Bryn Mawr College
CMSC 380: Sustainability and Assistive Computing
"Making the world better and improving lives through the application of computer science"
Fall 2010

 Syllabus and Schedule
 Course Information

Instructor Information
Textbooks and Software  Course Policies
Additional Resources

Syllabus and Schedule

This is a very tentative syllabus and schedule.  It will evolve over the semester based on input from everyone participating in the course.  However, due dates will remain the same.

As we discussed in class, you are required to complete only one reading summary per week.  Choose this summary from those papers marked "summarize."

Wk Date Topic Reading   Items Due Comments                  

1 8/31 Introductions and Course Planning

9/2 Introduction to Assistive Computing
Aycinena, P. 2008. Access for all. Commun. ACM 51(8): 12-14.  [Must read and summarize]

NC State Report.  Assistive Technology in Higher Education Survey Report. [Skim only, no summary]

Look over the MIT Intelligent Wheelchair website and the The MARC's Smart Home Monitoring System Project.  [No summary]

2 9/7
Computational Sustainability
C. Gomes (2009).  Computational sustainability. The Bridge, National Academy of Engineering 39(4).  [Must read and summarize]

Lab 1:  Accessibility Technologies

9/9 Human-Computer Interface Design for People with Disabilities Lewis, C. 2006. HCI and cognitive disabilities. Interactions 13(3):14-15.  [Must read and summarize]

Lewis, C. (2005). HCI for people with cognitive disabilities. SIGACCESS Access. Comput. 83:  12-17.  [Must read and summarize; you may combine the two Lewis papers into one reading summary]

Shinohara, K. and Tenenberg, J. 2009. A blind person's interactions with technology. Commun. ACM 52(8):  58-66. [Read, no summary, but come with discussion questions]
Submit Reading Summaries for Feedback

3 9/14 Species Distribution Models and Climate Change:  The World is NOT Flat
Guest Lecturer:  Mike Sears (BMC Biology)
L. Buckley, et al.  (2010).  Can mechanism inform species’ distribution models?  Ecology Letters 13(8):1041–1054.  [Must read and summarize]


Human-Computer Interface Design for People with Disabilities
C. Steriadis and P. Constantinou.   (2003)   Designing human-computer interfaces for quadriplegic people. ACM Trans. Comput.-Hum. Interact. 10(2): 87-118.  [summarize]

B. Blankertz, et al. (2008).  The Berlin Brain-Computer Interface: accurate performance from first-session in BCI-naive subjects. IEEE Trans Biomed Eng, 55(10):2452-2462.  [must read and summarize]

F. Popescu, et al.  (2008).  Computational challenges for noninvasive brain computer interfaces.  IEEE Intelligent Systems 23(3):  78-79.  [Read, no summary]

Lab 2:  Species Distribution Modeling

4 9/21 Species Distribution Modeling using MaxEnt

S. Phillips, R. Anderson, and R. Schapire. (2006) Maximum entropy modeling of species geographic distributions.  Ecological Modelling 190:231-259, 2006.  [Read and summarize]

For those with itchy math fingers:  S. Phillips, M. Dudík, and R. Schapire.  (2004).  A maximum entropy approach to species distribution modeling.  In Proceedings of the Twenty-First International Conference on Machine Learning, pages 655-662.   [purely optional reading, for now]

Project 1-page briefs due
Lab 3:  Species Distribution Modeling
5 9/28 Project Workshop I

Project Workshop II

6 10/5 Project Workshop III
Journals/Reading Summaries Due

Gormley, et al.  (2009).  Cervical Cancer Screening in Botswana: A Role of Telemedicine [summary candidate]

Kovarik, Gormley, et al.  (2009).  The use of mobile telemedicine for remote diagnosis in HIV infected patients in Botswana (Skim 1-page Abstract)

Pfaendler, et al.  (2008).  Management of cryotherapy-ineligible women in a "Screen-and-Treat" Cervical Cancer Prevention Program Targeting HIV-infected Women in Zambia: Lessons from the Field [summary candidate]
Full project proposals due Lab 4:  Project Development

7 10/12
Fall Break! (No Class)

8 10/19 Green Technology and E-Waste
The Digital Dump, The Basel Action Network 2005 (read pages 1-9, skim rest)

Electronic Waste Report , U.S. Government Accountability Office, 2008 (skim pages 1-13 of pdf)

Environmental Benefits of 2008 EPEAT Purchasing, Green Electronics Council, 2008 (skim only)

Food and Farm Optimization
Project designs due
Lab 5:  Project Communication (Part I)

9 10/26 No "official" class!  Eric will be out of town.
BUT, you should still meet for lab and use class time for your projects.


