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Independent Research Ideas - William Beachley

William Beachley
Independent Research Ideas

After reading the reviews and descriptions of the books on the independent
reasearch list, only one book really captured my interest. That would
be Organizing Genius: The Secrets of Creative Collaboration by W.
and P. W. Biederman. I am interested in the power of collaboration
as well as reading about historical accounts of ambitious projects that were
successful. I read The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes
about 4 years ago which was an amazing history of the science that
led to the making of the bomb and the huge collaborative effort involved.
I have always been amazed by the power of distributed cognition and I
propose a paper on Collaboration. What makes a collaborative effort
successful? The men and women at Los Alamos had tremendous pressure
to finish the first atom bomb. I, for one, don't work well under pressure
so I would like to know more about what the ideal conditions are for
creating a group mind capable of producing something great. I am not trying
say that making an atom bomb is a great thing to do, but the advancements
in science and well organized collaboration necessary for it to
happen are very impressive.

Note: I really liked Jun Chen's proposal and would love to work with her
on that. Since I have been in school I have noticed a shift in teaching styles.
Collaboration was not always looked favorably upon, but in some classes
it was encouraged and sometimes even required. It seems like collaboration
in the classroom is still to some degree in an experimental phase. I took
Dr. Alexander Repenning's "Object-oriented Analysis and Design" class
in the fall of 2002 which required a lot of collaboration and group work.
At the end of the class we were told that the class was more or less an
experiment funded by a grant from Stanford or something. By the end
of the class we had produced some substantial 3d games. The class felt very
new to me with respect to how it was taught. Two students had the job
of creating a game engine using Java to create a high-level interface to
the OpenGL API. The rest of us were allowed to ask for things to be
included in the engine because we were to design the games. We had only
started doing 3d game programming about a month before finals and the
final projects seemed like a tall order, but the students rose to the challenge.
I guess this was my first experience witnessing the power of distributed

Having said that,
I would, as Jun suggested, also like to explore the role of collaboration in the
undergraduate classroom.

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