Seniors Presented Capstone Research Results at Undergraduate Conference

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Westminster College seniors Neil Pilarski and Aaron Zavora presented the results of their capstone research at the 2011 Penn State Behrend Sigma Xi Undergraduate Research and Creative Accomplishment Conference April 16.

At Westminster, the final component of liberal studies is a senior study, or capstone, course.  The capstone is a four-semester-hour (minimum) course within the major designed to provide an opportunity for students to evaluate and assess the strengths and limitations of their major field.

The capstone experience permits opportunity for structured reflection on the value of education in and beyond the major and provides an opportunity to strengthen communication and problem-solving skills.

Pilarksi, a computer information systems and business administration major, presented "Interruptions and the Effects of Postponement of a Secondary Task." 

Information presentation formats in the field of human-computer interaction are being changed to better adapt to how humans deal with interruptions while using a computer.  One adaptation is the capability to defer an interruption when it occurs.  The research was to determine whether subjects choose to defer an interruption during high or low cognitive load and to investigate whether the actual postponement had a positive or negative effect on both the primary and secondary tasks, according to Pilarski.

Pilarski is a son of Patricia Pilarski of Pittsburgh and the late David Pilarski and a graduate of Shaler Area High School.  His research was supervised by Dr. Terri Lenox, associate professor of computer science and chair of Westminster's Department of Mathematics and Computer Science.

Zavora, a mathematics and computer science major, presented "Learning to Play the Deadly Game of Amazons."

Amazons is a board game invented in 1988 that combines the skills of chess and Go and is played on a 10x10 board.  The research examined strategies of playing Amazons on a smaller board size and investigated whether these strategies can be extended to a strategy for play on larger boards, ideally the 10x10 board.

Zavora is a son of David and Suzanne Zavora of Westmoreland City and a graduate of Norwin High School.  His research was supervised by Dr. John Bonomo, Westminster associate professor of computer science.

The conference included participants from 10 colleges and universities in western Pennsylvania for 51 oral presentations and 85 posters on a variety of fields.  Pilarski and Zavora presented in the Computer Science, Engineering, and Physics session.

Bonomo and Dr. David Shaffer, Westminster associate professor of computer science, accompanied the students and served as judges for the presentations.

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

About Westminster College...
Founded in 1852 and related to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Westminster College ranks first in the nation as "Best College for Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math," according to Westminster is a top tier liberal arts college, a national leader in graduation rate performance, and a "Great School, Great Price," according to U.S. News Best Colleges guide. Westminster ranked 38th among liberal arts colleges, according to the Washington Monthly College Guide, and is one of the most affordable national liberal arts colleges in Pennsylvania. Westminster is also honored as one of "The Best 373 Colleges" and "Best in the Northeast" by The Princeton Review, and is named to the President's Honor Roll for excellence in service learning.

Nearly 1,600 undergraduate and graduate students benefit from individualized attention from dedicated faculty while choosing from 41 majors and nearly 100 organizations on the New Wilmington, Pa., campus. Visit to view "Advantage: Westminster" A Strategic Plan 2010-2020.

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Neil Pilarski


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Aaron Zavora