MC senior developing Android application

July 21, 2011
Contact: Karen B. Eldridge, Director of Communications
865.981.8207; karen.eldridge@maryvillecollege.edu

More than 250,000 applications are currently available for Android.

A team of computer scientists that includes Maryville College senior Libby Rodriguez ’12 may add one more.

Rodriguez, a computer science major and math minor, is spending her summer in the University of South Florida’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering in Tampa. She was selected to participate in the university’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) in Ubiquitous Sensing.

According to the program’s website, ubiquitous sensing “encompasses the integration of cell phones with sensors and Internet technologies to address large-scale societal problems as well as individual problems with the main goal of improving the life of people. Problems related to data analysis and verification, visualization, incentives, privacy, automatic activity recognition and others are being tackled in the Location-Aware Information Systems Lab at USF.”

Rodriguez’s research is in the “human centric sensing” area of ubiquitous sensing.

“I am working on making an Android application that will connect to a sensor worn by the user. This sensor picks up the user’s vital signs and acceleration, and my app will receive those, process them and send them to a server. When I say process them, I mean that the app will look at the data all together and will then be able to decipher what activity the user is performing – running, ascending, walking, lying down, etc.,” she explained. “This is called ‘human activity recognition,’ and it has a lot of different awesome uses.”

Rodriguez said developers have worked with human activity recognition before, but no one has paired vital signs with acceleration.

“The Ph.D. student I’m working with – this project was his idea – discovered that our system is more accurate than current systems on the market!” she reported. “So we’re doing some groundbreaking stuff down here in Florida!”

The application is called Centinela, and if the project leader decides to market it, it could be available for download as early as next summer. Potential uses for it include game design and security, but the people who may be most served by it are the elderly, people suffering from dementia and/or their caregivers.

“[People with mobility or memory problems] can wear the sensor and run the app on whatever phone they have or any other software we want to run it on, and a caregiver can be on the receiving end of the data – the server, for instance,” she explained. “This would give the caregiver a way of checking up on them without actually being there. For instance, if the user is showing very unusual behaviors, a caregiver can call for help.”

In creating the new program, Rodriguez is using a compiler called Eclipse, which is what computer scientists usually use to write any kind of program.

“I’m writing my code in Java Android, so that once I hook the phone up to my computer, I can run that program in the phone. Thus, it’s an Android application,” the MC student explained. “It’s just like writing a program to run in the computer, but I’m telling the computer to run it in the phone.”

REU opens eyes, doors

For Rodriguez, a 2008 graduate of Powell (Tenn.) High School, the summer experience is not only expanding her knowledge of technology, it’s helping her to see the vocational possibilities in the field of computer science.

“My long-term career goals are to finish school with a master’s degree in computer science and get an industry job working with security and/or Android development. This internship has opened my eyes a great deal to how rewarding Android development can be.

“And this is a great time to get into it because the industry in Android apps is getting really big right now," she continued. "Or of course, I could also transfer what I've learned to Mac and start working in iPhone development, too.”

Dr. Barbara Plaut, associate professor of computer science and Rodriguez’s advisor, said this summer experience has enhanced her advisee’s undergraduate experience in many ways.

“It has given her the opportunity to work with outstanding peers from a variety of other institutions,” the professor said. “It has exposed her to educational opportunities unique to a large research-oriented university, and it will undoubtedly open more doors for her in the future, as she applies for graduate school and jobs.”

Prestigious program

The 10-week REU in Ubiquitous Sensing is funded by the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. As a participant, Rodriguez receives a stipend, travel expenses and on-campus housing.

In addition to collaborating with faculty and other REU participants and learning how to conduct independent research, she is attending seminars and acquiring oral and written presentation skills.

NSF-sponsored REUs are among the most prestigious programs in existence for undergraduates in the sciences, according to Plaut.

“They are highly competitive, and only the top students in the nation are selected for participation,” she said. “They have become even more prestigious recently, as the NSF has funded fewer of them in the current economy.”

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Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for its academic rigor and its focus on the liberal arts, Maryville is where students come to stretch their minds, stretch themselves and learn how to make a difference in the world. Total enrollment for the fall 2010 semester was 1,080.


Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the fall 2014 semester is 1,213.