November 10, 2016: UIC/EVL Receives Honorable Mention in IEEE VIS 2016's VGTC VPG Data Visualization Contest

October 24, 2016 - While most academic conferences attract people who want to learn, the annual IEEE Visualization (VIS) conference attracts people who want to be challenged. Throughout the year, the conference sponsors several contests - to encourage the best visualizations and designs of complex datasets. Awards and recognition are announced at the annual conference, which is taking place this week in Baltimore, Maryland.

Faculty and students of the Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL) at the University of Illinois at Chicago were surprised and elated to learn they won Honorable Mention in the IEEE Visualization and Graphics Technical Committee's (VGTC) third International Data Visualization Contest, organized by the IEEE Visualization Pioneers Group (VPG). This year, the contest was done in collaboration with ACT, Inc., the company that administers the standardized test for college readiness assessment.

Early in the Fall 2016 semester, UIC Computer Science (CS) associate professor G. Elisabeta Marai gave students in her CS 526 Interactive Scientific Visualization course a design assignment based on the IEEE VGTC VPG Data Visualization Contest. The students - including Timothy Luciani, Juan Trelles, Chihua Ma, Andrew Burks, Manu Thomas, Krishna Bharadwaj, Shiwangi Singh, Peter Hanula, and Lei Di spent several weeks designing, implementing, and integrating pieces for a group submission to the contest. Serendipitously, their visualization effort, called "Multi-Scale Voronoi-Based ACT Assessment," was recognized as one of the winning entries by the judges. The group was honored at the VPG Reception at VIS 2016.

ACT operates nearly 9,000 testing centers annually to deliver the ACT Assessment test to over two million high school students on six different Saturdays each year as part of its open, "National" program. Use of the test data by schools and government agencies has grown significantly in recent years, and is increasing the demands on the ACT network and test seat availability. Thus, ACT seeks to use data it collects to better manage its system and its operating costs.

The 2016 challenge was to develop a static visual representation that shows how geographic and seasonal changes in the availability of the ACT test affects nearby or adjacent testing sites, by moving students or assessments, changing dates, or some other strategy. For example, how does the addition or subtraction of a testing center affect demand in neighboring zip codes, or what is the optimal test center network in a particular season?

The students who worked on the winning entry are UIC CS PhD, MS and BS students, many of whom have EVL Research Assistantships or Research Experiences for Undergraduate (REU) support.

IEEE VGTC VPG third International Data Visualization Contest information:

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