Concepts familiar from grade-school algebra have broad ramifications in computer science.
The Singapore-MIT Alliance will expand its activities by offering a third graduate program in an ongoing collaboration in long-distance education and research.
The new graduate program is in manufacturing systems and technology. At a press conference held simultaneously today in Singapore and at MIT via video conferencing, Singa-porean educators described manufacturing as one of the main forces that will drive the economic development of Asia. The master's and doctoral-level graduate program is expected to enroll 50 students in July 2000. Over the coming months, students from Asia's top universities will be recruited for the program.
The press conference, held at 6:30am EDT and 7:30pm Singaporean time, was followed by a regularly scheduled class attended by 32 Singaporean students and more than 20 MIT students.
The Singapore-MIT Alliance (SMA) was created a year ago as a global partnership among MIT, the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Nanyang Technological University (NTU). Through this alliance, Singaporean and MIT students enroll in new degree programs that are created and delivered by faculty from the three institutions using a combination of faculty and student exchanges and state-of-the-art communications technology.
Classes are held in specially equipped classrooms at the Singaporean institutions and at MIT using live video transmission over Internet2. Singaporean and MIT students attend the classes, which occur early in the morning in Cambridge and late in the evening in Singapore to accommodate the time difference between the two locations. The synchronous transmission allows participants at both locations to see each other and speak normally. Written materials are sent and received via the web.
The Singapore-MIT Alliance hopes to foster a new generation of "technopreneurs" to fuel the place of Singapore in the global economy. MIT benefits by providing faculty and students with new opportunities for research collaborations, in addition to creating a repository of videotaped lectures, slides and web archive tools for use by MIT students as well as Singaporean students.
At MIT, Dean of Engineering Thomas Magnanti, who chaired the event with Merton Flemings, co-director of SMA, described SMA as "the largest distance-learning collaboration in the world today.
"Our vision for SMA is that of a world-class entity devoted to education, research and technopreneurship stretching across 12 time zones and linked by modern distance communications," Dean Magnanti said. "From MIT's perspective, SMA affords us the opportunity to enrich our faculty and students through close collaboration with two outstanding universities in a country and region that will play an increasing role on the world stage. SMA also provides us a wonderful new opportunity for global outreach."
The third graduate program, "Innovation in Manufacturing Systems and Technology" (IMST), will be hosted at Nanyang Technological University. It joins the two originally offered to students through NUS in July 1999: "Advanced Materials" and "High-Performance Computation for Engineered Systems" (HPCES).
In all three programs, SMA Faculty Fellows from MIT, NUS and NTU develop graduate-level coursework. Courses are delivered through a combination of face-to-face lectures and distance education technology. The alliance, which offers professional master's degrees, research master's degrees and doctoral-level research degrees, is expected to grow to five graduate programs after two years.
All Singaporean students will be at MIT as part of an immersion program in which they attend intensive classes and seminars on entrepreneurship. PhD students spend an additional semester at MIT to attend graduate courses and conduct research. An annual symposium, scheduled for January 2001, will be held in Singapore for students and faculty to interact with industry.
A total of 19 Faculty Fellows from MIT from five academic departments and 30 Faculty Fellows from Singapore are involved in the academic program. There are currently 64 students enrolled in SMA.
In addition to Dean Magnanti and Professor Flemings, participants at today's press conference at MIT were Anthony Patera, SMA deputy director and HPCES program chair; SMA Faculty Fellow Stephen Graves, the Abraham Siegel Professor of Management at the Sloan School; MIT program chair David Hardt, professor of mechanical engineering; Singapore program chair Yue Chee Yoon; and Anddie Chan, SMA assistant director.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on November 17, 1999.