most significant bits
newsletter of uw computer science & engineering
volume 21, number 2, autumn 2011
university of washington
CSE logo
 home CSE Home    MSB archive Autumn 2011 MSB    MSB Archive   Contact Info Contact Info 
Shwetak Patel wins MacArthur Chair's message CSE leads new Intel center Alum profile: Wen-Hann Wang News Aram Harrow joins CSE CSE’s newest ACM Fellows iGEM 2011 world champs! Datagrams Awards Refraction wins NHK prize CRA recognizes CSE ugrads 2012 Diamond Award winners Events Susan Eggers retires! Jean-Loup Baer turns 75 2011 Industrial Affiliates meeting CSE @ 2011 Hopper Conference
msb21.2 PDF

Make an impact: support CSE

Supporting UW CSE is a left-brain decision. Your gift provides the department with resources for scholarships, fellowships, research support, and funds to building the CSE community we hope you value. Small gifts might not seem significant by themselves, but when pooled together they make great things possible. As you think about giving, please consider making a gift to CSE. Go to our website ( and select “Support CSE.” You will find a variety of funds that can benefit from your support.

About MSB

MSB is a twice yearly publication of UW CSE supported by the Industrial Affiliates Program.

Editor: Kay Beck-Benton.
Contributors: Dieter Fox, Sally James, Ed Lazowska, Hank Levy, Sandy Marvinney, Shwetak Patel. Photo credits: Bruce Hemingway, Lindsay Michimoto, UW News Team.

We want to hear from you!

Do you have news you’d like to share with the CSE community? Comments or suggestions for future issues of MSB? Let us know! Email the editors at and be sure to visit us online at:

Sign up for MSB email

MSB is now available via email. To sign up, send an email to
  msb at


Refraction wins NHK Japan Prize

Presenting Refraction
Presenting Refraction to the audience

Refraction, a game for teaching fractions developed by CSE’s Center for Game Science, recently won the The Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Prize for the Best Work in the Primary School Category in the 38th NHK Japan Prize. The NHK Japan Prize is an annual international competition for educational media. Refraction placed first among the 60 entries in the Primary School category, and was one of six overall winners selected from 313 entries from 61 countries. The jurors stated that “Refraction provides a brilliant solution to bring mathematical concepts to life in a rich environment that is fundamentally exciting while at the same time is rooted in pure education.” The Center for Game Science competed with major international broadcasting organizations such as NHK, BBC, PBS, and the National Film Board of Canada. NHK flew CSE grad student Erik Andersen to Tokyo to receive the prize and broadcasted the awards ceremony throughout Japan.

Andersen receiving NHK Japan prize
Erik Andersen receives the NHK Japan prize

Refraction was created by CSE graduate students Erik Andersen, Yun-En Liu, Eric Butler, and Seth Cooper, CSE Professor Zoran Popović, and a team of CSE undergraduate students, artists, educators, and game design experts. The game is accessible to anyone with a web browser, can be played for free, and has already engaged more than 400,000 players of all ages. A major goal of the project is to leverage the popularity of video games to gather huge amounts of data on how children learn fractions. Future versions of Refraction will adapt to each child individually and present a variation of the game most suited to the child's knowledge, learning preferences, and misconceptions. The long-term goal is to show that such games can be highly effective at making challenging math topics fun and to replace math homework with game playing.

To play the game, please visit:

2012 CRA Undergraduate Researcher Award competition recognizes four CSE students

CRA-recognized undergrads
Elliott Brossard, Matt Bryan, Stephanie Dietzel,
Hilary Worden

The Computing Research Association (CRA) Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award competition recognizes undergraduates in North American colleges and universities who show outstanding research potential in an area of computing research. Universities may nominate as many as four students annually. In the 2012 competition, all four UW CSE nominees were recognized!

Matthew Bryan (finalist) researches brain-machine interfaces (BMI) in UW's Center for Sensorimotor and Neural Engineering. His publications have focused on designing interfaces that can adapt to BMI users, allowing them to be used for more complex tasks than any previously performed with BMI. He intends to enter a PhD program in computer science where he will continue his research.

Elliott Brossard (honorable mention) is a fourth-year student in computer science and math, doing research with Professor Carl Ebeling on creating a threaded object model for programming Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs), which allows for the swift development of highly efficient low-level applications. When he graduates in the spring, Elliott will continue his studies with the fifth-year combined bachelors/masters program in computer science at UW.

Stephanie Dietzel (honorable mention) has been working with the Programming Lanuages and Software Engineering group. Recently, she was listed as a coauthor on "Building and using pluggable type-checkers," which was presented at the 33rd International Conference on Software Engineering. Stephanie will continue her studies with the fifth-year combined bachelors/masters program in computer science at UW.

Hilary Worden (honorable mention) has been working for the Open Data Kit group since winter 2010. She currently works on ODK Tables, an Android app built to provide SMS-based data collection and information services with low overhead, and designed mainly for use in developing regions. After graduation, she'll be working for's disaster response team.

This year's results extends CSE's record of having the largest number of students recognized in the most recent ten years of this competition! The winners join 38 previous CSE undergraduates recognized by the CRA since the award's inception in 1995.

Congratulations to Elliott, Matt, Stephanie, and Hilary!

Two CSE alums receive 2012 Diamond Awards

Greg Badros and Anne Condon
Greg Badros and Anne Condon

Each year the University of Washington College of Engineering recognizes five alums with Diamond Awards – the highest honor conferred by the College. Two CSE alums have received 2012 Diamond Awards – to be conferred at a ceremony on May 18.

CSE Ph.D. alumnus Greg Badros, an Engineering Director at Facebook responsible for advertising, search, data science and data infrastructure, will receive the UW College of Engineering Diamond Award for Early Career Achievement.

CSE Ph.D. alumna Anne Condon, Head of the Department of Computer Science at the University of British Columbia and a world-renowned researcher in theoretical computer science and computational biology, will receive the UW College of Engineering Diamond Award for Distinguished Achievement in Academia.

Read more about Greg, Anne, and the other honorees at:

CSE logo
Computer Science & Engineering Box 352350, University of Washington Seattle, WA 98195-2350 Privacy policy and terms of use