SURF-IT Research Projects  


Participants | Research Projects

SURF-IT Research Projects

The following faculty-mentored research projects are available during the 2009 SURF-IT Program. They are divided into their own unique areas of research. Select a link for an overview of the project, associated faculty mentors, project prerequisites, and related publications.

Undergraduate Research Projects Mentored by Calit2 Faculty

    1) Enhancing Social Skills through Video Game Encounters

    2) Web-Enabled Home Health Monitoring

    3) Flow Characterization in a Microfluidic Compact Disc (CD) Platform for Clinical Diagnostics

    4) SATViewer - Visualizing A Large Number of Captured Sensor Streams on a Limited Display

    5) Video Games and Learning

    6) Designing and Evaluating an Information System for Personal Health Information Management

    7) A Software Defined Radio Implementation for Audio and Voice Transmission over Wireless Ad-hoc Networks


  Project #1:  Enhancing Social Skills through Video Game Encounters
Faculty Mentor:  Professor Liane BrouilletteEducation

Description:  The goal of the Social Skills Video Game Project is to effectively teach social competency to K-2 children, via the use of an appropriately designed videogame. The work is an extension of previous SURF-IT projects. The objective in 2009 is to design a multiple-choice, story-telling videogame, aimed at this population. The game will consist of a simple non-linear story that develops in different directions depending on the option taken by the player at the end of each sequence. At the decision-making stage in each sequence, learning points are emphasized in relation to the social skills that are being taught: respect, assertiveness, empathy, communicative competency, pro-social behavior, acceptance of differences, etc. By experiencing the effects of their choices, students will learn both social skills and the ethics that underpin these skills.

Prof. Kristen Monroe (Political Science) will also assist on this project.

Student Duties and Expected Outcomes: Assist with drafting of the story-line, design a prototype videogame using Flash or advanced Powerpoint techniques (3-4 scenarios in total), carry out formative assessment of design, summarize findings from formative assessment in a brief written report.

Prerequisites: Knowledge of Flash or advanced PowerPoint, also storyboarding techniques. Students should have junior or senior standing as of fall 2009.

Recommended Web Sites and Publications:  
   Hoffman, M. L. (2000). Empathy and moral development. New York: Cambridge University Press.
   Miller, P. A. and N. Eisenberg. (1988). The Relation of Empathy to Aggressive and Externalizing/Antisocial Behavior. Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 103 (3), 324-344.
   Monroe, K. and Martinez, M. (2007-07-04). The Politics of Difference: Practical Ethics and Empathic Involvement with the Other. (Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Society of Political Psychology). Portland, Oregon. PS: Political Science and Politics. In press.
   Strayer, J. and Roberts, W. (1996). Empathy, Emotional Expressiveness, and Prosocial Behavior. Child Development, Vol. 67 (2), 449-470.
   Strayer, J. and Roberts, W. (2004). Empathy and Observed Anger and Aggression in Five-Year-Olds. Social Development, Vol. 13 (1), 1-13.

  Project #2:  Web-Enabled Home Health Monitoring
Faculty Mentor:  Professor Mark BachmanElectrical Engineering & Computer Science

Description:  This project will focus on developing a graphical user interface using Web 2.0 tools in order to connect with a home-based health monitoring server. The browser-based software will be used by patients, health professionals, and advocates to monitor the health status and activity of patients in their homes. The project will monitor simple activities such as walking, standing, and exercising, as well as collecting health data such as weight, blood pressure, etc. The interface may also enable patients to take questionnaires, enter data, etc. This interface technology will be modular, media rich, and based on web standards so that it can run on any modern web browser, including on cell phones, iPods, etc. The resulting interface will be deployed in real health monitoring environments such as senior centers, hospitals, and homes. This broad capacity of this monitoring system is new, and this project that can have a real impact on people’s lives.

Student Duties and Expected Outcomes:
The student will work with Calit2’s interdisciplinary “HBOX” team to build hardware, software, and web-based components of this project. He/she will start by building simple browser-based user interfaces using HTML, CSS, and Javascript. Following this, the student will demonstrate modular interfaces for specific hardware devices in the home monitoring system, and integrating these interfaces within the overall user interface. In addition, the student will be required to configure one or more health-related devices to work with the monitoring system. By summer’s end, the student will assist in putting together a fully functioning home monitoring system, and demonstrating its use at Calit2 or in the field. The student will learn elements of web-based programming, human computer interface design, device interface, and the needs of home health monitoring systems.

