Faculty, Student, & Department Spotlights
Fuqun Huang, PhD
Dr. Fuqun Huang was recognized by the IEEE Education Society and received the “New Faculty Fellow Award” at the IEEE ASEE Frontiers in Education Annual Conference 2023 (FIE 2023) “for demonstrating outstanding contributions to the field of engineering and computing education and scholarship”.
Dedicated to enhancing the reliability, safety, and security of computer systems, Dr. Huang addresses the pressing issues of poor software quality and security concerns, estimated to cost the U.S. a staggering $2.41 trillion in 2022. While traditional software engineering focuses on process improvement, Dr. Huang's pioneering work introduces innovative approaches to proactively tackle bottleneck problems.
As the trailblazer behind the emerging field of “Human Errors in Software Engineering,” Dr. Huang initiated this interdisciplinary area in 2011, offering breakthroughs in various domains, including software fault early forecasting based on human errors, requirement criteria based on human errors, defect prevention strategies based on human errors, fault tolerance design based on human errors, defect debugging and detection methods based on human errors, and groundbreaking interdisciplinary experiments blending programming and psychology.
Passionate about imparting interdisciplinary knowledge, Dr. Huang is launching a groundbreaking course, “Human Errors in Software Engineering,” at Western Washington University in Spring 2024. This course, the first of its kind globally, aims to equip both undergraduate and graduate students with valuable insights into this interdisciplinary field. One specific component of the course, “Promoting Students’ Cognitive Ability to Identify Human Error-prone Scenarios in Programs,” earned recognition from IEEE Education Society at FIE 2023.
Furthermore, Dr. Huang is spearheading a series of Capstone Projects in “Human Errors in Software Engineering” at Western Washington University. She welcomes senior undergraduates and graduates interested in contributing to cutting-edge research to join her research team.
Past Faculty Spotlights
Caroline Hardin, PhD
School districts across the country need more secondary computer science teachers, especially those who share the identities, values, and lived experiences of the students they teach. However, pathways for preparing and supporting computer science teachers are only just emerging, and many are struggling to recruit promising teachers into the profession and retain them long term. This project will create a consortium of emerging pre-service programs across the Pacific Northwest to address strengthen and mature computer science teaching pathways in four ways: 1) organizing and sharing information about teaching pathways, 2) identifying and resolving key barriers to pathways that aspiring teachers face, 3) supporting computers science teacher community building in partnership with new and existing computer science teachers association chapters, and 4) supporting administrative leaders who manage and grow these pathways.
The project’s approach is to build an evidence-based networked improvement community, which deeply engages stakeholders across the region to identify opportunities for change, develop sustainable cross-institutional coordination practices, and use research as one tool of many to inform approaches to change. Research will particularly focus on answering 1) who is and isn’t informed about CS teaching pathways, and why; 2) what barriers aspiring teacher with identities marginalized in CS face in pursuing CS teaching careers; 3) how community gatherings amongst teachers with marginalized identities can support teacher retention; and 4) how solidarity amongst teacher education administrative leaders can support sustainability of pathways. These questions will be posed across urban and rural divides, helping to inform how values, communities, and state politics shape equitable access to computer science education in secondary schools across the Pacific Northwest.
This is a collaborative award between University of Washington (PI Amy Ko), Western Washington University (Co-PI Caroline Hardin), Central Washington University, Washington State University, Whitworth University, University of Oregon, and Boise State University. WWU"s share of the award is $230,000.
Dr. Hearne was integral to the evolution of the department over the course of his thirty plus years at Western. The CS department had its start in Bond Hall in the 1980s, at which time only a handful of students were graduated each year. Now Computer Science graduates upward of 180 students, across multiple degrees, and even a graduate program. Dr. Hearne was there for it all, championing and often spearheading the many changes that have culminated in the thriving department that CS is today.