10 11/2 Presenting Your Research

Project Workshop IV

Journals/Reading Summaries Due
Lab 6:  Project Communication (Part II)

11 11/9 Sensor Placement in Water Distribution Networks A. Krause and C. Guestrin (2009). Optimizing Sensing: From Water to the Web. IEEE Computer Magazine, 42(8), 38-45.  [summary candidate]

A.Krause, et al. (2008). Efficient Sensor Placement Optimization for Securing Large Water Distribution Networks. Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management, 134(6), 516-526.  [summary candidate]

Insuring an Impact with Technology B Phillips, H Zhao.  (1993).  Predictors of assistive technology abandonment.  Assistive Technology 5 (1).  [summary candidate]

W. C. Mann, et al.  (1999).  Effectiveness of Assistive Technology and Environmental Interventions in Maintaining Independence and Reducing Home Care Costs for the Frail Elderly:  A Randomized Controlled Trial.  ARCH FAM MED/ VOL 8, MAY/JUNE 1999:  210-217.  [summary candidate]

D. Carlson, et al.  (2001).  Assistive technology survey results: Continued benefits and needs reported by Americans with disabilities (skim only)

12 11/16 Assistive Robotics:
Intelligent Wheelchairs, Smart Walkers, etc.
MARC Project on Eldercare Robotics.

JHU APL Story:  Revolutionizing Prosthetics.
Watch this video of the DARPA Program's prosthetic arm

Wheelchairs that listen, The Boston Globe, April 26, 2010
Skim the MIT Intelligent Wheelchair website again and watch the video.

Accessibility Technologies
Guest Lecturer:  Karen Latimer (Institute on Disabilities at Temple Univ.)
Reading TBA

13 11/23 Efficient Power Usage  / Biofuel Policies
The Smart Grid - TBA  (skim only) (skim only)

Happy Thanksgiving!  (No Class)

11/30 Medical Informatics "Decision making in clinical medicine."  Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, Ch 2. (Hardcopy provided)

Borriello, et al.  (2007).  Pervasive Computing in Healthcare.
Approximate Poster Due Date

Home and Personal Monitoring Systems S. Dalal, et al.  (2005).  A Rule-Based Approach to the Analysis of Elders’ Activity Data: Detection of Health and Possible Emergency Conditions.  AAAI Fall Symposium 2005.

M. Alwan.  Psychosocial Impact of Monitoring Technology in Assisted Living: A Pilot Study.  In Assisted Living Consult, Nov/Dec 2006.

Kientz, et al.  (2007).  Pervasive Computing and Autism: Assisting Caregivers of Children with Special Needs.

12/7 Project Presentation
A. Cavender, et al. (2007).  MobileASL: Intelligibility of sign language video over mobile phones.

Project Presentation
Last Day of Class!

TBA -- may be switched with the MobileASL reading
Journals/Reading Summaries Due

Final Project Reports Due

Topics and Associated Readings

As the semester progresses, we will move topics and readings from this list to the schedule above.  This topic and reading list is by no means complete.  We will be adding and changing both topics and readings.
Topic Reading

Computational Sustainability

Agricultural Ecosystems
S. Wackernagel, et al. (2002). Tracking the ecological overshoot of the human economy. PNAS. 99 (14).
Robertson and Swinton. 2005. Reconciling agricultural productivity and environmental integrity: a grand challenge for agriculture. Front Ecol Environ  3(1): 38–46

Assistive Computing

Assistive Computing

M. Scherer.  (2002).  The change in emphasis from people to person: introduction to the special issue on Assistive Technology. Disability & Rehabilitation 24(1-3): 1-4.  (Hardcopy)

NC State Report.  Assistive Technology in Higher Education Survey Report


Possible guest lecture from UPenn Medicine.

Ebner, et al.  (2008).  Mobile Teledermatology: a feasibility study of 58 Subjects using Mobile Phones

Communications and Interactions
Loiacono, E. T., Romano, N. C., and McCoy, S. 2009. The state of corporate website accessibility. Commun. ACM 52(9): 128-132.  (Skim only)

General Course Information

Description:  Explore the use of computers and computational methods for positive change, examining both broader impacts on societal development and environmental sustainability, and narrower improvements to individual lives through assistive technologies. We will cover a variety of highly interdisciplinary topics, including computational allocation of natural resources, monitoring societal-environmental interactions and impacts, ecological modeling, green computing, assistive technologies for people with disabilities, telemedicine, and computers in the developing world.

Junior standing or permission of instructor.

Lecture Hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2:30-4pm
Room: Park 337

Lab Hours: One of the following:  Th 12:30-2:30pm; Fri 9-11am; Fri 2-4pm
Lab room: Park 232


Contact Information and Office Hours

Professor: Eric Eaton
Office:  Park 249
Office Phone:  610-526-5061

E-mail is the best way to reach me, and I make a concerted effort to respond to all e-mails within 24 hours on weekdays and 48 hours on weekends (often, much less!).

