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I-Campus Soliciting Student Proposals

Student Group Proposals Due Jan. 15th

By Dana Levine

The MIT/Microsoft alliance began accepting research proposals Monday to distribute the up to $25 million in research funds associated with project I-Campus.

“We are mainly looking for programs with educational utility; things which use existing stuff in new ways,” said Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering Hal Abelson PhD ’73, chair of the MIT/Microsoft alliance.

Proposals from students are also being accepted, according to Abelson.

While preliminary non-student proposals are due Dec. 10, student proposals must be completed by Jan. 15. The committee will then ask for more detailed proposals from the writers of the most promising preliminary plans.

“I wanted to make sure that there was a well defined piece of this that involved students,” Abelson said. He also mentioned that no other research program of this type currently involves students.

The committee is currently accepting proposals for three types of projects: regular projects, student projects, and pilot projects. While the first two proposal types would deal with longer term, more involved projects, pilot projects provide for a short trial of a program with the potential for continuation.

“Mostly what we’re looking for is big projects. Pilot projects are for groups who aren’t ready to do big projects yet but would be willing to invest time in a larger project if the pilot works out,” Abelson said.

Abelson hopes to encourage student groups to take advantage of this program by submitting proposals. He hopes to meet with Undergraduate Association and student activities chairs in order to help them to see how technology can expand their organizations. “I think that student groups haven’t been particularly ambitious in terms of technology,” he said.

Abelson emphasized that the committee is not searching for proposals which promise financial benefits for Microsoft or MIT. “If you want to have an impact, it’s better to give the stuff away,” he said.

He also mentioned Kerberos and Zephyr, two technologies which originated at MIT but expanded to worldwide usage, and noted that free software often becomes widely accepted. “These were things that MIT students developed 17 years ago, and now they are the standard.” Abelson said.

“This is a nice opportunity for student groups to do cool things. It’s a part of education that is under the control of students,” Abelson said.

I-Campus, a five to ten year $25 million research contract between Microsoft and MIT, provides for the funding of MIT educational programs which incorporate new technology.

The committee, co-chaired by Abelson and Microsoft employee Peter PathÉ, also includes Thomas L. Magnanti, the dean of MIT’s School of Engineering, Vijay Kumar, director of the Academic Computing department, and two other Microsoft employees, Anoop Gupta and William Vablais.