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I-Campus Proposals Selected

By Naveen Sunkavally

A portable mobile workstation the size of a PalmPilot and a cryptographically secure MIT Card are among the six proposals that have been chosen by the MIT/Microsoft I-Campus Joint Steering Committee for further funding consideration. Twenty proposals were submitted.

The six student groups whose proposals made it past the preliminary stage will submit final proposals by Feb. 12, said Harold Abelson ’73, co-director of Project I-Campus. In the interim, the groups will be working closely with the steering committee and will have an opportunity to visit Microsoft this coming weekend to further develop their proposals.

“I expect to fund about three student proposals,” Abelson said, and another cycle of proposals may be possible in the fall.

Background of I-Campus

Project I-Campus is a joint initiative between MIT and Microsoft formed last December; as part of the initiative, Microsoft has pledged $25 million to MIT over the next five years. Both students and non-students at MIT had the opportunity to submit preliminary proposals during IAP to gain a portion of the $25 million.

As listed on the I-Campus web page <>, the primary criterion for selection of proposals is the “significance of the education impact.” In addition, the steering committee considered the commitment levels of the student organizations to carry on the implementation of their proposals, Abelson said.

The student proposals

“The Student Information Infrastructure Initiative” is a proposal to create a mobile workstation using the latest wireless and networking technology.

Andrew S. Huang G, one of the students working on the project, said the mobile workstation would be “very robust and compact, like a Palm Pilot.” The device would provide, among other things, students continuous access to network services such as the Athena filesystem and utilize a head-mounted microdisplay.

“A Cryptographically Secure Successor to the MIT Card,” a project initiated within the Student Information Processing Board, proposes to use the latest in smart-card technology to authenticate users and let them make purchases without compromising their identities.

“The MIT card does not use the latest security techniques,” Abelson said.

“An Interactive Introduction to the Institute,” backed by all undergraduate student governments and several other administrative bodies, is a proposal “to create CD-ROM and web-based resources concerning freshman academics and student life and provide them to incoming freshmen prior to their arrival on campus.”

Undergraduate Association President Matthew L. McGann ’00 said that he envisioned that students in the future would be able go online to tour living groups, the campus, and student activities.

Abelson said the proposal could explore the “next great round of virtual reality,” and that Microsoft has several groups working on virtual reality.

Members of the Black Student Graduate Association submitted the proposal, “Classroom Communicator,” an idea to create a question-and-answering system in classes. Using a small handheld device, students would be able to enter the text of their questions, which would then be transmitted through a wireless network to a central computer that a lecturer could use to enhance his or her presentation.

Abelson said the “Classroom Communicator” is a proposal that can be easily implemented, perhaps even for lectures next fall.

The student groups who made the final two proposals, “E-Board” and “Slugtech,” were encouraged to work together on ways to connect whiteboards to the web, Abelson said.