Engineering – UROP Spring Symposium 2021

Research Discipline(s): Engineering

Big Cats and Big Data: modeling the ecology of predator-prey dynamics and intraguild predation in the jaguar (Panthera onca) and ocelot (Leopardus pardalis)

Although intraguild predation and interspecific killing play a major role in structuring ecosystems and food webs, we lack a mechanistic understanding of the complex behaviors and outcomes for coexistence among carnivore species. Such is the focus of this project; we built an agent-based model (ABM) in NetLogo to simulate competition between felids, specifically jaguars (Panthera onca) and ocelots (Leopardus pardalis). We searched the literature to parameterize t important components of the model such as movement, home range, and intraguild killing frequencies. Simulation runs were performed 1000 times for each level of additional arboreal refuge, recording the number of coexistence outcomes over a predetermined number of ticks to represent time. We used generalized linear models (GLMs) to determine the relationships between spatial refugia on the coexistence outcomes of the jaguar and ocelot model. Progress so far indicates that increased arboreal availability leads to more coexistence between the two species despite overlapping home ranges and occupancy. In a broader context, this modeling approach can give researchers predictive power in complex systems and guide management decisions for protected areas in neotropical ecosystems.

Pollutant Data Prediction: Protecting our Watershed Through Sensing

Watershed health largely influences quality of life, but it is difficult to quantify. Tracking and reducing pollutants is one way to improve watershed health. Total suspended solids (TSS) is an invaluable measurement in determining the amount of pollutants in a body of water. Despite many studies relating TSS to turbidity (water opacity) or doppler backscatter (sound refraction), there is yet to be a way to accurately predict TSS on a long term basis. This study takes previously calculated correlations between suspended solids concentration (SSC) and doppler backscatter using linear regression and conducts a gaussian process on the data to determine a more accurate model. The model created is based on probabilistic computations with a 95% confidence interval. This model will require initial data points from a site before a model can be developed, unlike the previous model, but the confidence interval will decrease in size as more data points are added. Therefore, we will be able to determine a more accurate model for each specific site. The model developed in this study will then be used to predict TSS values for new sites as TSS and SSC are related measurements, and TSS is a more widely used measurement in regulations. This result allows us to continue with further research into the number of true TSS/ SSC samples necessary to determine an accurate model and how the model will react to changes in flow rate implemented by controlled valves.

Eye tracking to determine cognitive load during programming practice

Novice programmers need scaffolded instruction to maximize their ability to learn how to program. Parsons problems are an increasingly popular solution. These problems require learners to place mixed-up code blocks in the correct order to solve a problem. We are conducting think-aloud sessions and a within-subjects experiment to understand the efficiency and cognitive load of solving adaptive Parsons problems versus writing the equivalent (isomorphic) code. We are also investigating the impact of prior programming experience on students’ experiences and changes in students’ self-efficacy. This study will report on cognitive load and self-efficacy ratings before and after the task for the two problem times. We expect students to exhibit greater learning gains on fixing code with errors when solving Parsons problems with distractors than without. We also expect to find a correlation between self-efficacy and cognitive load ratings. The implications of this study are to improve programming learning tools for novice programmers.

Eye tracking to determine cognitive load during programming practice

Novice programmers need scaffolded instruction to maximize their ability to learn how to program. Parsons problems are an increasingly popular solution. These problems require learners to place mixed-up code blocks in the correct order to solve a problem. We are conducting think-aloud sessions and a within-subjects experiment to understand the efficiency and cognitive load of solving adaptive Parsons problems versus writing the equivalent (isomorphic) code. We are also investigating the impact of prior programming experience on students’ experiences and changes in students’ self-efficacy. This study will report on cognitive load and self-efficacy ratings before and after the task for the two problem times. We expect students to exhibit greater learning gains on fixing code with errors when solving Parsons problems with distractors than without. We also expect to find a correlation between self-efficacy and cognitive load ratings. The implications of this study are to improve programming learning tools for novice programmers.