Prerequisites: The student should be familiar with (or capable of quickly learning) CSS, HTML, Javascript, XML, AJAX, and Java. Some knowledge of Flash/Actionscript (or OpenLaszlo or Flex) would be helpful, but not required. The student should be self-motivated, hard working, responsible, reliable, and capable of working independently.

Recommended Web Sites and Publications:  
   Any materials on CSS/Javascript based web page programming.
   Any materials on Javascript/AJAX programming.

  Project #3:  Flow Characterization in a Microfluidic Compact Disc (CD) Platform for Clinical Diagnostics
Faculty Mentor:  Professor Marc MadouMechanical & Aerospace Engineering

Description:  Microfluidic CD technology is primed to be a next generation lab-on-a-chip platform for clinical diagnostics. A spectrum of fluidic functions can be implemented on a disk structure to aid in sample preparation; including valving, mixing, capillary metering, sample splitting, and fluid separation among others. Many of these functions must be used in parallel for even the most basic of analysis steps. However, even with the advances in disk based technology, there remain several questions regarding fluid flow in single and combined systems. As miniaturization becomes more important when more and more functions must be integrated into one platform, optimization of fluidic handling is essential for proper analysis. Currently, questions remain when using capillary and hydrophobic valves, and when applying coriolis and other forces for fluid manipulation inside the CD platform. The proposed project includes design and fabrication of microfluidic CD systems, image acquisition and experimentation on a novel platform to specifically address several of the current issues.

Student Duties and Expected Outcomes:
The beginning task will be to characterize several valving techniques using biological fluids. The students will then become involved in further experiments, such as dielectrophoresis and bio-particle separation. By the end of the project the student will be exposed to rapid prototyping using CNC machining and plotting machines, biological sample preparation, and centrifugal imaging. Participation as co-author on a peer-reviewed publication is anticipated, perhaps after the summer work, depending on the student's progress and interests.

Prerequisites: No experience with microfluidic systems is necessary, but the student should have a good lab background in biology, chemistry, or physics. We are looking for hard working, dedicated students with attention to detail and willingness to learn other fields of science.

Recommended Web Sites and Publications:  
   Madou, M., Zoval, J., Guangyao, J., Kido, H., Kim, J., Kim, N. (2006). “Lab on a CD.” Annu Rev Biomed Eng 8:601-28.

  Project #4:  SATViewer - Visualizing A Large Number of Captured Sensor Streams on a Limited Display
Faculty Mentor:  Professor Sharad MehrotraComputer Science

Description:  We have created a campus-wide instrumented pervasive space at UC Irvine, called Responsphere, which has fitted several buildings with a variety of sensors including video, audio, RFID, people-counters and environmental sensors. In this SURF-IT project, we will focus on applications that utilize multimodal sensor data that has been captured and stored over a period of time. For example, a “space monitor” application can reveal how building spaces are utilized over time, in order to restructure activities to make better use of space. Building such applications requires (1) methods for the capture, storage and management of multimodal sensor data and (2) methods to query, retrieve and visualize the stored data meaningfully. To address the former, we developed SATware[3], a multimodal sensor data stream capture, analysis, and transformation middleware that aims at realizing a sentient system. This SURF-IT project will focus on the latter issue - i.e. retrieval and visualization of stored sensor streams. Specifically, we are developing SATViewer, which visualizes information captured in the SATware database, data collected from multiple kinds of sensors in the Responsphere system.

The key challenge in designing a visualization tool for a pervasive system is the problem of information overload – limitations in user perception and in available display sizes prevent easy assimilation of information from massive amounts of data. For instance, in our setting, we have over 200 camera sensors deployed at two buildings; even a very simple query could require visualizing 400 streams (audio/video) for any given time. In SATViewer, we have attempted to address the problem using two key strategies – (a) ranking and prioritization of relevant sensor streams and (b) summarization of selected sensor streams. Given a query and the corresponding set of output streams that satisfy the query, the SATViewer handles the visualization of the query results based on the user’s display limitations (e.g., number of display windows). Users pose queries in a stream-based language SATQL that is similar to CQL[1] and the visualization plan is represented in XML using SMIL format[2].

Related work has been done by IBM in a system named S3 [4], but the proposed project is different in that we visualize multiple events at the same time, and support high-level events and queries.

