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Using Digital Images to Teach Abstract Math and Inspire Students towardsCareers in Computer Science and Engineering

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Thinking Outside the Box! Innovative Curriculum Exchange for K12 Engineering

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1613.1 - 22.1613.21



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Paper Authors

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Victor Mejia California State University, Los Angeles

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Jessica Alvarenga California State University, Los Angeles

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Jianyu Dong California State University, Los Angeles

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Huiping Guo California State University, Los Angeles


Israel Hernandez California State University, Los Angeles

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Mathematics teacher For STEM at Roosevelt High School. MESA advisor.

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Eun-Young Kang

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Phanit Pollavith

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Adriana Trejo Roosevelt High School


Nancy Warter-Perez California State University, Los Angeles

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Nancy Warter-Perez is a professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at California State University, Los Angeles and the director of the IMPACT LA NSF GK12 Program.

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Using Digital Images to Teach Abstract Math and Inspire Students towards Careers in Computer Science and EngineeringHow can a computer track moving objects? How can you detect if a video has been tamperedwith? How are pictures sent on your cell phone or from the Hubble Space Telescope? Graduatefellows and their partner teachers in the XXX Program developed demonstrations and hands-onactivities to help high school math students answer these questions. Graduate fellows work withtheir partner high school math teachers to bring their research on computer vision, digitalwatermarking, and deep space exploration into the classroom. The goal of the fellows andteachers is to engage kids in math and to inspire them to explore the fields of computer scienceand engineering.Through pictures and videos, students are introduced to object tracking, digital watermarking,and deep space images from the Hubble Space Telescope. Students are then asked to think abouthow images are represented and manipulated. Demonstrations using state of the art computerscience and engineering tools such as MATLAB and Java are used to show students how apicture is represented as three matrices, where each element is a pixel and each two-dimensionalmatrix represents a color image (red, green, and blue). Students learn how math functions can beused to transform color images into black and white images that are stored as a single two-dimensional matrix. In another demonstration, students are introduced to programming as theyhelp guide the graduate fellow write a Python program to visualize object trajectory in an image.In addition to the demonstrations, different hands-on activities have been created to allow thestudents to assemble images based on the color data in a matrix and to apply math functions toidentify and assemble macroblocks (a standard unit for digital watermarking) of an image. Notonly do these demonstrations and activities introduce students to computer science andengineering research, they also engage the students in math and reinforce their understanding ofmatrices and algebraic functions.This paper describes the various demonstrations that have been developed to introduce studentsto research in computer vision, digital watermarking, and deep space exploration. In addition, itpresents the hands-on activities in detail along with suggestions on how to scale them to differentlevels of math. Finally, this paper presents evaluations of individual hands-on activities thatdemonstrate a concrete understanding of abstract math concepts and pre- and post-assessmentdata that indicate significant improvements in attitudes of students towards computer science andengineering.

Mejia, V., & Alvarenga, J., & Dong, J., & Guo, H., & Hernandez, I., & Kang, E., & Pollavith, P., & Trejo, A., & Warter-Perez, N. (2011, June), Using Digital Images to Teach Abstract Math and Inspire Students towardsCareers in Computer Science and Engineering Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18795

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