Computer science and math are two fields of study with common roots. Students of either inevitably come across a famous mathematical combinatorial problem referred to as “the travelling salesman problem,” and its associated theoretical problem “P vs. NP.” The Travelling Salesman is also an intellectual pulse-throbbing film written and directed by Timothy Lanzone. The DC Chapter of Association for Computing Machinery (DC ACM) in partnership with the Washington INFORMS Chapter (WINFORMS), Data Community DC (DC2), the INCOSE Student Chapter, and GWU EMSE premiered the Travelling Salesmen film on Tuesday, October 29th, 2013. The screening was held on George Washington University’s campus in Lisner Auditorium.
The film narrates the ethical dilemma faced by four world class mathematicians who discover the solution to a famed math optimization problem with the potential to systemically transform the technological foundations of the entire human race. When the potential for the discovery is picked up by United States Department of Defense the mathematicians must choose between safety and risk, freedom and secrecy, the potential to change the world forever and the ability to make sure that it is never jeopardized. This is the story of what happens when a solution powerful enough to solve every problem of the modern world is at once dangerous enough to return it to its medieval state.
DC ACM also had the distinct pleasure of interviewing director Timothy Lanzone about the inspiration behind the film, the process for tackling a unique topic in computer science, how he entered film making, and what advice he would give to young luminaries in mathematics and computer science.
DC ACM: What got you interested in film making?
TL: It’s always been a passion of mine. Since I was a kid, I’d be making movies at any opportunity I had—carrying my passion to the London Film School where i received my MA alongside some truly talented filmmakers. I enjoy the creative freedom and the entire process of dreaming up a story and watching it come to life through filming and post-production.
DC ACM: What other films have you completed?
TL: Immediately out of film school I completed a semi-autobiographical film called Road to Pecumsecah about a film school grad with big dreams struggling to make ends meet. Currently, I do a lot of commercial and short-form creative work for NBC and NBC Sports.
DC ACM: What was the creative process to take a brainy idea, a math problem, and turn it into a film that is exciting and gripping?
TL: After finishing film school, I had the opportunity to make a very small indie feature that was nicely received but had very, very limited exposure. I wanted to make another film but knew I’d have to do it on extremely limited resources. So I began challenging myself to tell a dramatic story that didn’t involve too many locations, too many actors and therefore could be shot in less than 2 weeks. Film school professors always warn that the hardest and most difficult scenes to shoot occur around kitchen tables–limited shot selection, confusing actor positioning, and overall lack of dramatic punch. That stuck with me. So, naturally, I wanted to see if I could contain drama in one room–keeping most of the activity centered around a table!
I’ve always admired the power of mathematics–and that’s a tenant that we discuss a lot in the film. The ability to take the unknown or the unexplained and to quantify it or simplify it has always fascinated me–so I’ve always had a draw to the subject.
The first draft for Travelling Salesman was about a team of mathematicians who explored the power of factoring the prime number. It was a bit more mythical. I sent the script to my brother (Andy) who is an electrical engineer (he graduated from Univ. of Michigan with a Masters in computer science) and he basically said, “This is great, but have you ever heard of PvsNP?” After lots of discussion, we re-molded the script into its current form. Coincidentally the original draft focused on the same themes/plot points that ended up being in the final draft of TS–so the re-writing was fairly easy.
I was always fascinated by the Manhattan Project–the successes and failures–but mostly how they achieved something pretty extraordinary by bringing in the best available minds from around the world–and having them all focus on one common goal.
Q: What advice would you give a young mathematician or computer scientist?
TL: Find a niche and be great at it. The digital world, seemingly, is expanding exponentially every day. It’s simultaneously exciting and scary—and mathematicians and computer scientists are at the forefront of it all. It’s funny that they’re often grouped or portrayed as simply intellectual—”good with numbers.” However, contrarily, I think they may be the most creative and innovative people on the planet. Use that inherent creativity and innovation and don’t limit yourself—you have the ability and talent to blaze a trail that no one else can.
Within the United States, many communities are rallying to increase interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) among young people. The motivation to create more future professionals in the sciences is precipitated by hundreds of organizations expressing a need for more people to fill roles that require technical knowledge and scientific aptitude.
The National Science Foundation organized a local career fair at the Dulles Town Center, inviting over sixty organizations to create exhibits encouraging young people to consider STEM careers. The DC ACM attended this two-day fair, creating an exhibit featuring 3D printers. Additionally, the DC ACM partnered with a local makerspace, Nova Labs, who’s members brought hand-assembled 3D printers to demo at our joint exhibit.
