Two computer science students awarded NSF EAPSI Fellowships

Photo of Benjamin Fine and Paul TaeleBenjamin Fine and Paul Taele (pictured left and right), Ph.D. candidates in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Texas A&M University, have been awarded NSF East Asia and Pacific Summer Institute (EAPSI) fellowships for 2013.

Fine will spend his time with the Australian Centre for Field Robotics (ACFR) at the University of Sydney working under the advisement of Dr. Salah Sukkarieh. Taele will carry out research that focuses on enhancing creative computing tools for promoting better design thinking using sketch recognition techniques with Dr. Richard C. Davis at Singapore Management University in Singapore.

"This is the third year in a row that our department has received at least one fellowship from this prestigious program, and two years in a row that we have received multiple fellowships," Taele said. "It really speaks highly of the wonderful strengths of our department to achieve this competitive feat and its understanding of today's importance in global research collaboration.

"I am very proud to receive this award this year, and I greatly look forward to gaining even more valuable experience from conducting exciting research with our esteemed overseas partners."

Fine is a a teaching assistant and a research member of Distributed AI Robotics (DAIR), directed by Dr. Dylan Shell.

Regarding this summer's research in Australia, he said he will explore the effects the natural environment of the Australian plague locust have on the behaviors of their migratory bands.

"Locust swarms, which are known to have a large negative impact on the environment and economy, have seemingly unpredictable movement patterns," Fine said. "I believe these movement patterns result from both the local interactions between locust and the local interactions with their environment."

The goal of his work is to gain a fuller understanding of the dynamics that are caused by the environment.

Fine earned a bachelor degree in fomputer science with a minor in psychology from the University of South Carolina in 2009. His research interests include distributed robotics, manipulation of multiagent systems, and bio-inspired multirobot systems. His dissertation work is investigating how the environment can be used to elicit prespecified behaviors from a given group of agents.

Taele is a research member of the Sketch Recognition Lab directed by Dr. Tracy Hammond.

He was also a recipient of the EAPSI fellowship in 2012, when he conducted research abroad in Taiwan at National Taiwan University. He will complete this summer's fellowship by presenting his doctoral consortium paper, "Adapting Surface Sketch Recognition Techniques for Surfaceless Sketches," at IJCAI 2013 in Beijing, China. The International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence is one of the top international conferences in artificial intelligence.

Taele earned dual bachelor degrees in computer science and mathematics from the University of Texas at Austin in 2006 and an M.S. in computer science from Texas A&M in 2010. His research interests are in sketch recognition, natural user interfaces and interaction design. Before beginning his studies at Texas A&M, he pursued Chinese Mandarin language studies as a non-degree option at National Chengchi University in Taiwan under a full scholarship awarded by Taiwan's Ministry of Education.

EAPSI awardees receive a $5,000 stipend and roundtrip international airfare. Foreign co-sponsoring organizations will provide additional support to cover EAPSI fellows' living expenses. The National Science Foundation's EAPSI provides U.S. graduate students in science and engineering with first-hand research experiences in Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Singapore or Taiwan. It introduces the students to the science, science policy, and scientific infrastructure of the respective location as well familiarizes the students with the society, culture and language of the location. One of the primary goals of EAPSI is to help students initiate scientific relationships that will better enable future collaboration with foreign counterparts.