Student Duties and Expected Outcomes
The student will add support for high-level events to the sensor database that stores the sensor streams, SATDB. The outcome of the student’s work will allow the database to also store higher level event information derived from the sensor data, in addition to the raw sensor data. For instance, it may annotate the sensor data with activities and/or events as well as identity of the person involved. Irrespective of the nature of data (i.e., raw sensor data or events) the system will determine the degree to which a stream satisfies the input query and use that for the purpose of ranking the streams. Then the output for a query is the set of answer streams annotated with a corresponding ranking. The student will develop additional support to an existing ranker, such that it can select high level events. The student will also add support for visualization of high level events. The user might also want to browse the content or perhaps skip parts until “interesting” content is displayed. For this reason, the streams undergo a final processing step, where the system will generate relevant previews for the different streams.

Prerequisites: The implementation of the project is in JAVA, utilizing Google’s GWT framework on top of a database, so the student has to be fluent in JAVA, JAVASCRIPT and SQL.

Recommended Web Sites and Publications:  
[1] For more detail on the proposed project, see [2] A. Arasu, S. Babu, and J. Widom. The CQL continuous query language: semantic foundations and query execution. The VLDB Journal The International Journal on Very Large Data Bases, 15(2):121–142, 2006. [3] J. Ayars, D. Bulterman, A. Cohen, K. Day, E. Hodge, P. Hoschka, E. Hyche, M. Jourdan, K. Kubota, R. Lanphier, et al. Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language (SMIL) 2.0 Specification. Work in progress. W3C Working Drafts are available at [4] C.F. Shu, A. Hampapur, M. Lu, L. Brown, J. Connell, A. Senior, and Y. Tian. IBM smart surveillance system (S3): a open and extensible framework for event based surveillance.

  Project #5:  Video Games and Learning
Faculty Mentor:  Professor Mark J. WarschauerEducation

Description:  Project DescriptionVideo games show outstanding potential for providing learning opportunities. One major literacy scholar and educational researcher, James Gee, has identified 36 important learning principles that are embedded in many video games but that are largely absent from schools. However, there has been little empirical research on games and learning, thus calling into question the potential educational value of video games.

This research seeks to identify the most prevalent types of learning that take place during game play, through observations, videotaping, and interviews of participants during and after their game playing. The goal of the study is to help establish a research-based foundation upon which to consider claims of the role of video games and learning, and thus lay the basis for future implementation and study of educational uses of games.

Student Duties and Expected Outcomes:
The SURF-IT Fellow will engage in an array of activities designed to better understand how youth learn while playing video games. Specific activities will involve videotaping gaming sessions, interviewing participants, transcribing interviews, and coding video data. The SURF-IT Fellow will also analyze and interpret all this data together with other data collected by the research team since January 2009. The student will master qualitative research methods and media analysis skills related to the use of video games for education. We could use two students for this project if sufficient candidates are available.

Prerequisites: Prior familiarity with issues related to technology, learning, and video games is required, as is some previous experience with qualitative research. Extensive knowledge of and experience playing video games is preferable. Prior direct involvement in a field research project on video games and learning is highly desirable.

Recommended Web Sites and Publications:  
   Gee, J. P. (2007). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy (2nd ed.). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
   Shaffer, D. W., Halverson, R., Squire, K. R., & Gee, J. P. (2005). Video games and the future of learning. WCER Working Paper No. 2005-4. Wisconsin Center for Education Research, 13. -
   Squire, K. D. (2007). Games, learning, and society: Building a field. Educational Technology Magazine: The Magazine for Managers of Change in Education, 47. -

  Project #6:  Designing and Evaluating an Information System for Personal Health Information Management
Faculty Mentor:  Professor Yunan ChenInformatics

Description:  Personal Health Record (PHR) systems have been deployed recently in the hope of improving patient-provider relationship, enhancing awareness of self-management and eliminating potential medical errors. A PHR has been defined as “an electronic application through which individuals can access, manage, and share their health information and that of others for whom they are authorized, in a private, secure and confidential environment” [1]. Broadly speaking, a PHR system is a Personal Health Information Management (PHIM) tool which not only contains information from healthcare providers like diagnoses and test results, but also information the individual generated and gathered, e.g.,disease symptoms documented at home and information relevant to patient care [2]. A PHIM tool is considered especially important for chronic-disease patients. Patients are required to keep track of their health information, coordinate information among various caregivers and adapt their dietary and other behaviors for disease management. Designing information systems for managing and coordinating health related information is crucial for disease management.

