26th ACM UIST Symposium - St ANDREWS, UK, Oct. 8-11, 2013

26th UIST @ St. Andrews, UK
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Welcome to the fifth annual UIST Student Innovation Contest (SIC) website!

The goal of the contest is to innovate new interactions on state-of-the-art hardware. We give you the hardware, and you show us what you can do. Contestants will demo their creations during the demo reception at the conference on October 10th, and the winners will be announced the same day. A jury of UIST-celebrities and the organizers will select two winners in each of the "most creative" and "most useful" categories, and conference attendees will vote for their two favorite teams in the "people's choice" category.

Important Dates

  • August 11:
  • August 12-13:
  • August 13:
  • August 20:
  • August 21:
  • August 26 - October 9:
  • October 10:
  • Student contest registration deadline for all teams
  • Organizers evaluate submissions and select accepted teams
  • Notification of team selection results sent out
  • UIST conference registration deadline for accepted teams
  • Hardware kits shipped to accepted teams
  • Contest development period with PumpSpark Kit
  • Teams demo at contest reception during UIST Conference

Contest Announcement

In recent years, we have come to realize that computer input can be more than just typing on a keyboard, or positioning a pointing device. Touch, gesture and spoken interfaces have all achieved significant commercial success. But on the output side, most devices still rely on traditional audio/visual displays. This year's contest is all about getting creative with output!

The Hardware: The PumpSpark Fountain Development Kit (FDK)

This kit includes 8 miniature water pumps and the prototype PumpSpark controller that allows you to programmatically shoot streams of water up to ~1 meter into the air. The system is both fast (~100ms response time) and precise (~8 bit resolution). Both USB and Arduino interfaces are supported. This will allow you to quickly prototype highly interactive, Fluidic User Interfaces (FUIs).

In addition to the hardware, teams will have access to Brookshire Software's Visual Show Automation (VSA) – an animatronics control package that allows for easy authoring of pump sequences that can be called programmatically. This software makes it easy to include synchronized lighting, motion (using waterproof servos), audio and video.

Now it is up to you to create truly interactive water-based systems that react in real-time to human input!

The following video shows what's possible with the PumpSpark kit in action:

Contest Winners

1st People's Choice - Team WaterPong
Hesham Omran, RWTH Aachen University
Ignacio Avellino, RWTH Aachen University
Jan Zimmermann, RWTH Aachen University

2nd People's Choice - Team XboxH2O
Ben Jorissen, Hasselt University
Raf Ramakers, Hasselt University
Thomas Stockx, Hasselt University
Sean Tan, Hasselt University

3rd People's Choice - Team BIT
Sungjae Hwang, KAIST
Dongchul Kim, Yonsei University
Sang-won Leigh, MIT

1st Creativity - Team Flame Challenger
Yi Huang, National Taiwan University
Kuan-Hung Kuo, National Taiwan University
Tzu-Hua Chen, National Taiwan Normal University
Chan Yu-Chien, National Taiwan University

2nd Creativity - Team Ring Ding Dong
Seongkook Heo, KAIST
Jiseong Gu, KAIST
Jeongmin Son, KAIST
Eunhye Youn, KAIST

1st Usefulness - Team TUM IN
Irman Abdic, Technical University of Munich
Felix Meissgeier, Technical University of Munich
Sahand Sharifzadeh, Technical University of Munich
Mohsen Ahmadvand, Technical University of Munich

2nd Usefulness - Team Fillagio
Michael Crabb, University of Dundee
Sebastian Stein, University of Dundee
Kris Zutis, University of Dundee

PumpSpark Fountain Development Kit (FDK)

  • PumpSpark controller board, usb cable, power supply
  • 8 miniature pumps with ~100 ms pump response time
  • Flexible tubing, splash protective mesh, and connectors/nozzles
  • USB interface works with Windows, Mac, and Linux
  • Optically-isolated serial interface for use with Arduino or other microcontrollers

PumpSpark Controller

PumpSpark Pumps

PumpSpark Hardware Kit

Software Details

  • Simple communications serial protocol (3 byte protocol: sync byte, pump #, and pump rate)
  • Example code for Java, C#, Arduino will be provided to accepted teams to get started quickly
  • Works with standard animatronics control packages such as Visual Show Automation (VSA)
  • A free license of Brookshire Software's Visual Show Automation (VSA) and the ActiveX VSA Console will be provided to all participating teams

Demo Gallery

Images of various demos built using the PumpSpark kit to get your creative juices flowing!

