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IBM Grants Fund Smarter Planet Curriculum Development
- By Dian Schaffhauser
Fifty faculty members from 40 institutions in 14 countries have each received $10,000 grants from IBM for the work they're doing in developing innovative courseware and curriculum in healthcare, transportation, and city planning. IBM issued the grants to encourage universities to add "smarter planet" materials and teaching in their courses. Smarter Planet is an IBM initiative to incorporate the use of data into systems to manage large-scale operations; for example, a "smarter transportation" system might incorporate data transmitted from vehicles and roads to optimize commute guidance, thereby shortening drive times and reducing energy use.
The Smarter Planet Faculty Innovation grants come with the stipulation that materials developed for the curriculum be made available at no cost to other institutions through IBM's Academic Initiative, an online resource center.
In the area of healthcare, the grants are going to instructors who have created courseware focused on encouraging innovation, improving access to patient information, and incorporating advanced clinical knowledge into decision-making.
One winner is North Carolina State University's Laurie Williams, associate professor in the Department of Computer Science. Williams' course teaches students, educators, and software developers how to develop secure electronic health record applications. Another winner, Chris Tseng, an instructor at San Jose State University, is focusing his work on Web and mobile device-based healthcare informatics.
The Smarter Cities awards are going to faculty members who have created course modules that teach development of practices for city leaders to follow in adopting policies conducive to knowledge-driven growth; optimizing services around citizens; employing systems thinking in planning and management; and developing and applying IT to city services.
Fordham University's R.P. Raghupathi, a professor of information systems, will have his students use analytics to explore and propose solutions for improving New York City in areas such as energy, health, transportation, urban planning, sanitation and water, and performance reporting.
Christelle Scharff, an associate professor of computer science at Pace University, who was profiled by Campus Technology for her work in helping students experience global software development, won a grant to continue her teaching in that area. Her latest project will engage teams of students in New York; Phnom Penh, Cambodia; Delhi, India; and Dakar, Senegal to develop mobile and smartphone applications for transportation, health care, and education. For example, the apps might identify the closest public transportation to a specific destination or locate the nearest emergency room.
The third category of grant is dedicated to the study of transportation systems, such as reservation system modernization, vehicle asset optimization, surveillance, and operations control systems. Associate Professor Adel Sadek, in the State University of New York at Buffalo's Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering has students studying how to improve local highway traffic and reduce congestion around the three United States/Canadian border crossings in the area.
"We need to focus on developing more advanced skills so that students around the world are equipped to tackle real-world issues when they enter the workforce," said Jim Corgel, general manager of IBM Academic and Developer Relations. "The work of these 50 award recipients should help change the face of education by enabling students to work on pressing issues facing cities today--and at the same time prepare them for leadership in industries like healthcare and transportation."
The classes featuring the content developed through these initiatives will be taught in the 2011-2012 school year, IBM said. The company has begun soliciting submissions for the next round of grants, looking for curriculum ideas to support smarter commerce, smarter telecommunications, and smarter banking.
Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.