Over a dozen DC ACM volunteers staffed the exhibit over the two days, availing themselves to young people to talk about their careers. DC ACM Officer & Member-At-Large, Varetta Huggins designed t-shirts for the volunteers with the slogan “Ask Me About My STEM Career.” DC ACM Secretary Matt Piekarczyk assembled a video from several sources, including exclusive unreleased footage from NASA of 3D printer tests in zero-gravity conditions. Additionally, other DC ACM members, Roger Fujii, Isaac Christoffersen, Eric Noriega, Bob Downs, Gene Lloyd, and Gene Gaines all volunteered hours at the mall talking to young people and inspiring them to learn more about a future in the sciences.
The event was an overwhelming success. Hundreds of high school students and their families stopped by, giving DC ACM volunteers the opportunity to talk about 3D printing, science, and hold conversations about their careers. Gene G. posted dozens of photos to the DC ACM meetup group which evince the crowd and interest the DC ACM/Nova Labs exhibit drew.
Young people were intensely interested in 3D printing, what it can do today, and what researchers are looking into creating in the future. Many parents and high schoolers asked us great questions about the technology. Many had questions 3D model creation process which precedes the printing, initiating discussions around 3D modelling software, 3D visualizations, and the software which controls the printers themselves.
The interest in 3D printing, in turn, created an opportunity to talk about science. My favorite question to young people that day was “Are you considering a career in science?” I received a variety of responses, from strong answers detailing which specific field was of interest, to more open responses conveying interest still yet perfectly formed.
At the event, many other organizations approached DC ACM volunteers about exhibiting at future events over the next six months regarding young people and sciences. If you are interested in volunteering for one of these events, please email firstname.lastname@example.org expressing your interest.
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As we approach the end of the summer, the DC chapter of the ACM is embarking on a new set of initiatives for the local community. As called for by the ACM’s purpose and mission, we are enthusiastically planning professional development opportunities. To welcome and include all, our August newsletter describes initiatives that you can participate in.
Conversations: Privacy & Trust
Many ACM members have dedicated their careers towards building the Internet, with the aspiration of creating a global communication network that benefits all. The recent discussions around privacy and trust have raised questions about the direction that Internet development is going. The DC ACM would like to start local conversations around this topic and offer a forum to share opinions on the matter. If you are interested in participating, please email email@example.com. NB: The DC ACM is in talks with the Internet Society and our ACM President to create a larger forum for discussion.
Professional Development: Turing Award Winner Talk
Bob Kahn, Turing award winner and co-inventor of TCP/IP, has graciously offered to speak to local ACM members. We are excited to host him, as we did for Vint Cerf earlier this year, and are busy planning the event logistics for an engaging technical talk. More details on the October event will be made available in a subsequent email. If you want to be a part of the planning committee, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
· NSF Stem Career Fair for Kids
· Privacy & Trust Conversations
· Web Programmer for our RWD project
· Student Professional Development
Please view our projects page for more information on these volunteer opportunities. http://wp.me/P1uA6Q-27
The DC area, with thousands of computer scientists and IT professionals, has a tremendous amount of community. I believe this is most evidenced by the activity occuring on meetup.com groups. In addition to the DC ACM’s meetup group, http://meetup.com/dc-acm, there are many other groups creating events for individuals with specific interests. There are groups for Google Glass, Data Analytics, Makerspaces, and even languages such as Ruby or Python. We encourage you to explore to and discover the exciting things happening in the DC area.
For those interested in 3D printing, please consider visiting our exhibit at the upcoming NSF STEM Career Fair. With curiosity, many have asked about the connection 3D printing has to computer science. To me, the academic interest in the ability to manufacture items from computer controlled printers, using materials like plastic, metal, or even substances like chocolate, is the best example of how relevant 3D printing is to computer science. The research is reflective of what is up and coming in the technology world. While the ACM SIGGRAPH group shows the most activity around 3D printing, I can envision the technology becoming its own special interest group (SIG) one day. For hobbyists: it’s enjoyable to witness a 3D printer in action, and to tinker with the various pieces of software that make a 3D printer work. Kids love them. Contact Varetta Huggins, our project manager, email@example.com for more details on our exhibit or to get involved.
For fans of the arts, there are some unique upcoming events that blend technology. The Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Gallery is hosting an evening event on Saturday, August 17, 2013 featuring martial arts and 3D-Printing, titled “Asia After Dark.” It will feature 3D printing and scanning technology from Smithsonian experts. Check out the Smithsonian website for more information: http://asia.si.edu/asiaafterdark/
Thanks for reading. How do you feel about this post? Please write firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts.
