News Update :: Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Georgia Tech, Bryn Mawr, Microsoft Form Institute for Personal Robots in Education

An eclectic partnership of Georgia Tech’s College of Computing, Bryn Mawr College, and Microsoft Corp. has been formed to open the Institute for Personal Robots in Education (IPRE). The partners say the organization, which will use a new Microsoft environment for developing robotic applications, was launched to invigorate interest in computer science. Its specific aim will be to develop robotics technology for teaching purposes, the results of which would be made available to the academic community.

The alliance calls for Microsoft to provide Georgia Tech $1 million over three years. Georgia Tech and Bryn Mawr will pony up an additional $1 million.

The two schools were among eight U.S. schools with educational robotics projects that were invited by Microsoft to participate in a request for proposals for the partnership. A tenet of their proposal is that every student should have a personal robot. These would be small, inexpensive, mobile robots – to be made available at the university bookstore, shrink-wrapped with a textbook – that would take advantage of the student's desktop computer for developing, debugging, and running programs that control the robot.

"The time is right to transform computer science education, and creativity and contextualization are the key drivers," said Richard DeMillo, dean of the College of Computing at Georgia Tech. "We are committed to expanding the horizons of our students by incorporating cutting-edge and engaging courses – such as robotics – as core components of the curriculum.”

Microsoft last month released a preview of its Microsoft Robotics Studio, a Windows-based environment for building robotic applications. The Institute will begin developing technology and education projects immediately, with educational programs beginning in January 2007.

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UC Santa Cruz Introduces Major in Computer Game Design

The University of California at Santa Cruz announced last week it will offer a new major in computer game design, which would be the first in the UC system. School administrators told the San Jose Mercury News that that the interdisciplinary program, to be run by the computer science department, will prepare students for high-tech jobs by exposing them to both the technical and the artistic sides of game design.

The major will require a yearlong project by seniors to develop a complete video game. Ira Pohl, chair of the computer science department, said the new program will capitalize on the school's proximity to Silicon Valley and the opportunities available in the video game industry.” The Santa Cruz culture all along has been a culture of experimentation and interdisciplinary work,'' Pohl told the Mercury News.

Several schools have launched game design departments during the past decade, including the University of Southern California, Southern Methodist University, and Carnegie Mellon.

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MIT’s Freshman EE-CS Majors Down by Half Over Five Years

The percentage of freshmen declaring a major in electrical engineering and computer science at MIT is now roughly half of what it was five years ago, according to data from the school’s registrar’s office obtained by the MIT Tech campus newspaper. For other majors, the number of freshmen declaring each course remained relatively constant.

About 34 percent of freshmen declared a major in Course VI (EE-CS) for the Classes of 2001 through 2004. That percentage dropped to 22.6 percent for the Class of 2006, and continued to fall to 20 percent for the Class of 2007. After a slight increase to 23 percent for the Class of 2008, it has fallen to 18.5 percent, for the Class of 2009, the Tech reported.

EECS administrator Anne M. Hunter told The Tech that the concentration would prefer to enroll more students, but the “really good news” is that the percentage of women in the major has increased to 38 percent from the usual 24 percent.

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NC State, SAS Launch Graduate Program in Data Analytics

North Carolina State University chancellor James Oblinger and Jim Goodnight, chief executive offer of business intelligence software vendor SAS, last week announced a joint project to develop a graduate degree program in what the called the “rapidly developing field” of data analytics.

The initiative, to be led NC State professor Michael Rappa, will be a one-year master's degree that would focus on analytical concepts and giving students hands-on experience with the commercial data warehousing and data sifting technologies used in industry today. The degree program will be organized as part of a proposed Institute for Advanced Analytics, to be located on NC State's campus.

In announcing the project, Goodnight said, “competing on analytics in corporations, government agencies, and educational institutions is becoming a must…our customers are making it clear. They need more talent capable of leveraging world-class business intelligence systems.”

The earliest version of SAS was created by Goodnight and NC State colleagues more than 30 years ago to analyze agricultural research data. The proposed degree will commence in 2007, pending approval of NC State and UNC System authorities.

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U Maryland to Run Unified Teaching, Learning System

The University of Maryland said it will launch its first single, campus-wide set of integrated applications for teaching, learning, and knowledge sharing. The system, the Blackboard Academic Suite 7.1, will be deployed during the fall 2006 semester.

Campus officials said the “enterprise learning management system” will assist faculty sharing and reuse of learning objects across sections, courses, and campus departments. For students, the system offers more capable tools for online research and documentation, as well as support for special projects and learning styles.

Jeffrey Huskamp, vice president and chief information officer for Maryland, said the platform would improve collaboration between teachers and students, as well as allocate university resources more evenly. Maryland is offering faculty training workshops for ELMS for the summer roster, as soon as implementation has begun.

The RFP process to acquire the platform was overseen by a technical panel, as well as a separate academic committee formed through nominations by department deans, according to Ellen Borkowsi, the project leader and director of academic support for the university’s IT office.

For more information, click here.

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