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Steve Chaplin
University Communications

Last modified: Monday, April 6, 2009

Informatics focus on sustainability at CHI 2009 conference

Informatics students last year won, placed third at invitational competitions

April 6, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- More than 2,000 technology innovators from 40 countries are gathering in Boston this week for the 2009 Computer-Human Interaction Conference, and Indiana University's School of Informatics has 14 faculty members and students there carrying a message that technology is the tool to use for a healthier planet.

Rajasee Rege

Rajasee Rege will be one of 11 IU School of Informatics graduate students presenting at the 2009 Computer-Human Interaction Conference in Boston this week.

"Sustainability is a theme that has run through the projects this year," said Eli Blevis, one of three Informatics professors attending the conference. "And the students in the design and research competitions had to be invited here after first getting successfully through a first-round competition."

School of Informatics graduate students from IU were invited to both the research and the design final competitions. The school has fared well in the past, having placed first and third, respectively, in research and design competitions at the 2008 conference.

Later this week, graduate student Rajasee Rege will compete in the student research competition with her paper "Designing Interactive Information Access Technologies for Small Scale Rural Indian Farmers." Her work discusses the use of technology to provide vital real-time information on topics such as agro-markets, weather, pesticide use and other applications that directly or indirectly affect the 60 percent of India's population living in rural areas where agriculture is the main profession.

Competing in the student design competition will be graduate students Dane Petersen, Jay Steele and Joe Wilkerson with their system that monitors and provides immediate feedback to the consumer on residential electricity use.

Informatics image

Informatics graduate students Dane Petersen, left, Joe Wilkerson and Jay Steele will compete at the 2009 Computer-Human Interaction Conference with their new system to monitor home electric use.

Print-Quality Photo

"We have designed an elegant system that displays electricity consumption information and encourages conservation so homeowners can better manage their energy usage over time," Petersen said. "Our design leverages the interactive innovations of the iPhone and iPod Touch and uses a home wireless network to allow us to deliver a compelling and portable experience."

Their wattage use and monitoring system is part of an emerging trend to give homeowners information necessary to control energy usage, like Google PowerMeter, a project to monitor whole-house energy usage. But Steele believes the new design offers more.

"We developed a concept that would be able to monitor specific devices and circuits within the home, allowing a finer-grained perspective," he said. "This addresses the issue of residual power and standby power devices, which would really never show up on the Google PowerMeter display."

The push toward sustainability by the School of Informatics contingent didn't stop with the two student competition presentations.

Blevis will join experts from Motorola Research, Carnegie Mellon University and others to lead a workshop titled "Defining the Role of Human-Computer Interaction in the Challenges of Sustainability," and last year's student research competition winner William Odom has worked with fellow graduate student James Pierce on the presentation "Improving with Age: Designing Enduring Interactive Products."

Faculty members Jeff and Shaowen Bardzell, along with students Kevin Makice, Heekyoung Jung, Tonya Thompson, William Hazlewood and Heather Wiltse are also participating at CHI 2009.

The annual conference runs through Thursday (April 9) and is the premier worldwide forum for exchanging information on all aspects of how people interact with computers. Marking 27 years of research, innovation and development of the computer-human interaction community, the conference is sponsored by the Association for Computing Machinery's Special Interest Group on Computer Human Interaction with financial support from Autodesk, Google, Microsoft and the National Science Foundation.

To speak with Blevis or other members of the IU contingent at CHI 2009, please contact Steve Chaplin, University Communications, at 812-856-1896, or