Brown CS Student Joshua Yang Earns First-Place At The ACM CHI ‘23 Student Research Competition


Joshua Yang, a first-year undergraduate student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, won first-place in the Association for Computing Machinery Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (ACM CHI 2023) Student Research Competition (SRC) held in Hamburg, Germany, for his research with Jeff Huang, Brown CS faculty member and researcher in human-computer interaction. Joshua’s winning research, “Animated Patterns: Applying Dynamic Patterns to Vector Illustrations”, was accepted for publication this February and competed against other accepted SRC submissions at the conference in April. 

“This all started last summer when I joined the Brown HCI group developing features for [a vector illustration software] under the supervision of Professor Jeff Huang and Ph.D. student Tongyu Zhou,” says Joshua. “One topic I investigated was pattern authoring in the vector format, and we had an idea to animate them.” 

Joshua shares that had its own publication present at the conference, titled “ Creating Dynamic Illustrations with SVG Filters”, which he co-authored. “ was a new world where I could work on creativity support in computer science,” says Joshua. “For me, this was particularly interesting because I love to draw and I illustrate children’s project books. In the past, I was a user of digital art tools – now I have the opportunity to be the creator of these tools.”

Through weekly meetings with his mentors, Joshua advanced his research, intensively developing the animated patterns concept throughout his first college semester. By the end of the semester, the results were substantial and Joshua’s advisors encouraged him to submit to the CHI 2023 student research competition.

“Brown HCI is such a supportive group as a whole,” says Joshua, referencing all the encouragement and guidance he received from the team. “I’m thankful for all the suggestions the group members gave, and I couldn’t have done this without their support.”

Joshua explains that his experience at the conference included presenting his poster to conference attendees and judges across three poster sessions over two days. He also attended full-paper presentations when time permitted. After being selected as a competition finalist, Joshua had twenty-six hours to create slides for the final oral presentation on stage.

“I applied what I learned from the conference, from the way presenters structure their talks and craft their slides, to help myself prepare my presentation,” says Joshua. “Since animated patterns move, I made many short videos to effectively communicate them. This was a big time commitment, but I managed to submit my slides thirty minutes before I went on stage.”

Joshua’s first-place award places him amongst other ACM special-interest-group conference first-place winners in the grand ACM SRC finale, which is slated to take place at the end of this year. He recently transferred to Brown University for his second year of college this fall, and is continuing his research on with Brown HCI, working on a second paper.

On entering the world of research, Joshua shares, “If you want to do research, don’t be afraid to reach out to professors. The research opportunities are out there but you need to knock the door. Sometimes you may need to knock more than once.” 

“Joshua has been working in our research group since finishing high school, and has had an extraordinary ability to work creatively and independently,” says Jeff Huang. “His winning the student research competition shows that people in the HCI research community appreciated his ideas, and his co-authorship on our ACM CHI paper for the broader project is a sign that his contributions have been important to our work.”

For more information, click the link that follows to contact Brown CS Communications Manager Jesse C. Polhemus.