2009-2010 Funded Projects

A Bootstrapping Approach to Teaching Statistics for the SME Foundations GIR - $10,000

Professor Roy E. Welsch, Sloan School of Management

Professor Welsch will design a 6-unit statistics course following the model for the proposed General Institute Requirement (GIR) for Science, Mathematics, and Engineering. This statistics subject will not necessarily depend on the prior teaching of probability. To do this, he will develop an innovative approach that starts and ends with data and is based on the statistical method of bootstrapping (re-sampling). By re-sampling one can show that plots are subject to sampling fluctuations as well and that there is a need to always ask the question—is what we are seeing “real” or just a result of sampling error? The level would be aimed at sophomores and require calculus as a prerequisite.

Bringing Russian and Soviet History into the Digital Age - $20,774

Professor Elizabeth A. Wood, History Section
Ms. Molly Ruggles, Office of Educational Innovation and Technology

This project is designed to develop a web portal that will gather the many extant Russian-related sites under one digital umbrella. It will organize relevant web sites by several criteria including period, geography, topic, and the like, using a visually intuitive site map as well as a more standard search feature. In addition, part of each page of the web site will be devoted to sample lessons and assignments that Professor Wood will develop. These will be designed to bring together sites of proven merit and will provide synergy by linking sites to make a more coherent whole (e.g., the Khrushchev and Kennedy speeches in the Cuban Missile Crisis, which are currently on different web sites).

Convex Optimization and Applications: New Senior-level Course Offering - $26,000

Professor Pablo A. Parrilo, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Professor Stephen Boyd, Stanford University, Electrical Engineering

This project is the initial offering of a new senior-level class for the Fall Term of 2009. The course will be offered on an experimental basis for the first time and, if successful, will serve as the model and foundation for a regular MIT course on the subject. The goal of the course is to provide an introduction to the fundamental elements of convex optimization, concentrating on recognizing and solving optimization problems that arise in engineering. Throughout the course, there will be an emphasis on applications to signal processing, control, digital and analog circuit design, computational geometry, statistics, and mechanical engineering.

Course Notes, Book, Problem Sets and Lab Development for 6.007 - $23,500

Professor Vladimir Bulovic, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

6.007 is a new class launched in Fall 2007, which is changing the way EECS introduces the electrical engineering discipline to their students. This class for the first time links the electrical engineering experience with nanotechnology at a foundations level, influencing, from the very beginning, the students predisposition in learning. The awarded funds will support development of new problem sets, creation of a web-based resource to complement the 52 lectors and 13 tutorials, streamlining of the lab exercises that comprise the hand-on experience in the class, and the update and supplementation of demos used in the class to enhance the visual memory experience of students. Based on the positive response from his colleagues at other universities, Professor Bulovic expects that appeal of this course will reach beyond MIT walls.

Engineering RNA: A Robust and Integrative Curriculum that Scales - $15,000

Professor Natalie Kuldell, Biological Engineering

Professor Kuldell is proposing an inquiry-driven series of laboratory experiments in RNA aptamer design, isolation, and testing. This experiment can scale to meet growing enrollment needs within biological engineering, draws on the expertise of young faculty within the department, and complements the content in other subjects students take concurrently with 20.109, Laboratory Fundamentals of Biological Engineering. The teaching materials will be available on a world-readable wiki and should be useful to a wide community, both within and outside of MIT. Most importantly, this experiment will help MIT's undergraduate students look at biology through the eyes of an engineer.

Expeditions: Observation, Recording, Science - $16,388

Professor Mary Fuller, Literature Section
Professor Lindy Elkins-Tanton, Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences

Professors Fuller and Elkins-Tanton plan to develop a team-taught freshman seminar combining the disciplines of earth sciences and literary studies. Their questions: how do expeditions function in testing or generating scientific hypotheses about the physical earth?; how do expeditions produce records?; and how are these records shaped, stored, disseminated, and used? Their goal is to scale up to a 12-unit freshman subject on this topic in 2011-12, inviting collaboration from other faculty and disciplines across the Institute.

Improving Upper-Division Undergraduate Instruction in Electromagnetism - $20,000

Professor John Belcher, Physics
Professor Jennifer Palilonis, Ball State University, Journalism

Professor Belcher plans to work on improvements in the teaching of upper-division electromagnetism. The improvements are: (1) revising the order of material taught in the course, so that the more intellectually challenging material is covered earlier; (2) increasing the interactivity of lecture using principles of active engagement and learning theory; (3) increasing the collaborative aspects of the course by using an open source learning activity management system; (4) introducing interactive and passive visualizations similar to the TEAL visualizations, but at a level appropriate to the course; (5) embedding those visualizations in a narrative structure that gives an overview of the physics at the level of a scientifically literate lay person.

International Development Tool Kit: Transnational Dimensions of Urban Development - $25,000

Professor Diane Davis, Urban Studies and Planning

This for-credit course will expose MIT students to the transnational dimensions of international development from an urban perspective. It will emphasize in-depth cultural, social, political, and economic conditions and how they have affected a transnational immigrant community both in Boston and in the community's home country. Students will explore social science tools, methods and techniques as a complement to engineering and science frameworks that will help to clarify urban and international development problems with a applied problem-solving approach. Finally, students will engage in innovative policy or advocacy responses.

Putting the "E" Back Into DMSE - $25,000

Mr. Mark Tarkanian, Materials Science and Engineering

The funds requested for this project will be used to expose Course 3 students to a suite of traditional engineering skills and modern prototyping methods. Over the past several years, the Department of Materials Science and Engineering (DMSE) has made an effort to enhance its project-based engineering experience: machining, CAD/CAM, rapid prototyping, and design. They've built up a well-equipped shop, but the current DMSE curriculum does not stress engineering/design until senior year. This proposed program will give interested undergraduates a chance to work on hands-on engineering projects during lAP or the summer, an opportunity to steer their education towards the engineering side of materials science, and will prepare incoming sophomores for materials engineering modules in 3.014.

Science Documentary Curriculum Development - $20,000

Professor Thomas Levenson, Writing and Humanistic Studies

This project will result in the creation of a new, advanced course in the writing and production of science documentaries in picture, sound, and video. Alumni Class Funds will support curriculum design and the purchase of the equipment the students will need to complete their assignments. That course will both form an ongoing part of the Institute's curriculum, and it will add a significant element to the PWHS initiative to create new opportunities to study digital media and their creation.

V Lab: Documenting Science through Video and New Media - $30,000

Professor Christine J. Walley, Anthropology

This new undergraduate class combines documentary film theory and production with social science perspectives on science and engineering. The class will encourage students to a) think analytically about visual representation and the practice of making media; b) think analytically about the day-to-day social practices of science, engineering, and related fields; and c) create and disseminate videos about science and engineering that incorporate these perspectives.

WIKItext for Modeling-Based Curriculum for 8.01 - $24,000

Professor David E. Pritchard, Physics

Professor Pritchard proposes to make a WIKItext for 8.01 based on a modeling pedagogy that will complement the Physics Department’s proposed introduction of a modeling-based approach to 8.01 TEAL. Modeling connects the basic concepts of mechanics with the real world by making explicit the fact that physical models make approximations (e.g. no friction or air drag) to reality that then allow the straightforward application of physical laws. This WIKItext will provide a foundation for a shift to modeling pedagogy in 8.01, and also may represent a significant step towards an online textbook that overcomes the limitations of current print textbooks by exploiting the hyperlinks and reconfigurability of the electronic environment.

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