By Erika Webb
TITUSVILLE -- As Stetson University student and Astronaut High School graduate Katie Moore embarks upon her senior year, she is not wasting a future-shaping second.
Recently, the College of Arts and Sciences undergraduate presented her independent research project at a conference on Capitol Hill.
Posters on the Hill, hosted in Washington, D.C., each April by the National Council of Undergraduate Research, is designed to help members of Congress understand the importance of undergraduate research by talking directly with the students whom these programs impact, according to Stetson Today.
Ms. Moore's project, "A Ubiquitous Non-Binding Fitness Application for Mobile Devices Using Body Sensors" was made possible by a Stetson Undergraduate Research Experience grant, an enthusiastic and encouraging professor and Ms. Moore's unbridled drive to succeed.
The short version description of her project: a motivational fitness application for an Android smart phone.
Ms. Moore said she approached Dr. Hala ElAarag, an associate professor of computer science, last year, to inquire about an independent student research project she could tackle over the summer.
"I didn't exactly have a project in mind," Ms. Moore said. "So she gave me the project that was started by two graduating seniors, as their senior research project. It was a watered down version of the app, basically something to read the heart rate and monitor it over Bluetooth."
Ms. Moore's application is designed to provide an engaging and guided exercise routine through the use of a wireless heart rate monitor that collects fitness data, and then displays heart rate performance on the smart-phone screen.
In addition to the gathered data, the user is provided with instructions and is allowed to see, in real time, how he or she is performing during the exercise session. A character displayed in 3D is directly manipulated by the user's heart rate. The faster the heart rate, the faster the character runs. All components work together to ensure the user is performing at his or her target heart rate.
Without cumbersome or expensive equipment, the user moves about freely while accessing biological information.
Ms. Moore graduated from Astronaut High School in Titusville in 2010. She hadn't settled on a college major until she attended a preview day event at Stetson.
"When I looked at the digital arts and computer science program, I was instantly interested," Ms. Moore said.
It was less a passion for fitness and more an affinity for mobile application development, 3D graphics, and the integration of the two which drove her to develop the app. She and Dr. ElAarag hope to publish it on the Android market.
Ms. Moore said her professor was integral to the project's success.
"She initially gave me the project, definitely gave me a lot of free rein to do what I wanted with it, and was available anytime I'd have a question about it," Ms. Moore said. "She also found the Posters on the Hill research conference and two other conferences (where) I could present this research."
The project also was presented at the third annual Florida Undergraduate Research Conference at the University of Florida.
Along with maintaining a 3.8 grade point average, as a double major in computer science and digital arts/computer science track, with a minor in management information systems, Ms. Moore has catalogued books in the university library, developed and maintained web pages for Stetson's website, and is the teaching assistant for the introductory computer science course.
In her letter of recommendation to the Poster on the Hill committee, Dr. ElAarag called Ms. Moore's research "very technically meritorious" and said development of the app has potential for "broad impact on society as a whole."
Dr. ElAarag said Ms. Moore goes "far and beyond" the required lab hours in her role as teaching assistant to help freshman students with their projects, and the professor noted the students have said Ms. Moore has a talent for teaching.
She has a passion for what she is teaching, as well.
"Computer science, as a whole, seems to be slightly ignored in the modern school setting, especially by girls," Ms. Moore said. "It's not at the forefront of what people think of when they look at a major for college because it's so new."
Once her research was completed, Ms. Moore presented it at the 26th annual meeting of the Consortium of Computing Sciences in Colleges in Marietta, Ga., last fall. The top five students of the poster session student research competition gave a 15-minute Power Point presentation.
She won first place.
At the Posters on the Hill conference, Ms. Moore was one of 60 student presenters chosen from a pool of 850.
"When you're presenting, you either sit down in a massive conference room in front of a bunch of people, or you create a poster and explain it to anyone who's curious about your research," Ms. Moore said.
Although she's considering pursuing a master's degree in computer science after graduation next spring, Ms. Moore said she also is interested in developing applications for a large company, "like Google."
"That's a big goal," she said.
But not necessarily out of reach.
In 2007 Andrew Moedinger, who also conducted SURE research under Dr. ElAarag's supervision and also presented his research poster on Capitol Hill is now a successful software engineer at Google, according to Stetson Today.
"Research helps not only to expand what you've already known and add on more skills they don't teach in class, for the sake of time," Ms. Moore said, "but it helps get your name out there for when you get out of school."
"Most people don't realize they can do an independent research project to give them a bit of a boost ahead of others on a resume for their master's or to get a job," she added.
Dr. ElAarag's recommendation letter contained several paragraphs of praise for the student who has excelled in the professor's courses: Introduction to Computer Science, Computer Organization, Discrete Structures, Ethics and Technology and Algorithms Analysis.
She expressed her belief in the project's far reaching potential.
"With the sudden decline in the society's need to be intensely physically active, people are becoming less healthy than in previous years," Dr. ElAarag wrote. "The dangers of this sedentary lifestyle are becoming more and more apparent, as people are gaining an unhealthy amount of weight and developing health problems on a daily basis."
"I believe that the wide spread of applications, like the one Katie designed, is crucial for improving the health of our society," she added.