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04/13/09 RoboCup

Contemporary fiction movies often show robots constantly interaction with  main characters. In movies like IRobot, robots are even shown in a struggle against humans to control the world. But how far  are we to actually seeing robots taking important roles in our society? Maybe we are not that far, projects such as RoboCup are bringing us closer to a new era of robotic technology.

RoboCup is an international robot competition, that aims to develop autonomus soccer robots  in an inittiative to promote artificial intelligence.  Their dream goal is to create a robots team that by 2050 should be able to compete and win against the soccer world cup champion of that time.

Creating Artificialy Intelligent RoboCup robots is a very interesting project and it entitles the joint of many technologies:

– Design of Autonomous agents which means that the robots have systems that sense the environment therefore they are not being controlled by either controlled by humans or computers but act independently.

– Multiagent collaboration that allows the robots to work as a team.

– Strategy acquisition to be more effective at playing the game.

– Real time reasoning that allows them to act accordingly to the game situation.

– Sensor function allows the robots to percieve where the ball, team mates, goals are located.

Manuela veloso plays a very important role in the development of this project. Ms Veloso is the president-elect of the International RoboCup Federation and a fellow of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence. She is also a professor at Carnegie Mellon Universityand focus her studies how robots can learn, plan and work together to accomplish tasks.

Here is a video of Ms. Veloso showing some soccer robots in action.




April 12, 2009 at 8:53 pm Leave a comment

03/26/09 Easy Programming

When people hear about programming the first thing that comes to mind (if anything at all) is probably a nerdy looking guy sitting in front of a computer, writing a long document with bunch of commands. It sounds boring and complicated. However the motivation to learn programming comes from realizing that through programming you can create your own customized applications that behave exactly as you want them to.

Computer Programming is the process of writing, testing and maintaining computer commands. Sounds kind of geeky doesn’t it? However some basic knowledge on what that definition means and what you can actually accomplish through programming has encourage many people to work on incredibly useful applications which have made our world so much easier and fun.

You can create applications about whatever you want and people do, I mean just think about all the programs installed in your computer right now, the web browser, the music player, the photo editor. However you can also create much simpler programs that can do cool things for you, such as calculating your GPA, create animation or you even games or more professional applications might be to remind you of appointments.

Whether you like computers or you simply use them because you have to, the world is rapidly continues moving toward incredible technologies therefore being able to understand how to work with computers and also how computers actually get things accomplished might be useful skills to have. Learning introductory computer programming would give you a solid foundation about computers, as you will better understand their logic and behind the scenes functions.

A good introduction into the world of programming could be a Visual Basic class. Visual Basic is one of the easiest languages to learn as it uses a graphical interface, which means that first you create a window (graphic interface) with elements such as buttons, boxes, menus, etc, and then you add simple commands, telling the program what to do with those elements; it uses ordinary words to create understandable commands.

This video shows you how easy it is to create a program with Visual Basic.

Video By: Kevin Darnell

I really enjoyed TEC 151 Introduction to Industrial Computer Systems, It is an introductory Visual Basic class. Check it out! You start by creating basic programs such as the one in the video, and then learn to create more complex applications.



March 25, 2009 at 11:41 pm Leave a comment

03/15/09 Creativity Meets Technology

How do you make a fortune by simply using your creativity? Ashley Qualls figured it out accidentally  when she was 17 years old. She created a web page called which became a one million dollar site.

Chuck Salter in the article Girl Power explains the concept of “She [Ashley] has come along with the right idea at the right time. Eager to customize their MySpace profiles, girls cut and paste the HTML code for Whateverlife layouts featuring hearts, flowers, celebrities, and so on onto their personal page and–presto–a new look. Think of it as MySpace clothes; some kids change their layouts nearly as frequently”. In other words she designs all sorts of colorful images and makes them available for free so people can use them to customize their personal websites.

Ashley’s idea became highly profitable when in 2007 ValueClick Media an online marketing company discovered the page and offered the teenager to incorporate ads from 450 clients and share the revenue. Since then the company continues to grow and Ashley was even offered $1.5 million dollars for her company, amount that she declined.

Ashley was smart and maybe lucky at creating a fresh idea which was very well received by her fellow teenagers. Her success just took tons of creativity and basic internet knowledge. However professionals dedicated to creating web pages such as Ashleys often study careers such as web development or web design — the skill of designing hypertext presentations of content that is delivered to an end-user through the World Wide Web– they learn about the multiple technologies involved in how a page looks and functions. This field is really challenging and it offers an exciting career for those who enjoy both graphic arts and technology.



March 15, 2009 at 11:01 pm Leave a comment

03/02/09 Mathematica

I am sure you know that math has multiple uses in all areas of knowledge you can think of. Math can and it gets really complicated and challenging, many projects in a variety of fields require a way to manage and visualize data, automate calculations, create 2D and 3D graphics, draw plot charts, etc. Mathematica is computational software used to facilitate all of these tasks.

Mathematica was first released in 1988 with the visionary purpose of creating a system that could handle all the aspects of technical computing. It incorporates all mathematical knowledge into a computer system, which basically means that you can do virtually any mathematical calculation with the reliable accuracy and speed offered by computer systems. This is simply a super calculator.

One of the most amazing uses of Mathematica is its visualization capabilities. This video shows how this software is able to create all sorts of graphics. By the many types of graphs displayed it is easy to deduct that a program like this might be used for a wide variety of applications.

plot2Now take a look at the graph of a 3D normal distribution (that I am sure you are very familiar with by now) created with Matemathica and the  line of input used to create it. The input asks Mathematica to create a 3D dimensional plot of the exponential function equation1 using -2 to 2 for the x and y limits.

