Online gaming competition to advance the development of portable, low-energy electronics

The UNT UNTANGLED development team.
Tuesday, August 7, 2012 - 15:43

DENTON (UNT), Texas -- Researchers at the University of North Texas have announced an online gaming competition that will allow the public to compete for prizes while also helping advance the development of next generation electronics.

As the demand for smaller and more energy efficient electrical devices continues to grow, electrical engineers are faced with the challenge of figuring out how to best fit all the electrical components into the devices.

Dr. Gayatri Mehta, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at the University of North Texas, and her team of student researchers are taking an innovative approach to this challenge, turning the problem of efficiently mapping electrical components into a web-based computer game called UNTANGLED.

Participants will be able to compete for prizes by playing UNTANGLED between Aug. 10 (Friday) and Aug. 20 (Monday). Twenty gift cards will be awarded to the overall best players in the competition. Gift cards also will be given to the players with the highest score in each sub-game. Gift cards will range from $10 to $100, with the overall high scorer receiving $100. The game can be accessed at Registration is free and only requires an active email address.

The game features various series of blocks inlaid on a graph. Players are asked to arrange the blocks more efficiently while adhering to certain constraints, mimicking the challenge of efficiently organizing components within electronic devices.

"Our game brings together contributions from individuals from all points of view and backgrounds to solve important engineering problems," said Mehta. "In addition, we have found that it can result in players themselves thinking in new ways. This way of addressing problems has been coined computational thinking. To the players it may be the insight that leads to a higher score or a more 'visually appealing' graph. To us, it is an approach that could lead to the next generation 'creative' mapping algorithm."

Mehta and her team of students developed the game over the last year, and are now visually and mathematically analyzing the graphs of the top scoring players. The team hopes to harvest human intuition and develop new algorithms, or mathematical equations, that will help engineers develop the next generation of cell phones, medical devices and other electronics. The interdisciplinary project is funded by a $499,924 grant from the National Science Foundation.

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