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Game receives award for untangling decision processes

Game receives award for untangling decision processes

February 25
22:24 2013

Porschia Paxton / Intern

A team consisting of a UNT professor, graduate and undergraduate students have been recognized by the National Science Foundation and Science Magazine for designing a puzzle game that could make technology more energy efficient.

Gayatri Mehta, an assistant professor of electrical engineering, and her team were awarded with a People’s Choice award announced on the National Science Foundation website Jan. 31.

Mehta said the game begins with a tangled version of a graph. The player’s objective is to change the scrambled graph to make it more visually appealing.

Photo courtesy of Gayatri Mehta

In turn, Mehta and her team are learning strategies from the players, who are anonymous, about how the brain reacts to certain patterns. The team stores all of the gamers’ moves to see how they come up with their strategies, she said.

“What they are giving us are ideas to create designs that would be low power that can go in the next generation’s portable electronics because power is a big concern,” Mehta said.

The competition had more than 200 entries received from 18 different countries while Untangled was submitted under the Games & Apps category.

The process of creating the game began two summers ago when Mehta and her team received a $499,924 grant from the National Science Foundation to continue their research. Then the game was ranked in the top-10 games in the category and was open to the public for voting and later was announced the winner of the category on the National Science Foundation website.

“It vindicated Dr. Mehta’s dedication and expertise in the area,” said Vijay Vaidyanathan, academic associate dean for the College of Engineering.

The free online game was motivated by a protein folding game called “Fold It,” said Mehta who has been working at UNT since fall 2009.

Mehta said players don’t have to have engineering backgrounds to play the game.

“People are very creative,” she said. “They have amazing skills in recognizing patterns.”

It took over a year to get to where the game is now, Mehta said. The team will continue to work on it and add new sub-games.

Computer science senior Natalie Parde said that she got involved with the game as part of a summer of 2011 research program called Summer Undergraduate Program in Engineering Research.

“I enjoyed the Untangled project so much that when the program ended, I continued working on it,” she said.

More than 12 undergradate students and four graduate students have worked on the game. Some of the students aren’t engineer majors, Mehta said.

“This project has inspired a lot of students to get involved in research,” Mehta said.

Computer science graduate student Krunalkumar Patel said he was grateful to be a part of the project.

“I feel very proud to be the part of it,” Patel said. “I had never thought if I would be involved in any kind of research. I joined this team to do programming but I have learned many new things.”

Patel said he learned many concepts for electrical engineering as well as improvements in programming skills.

For more information visit the game web address at www.untangled.unt.edu.

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