C++ Programming for Data Packaging

The University of Michigan’s Direct Brain Interface Laboratory has a backlog of raw data that needs to be systematically processed and saved into a standardized format for later analysis. This project was to create a new Graphical User Interface (GUI) in MATLAB which would allow any user to simply process and package the raw BCI data. The GUI also needs to take in information gathered from surveys for each session for each participant and save them for later use. Using MATLAB’s design environment App Designer, a new GUI was created that incorporated code from previous data packaging projects. The GUI currently allows the user to load in raw data then process it, and administer and save surveys or load in survey data that was administered elsewhere, then save all of the processed data together in a standardized form. This new GUI will work for the lab’s data collected during the keyboard replacement study, with the ability for data from different protocols to be added in the future.

Species Distribution Modeling of Pseudopipra pipra in the Neotropics

The Neotropics is one of the most species-rich regions in the world (Condon et al., 2008). Its diverse landscape and complex history has allowed for population isolation and subsequent diversification (e.g. Berv et al., 2021). While our knowledge of phylogenetic diversity in the Neotropics has dramatically increased in recent years (e.g. Berv et al., 2021; Tello et al., 2009), our understanding of how species’ have adapted across a myriad of climate regimes in the Neotropics is less well understood (Weir, 2006).

C++ Programming for Brain-Computer Interface Evaluation of Choice-making

A Direct Brain Interface provides a direct connection between the human brain and various other kinds of technologies. The University of Michigan- Direct Brain Interface (UM-DBI) Laboratory’s current work focuses on creating practical clinical tools for people with physical disabilities. These tools include electroencephalogram (EEG)-based brain-computer interfaces (BCIs). The UM-DBI laboratory has been working on software for cognitive testing and is creating additional test question formats . As a single term project, I have limited goals to achieve in a short time frame. I have picked up on this project and am working on improving the overall layout of the question formats and adding more usability features to the software. The existing code for the BCI to generate questions for cognitive testing is written in C++ and uses the Visual Studio 2010 compiler. It uses Cmake and QT creator to simplify the GUI application development. I used an agile method to work on improving the code and met with my mentor regularly to fix issues. As a result of my work, the lab will now be able to skip certain training pages that are not required during the testing process. The program instead will start from the base level of questions. There are parameter error checking features that are still being implemented. Once completed, it will lower the chances of the software crashing while in use and will make things run smoother.

A Literature Review on Combustion and Properties Studies of Alternative Fuels

A literature review has been undertaken in order to understand more about the ignition behavior of fatty alcohols and to eventually conduct my own experiments. Using Scopus, U of M’s online library, I searched for keywords, such as “fatty alcohols”, “diesel”, and/or “combustion”, in scholarly articles in order to find research that was relevant. After finding the article, I would read through it, occasionally skimming through parts I found non-pertinent, while taking notes on the important information. From there, I would compile all of the information into a three or four paragraph summary, giving a description of each scholarly article. So far, my main takeaway would be that fatty alcohols blended with biodiesel can serve as a substitute for fossil diesel, as they generally produce less emissions, and can make the engine more efficient. This research is necessary to provide insight into if these fuels can replace fossil diesel fuel, in order to transition to a more sustainable source such as biofuels.

Analysis of Wheelchair Dimensions

The goal of this project was to characterize wheelchair dimensions to provide guidance to vehicle manufacturers who are designing integrated wheelchair seating stations in automated vehicles. UMTRI has a database of wheelchair crashes that include front and side view photos of hundreds of wheelchairs. My task on the project was to digitize specific wheelchair points using Image J software, calibrating each photo using a known scale dimension on each photo. These data can be used to define key dimensions for each wheelchair, such as maximum length, width, and height. Forty wheelchairs, including both manual and power styles, were analyzed. Results will be used to create generic 3-dimensional wheelchair models that represent the range of wheelchair sizes available.

Understanding Dynamic Loading of Wheelchairs Secured in Vehicles During Crashes

To develop integrated wheelchair seating stations for automated vehicles (AVs), manufacturers need to understand the loading involved when securing a wheelchair to the vehicle, because wheelchairs can weigh much more than vehicle seats. The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) has conducted hundreds of dynamic sled tests of wheelchairs since the 1980s that include data on securement forces. These tests have involved manual, power, and stroller wheelchairs and a range of crash dummy sizes from small children to large adult males. This project first involved updating the wheelchair sled test database with the most recent test results, and then investigated factors that affect load levels. The main finding is that the weight of the wheelchair has the greatest correlation with the amount of floor loading. Results from this analysis will allow vehicle manufacturers to design wheelchair seating stations for AVs that will allow passengers who travel while seated in a wheelchair to ride safely and independently.

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