Office hours: Mondays 2-4pm, Fridays 2-4pm and by appointment

Textbooks & Software

There are no required textbooks for this course.  All readings will be provided.

The software required for this course will depend on the project topics and our exploration of this topic.  However, all required software will either be open-source or included on college computers.  Other materials may be provided or ordered as needed.

Course Policies


Attendance and active participation are expected in every class. Participation includes asking questions, contributing answers, proposing ideas, and providing constructive comments.  In addition, you will be required to keep a weekly journal of your experience, thoughts and reactions to the material in this course.  While the journal will be private, you will be expected to contribute considerably to the direction of this course by sharing those ideas and reactions recorded in it.

As you will discover, I am a proponent of two-way communication and I welcome feedback during the semester about the course. I am available to answer student questions, listen to concerns, and talk about any course-related topic (or otherwise!). Come to office hours! This helps me get to know you. You are welcome to stop by and chat. There are many more exciting topics to talk about that we won't have time to cover in-class.

Whenever you e-mail me, please use a meaningful subject line and include the phrase "CS380" at the beginning of that line. Your e-mail will catch my attention and I will respond quicker if you do this. I make an effort to respond to e-mails within 24 hours on weekdays and 48 hours on weekends.

This course will require a substantial amount of teamwork, so good communication will be essential!


Your final grade will be composed of :

Class/Seminar Work (60% total)
Journal -- 15%  (5% for each submission)
Reading Summaries
-- 15%  (5% for each submission)
Topic Presentation and Discussion -- 20% (10% each)
Class Participation -- 10% (including peer reviews on project participation)

Project (40% total)
Initial proposal -- 5%
Specification/design report -- 10%
Presentation and poster -- 10%
Final report and project submission -- 15%

Incomplete grades will be given only for verifiable medical illness or other such dire circumstances.

Throughout the semester, I will give you feedback as to how the various scores map to letter grades.

Submission and Late Policy

All work must be turned in either in hard-copy or electronic submission, depending on the instructions given in the assignment.  E-mail submissions, when permitted, should request a "delivery receipt" to document time and date of submission.  Extensions will be given only in the case of verifiable medical excuses or other such dire circumstances, if requested in advance.

Late submissions will receive a penalty of 10% for every 24 hours it is past the due date and time.  Submissions received more than one week late will not be accepted.

In many cases (such as on the presentation/discussions and project), late submissions will adversely affect your classmates, since they are depending on receiving these materials on-time.


Each student will maintain a journal to document your reactions to class discussions and your individual work.  It is good and standard practice to maintain such a journal for research projects, and my hope is that this course will get you into the habit of doing so.  You should use the journal to document your reactions, ideas, criticisms, reflections on related work, outside sources of reading, meeting notes, formal and informal experiments, and any other information of relevance to your project.  While I recommend you keep the journal in hard copy, be aware that you will be required to hand in the journal (or copies of it) throughout the semester for feedback.  Pages should be numbered and titled with clear subject headings and important items should be flagged.

Reading Summaries

For each required reading, you will write a two-thirds to one page summary of the reading, including proper bibliographic formatting.  These summaries may be kept either as part of your journal, or separately.  If you keep them as part of your journal, be certain to clearly mark the differences between the summaries and journal entries.

The content of the summary will vary depending on the article, but in general your reading summary should include:

I also encourage you to find and comment on other related readings in your journal.


You will present and lead the discussion for two topics during the semester, one on computational sustainability and the other on assistive technologies.  You may choose to partner with one other person for each of presentations (if you choose to partner, you are encouraged to have two different partners).  You will prepare a 20 minute presentation on the topic and then lead the class in a discussion based on a set of questions you've prepared on the topic.  You should also find and read 3-5 other related articles beyond the assigned readings and summarize these articles for your classmates during your presentation.  The first presentation will take place around weeks 4-6 and the second presentation will take place around weeks 10-12.  We may need to adjust these times based on invited speakers and other events; however, you will have at least one week to prepare in each case.


Depending on the enrollment, there will be either several large group projects, or a class project on computational sustainability or assistive computing.  Details will be discussed and finalized within the first few weeks of class.  There will be several deliverables required as part of the project:

On many of these components, you and your groups members will be required to document the breakdown of work for assignment of credit.  This will also include peer reviews of your work from your other group members.


There will be no exams in this course.

Study Groups

I want to encourage you to discuss the material and work together to understand it. Here are my thoughts on collaborating with other students:

Additional Resources

Stay tuned!

Thanks to Doug Turnbull and Carla Gomes for making their course materials available.  Many of the course materials and readings have been adapted from those sources.