Chair, DC ACM
DC ACM associates are invited to an upcoming half-day event, titled “Surveillance, Cybersecurity, and the Future of the Internet.”
Join the Internet Society and The George Washington University’s Cyber Security Policy and Research Institute this Wednesday, July 24, for a timely discussion tackling the implications of Internet surveillance programs. This half-day event will explore concerns that unwarranted collection, storage and potential correlation of user data will undermine key principles of trust that the Internet was built upon. Registration and speaker list is available on the event webpage.
Event: Surveillance, Cybersecurity, and the Future of the Internet
Location: George Washington University – Marvin Center, Grand Ballroom
Date: Wednesday, July 24, 2013
The Internet Society recently collaborated with the DC ACM to host Dr. Vint Cerf, ACM President, who spoke on “Reinventing the Internet.”
It is with great honor and privilege that I get to announce the elected officers for 2013-2014. Each of these individuals will be taking over on July 1st, 2013.
Amar Zumkhawala joined our team partway through the last year and became a force in helping us connect with speakers, venues, and the community. He has a computer science background and demonstrates qualities and leadership becoming of a DC ACM Chair.
Gene Lloyd, the veteran of the new board, will be staying on as Vice Chair. Gene has done a great job in the past year with outreach and helping to put on some of our presentations with prestigious speakers.
Robert Downs is a long-standing ACM member who recently decided to take on the challenging role of Treasurer. With too many degrees to count on one hand, he’s astute in whatever he puts his mind to.
Matt Piekarczyk served as our Programs Chair in the past year and was a talented conversationalist with our speakers at the dinner table and our events. He’s the President and founder of his company and a former President of his ACM student chapter at his alumni.
Varetta Higgins is new to DC ACM, with an impressive background of community activism in the technology field. She has been a leader within the IEEE Women in Engineering and is also interested in promoting STEM education.
I would also like to thank Lougenia Bailey for her efforts as Communications Chair in the past year and this upcoming year. She’s done a great job with this blog, its contents, and coordinating the contributors to it.
For more professional background on each new board member, please see our previous post when they were candidates here: http://computopics.dcacm.org/2013/05/28/dcacm-candidates-for-office-2013-2014/
With Best Regards,
Chair (until July 1st)
George Washington University will be holding a Computer Science Colloquium on Wednesday, June 19 at 11:00 AM in Tompkins Hall, Room 201. The colloquium will feature the presentation, “Distributed Multi-Target Fusion of PHD Filters via Exponential Mixture Densities”, given by Dr. Simon Julier of University College London. The presentation will focus on the difficulties of using multiple hypothesis tracking and track-to-track fusion when approaching Distributed Multi-sensor Multi-target Tracking and how Random Finite Set based approaches may be the solution. Refreshments will be provided.
Please see the announcement for details.
On Monday, May 13, DC ACM hosted Dr. Vint Cerf, who gave the presentation “Reinventing the Internet”, at Google DC. Dr. Cerf is the co-designer of TCP/IP protocols and has served as the Vice President of Google since 2005. In 1994, Dr. Cerf was listed in People magazine as one of the year’s “25 Most Intriguing People”. He has been the recipient of numerous awards including the U.S. National Medal of Technology, the Alan M. Turing Award, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Dr. Cerf also serves as President of the Association for Computing Machinery.
- M.B.A., The Ohio State University
- B.S., Computer Engineering, The Ohio State University
- SpicyKey, Founder, 2012-present
- Cardinal Solutions, Java Developer, 2007-2008
- Amazon.com, Senior Software Engineer, 2001-2006
I am very passionate about furthering the field of computer science in a grass-roots manner. As chair, I would work with other executive board members and volunteers to honor the organization’s mission and continue its successes. Under my leadership, we would continue the outreach to great speakers, as well as further the momentum of organizing community events that benefit our members. I would also open the door to partners and DC ACM members to work through the DC ACM to create professional development and technical workshops.
As programs coordinator for the DC ACM, I have been working with the other great volunteers in the DC ACM Chapter to organize events. I conducted the outreach to amazing professionals in the field of computer science such as Vint Cerf and Larry Davis and coordinated with several organizations and volunteers to make the community building happen.
- Masters of Computer Science, Computer Systems Security, Colorado Technical University
- Bachelors of Computer Science (Magna Cum Laude), Grantham University
- Associate, Applied Science of Information Systems Technology, Community College of the Air Force
Gene Lloyd is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force nearing the completion a 20 year active duty career where half of his service was focused on developing and working within the Air Force’s cyber warfare program. He has been a member of the AFCERT, alumnus of the AF cyber warfare school house, and is currently pursuing a Doctorate of Computer Science with a focus on developing algorithms to detect the true source of network attacks.