Thanks, and remember to take the blackboard assessment for this post at:


March 1, 2009 at 7:17 pm Leave a comment

Predictive Text

How many text messages do you send per day? If you are like most young adults, the answer is probably a number between 2 and… I don’t know 10?. Well, In 2007 the average cell phone user sent 188 text messages per month, which equals roughly 2,256 texts a year or 6 per day. But I am sure that by now those numbers have gone way up. Maybe one of the reasons that text messaging has become so popular is that technologies such as predictive text make this technology so easy to use.

Predictive text is an input technology that reduces the number of key strokes necessary to enter a word, thus simplifying the process of writing text messages or emails. There are several types of predictive text technologies such as T9, iTap, eZiText and Word Logic. But how does it work? Well let me tell you that it was almost impossible to find a good simplified explanation, however I did find out that it takes some complicated mathematical equations that use several variables to compute possible word outcomes.

Just take a look at this link and you will see what I am talking about! Predictive Text (You don’t have to read this whole article just notice the math involved)

Basically how this works is that a dictionary is stored in a computing system, and then a program is created to allow that as the user presses the number buttons on the cell phone that triggers a mathematical algorithm that searches the dictionary for a list of possible words and offers the most probable (common) choice.

google5Similar technologies recently became available by search engines such as Google, Youtube, and Wikipedia. In these cases, predictive search helps you find what you are looking for before you even finish entering the whole phrase. I am sure most of you have already seen this, but in the picture shows that all I needed to type was “Illinois st” for Google to predict that I was searching “Illinois State University”, based partly on probabilities.

Thanks, and remember to take the blackboard assessment for this post at:


February 16, 2009 at 1:50 am Leave a comment

2/2/09 Randomization

Has it ever happened to you that you feel like you used to know something but you don’t remember it anymore? Well that happened to me today as I went through the Finite Mathematics textbook. Some of those though problems brought back memories of long math study nights at the library a couple years ago.

On the bright side, as I went through the book I also found some pretty interesting stuff about random numbers and probabilities in chapter 7. It called my attention because often times random algorithms are used in web pages, games and many other computer applications that I am familiar with.

Just to give you an example the other day I accessed my blackboard to take a biology quiz. The quiz was composed of 9 questions pulled out straight from the book and I could take it as many times as I wanted, easy A you might say!, but here is the catch. I had to get all the 9 questions right in order to get credit. In my first attempt I got 6 questions right, so I had to try again but guess what! The questions were completely different this time and so were the next 3 attempts (Yes it took me 5 attempts to pass the quiz). That is what random algorithms do. This kind of blackboard quiz uses a pool of questions and randomly selects a set of nine. Let’s do some math! there were 9 questions and say there were 5 different alternates per question, so that means that I had 5 9= 1,953,125 possible quizzes! Talk about learning biology.

Blackboard uses Javascript, this programming language as any other uses little pieces of code such as the following to create random numbers.

function rand ( n )
  return ( Math.floor ( Math.random ( ) * n + 1 ) );

Basically this function takes a whole number argument, n, and returns a random number between 1 and n. then uses other methods to finally leave us with a whole integer number.

For my Bio quizzes the random numbers produced by such code are each associated to a set of questions so that I get a different quiz every time.

Random number generators have applications in gambling, statistical sampling, computer simulation, cryptography, and other areas where a random number is useful in producing an unpredictable result. Here are a couple of links to pages showing some interesting applications.

Coin Tosser

Random Number

Then considering that using random results is so useful, maybe next time you are debating whether or not to go out, why not let an unpredictable coin toss decide for you?



February 2, 2009 at 2:19 am 1 comment

11/10/08 Cisco and Technology Learning

As you might know Cisco is a company dedicated to engineering hardware and software technologies for communications and networking. Cisco devices are virtually everywhere and therefore technological and especially computer systems careers often require students to learn about Cisco devices.

One way for college students to demonstrate their Cisco expertise are the Cisco certification exams, a very long list of exams are available, they are divided by area of knowledge. However usually the basic CCNA (Cisco Certified Network associate) is what most technology programs in college level initially prepare students for. What is surprising is that not only technology students seem to obtain great benefit from taking these certifications exams, but as shown by studies such as the “Indiana University CCNA six month program follow up”, CCNA programs  had an “education effect on high school students and an “employment effect” on community college students in the United States”.tech-home1

Programs that encourage Cisco learning are established and organized by the Cisco Learning Institute founded by Cisco in 1999. it is a not profit organization that “promotes the effective, appropriate use of technology to advance learning”, the institute often awards students around the world who demonstrate commitment to networking education and learning.

Marisa Mariscotti is an example of one of forty students recently awarded worldwide with the 2008 Panduit Excellence scholarship, one of the CCNA awards offered by the Cisco Learning institute. She is a student at CNIT a community college in San Francisco. What is special about her case — besides the fact that she is the only woman in the United States awarded– is that her career is not technological as one might think instantaneously, but rather artistic “Marisa is a professional modern dancer”. Her interest in technology is just part of her efforts to build a wider skill set and variety of knowledge.

Technological advancement is available for everyone seeking to expand their professional experience and anyone can find great benefit from technological training. Cisco classes are just and example of it but it goes well beyond it, any technology related expertise is very well appreciated in the real world work environment.



November 9, 2008 at 9:03 pm 1 comment

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