Registration Process

There are a few changes in this year's student contest registration process, please read carefully to make sure you earn a chance to participate:

Contest Rules and Details


Innovation comes in many forms, so we've decided to award 1st and 2nd place prizes in the three categories below:

    • Most Creative
    • Most Useful
    • People's Choice

The "Most Creative" and "Most Useful" category winners will be selected by the judges. The third category of "People's Choice" will be decided by UIST Conference attendees voting for their favorite projects.

To celebrate this year's 5th Student Innovation Contest, Microsoft is providing 24 Surface RT tablet computer bundles (including a TouchCover, of course) to be awarded as prizes in this year's Student Innovation Contest!

Surface Prizes

Each member of the 1st and 2nd place winners in each of the three categories will receive a Surface. More importantly, you will have the respect of conference attendees, your peers, and bragging rights. The prizes are made possible through the generous support and donation from our sponsor - Microsoft.

We reserve the right to change the award structure based on a number of factors, such as (and not limited to) the number of participating teams.

Frequently Asked Questions (updated 08/17)

Registration and Eligibility:

Q: I am NOT a student, can I still participate?
A: Unfortunately, no. The contest is limited to students at all levels (High School, Bachelor's, Master's, and PhD).

Q: I'm in high school, can I participate in the contest?
A: All students are welcome. However, you will have to be old enough (at least 18 years old) and able to travel to the UIST Conference in St. Andrews, UK.

Q: I'm an international student, can I participate in the contest?
A: Yes. International students at all levels are encouraged to participate. You will be responsible for your own travel and arrangements.

Q: Are postdocs eligible to participate in the contest?
A: Unfortunately, no. Postdocs are expected to pay the full registration rate at the UIST conference and thus are not considered students. To maintain fairness among all teams, this means they are not eligible to participate.

Q: What happens if I wish to withdraw from the contest?
A: Teams are welcome to withdraw. Please email the contest chairs at least 2 weeks before the conference. Keep in mind you might be asked to return the hardware provided. If you are seeking conference registration reimbursement, your reimbursement will not be processed until you have returned the hardware kit.


Q: How many teams will be selected to participate in the contest?
A: Based on space and power limitations at the venue, we will be selecting a maximum of 30 teams. We reserve the right to change this number based on a number of factors (including number of teams registered, ideas submitted, team composition, etc.).

Q: Is there a waiting list for team selection?
A: If accepted teams decide to withdraw or do not register for the conference within a week of selection notification, additional teams may be invited to participate. We will only contact additional teams if spots opens up.

Q: Can one person be a member of multiple teams?
A: Unfortunately, no. Please decide to be part of one team for the contest. We also encourage students at same institutions to form full groups of 4 students, instead of smaller teams.

Q: Can teams be composed of students from different schools?
A: Yes, definitely. Simply enter the school name of your team captain at the top of the registration form. Then, enter the school names for your other members in the section for each additional member.

Q: Can student members be removed or added from teams after the registration deadline?
A: Yes, we are allowing for student members to be added or removed up until 2 weeks before the contest. The team captain or student registered for the conference cannot withdraw, otherwise the team will forfeit their participation. Email the contest organizers as soon as possible to make any changes.

Demo Ideas:

Q: Are we limited to demos constrained to tabletops/indoors with limited splashing or a closed pump system?
A: Yes. We would have liked to demo outdoors but logistically we won't be able to do that. You are currently limited to tabletop/indoor demos with some splashing or a closed pump system. Each team will receive their own table and power strip, and asked to set up their demo at the assigned location indoors.

Q: Can I publish a paper on what I come up with?
A: Yes.

Q: Do I own the intellectual property (IP)?
A: You own the rights to what you develop.

Q: Will I be able to demo my idea on my own computer?
A: Yes. In fact, it is mandatory, since we will not provide any equipment at the conference.

Q: Can other people help me develop this code?
A: It is permissible to get external help for bugs and other issues. People external to the team cannot contribute large pieces of code (or ideas).

