Undergraduate Research in Computer Science

The Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) enables students to conduct extended, focused research in close cooperation with a Pomona faculty member. Below are recent summer research projects in the Computer Science Department.

Autonomous Drones

David D’Attile ’22; Advisor: Asya Shklyar

The autonomous piloting of a drone requires the symphonious combining of GPS, LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), and computer vision data. While these combinations have been successfully harnessed by both researchers and commercial drone producers to a certain extent, the computer vision component remains a technical challenge for one reason: it requires an intense amount of computing power.

While working under the HPC branch of Pomona’s ITS department, I set out to develop a Python program that enables a small Tello EDU drone to autonomously follow an object. Additionally, I aimed to shrink the computing power necessary to execute the program from a power-hungry 65W desktop Intel CPU to a 10W Nvidia Jetson Nano micro-GPU. Eventually, I produced the HelloTello desktop program capable of communicating with a Tello over a wireless connection and either manually controlling the drone with a keyboard or autonomously allowing it to follow 13 unique objects. This tracking stemmed from the analysis of a video stream from Tello’s camera with the Open Computer Vison Python library.

Even though HelloTello runs on a computer outside of the drone itself, this research paves the way for utilizing lightweight computers such as the Jetson Nano as on-board control computers for larger drones. This future implementation will drastically improve an autonomous drone’s range while also decreasing its dependency on constant wireless connections to the internet or a control unit.

Socially Relevant Computer Science Assignments

Khadija Jallow ’22; Advisor: Tzu-Yi Chen

his project is motivated by the fact that there is an increasing need for students to be knowledgeable about technology as well as how technology can be used to understand and to affect society.  I designed an assignment for an introduction to computer science class which requires students to download data, to parse through the data, and to analyze that data using lists, dictionaries, loops, and other skills learned in class.  Those skills are applied in the context of understanding data from the US Census Bureau regarding public school finances and the demographics of counties.  The assignment specifically guides students to consider issues of race, percentage of local revenue, and how these factors they affect the public-school system.  For example, I observed a general decrease in funding as the number of minorities in a county decreased when I implemented and tested the assignment.  In this way students are applying the skills learned throughout the course to understand and think about a social issue. The hope is that such assignments will lead students to both practice their programming skills and to explore socially relevant issues that may not be personally acquainted with but are relevant to today’s world.

In The Know Lab Virtual Tour

Ino Tsichrintzi ’22; Advisor: Melanie Wu

This project explores the development of a 3D application in Virtual Reality where a simulation of the In The Know Lab from the ITS building was created with additional virtual educational and creative features. The aim was to develop a tool for students potentially interested in working in the lab and familiarize them with the available equipment. The project included two different stages. First the virtual tour of the lab consisted of 3600 videos of students talking about the equipment in the lab filmed with the Gear 3600 camera. Next, a virtual environment where the user is able to interact with the equipment presented was developed. Initially the project was developed for the Oculus Rift headset, but later Microsoft’s Mixed Reality Headset was used due to technical complications. The current version of the application includes five different stations: one about the lab in general, while the others are on VR, on drones, on the Raspberry Pi and on 3D Printing. Each station consists of detailed information about the equipment in the lab and how we use it accompanied by pictures or models of the equipment. More importantly, educational modules are uploaded to provide guidance and a better understanding to prospective students. In the future, we hope to expand the lab’s virtual tour to include information about more of the equipment from the lab and their models in order to create a more realistic depiction of the In The Know Lab.