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Westminster College Computer Science Students Present Research and Earn Top Honors at Behrend Conference

Posted on Friday, May 3, 2013

NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. - Five Westminster College senior computer science majors presented the results of their capstone projects April 13 at the 2013 Penn State Behrend Sigma Xi Undergraduate Research and Creative Accomplishment Conference.  Two of the five students were awarded top honors in the Computer Science and Engineering session.

Anthony Caratelli earned first place for his presentation "Casino Solitaire." The goal of this project was to develop an algorithm for the game Klondike Solitaire with a set of Casino rules that would maximize money gained per game.  Using a Klondike game written in Java, analysis was done of different strategies in an attempt to achieve this goal, including: a basic random move priority system, use of heuristics developed from past research of this game, analysis of the deck order, and use of the probability of playable cards being uncovered. Caratelli's adviser was Dr. John Bonomo, associate professor of computer science.

Caratelli is a son of Arthur and Lesa Caratelli of Darlington and a graduate of Blackhawk High School.

Daniel Solomon earned second place for "Improving Upon Previous Database Programs." The purpose of this project was to improve upon movie collection management program features and add new ones. The user's collection is kept in a SQLite Database, and the graphical user interface allows users to easily make complex queries on their collection. A user can add to the collection by scanning a DVD barcode from a webcam, and the program acquires information on cast, crew, etc. from three internet-based sources to add to the database.  The biggest new feature added was the ability for a user to compare his/her collection with another user's database, which shows what specific movies the two collections share. Solomon's adviser was Dr. David Shaffer, associate professor of computer science.

Solomon is a son of Daniel and Denise Solomon of New Wilmington and a graduate of Mercer Area High School.

Peter Barber presented "Simulation of Plant Growth and Evolution using Genetic Algorithms." In computer science, a genetic algorithm is an optimization method intended to mimic natural selection. The purpose of this project was to test the practicality and usefulness of implementing genetic algorithms in a simulation-type video game. The goals of the project were to create a simulation environment in which simple plant representations compete for resources and evolve according to the results of genetic algorithms, and to design a video game in which the player is tasked with choosing the evolutionary design of a plant that would compete in such a simulation. Bonomo was Barber's adviser.

Barber is a son of Robert and Lisa Barber of New Castle and a graduate of Mohawk Area High School.

Jacob Cratsa presented "Class Capture." Cratsa created a web-based application for use in the classroom setting. The main function is to combine typed notes from the student with an audio recording to make the notes act like bookmarks for the recording. This project was developed following Universal Design guidelines, when possible, so that as many students as possible could make use of it. Instead of being designed for individual use, Class Capture is meant to be used by the entire classroom and managed by the instructor. Shaffer was his adviser.

Cratsa is a son of Nicholas Cratsa of Verona and a graduate of Penn Hills High School.

Ryen Wilkins presented "Creating Adaptive Characters in Interactive Fiction through the use of a Genetic Algorithm." He explored the implementation and application of genetic algorithms in the TADS 3 IF system in order to evaluate Non-Player Characters (NPC) performance against the player, so as to improve NPC's later performance and creative dynamic and adaptive characters. The implementation was a translation of an existing Java genetic algorithm framework to the prototype-based programming language used by TADS. Shaffer was his adviser.

Wilkins is a son of Barbara Natale & Victor Wilkins of New Castle and a graduate of Mohawk Area High School.

Bonomo and Shaffer accompanied the students to the conference and served as judges for the presentations.

The conference featured over 140 posters and oral presentations in a variety of fields including engineering, biology, business and women's studies, from faculty and students from twelve colleges in Pennsylvania.

Contact Bonomo at (724) 946-7287 or email for additional information. 

(l-r) Jacob Cratsa, Ryen Wilkins, Daniel Solomon, Peter Barber, and Anthony Caratelli.