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Teeming research teams

From ecotourism branding to mold- inhibiting bacteria and school enrollment trends, a bumper crop of intriguing proj- ects engaged more than 30 faculty mem- bers and 50 students for several weeks of intensive research over the summer. Here are a couple of snapshots, with more to follow in the winter Scope.

Performance enhancement The Lake Champlain town of Westport, N.Y., is home to the Depot Theatre, the only professional theater company in the Adirondacks region. David Howson,

ate a procedure that maximizes con- tributed revenue.” In trying her hand at box-office and house-management work, Imboden opened new research doors. She de- signed a marketing survey and has been polling patrons during show intermis- sions. And she’s collecting data to ana- lyze why some winners of 50-50 raffles decide to give their winnings back to the theater; so far, she’s found the larger the winnings, the less likely they’ll be donated back. She aims to “build predic- tors for the raffle so the theater can bet- ter forecast that revenue.”

From stage production to box office to fundraising, they’re probing all the ins and outs of a small nonprofit arts organization in a seasonal community.

True colors


director of Skidmore’s new arts adminis- tration program, connected with its man- ager to work out a research gig that could help the theater while allowing him and a student to study how such a nonprofit functions within its community. He and Kate Imboden ’13 have been staying in Westport, “working hand-in- hand with theater staff,” Howson says. One big job was to help organize the Depot’s annual gala, a complex fund - raiser that’s crucial to its financial health. They helped convince mer- chants to donate goods to be auctioned, and they devised systems to manage in- vitations, auction bids, and donations. They say it was “like planning a wed- ding, but with even more stakeholders —board members, staff, patrons, ven- dors, donors…” Their goal is to “deline -

Digital cameras leave a “fingerprint” on each image they create. If a court case hinged on whether an image came from a particular camera, computer science professor Mike Eckmann and Adam Steinberger ’12 could offer some clues. As they explain it, all but the highest- end cameras use color filter arrays where each pixel has just one color sensor: for red, green, or blue. The camera’s inter- nal software estimates the other two colors from the neighboring sensors; this averaging or blending of the mosaic of an image’s pixels is called “de - mosaic- ing.” Eck- mann says, “As with white-bal- ancing al- gorithms and other aspects of image pro-

cessing, each model of camera performs demosaicing differently, so we think this could be a good diagnostic.”

Steinberger began by taking hundreds of photos. A hiker, he gladly spent hours in Skidmore’s North Woods, “shooting the same scenes with five different cam- eras.” The pair also collected photos from colleagues and friends, quickly amassing a database of 5,500 images from 20-odd cameras. Using the Matlab software package, Steinberger wrote original computer code to inventory the pixel color arrangements in the image files, in both JPEG and raw format, and to analyze the relative influence of near- by pixel colors on each target pixel. That required “some very complicated code,” he says. “My first program would’ve taken eight days to analyze our 5,500 images. After I refined and optimized it, it only takes 90 minutes.” The project complements related work by Eckmann’s research collabora- tors at a Brazilian state university. To- gether with their work on different cam- eras’ “visual noise,” the Skidmore proj- ect is helping to perfect the science of forensic image analysis. —SR





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