Purdue University > Electrical and Computer Engineering > Pivot

Pivot Research Assistant Competition 2012

PivotLab has funding for a half-time research assistant (RA) position starting Summer/Fall 2012 and lasting for two years (with likely continuation given acceptable performance). This position is open to any Ph.D. student at Purdue University in the College of Engineering or College of Science. Because of the software development skills required for this position, the student to be hired will be chosen using a programming competition.


The programming contest will be given on a running basis throughout the summer of 2012 to any student who applies. Please email Prof. Niklas Elmqvist at mailto:elm@purdue.edu to apply. Please use the term 'RA competition' in your subject line.


Once you apply, you will be given the task to solve and 24 hours to solve it. Below are the rules for the competition:

  1. Only Ph.D. students are eligible to apply (not Masters students).
  2. You have 24 hours to solve the task.
  3. Partial solutions are acceptable; in fact, the task may be too hard to solve in 24 hours.
  4. The task will be distributed via email, and your solution (full source, text answers, and any needed supporting files) should be sent back via email.
  5. Please do not collaborate with others (there is only one position available).
  6. Asking for help or advice online is acceptable, even encouraged.
  7. The task to solve will be based on human-computer interaction (HCI) and visual computing for Android mobile devices.
  8. You must use the Android SDK to solve the problem. This is because the RA position is for natural interaction on mobile devices. You do not have to own an Android device, however---using the Android SDK emulator is fine. (You may want to prepare by installing and getting acquainted with Android using tutorials such as this.)
  9. Using third-party software libraries and SDKs is also acceptable, even encouraged.
  10. There are no requirements on writing comments or documentation; however, "slash-and-burn" and ugly code will be valued less than well-designed code.
  11. There is no requirement for candidates to be available on-campus during the summer; candidates may be interviewed via Skype or phone prior to receiving an offer.
  12. All juding will be made by Prof. Elmqvist and will be final.
  13. Prof. Elmqvist reserves the right to make the final decision through interviews with candidates.
  14. Final decisions on the outcome of the competition will be made by September 2012.
  15. If no suitable candidate is found, no offer will be made.

Useful SDKs and Links

Here are some helpful SDKs and links to help you in solving the task:


Please note that any student accepting this position will be expected to choose Prof. Niklas Elmqvist as their major thesis advisor. Furthermore, the student will be expected to take human-centered computing (HCC) graduate courses such as ECE 595E (Visualization Techniques), ECE 695D (Visual Analytics), computer graphics, statistics, and HCI as appropriate.

About PivotLab

Pivot conducts research in visualization and human-computer interaction. The research methodology of the group has equal amounts of science and engineering: our work is always targeted at a practical usage, but we also derive the theoretical underpinnings of the problem domain in addition to building concrete technical solutions. For this reason, all students working in the research group are expected to have a deep knowledge and interest in software and hardware development.