First year transfer student Marco “Tony” Arias and his groups’ presentation to indoor navigation intrigued international faces as they presented their work during iConference U.K.

Arias and his group focused their research methodology on indoor navigation for first responders and presented it in the form of a poster to more than 468 graduate students and faculty in Sheffield, last week.

iConference 2018 is in its 13th year, uniting information scholars, researchers and professionals to share their acuity on critical information issues in contemporary society.

The Diamond building at The University of Sheffield, U.K., hosted the conference this year.

Marco Arias and his group presented their work at the Diamond Building at The University of Sheffield, U.K. (Courtesy of Marco Arias)

Participants could pose questions and offer insight to presenters at what looked like one giant school science fair.

“Most questions participants asked us weren’t just about our poster,” physics senior and i3 group leader, Arias, said.

“They would ask us in excitement: You’re all undergrads? That is amazing!”

For Arias, Julia Cope and DeAndre Williams, presenting on this grand stage and participating in the same workshops as graduate students is an incredible feat; considering the event is dominated by graduate students.

There were two sessions for presentations, one for each day lasting an hour and a half each.

The group spent many hours solving problems and fighting the time difference.

The results amounted to a research report including a literature review with relevant information about first responders, which is new in the sphere of indoor navigation.

Arias and his group titled the presentation “Towards the Creation of Cognitively Salient Wayfinding Aids for Emergency First Responders.”

The group explored the differences between first responders and civilian use of building wayfinding to promote the greatest level of safety in emergency situations.

Their research will eventually be used to aid first responders with new tools outside the existing virtual-reality technology, building blueprints analysis, motion detection and dead-reckoning systems that improve conditions and preparations for rescuers first on the scene.

“First responders think differently in life threatening situations,” Arias said. “We want to get into the firefighters and first responders minds because it’s very difficult to navigate around debris of a blazing building in a moment’s notice; even with building schematics and the right hand on the wall trick, vision is impaired, and walkways may be blocked.”

Deandre Williams, Julia Cope and Marco Arias after their presentation. (Courtesy of Marco Arias)

The group came together through a program called i3 .

i3 was put together by the ischool Inclusion Institute and held by the University of Pittsburgh school of Computing and Information.

Thousand applied for the program but only 25 students were accepted to the program.

Arias became the California representative after being accepted.

The program is year long but the actual time spent at the University of Pittsburgh was only a few weeks.

The group met in the summer and worked on their projects over the summer before returning home.

Everyone in Arias group lived in a different state.

With extensive research projects, constant communication is key.

Since the i3 computer programming training period in summer 2017, Arias coordinated with his partners across the states through weekly video chats.

“We were scared to be honest,” University of Pittsburgh information science junior, Julia Cope, said.

“There is only so much you can go over through google docs and virtual hangouts in under a year, but Tony got us back on track, so we’ll be ready for the concluding institute in Pittsburgh this summer.”

The i3 groups will reconvene in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania after a year apart to display each groups research project.

Participants will see their work published from iConference in Springer Lecture Notes in Computer Science and will be indexed by major services such as Web of Science and Scopus, as well as the posters abstracts will be made available soon on the Illinois Digital Environment for Access to Learning and Scholarship repository.

“The goal is to get published,” Cope said.

“I’m very lucky to have this opportunity, but the conference was different than I expected, the weather was perfect, and I had fun seeing my friends again.”

Not only did the experience credit their work in documentation, iConference provided much worldly insight.

From walking the streets of Sheffield and Cambridge to eating British cuisine, the trip was packed with culture.

“To take a boat ride around Cambridge and to see where incredible people like Newton studied was truly an honor and I’m grateful for having given the opportunity,” said Arias.

In addition to Arias, Cope and Williams, Four other members of the team who were unable make the event because of the expenses.

Fortunately, Cal Poly Pomona Student Affairs and CSU-Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation covered Arias’ travel, food and housing.

Before the trip back to Pittsburgh in July, Arias and his group will interview first responders in the field in effort to devise a master protocol for rescuing.

Navigation isn’t just restricted to the maps app on smart phones, there is an entirely new way of thinking with the way people go about indoor navigation, especially in emergency situations.

“Our research advisor Christina Bam always says: research takes a long time to materialize so it is important to shed more light on what we’re doing now,” said Arias.

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