Storage Informer
Storage Informer

When is a case study not a case study?

by on Jul.16, 2009, under Storage

When is a case study not a case study?

When it isn&apost.

When I was a student I typically ignored case studies from my textbooks, as do my students, as well they should. I have not taken the time, a fair hunk of time, to prepare assignments based on the case studies. This is the only realistic way to help students absorb them.

I need a better name for the kind of big project I desire for my students. This big project was spawned talking with Rubin Landau about his ideas, with Dan Ernst&aposs projects stirred into the brew as well.

When Dan and I talked, he described some of the case studies and related project assignments he is doing to inject parallel concepts into his curriculum. This is a right thing to do.I also heard Rubin suggest turning CS inside out, to be a form of physics based project learning. This would be wonderful for physics, but the discipline of computer science needs more focus on the CS side of things.

What is appropriate for computer scientists is to have at least one semester long challenging collaborative project, to start the kind of learning Rubin cited as the typical way physicists learn parallel programming: a two year stint as a postdoc where there is code to work on, tied to their research, requiring a supercomputer cluster.

I do think my CS students, usually having good math and science backgrounds, would benefit from a semester long collaborative project. It needs to be one requiring 10s to 100s or more of processors for the solution. It needs to be self contained, and "easily" understood by students. The scaffolding of the project is essential so there is room for open-ended discovery with a high likelihood of success. I am thinking of making it a semester-long whole class effort taking place during my Data Structures course. I would like to have more than one project, so students can choose the one best matching their skills and interests. I will start with it being an extra credit assignment, hopefully extra-credit extended across the other disciplines to incent more diverse students to participate. Another layer might be also structuring it as a student competition. I haven&apost figured it all out yet.

It is not strange I am charmed to report Rubin is helping me develop my first project, which will be based on quantum chromodynamics, in which students will explore from top to bottom a Feyman path integral simulation, along the lines of what is covered in his book "A Survey of Computational Physics: Introductory Computational Science."

I look forward to a boatload of collaboration with Rubin, dosed with the constructive bantering we usually have.

I realize that I banter a lot with the people I like and just realized why. We can let our guard down and safely discuss initial thoughts and half-baked ideas. Most of mine are quarter to half-baked. This is a very good thing: enjoyable and supportive of dashing toward desired goals.

Any ideas for well defined and contained, computationally rich problems?

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