Despite the proposed benefits of a PHR system, patients in the US seldom have the opportunity to access and manage their medical records. The current PHR systems only allow patients to view a small part of their records and communicate with their providers online. There is no evidence supporting the hypothetical benefits of PHR systems [1]. It is also unclear what the patients’ information needs are for disease management. This project aims to examine issues associated with medical records management behaviors, to explore implications for PHR and PHIM system design, and to evaluate the current PHR applications. Collaborating with Kaiser HealthConnect, we will study “MyChart” system usages and patients' health information management behaviors. The findings of this project will help us understand patients’ health information needs and design information systems to integrate medical records and health information management system for better patient care.

Student Duties and Expected Outcomes:
The student will be responsible for designing an integrated personal health information management application that allows individuals to store and manage health information. The student will be responsible for analyzing interview data collected from patients, to design the health information management tool and to implement the tool with patients. The student will also be required to evaluate the use of the tool using a variety of system evaluation methods.

Prerequisites: The student should have some knowledge of qualitative study techniques, including interview, ethnographic observation and qualitative data analysis methods. The student is also expected to have basic programming and system design knowledge. Familiarity with health care systems and issues would be a plus.

Recommended Web Sites and Publications:  
   [1] Pratt, W., Unruh, K., Civan, A. and Skeels, M. M. Personal health information management. Commun. ACM, 49, 1 2006), 51-55. [2] Tang, P. C., Ash, J. S., Bates, D. W., Overhage, J. M. and Sands, D. Z. Personal Health Records: Definition, Benefits, and Strategies for Overcoming Barriers to Adoption. J Am Med Inform Assoc, 13, 2 2006), 121 - 126.

  Project #7:  A Software Defined Radio Implementation for Audio and Voice Transmission over Wireless Ad-hoc Networks
Faculty Mentor:  Professor Hamid JafarkhaniElectrical Engineering & Computer Science

Description:  Wireless audio and voice transmission faces many challenging problems. Some of the most important challenges in this area include reduction of packetization overhead for small audio/voice frames and protection of audio/voice content against bit errors introduced by wireless channels as well as packet erasures introduced by queuing buffers. Some of the popular protection techniques include applying Forward Error Correction (FEC) codes and the use of Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) antenna links. The authors in [2] and [3] below have developed a framework for audio transmission over fading wireless networks. Currently we are looking toward implementing the proposed framework into the Software Defined Radios (SDR) [4] over wireless ad-hoc network. Software Defined Radios are becoming more prevalent in the formation of wireless networks. Simply put, the use of an SDR can allow for moving the code as close as possible to a target hardware platform thereby treating various hardware problems as software problems [4].

The proposed project is part of a larger effort that aims at implementing a framework for transmitting a variety of real-time traffic such as audio, voice, and video, and non-real time traffic such as http, and ftp traffic over wireless ad-hoc networks. All the required hardware/software tools will be provided to the student involved in the project.

Dr. Homayoun Yousefi’zadeh, an adjunct assistant professor in EECS and the lead investigator on related projects, is a collaborator on this project and will also be a mentor to the student. See

Student Duties and Expected Outcomes
The selected candidate is expected to team up with one of the graduate students who has been involved in designing the transmission scheme and work with him toward implementing the scheme over the Software Defined Radios. We expect to achieve a basic working implementation of the proposed frameworks for audio and voice transmission over the SDR ad-hoc network.

Prerequisites: Preference will be given to students who have taken some research units during the past two years. The students also should have good communication skills, good programming skills using C or C++ and good networking background. Linux knowledge would be a plus.

Recommended Web Sites and Publications:  
   The students are encouraged to read the published papers for the proposed framework listed below in the references section. However, the students are not expected to fully understand the details of the design as they will mainly focus on the implementation part, and will be guided with a graduate student who has the full knowledge of the underlying design.
   A. Khalifeh, H. Yousefi'zadeh, "An Optimal UEP Scheme of Audio Transmission over MIMO Wireless Links," In Proc. of IEEE WCNC, 2008.
   A. Khalifeh, H. Yousefi'zadeh, "Optimal Audio Transmission over Wireless Tandem Channels," In Proc. of IEEE DCC, 2008.
   X. Li, W. Hu, H. Yousefi'zadeh, "A Case Study of A MIMO SDR Implementation," In Proc. of IEEE MILCOM, 2008.