Summertime Standouts: Kellyn Dassler

Computer Science student spends summer researching wearable tech

Kellyn Dassler
Kellyn Dassler spent her summer working at Carnegie Mellon University as part of the Human-Computer Interaction Institute.

Colorado State University student Kellyn Dassler has both figuratively and literally spent a lot of time this summer focusing on smartwatches and other wearable tech.

Dassler, a Department of Computer Science student heading into her senior year in the College of Natural Sciences, is researching how data visualizations and interactions via smartwatches and smart glasses can improve education equity in middle school classrooms.

The Parker, Colorado native was in Pittsburgh as part of the Summer Research Program at the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. The 10-week institute brings high-performing students from across the country to conduct research in psychology, computer science, human-computer interfaces and language technologies.

Dassler was there to research and design information displays for wearables that allow middle school teachers to have a real-time awareness of how their students are doing on a particular lesson through intelligent tutoring software, a kind of computer-based learning environment used by many school districts across the country.

“By enabling teachers with peripheral information about students’ progress or attention during the session, we can significantly increase teacher efficiency and student learning in a personalized sense,” Dassler said. “The hope is that this research will soon be tested and implemented in a wide range of school districts to improve learning retention in math, and education equity.”

How the technology works

Dassler said intelligent tutoring software in the marketplace currently doesn’t allow for real-time monitoring of the progress of a classroom. With the technology that she is researching, a teacher puts on smart glasses or a smartwatch and receives instant notifications about the students participating in lessons. 

With the smart glasses, a question mark graphic could appear above a student’s head who is having difficulty with a problem. If the teacher is wearing a smartwatch, they could receive a notification if a majority of the class is having issues with a particular portion of the lesson. 

“A lot of times what happens is that students won’t ask for help out loud or they don’t quite know what help they need,” Dassler said. “So rather than having them get stuck on a problem or be super off task, the teacher then gets that real-time feedback so they can help their students.”

Back to CSU

Dassler, who has been working with Human-Computer Interaction Institute researchers Ken Holstein and Dr. Vincent Aleven, said the experience has helped her with her career goals. 

“This summer has been about data design and algorithmic design for education and just realizing there’s lots of intersections between different academic areas, such as computer science and social areas like health and education, that are really important to explore,” she said.

“There’s lots of intersections between different academic areas, such as computer science and social areas like health and education, that are really important to explore.”

— Kellyn Dassler

When Dassler graduates, she said that she hopes to do something related to artificial intelligence, data design, user interface design or even algorithmic design. After that, she wants to pursue a Ph.D. in computer science.

Dassler said the Department of Computer Science played a key role in her success in the institute at Carnegie Mellon by providing her with a strong foundation in research. She pointed to Assistant Professor Francisco Ortega in helping lay the groundwork.

She also said Academic Success Coordinator Elisa Cundiff helped her push forward into new areas of computer science. Cundiff touted Dassler as a standout student.

“Kellyn never stops finding new ways to improve the lives of others pushing the fold of what computer science can be,” Cundiff said. “She is creative, collaborative and a game-changer.”

About Summertime Standouts

Summertime Standouts is an annual feature on SOURCE that highlights students who made an impact this summer around the globe, across the country, and even close to home.

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