University Provides Undergraduate Research Opportunities

By Robert Bastone, Student Intern of CHASS College Computing

UCR and Claremont McKenna College have recently partnered to participate in a summer research program that took place for ten weeks this past summer. The Reed Institute for Decision Science sponsored fourteen summer research students attending six institutions from around Southern California, including UCR and UCLA, in the areas of Mathematics and Decision Science. The students and their faculty advisors developed their projects for ten weeks starting from July 1, 2004. UCR was represented by two undergraduate students Sean Cox and Minh Ly, and two graduate students Payal Shah and Nan Sun.

James Lin (advisor), Nan Sun (Grad Student, Statistics), Sean Cox (Undergrad student, Physics), Payal Shah (Grad Student, Statistics), Minh Ly (Undergrad student, Statistics), Prof. Jeske (advisor, Statistics)
Not available for photo: Ted Younglove (Collaboratory manager & advisor)

The UCR team developed a web-based interactive multimedia teaching assistance system for educating high school students about basic statistics titled “Design and Development of a Multi-Media Capture-Recapture Teaching Aid.”

To gain interest from high school students, the system applies a game-oriented theme with animation, audio, and a virtual teacher.

In the online game, students are asked to estimate a number of fish to be tagged in an imaginary pond that will produce the most efficient estimate of the actual number of fish in the pond. Students then guess a number of fish to catch to check for tags that will be used to calculate the estimated number of fish. The number of initially tagged fish and the number of fish caught with tags are calculated into a statistics equation in order to produce an estimate of the total population of the pond. Scores are then awarded based on which numbers produce the most accurate estimation of the total population of fish in the pond, and points are correspondingly deducted from the player’s score. Students are then asked to perform the same two tasks in a larger lake with a larger population of fish. The Statistics Game web site teaches students how to use statistical methods to solve capture and recapture related problems.

Creating two different populations that students can examine and estimate from, allows high school students to be slowly introduced to hypergeometric distribution models while still maintaining an enjoyable atmosphere. A solo and competitive level are also functions of the design, where a user can either compete against his or her own scores or compete against two other virtual computer opponents. The system awards the top 10 scorers by listing their names and scores encouraging other students to challenge the top players.

The students who comprised the design and development team, included CHASS College Computing team member Sean Cox, who served as the software development team leader. Other team members include Payal Shah who served as project coordinator, Minh Ly who was a member of the software development team, Nan Sun and Lan Ye who conducted statistical methods analysis. Daniel Jeske, Associate Professor of Statistics and Director of Statistical Consulting Collaboratory, Ted Younglove, Manager of the Statistical Consulting Collaboratory, and James Lin, Director of CHASS College Computing, advised the project.

Sean Cox remarked that this project marks the first time he has ever “…created a game like this, or worked collaboratively in the development process for a multimedia software package.” Cox also adds that he hopes the game was successful in doing what it was meant to do, “create something which makes students come away considering statistics as a future career.”

On Saturday, November 6th, UCR team presented the research project to a gathering of scholars at the November Meeting of the Southern California Chapter of the American Statistical Association. Dr. Arnold Goodman, Associate Director of the UC Irvine Center for Statistical Consulting, remarked that the project is a “realization of infusing computer technology and statistics which I have dreamed of for 10 years.” Professor Janet Myhre, Director of Reed Institute summarized the project “Job well done.”

The Statistics Game Project can be found on the Stat Games Site.

Hyper fishing

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