The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the journal Science created SciVis to celebrate the grand tradition of science visualization and to encourage its continued growth. The spirit of the competition is to communicate science, engineering and technology for education and journalistic purposes.
Dr. Gayatri Mehta, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering, and her team of student researchers are taking an innovative approach to the challenge of determining how to best fit electrical components into future electronic devices that are smaller, more powerful, and have longer battery life.
“I’d like to congratulate Dr. Mehta and her research team for this great achievement. This project has created a great deal of enthusiasm in our students. I feel proud of their outstanding efforts,” said Dr. Murali Varanasi, Chair of the Department of Electrical Engineering.
Speaking of the game, Dr. Mehta states that "People have amazing skills at identifying problems and exploiting opportunities. We hope to capture some of this ability in our algorithms, and this game is the first step."
UNTANGLED features various series of blocks inlaid on a graph. Players are asked to arrange the blocks more efficiently while adhering to certain constraints, mimicking the challenge of efficiently organizing components within electronic devices. Players are scored based on how efficiently they can organize the blocks.
By visually and mathematically analyzing the graphs of the top scoring players, the team hopes to learn more about human intuition and develop new algorithms, or mathematical equations, that will help in the development of future cell phones, medical devices and other electronics. According to the contest entry for UNTANGLED submitted to NSF, “To our knowledge, this is the first ever online game that explores architecture design and circuit layout by making these problems accessible to anyone.”
“From our initial results, we have developed a new algorithm that works by laying out our graphs in common patterns, mirroring the thought processes of some of our players,” Dr. Mehta stated. “This algorithm can already outperform our existing algorithms and most of our players as well.”
Judges appointed by NSF and Science will select winners in five categories: Photography, Illustration, Posters & Graphics, Games & Apps, and Video. The winning entries will appear in a special section of Science (with one entry chosen for the front cover) and be hosted at ScienceMag.org and NSF.gov. In addition, each winner will receive a one-year online subscription to Science and a certificate of appreciation.
The public also is invited to vote for their favorite entries in each of the five categories by logging onto the SciVis site. The voting ends on November 8th. The top vote-getters in each category will be designated the People’s Choice.
“We are thrilled to be recognized in this competition, and we are out to win it,” Dr. Mehta stated.