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Showcase October 2014: Spatial Cognition Conference 2014

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Spatial Cognition Conference 2014

University of Bremen, Germany
September 15th-19th

Submitted by Corinne A. Holmes, Temple University

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This past September, researchers from around the globe converged in Bremen, Germany to attend the biennial Spatial Cognition conference, hosted by the University of Bremen. Attendees included researchers specializing in navigation, computational modeling, spatial perception, spatial reasoning, and visuo-spatial working memory. The conference opened with workshops discussing the methodological techniques – including real world, virtual, and hybrid models – commonly used to assess human navigation. These discussions not only provided the opportunity for researchers to refine their own techniques, but also allowed researchers to come together to address the limitations of methodologies currently in practice.

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The remainder of the week was filled with keynote addresses, invited talks – one of which was presented by SILC’s Nora Newcombe – student poster sessions, and student paper presentations. Corinne Holmes, a SILC graduate student at Temple University, found the student paper presentations to be especially helpful. She stated, “As a current project of mine enters the final stages, I’m in the process of developing a series of follow-up studies, one of which was going to examine the effect of physical rotation and perspective taking on spatial memory for imagined inter-object locations. Adamantini Hatzipanayioti presented a paper on just that, ultimately saving me from conducting a study that has already been done. This example embodies why Spatial Cognition is such a valuable resource for both upcoming and established researchers – it makes currently unpublished research ‘public’ within the spatial cognition community.” Another SILC graduate student from Temple University, Steven Weisberg, found the poster sessions to be most beneficial. Steven stated, "The poster sessions at Spatial Cognition provided the incredible opportunity to introduce my work to some of the preeminent spatial researchers in our field. The interactions I had helped hone the message of my dissertation research and laid the groundwork for future collaboration using our paradigm."

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In between the scheduled events, attendees formed their own impromptu breakout sessions. Graduate students, post-docs, and PIs carted their coffee and pastries – graciously provided by the conference staff – outside to exchange opinions and ideas in a more informal setting. At the end of the conference, attendees participated in a “spatial cognition excursion,” which included a tour of Worpswede, a former artist colony outside of Bremen, followed by dinner at the Worpsweder Bahnof, an old train station converted into a restaurant. The excursion granted young researchers an additional opportunity to gain one-on-one time with PIs from around the world. As stated by Corinne Holmes, “It’s the ‘in-between time’ that matters most. This is where the magic happens - and by ‘magic,’ I mean this when discussions yield those ‘aha!’ moments in your research.”

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SILC was well represented this year – combined, current and former SILC-affiliated researchers presented 6 posters and 2 papers. A paper of particular interest was that entitled “Mechanisms of Spatial Learning: Teaching Children Geometric Categories,” presented by Linsey Smith, a SILC graduate student at Northwestern University (and soon-to-be post-doctoral researcher with Nora Newcombe at Temple University). Linsey’s presentation focused on improving spatial reasoning - specifically, how analogy can be used as an effective technique for teaching young children geometric categories. This presentation was extremely well received, so much so that the conference committee granted Linsey the “Best Student Paper Award.” Kudos to Linsey and to all SILC attendees for representing the Spatial Intelligence and Learning Center at another successful Spatial Cognition conference!

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