Dr. Hearne's contributions include service to the college and university as well. He served two terms as chair of ACC, taught, with Peter Smith, a faculty member in the library, the first university course in the world - as far we could figure out - on how to use the internet (this was before the web when tools were very unwieldy [WAIS, GOPHER, etc]. co-wrote (with George Mobus, a CS faculty member of yore) the grant that instituted the Internet Studies Center, originally articulated its mission, and served as its director twice. Dr. Hearne also served as President of the Faculty Club and, as Treasurer, kept it alive for, lo,these two decades, and in this way promoted exchange between Faculty, Classified Staff and Administrators across campus. He served as director fo the Center for East Asian Studies for four years and during that time taught an overload class (of ~80 students) in the high culture of China and Japan every quarter to keep the program solvent. It was primarily for this service that he received the Simpson Bridging Award. He taught in the Honors Program many times, such classes as Technologies of Intellect, Quantitative History, Narratology and The Chinese World View, and he supervised a CS senior project group in the Internet Studies Center that created Classfinder, which is still in use today by all Western students who register for classes.
Accessibility is a software requirement that makes access to digital technologies equitable for people with disabilities. Accessibility skills, if covered at all, are usually covered in elective courses in computer science programs. In collaboration with Dr. Kristen Shinohara at Rochester Institute of Technology and Dr. Catherine Baker at Creighton University, we work on finding innovative ways to cover accessibility in core CS courses. We target programming topics such as data structures, computer systems, and object-oriented programming. We modify the lessons in a way that infuses accessibility knowledge while keeping the original topic covered as intended. We work with faculty on adding the accessibility component to their programming courses. We support faculty by creating any needed teaching materials, such as assignment narrative, skeleton code, solution, etc. Please reach out via GitHub if you want to participate or learn more about this project.
The SEA Discover Center Teams up with CS Student Projects
Students from Western's Computer Science and Cybersecurity programs, located in both Bellingham and at WWU on the Peninsulas, are participating in Senior Projects that support WWU's public aquarium, SEA Discovery Center, in Poulsbo, WA. The projects will build on senior projects from previous years and are focused on enhancing the ability of SEA Discovery Center staff to monitor the conditions of the aquarium exhibits at SEA, which hold 6,000 gallons of saltwater and hundreds of marine animals. The projects will also enhance the aquarium's 25,000+ annual visitors' experience through an interactive kiosk, and underwater camera housed in a floating classroom on Liberty Bay.
Past Student Spotlights
WWU Competitive Programming Club
On February 25th, the Western Washington University Competitive Programming Club competed in the International Collegiate Programming Contest regionals at University of Washington Spokane. After practicing for multiple quarters, two teams of three people from WWU entered the Division II section of the competition. Those teams took first and second place in Washington, and one team took fifth place in the whole of the Pacific Northwest region.
The Competitive Programming Club has a mission of helping students gain helpful skills for job-finding while having fun. It’s a fancy name on a resume, but it also provides a stress-free environment to meet people and practice for interviews/programming competitions. Members aren’t required to compete but are informed of upcoming competitions and are surrounded by people who they could team up with. Here is how our most recent competition went down:
The morning of the competition, the team left their hotel and arrived at UW at 9 AM. Everyone was greeted with free breakfast foods and beverages as we got settled in and went over the rules. At 11 AM, the competition began. Each team was given 13 programming problems of varying levels of difficulty. Each would have to try to solve as many problems as they could (and pass runtime limits) within the next five hours. A balloon was delivered to teams for each problem they completed, and midday the teams were treated to Subway! At 4 PM, the competition ended. Throughout the competition, a leaderboard is available, but the leaderboard is frozen an hour before the competition ends to add a bit of secrecy to who will win in the end.
After the timer ran out, we all gathered in a room as the ICPC dramatically revealed the final leaderboard by showing us how many more problems each team solved in the last hour, one by one. After lots of leaderboard excitement, it was revealed that the WWU Binary Bandits, which included Joe Ewert, Owen Wright, and Indie Cowan, got second in Washington and 17th place in the Pacific Northwest. Then it was revealed that the WWU Generative Pre-Trained Transformers, which included Ethan Temple, Joey Capps, and Sky Duryee, got first place in Washington and fifth place in the Pacific Northwest. More than 50 teams competed in Division II in the Pacific Northwest. The team celebrated with a dinner in Seattle.
