-on, real-world experience. For some, this meant helping a robot learn to dance; for others, it meant applying data analytics to support the health of newborn babies.
“Capstone projects play an integral role in the academic development of students pursuing a graduate degree,” says MDS Program Director Bryan Muñoz. “The capstones also benefit the sponsoring companies, allowing them to preview emerging talent from the School of ICS.”
Highlighting MSWE Capstone Projects
This year marked the third graduating MSWE cohort and the program’s first in-person capstone celebration (others were held virtually because of COVID-19). The cohort’s 47 students, split into 11 groups, designed and implemented a substantial piece of software during their final quarter in the program.
“In ICS, we plan, execute and think of capstone projects as truly the feather in the student’s cap — the culmination of their academic studies, and the final bridge to their future employment,” says Informatics Professor Hadar Ziv, who has been leading capstone courses at UCI for more than a decade. “This student cohort was again successful in achieving and meeting the many goals of capstone, and demonstrated acquiring not only technical skills such as software design and coding, but also the soft skills and people skills that will serve them in their future jobs, careers and lives.”
On Dec. 6, each group presented their capstone work to faculty, fellow students and project partners, and three projects received special recognition.
The “best overall” award, as voted by all attendees, went to the coaching platform designed for GrasshopperFund, a startup marketplace and the first funding platform for youth-led startups. Developed by Tung-Hsuan Lin, A. Priyanka, Linzhi Liu, Sunsheng Su and Jianxiong Zheng, the platform provides personalized mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs.
A similar project, Get Mentored, received the “best pitch” award. Bin Guo, Jianlin Li, Vinnie Hsia and Yi Chen developed the web application, which connects students with mentors in different industries.
The “best tech” award went to the LabView project by Sudhir Maharaj, Changhao Liu, Trent Lilley and Shuaihua Niu. LabView offers a method for recognizing and tracking liquid droplets’ size and position in real time.
The remaining projects covered a variety of interests for a broad spectrum of users:
- The Elder Abuse Database, by Justin Grant, Xinnan Wu, Chih-Fan Chao and Jing Gu, helps the Elder Abuse Forensic Center better manage its cases.
- MUGIC, by Nahal Khalkhali, Michael Nguyen, Joseph Lee and Carolyn Lo, is an inertial motion sensor device that can track rotational movements, acceleration, isolated movements (such as jolts) and fluid movements (such as rolls or tilts).
- NIVA (Nonhuman Intelligent Virtual Assistant), by Matiara Sianipar, Jiayi Li, Peng Yin and Jiahan Tu, is a real-time vocal assistant that transcends human gender categorization, challenging the industry standard that a virtual assistant should default to a woman.
- Pilates Gold, by Farnaz Fooladi, Lonnie Nguyen, Nooshin Etemadinazari, Shih-Lei Chen and Taha Zia, is a Pilates mobile app for seniors.
- PIP, by Kaiqin Chen, Ruokun Xu, Xin Tan and Zejin Xu, is a Pi video machine that coordinates hundreds of Raspberry Pi’s.
- The Teaching Management System, by Ying-Ru Fang, Justin Lock, Yu-Che Su and Can Wang, is a web app that can manage faculty teaching points and keep records of previous teaching point balances.
- TeamX Menstruation Products Map, by Zicheng Shan, Chenxu Wang, Yuxin Huang, Yixuan Li and Ruiyan Ma, is a dynamic and user-friendly map that provides menstrual product information on the UCI campus and supports a feedback service.
- TokenATM, by Ching-Yang Lin, Chao Liu, Wenjun Chen and Tianren Tan, can automatically manage the tokens used by students to resubmit assignments or pass quizzes.
Mari Kimura, the UCI professor of music who sponsored the MUGIC project in collaboration with Jeffrey Krichmar in UCI School of Social Sciences, was extremely impressed, saying the ICS students did “fabulous work” with her music students (see the robot CARL “dancing” with a violin, or attend a CARL concert performance on Jan. 27, 2023 at the Experimental Performance Lab). “They all went above and beyond!”
Inaugural MDS Cohort
In September 2021, the inaugural cohort of 22 MDS students joined the newly launched and highly ranked program, which leverages expertise from the Departments of Computer Science and Statistics, both housed in the School of ICS. One year later, the students split into six groups to work on real-life data science problems with industry partners. Children’s Hospital of Orange County sponsored four projects, focusing on the following work:
- using natural language processing (NLP) from clinical notes to predict newborn intensive care unit (NICU) readmits,
- detecting a pandemic early through social media classification,
- using factor investigation to analyze the sleep of pregnant women, and
- detecting patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) in echocardiograms using deep learning.
“The capstone project provided a great opportunity to work with industry professionals,” says Tanya Shourya, who worked on the PDA project and served an MDS program ambassador. “Working with images in the medical field was new to me, and exploring different techniques to deliver the results was a rewarding experience.”
Tad Health sponsored a project that had students assess real-time mental health resources, and Innopiphany sponsored a project exploring the effects of social determinants of health-on-health outcomes in patients with obesity or major depressive disorder.
“Capstone projects provide an opportunity for students to get exposure at an organization, learn how to communicate with stakeholders, and, more importantly, assess how data functions and influences operational strategy at a micro level,” says Muñoz, who is already lining up capstone sponsors for the second MDS cohort, which started in September 2022. “As an MDS program, we are excited to grow this ecosystem of innovation for year to come.”
If you’re interested in sponsoring a project, contact ICS Director of Corporate Relations Jason King at Jason.King@uci.edu.
— Shani Murray