Dr. Tracy Hammond, director of Texas A&M University’s Institute for Engineering Education and Innovation (IEEI) has been named an Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) 2020 Distinguished Member by her peers in recognition of her outstanding contributions to the computing field and as an international leader in activity recognition. Hammond serves as the chair for the Engineering Education Faculty Group and as the director of the Sketch Recognition Lab.
As the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, ACM recognizes members who have achieved significant accomplishments in the computing field with at least 15 years of professional experience. ACM President, Gabriele Kotsis, said in the organization’s announcement, “With the Distinguished Member designation, ACM celebrates specific contributions of these members and their career growth as reflected in a long-term commitment to the field, as well as their collaboration with peers in supporting a global professional association for the benefit of all.”
Dr. Hammond has a rare background with an M.A. in Anthropology from Columbia College, a Ph.D. in Computer Science and an F.T.O. (Finance Technology Option) from MIT, and three additional degrees from Columbia University (an M.S. in Computer Science, a B.A. in Math, and a B.S. in Applied Physics and Math). Her research deals with activity recognition algorithms that predict a person’s intentions and future choices, by identifying and understanding behavior and cognitive processes. Hammond said, “I love research and teaching, but my true passion is working with students on research projects and using research to teach students to build a better world.”
Dr. Hammond’s work in sketch recognition has already been implemented to improve K-12 and university student’s learning through two teaching applications. Her software, Mechanix, automatically corrects hand-drawn diagrams of students’ homework problems and is currently being used at Texas A&M, Georgia Tech, LeTourneau, San Jose State, and Texas State. Mechanix provides individualized feedback better than or equal to a human, can guide users on assignments and predicts test scores. Students and instructors appreciate the system because it provides feedback not only on the answer but also on the process. Engineering researchers at Georgia Tech, TAMU, and Texas State use Dr. Hammond’s SketchTivity software to draw in 2D-perspective with automatic feedback, thus improving their drawing accuracy, speed, and confidence.
Additionally, Dr. Hammond created a system that recognizes close to a thousand shapes, far greater than any other existing system, that can be used to track child development and cognitive decline. She found that unintentional hooks, or small microscopic marks at the start and end of a pen stroke, show up at age five and are evidence of low-level planning. Applying her expertise in human behavior to eye-tracking, Dr. Hammond is able to identify a radiologist’s proficiency and how likely a recruiter is to accept a resume. Dr. Dilma Da Silva, professor and holder of the Ford Design Professorship in the computer science and engineering department, said ‘’Dr. Hammond has made groundbreaking contributions to the area of activity recognition, a critical component of most Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications. It is awe-inspiring how she built such a successful path as a scientist while prioritizing her activities as an educator. Her impact goes beyond her extensive publication list in computer science and engineering education.’’