The Competitive Programming Club is excited to participate in more contests throughout the year and bring home more titles. Congratulations to the competitors for bringing home medals and plaques! Thank you to Robin Preble for leading the club as President this year and to See-Mong Tan for being our faculty advisor.
The Competitive Programming Club is always open to new members and is education centered. If you want a fancy-sounding extracurricular and medals on your resume, as well as the skills to pass a technical interview, come join us in the spring! Open to all students who have completed CSCI 141 or have equivalent experience.
CS Senior, Jamey Albert, worked with CS senior Daniel V. Koronthaly, graduate student, Samatha Dobesh, and high school students, Ilaana Khan and Zafir Nasim, to create a mobile application, eXpress, under the supervision of Profs. Shameem Ahmed and Moushumi Sharmin, that aims to aid non-verbal and minimally verbal autistic children and autistic young adults to express their emotion. In Sep 2022, Jamey and Ilaana attended The ACM International joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing (UbiComp) where they presented their research on eXpress.
Jamey and Ilaana were the youngest researchers presenting their research in UbiComp, which is a premier interdisciplinary venue where leading researchers, designers, developers, and practitioners present innovative results in all aspects of ubiquitous and pervasive computing. Their research received much attention due to its potential impact to improve the experience of non-verbal autistic individuals and their families. Jamey Albert was the recipient of the College of Science and Engineering’s (CSE) Jarvis Memorial Summer Research Stipend 2022, which partially funded her research on eXpress. Jamey is a student researcher in the NEAT Research Lab, which focuses on creating affective technology for addressing behavioral, mental, and cognitive health problems, especially autism and other neurodivergent conditions.
Griffin Hartz, a junior in Computer Science, was awarded the Elwha Summer Research Award.
Griffin will be working with Dr. Wesley Deneke to study methods to make the coming Metaverse more accessible and facilitate collaboration. Virtual Reality support and automated controls will be added to a 3D virtual world in the effort to enhance immersion and minimize the skill barrier.
Caitlin Bannister, working towards a BS in Behavioral Neuroscience, was awarded a Goldwater Scholarship for her research applying computer vision techniques to the study of Huntington’s disease. Caitlin is working with Kameron Decker Harris (Computer Science), Jeff Carroll, and Jeff Cantle (both Behavioral Neuroscience) and using deep learning to track naturally behaving mice. Huntington’s often first manifests as motor deficits that may be measured with this analysis. The Goldwater scholarship will support Caitlin’s research until graduation, after which she plans to study for a PhD in neuroscience and the treatment of nervous system dysfunction.
Computer Science, Secondary Ed. - BAE
Western Washington University has announced a new Computer Science Bachelor of Arts in Education (BAE) major which focuses on preparing students to become computer science teachers in middle schools and high schools.
Past Dept. Developments
WWU has received recognition from the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security as a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense. With this designation, WWU joins about 300 schools nationally to receive this recognition. In addition to advantages for WWU students applying for scholarships and careers can include the designation on their resume. The award makes WWU eligible for Cybersecurity research programs sponsored by the NSA, DHS, and National Science Foundation.
In order to achieve recognition as a CAE-CD, Western had to go through a rigorous certification effort. The effort included demonstrating that the program covered topics in 17 areas of cyber security, that the program had an assessment system in place, and that students were given opportunities for enrichment in Cybersecurity outside of the classroom. In addition to the program itself, WWU had to demonstrate on-going research efforts in cybersecurity, outreach to the community, active involvement in the national cybersecurity education community, and that WWU itself was taking active steps to ensure its own cybersecurity.
The effort to obtain the CAE certification took an extended length of time. Initially it was delayed as the program guidelines were being revised by a committee appointed by the NSA. WWU was a participant in the committee. The process was then further delayed by the pandemic. Fortunately, those issues were eventually resolved. With the designation in place, the WWU Cybersecurity program will continue to attract new students from our partner colleges as the most technically rigorous program in the state, with a high demand for our graduates. WWU will also be seeking new opportunities for research in the area of cybersecurity and new opportunities for cooperation with the community.