Q: Can my adviser help?
A: Ideas can be discussed with advisers, but core ideas should come from the team members.

PumpSpark Hardware and Software:

Q: Can teams receive multiple PumpSpark sets for interactive applications?
A: Unfortunately, no. We can only provide one kit per team and that will also keep the contest fair. Of course you can add any further sensors, servos, lights, materials, tubing, etc. to your prototype.

Q: Do I get to keep the PumpSpark kit after the contest?
A: The PumpSpark kit is a Microsoft Research prototype and is being loaned by Microsoft for the purposes of the contest. Selected teams will be asked to sign an equipment loan agreement form provided by Microsoft. The agreement states that you will be able to keep the entire kit for a period of one year starting at the end of August 2013.

Q: Are the PumpSpark kits available for purchase or can we receive a detailed parts list to reconstruct?
A: Currently, no. The PumpSpark kit is a Microsoft Research prototype and only available to students as part of the UIST contest at this time. We will be sure to post any updates if this changes in the future.

Q: Are we allowed to develop our demos in languages other than the ones used in the provided examples?
A: You are welcome to write your own ports for different languages and develop your demos in any language. Because the communication with the controller board uses a simple protocol via a serial port connection, a port of the code to a different language should be fairly easy. However, we are unable to provide any technical support beyond the sample code we've shared.

Q: Is there a way to use the PumpSpark controller on a different operating system that isn't Windows or Arduino (i.e., Linux, Mac OS X)?
A: Currently, we have only tested the PumpSpark controller with Windows and Arduino using the sample code provided.s It is expected to work with other operating systems (provided they support serial port communication). The USB interface uses an FTDI controller. FTDI provides drivers for a variety of operating systems. More info is available here: http://www.ftdichip.com/Drivers/VCP.htm. However, we are unable to provide any technical support for other operating systems at this time.

Travel Arrangements and Grants:

Q: Is it possible to receive funding for travel and registration?
A: Unfortunately, no. We tried to secure additional funds but we will not have any travel grant support available this year.

Q: I will need a visa to attend UIST. Can you provide a visa invitation letter?
A: Contest organizers won't be able to help with visas. There is a section at the bottom of the registration page that details how you can request a visa support letter directly from ACM. Please visit: http://www.acm.org/uist/uist2013/registration.php


Q: How will you stop people from voting multiple times for "People's Choice"?
A: We encourage you to interact with conference attendees to show off your projects and ask them to vote for you. Student volunteers will be monitoring the voting stations.

Q: What if only a few teams enter?
A: We reserve the right to change the rules at any time. If a small number of people were to enter, we are likely to modify the award structure.


Q: What if something happens the contest chairs did not foresee?
A: We reserve the right to change the rules at any time. We will inform all registered contestants of any changes.


Special thanks to Paul Dietz and Microsoft Research for providing the PumpSpark hardware kits, and thanks to Microsoft for providing Surface tablets as prizes for all contestants on our winning teams. Thanks to Brookshire Software for providing free licenses of Visual Show Animation (VSA) Professional and the ActiveX VSA Console for all student teams.


Microsoft Research

Brookshire Software

Contact Us

The UIST 2013 Student Innovation Contest is being organized and co-chaired by:

Gabriel Reyes (Georgia Institute of Technology, USA)
Nicolai Marquardt (University College London, UK; University of Calgary, Canada)
David Kim (Newcastle University, UK)

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UIST Contest History

You can check out past contest sites if you're wondering what it's like to participate in the UIST Student Innovation Contest. We're looking forward to seeing you in St. Andrews, UK!

2012 - http://www.acm.org/uist/uist2012/contest.html

2011 - http://www.acm.org/uist/uist2011/call/contest.html

2010 - http://www.acm.org/uist/uist2010/Student_Contest.html

2009 - http://www.acm.org/uist/uist2009/call/contest.html

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Latest updates:

adjunct proceedings

mobile apps available.
Android app on Google Play

10% submission growth over last year, only 62 of 317 submissions were accepted (<20%)

Keynote Speaker

Raffaello D'Andrea (ETH Zurich)

Sponsored by:

ACM: The Association for Computing Machinery

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