Exploring the World with Technology
Computer science student uses skills to understand real-world phenomena
Peter Fetros works with the physical and virtual world to learn about technology and its uses. Both worlds are fascinating to Fetros, who has always enjoyed learning about and using technology.
"I just always liked technology and how it works," he says. "It's just so broad. There are so many different things to do in it, different things you can try and learn."
In this program, Fetros has learned to use NetLogo, which can be used to create games, art and simulations. NetLogo functions as both programming language and software, allowing for a very user-friendly programming environment. This software can create simulations that help visualize topics that range from the stability of an ecosystem to the spread of disease. Fetros enjoys working on these simulations, and is using NetLogo on his current research project at UI.
For this project, Fetros is working with two of his professors on the evolution of signaling theory: the way things communicate and how it came to be that way. One, James Foster, is a University Distinguished Professor of biology and computer science, while the other, Bert Baumgaertner, is an assistant professor of philosophy in the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences.
"Philosophy plays a huge part in our project specifically — how things interact and why they do that," Fetros says.
Signaling theory is all about communication. Researchers have studied it in the social sciences and philosophy, and now Fetros is examining it through computer science.
"We're looking at signaling theory using something called a Lewis Signaling Game," he says. "Basically how it works is there are two 'people' playing the game. One can see a world state and the other can't."
Without language or any prior agreements, one player has to get the other to take a certain action. Fetros and his professors want to see how their signaling system evolves using different rules for world states.
"My part of the project is writing a simulation so I can do this, but with millions of players millions of times," Fetros says.
Along with his work in the world of computers, Fetros works on physical projects. He particularly has an affinity for electricity.
"I've worked on all sorts of electrical projects," he says, "I'm finishing up a laser engraver right now, and I've made a solid state Tesla coil."
Fetros sees the applications for his work everywhere.
"Pretty much everything runs on some type of computer," he says. He notes that many of the things we use, like vending machines, use embedded systems, which are computer systems embedded in a larger mechanical system.
Fetros also encourages action for students who are interested in computer science, noting that some never apply for internships that could be beneficial.
"The worst thing that could happen is you don't get it," he says.
Writer: Madison Billingsley is a junior from Covington, Washington, is majoring in creative writing and minoring in computer science. Her passions include writing, video games and sloths.
Photographer: Irish Joy Martos is a senior international student from the Philippines and is majoring in psychology. She enjoys photography as a hobby and works at the student newspaper, The Argonaut.