News Update :: Tuesday, June 20, 2006

News

Big Awards Go to Undergraduate Cross-Tech Education

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a life sciences research and philanthropic organization, has awarded nearly $86 million in grants to 50 U.S. universities to push the boundaries of undergraduate research in the sciences. The grants target programs that are considered innovative, with an accent on strengthening interdisciplinary ties in fields of engineering, medicine, computer sciences, mathematics, and biology.

For instance, undergraduates at Carnegie Mellon University are the beneficiaries of a $1.5 million HHMI grant to fund a series of new advanced interdisciplinary lecture and laboratory courses. The courses include a lecture and simulation modeling course called “Information, Entropy, and Noise in the Brain,” and a course that integrates electronics and optics for biology. The HHMI funding will also be used for the CMU’s Summer Research Institute for sophomores, and offer intro biology courses in a variety of “flavors” tailored to science, social science, and engineering students.

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MIT Grads Win Grant for Solar-Generator from Auto-Parts

Two MIT graduate students in civil and environmental engineering have won a 2006 World Bank Development grant to develop a solar micro-generator that could provide affordable energy to Lesotho, a mountainous African country where just 10 percent of the population has electricity.

The students, Matthew Orosz and Amy Mueller, received just over $100,000 for their project, one of 30 the World Bank funded this year in its competitive Development Marketplace (DM) grant program. More than 2,500 teams sought DM funding for projects on this year’s theme, “Innovations in Water, Sanitation, and Energy Services for Poor People.”

The team’s system combines solar thermal power with a microscale generator that is built and repaired with ordinary auto parts. The team’s goal was to provide not only energy, but also support for the local economy by manufacturing the generator in Lesotho, a nation about the size of Maryland. The latest prototype is “sized to produce about 1 kilowatt of electricity, with about 10 kilowatts of heat recovered as hot water,” according to Orosz.

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Stanford B-School Launches Podcast on Social Innovation

The Stanford Graduate School of Business launched an audio podcast offering programs addressing what it considers some of the world’s biggest social and environmental challenges.

The podcast, named “Social Innovation Conversations,” is designed as an online channel for experts, community leaders, and scholars to share their knowledge across differing disciplines. Programs will be hosted by Eric Nee and Alana Conner-Snibbe, editors of Stanford Social Innovation Review, published by the Center for Social Innovation. “Our goal is to create a popular channel on the Web – a place that provides an engaging and provocative dialogue about the most effective ways we can improve society and the environment,” said Nee.

Types of programs being considered include conferences, faculty lectures, speaker events, and expert interviews. Professional and academic institutions will also be invited to contribute content. The Podcast is being delivered with the help of the Pittsburgh Social Enterprise Accelerator and The Conversations Network, which is hosting the Podcast.

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Worcester Poly Wins Federal ‘Areas of Need’ Assistantships

Four computer science faculty members at Worcester Polytechnic Institute received Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) awards from the U.S. Department of Education. The fiscal year 2006 grant of $211,000, renewable for three years, will provide five annual graduate fellowships at the university for students in computer science. Assistant Professors Neil Heffernan and Emmanuel Agu, Associate Professor George Heineman, and Professor Matthew Ward received the news from the office of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass).

The awards will enable Worcester to provide support to Ph.D. candidates in areas of national need, including learning science, visual analytics, and computer and network security. The funds are intended to advance current computer science research that has applications in the areas of homeland security, health care, and education.

Prof. Ward said the GAANN awards will help raise the profile of computer science and help reverse a significant decline in interest in the field among high school students. “Nationwide, there was a 60 percent decline in first-year college students who expressed an interest in majoring in computer science between 2000 and 2004,” he said. “To maintain a competitive advantage in the global economy, the U.S. must continue to invest in computer science and information technology, and providing support to exceptional graduate students is a critical element of that investment.”

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L.A. Law School to Offer Focus on Computer Game Law

The University of La Verne College of Law, located 40 miles east of Hollywood, is this fall offering its students an academic program in the legal twists and turns of the computer gaming industry. The courses that will be offered include: “Multimedia Law,” “The Law of the Computer Games Industry,” and “The Law of Cyberspace,” along with classes in intellectual property and entertainment law.

“This is the first generation of students raised on computer games,” said Ashley Lipson, who claims to have been the first to offer a computer game law class, back in 2002. “With the explosion of interactive technologies impacting just about every facet of life today, these courses have tremendous relevancy for today’s law students.”

Lipson said he will issue an edition of Computer Game Law, an academic casebook on the subject, exclusively to University of La Verne law school students. The casebook will cover acquisition of game rights and ideas, intellectual property rights and licenses, marketing and distribution, industry and content regulation, and property rights in virtual worlds.

Lipson said he is the author, creator, and programmer of SivPro!, a set of computer games and tutorials targeted toward the law student. He said he also developed the Objection! software series, which simulates courtroom experiences with facts and questions covering all aspects of the trial examination process, including both direct and cross-examination. It is used by lawyers throughout the United States and other countries.

For more information, click here.

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