As the Vice chair for the previous term, Gene worked with the Chair to streamline the constitution and bylaws, line up speakers for monthly discussions, and spearhead discussions on how to get more engaged in local tech focused community events. If re-elected, he will continue to push in those directions during the next year with a specific focus on getting DC ACM more engaged in local events focused on getting younger kids interested in the STEM fields.
- Member, Delta Epsilon Tau International Honor Society
- Member, DC Rotary Club
- Member, Association for Computing Machinery
- Member, IEEE Computer Society
- BS, Mechanical Engineering, Virginia Tech
- MS, Computer Science, Virginia Tech
- MS, Information Systems, George Mason University
- MS, Bioinformatics, George Mason University
Mr. Downs is a Patent Agent, registered to practice before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and employed with a nationally ranked Patent Law Firm since 2001. There he performs patent preparation and prosecution services in the area of computer technologies, particularly in the areas of software and bioinformatics, semiconductor, display devices, and communications. Prior to employment with the law firm, was employed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. There he served in various positions including: patent quality review and trainer in the area of electronic commerce. During the 1980’s, he worked for the Dept. of the Navy in reliability engineering for early stage ship design. While at the Dept. of the Navy, he managed SBIR projects in artificial intelligence, and was involved in projects including development of expert systems.
My relationship with ACM in the past has been by way of professional development and networking. I look forward to engaging members in activities that help them to grow, as I have, through programs that foster professional development. As current practices in computing promote openness and sharing, certainly networking facilitates sharing of problems and solutions to those problems. I will utilize my own professional experiences in serving in the role of treasurer so that others may benefit through networking with others in the organization.
Mr. Matt Piekarczyk’s relationship with ACM dates back to 1998, when he joined and later became the president of the Poly-NYU student chapter. Throughout his career, Mr. Piekarczyk’s involvement with computer engineering field only strengthened. He has come to found two companies in the subject areas of computer networking and artificial intelligence. He served as a subject matter expert for the U.S. Army’s Chief Systems Engineer. He supported and lead the engineering groups responsible for designing and fielding Network Operations solutions covering Army’s division through battalion tactical forces. He has been responsible for numerous R&D projects, including one of the first modern data analytics platforms for tactical networks, founded by the then Commander in charge of research and development within U.S. Army, Major General Justice. In most recent years, Mr. Piekarczyk has focused on leading Cortix Systems Inc., a Virginia startup focused around automating data and systems integration, as well as providing direct support to the ACM community as the Programs Chair for the DC professional chapter.
- Bachelor of Science, Computer Science, Hampton University
- Master of Science, Information Systems Technology, George Washington University
Mrs. Varetta Huggins has over 17 years of experience in the Information Technology, College Education, and Financial industries. Her expertise is in Program/Project Management, Acquisition Management, and Systems Engineering.
Mrs. Huggins has over 15 years of experience in Program Management, Project Management, Acquisition Management, Systems Engineering, Software Development, and Configuration Management. She has managed many weather system projects for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Weather Service (NWS) under the Tsunami, AWIPS, and NEXRAD programs. She has also managed many Acquisition projects for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) under the Technical Training, Wake Turbulence Mitigation for Departures (WTMD), and Data Communications NEXTGEN Programs. She has also worked as a Computer Programmer on the National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) Stratospheric and Gas Experiment (SAGE) II Program. She held progressively technical and management federal contracting positions in the Information Technology industry with companies that included SAIC, Keane, Advanced Systems, Inc., North Star Group, and Integrated Systems Solutions.
Mrs. Huggins is dedicated to creating a company which provides solutions using a Project Management process-oriented approach; provides excellent customer satisfaction; is employee focused; provides financial scholarships to degree seekers; and fosters an environment where honesty and ethical conduct are valued and integrity is un-compromised.
- Director, IEEE, Washington DC Section
- Member, IEEE
On Monday, April 29, DC ACM was privileged to host Dr. Larry Davis, Professor at the Institute for Advanced Computer Studies and the Department of Computer Science at the University of Maryland. His presentation, “Computer Vision: UAVs and Video Processing,” chronicled just how far the field has come since it began in the mid 20th century.
On Monday, May 13, DC ACM will be hosting the presentation Reinventing the Internet given by ACM Turing Award Recipient, Dr. Vint Cerf, at Google DC at 6:30 PM. The presentation will focus on the evolution of the Internet from its beginning in 1973 to its current state and the need for updates to its architecture. See below for the agenda and speaker biography.
Go to DC ACM Meetup to RSVP.