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Half of ’04 iCampus Projects on Schedule

By Jeffrey Chang

STAFF REPORTER

Of the four student proposals selected by MIT’s iCampus initiative out of a pool of 45 last January, two have been discontinued or are on hold and two are in a prototype stage, said Rebecca G. Bisbee, iCampus Administrator.

In addition, iCampus began inviting student proposals for next year’s projects at the end of October, and will continue to accept applications until this Monday, she said.

Some other notable iCampus-funded projects such as ShuttleTrack are experiencing a hiatus, while the Library Access to Music Project (LAMP) recently reopened its cable television music library.

Of the six active projects listed on the iCampus Web site (http://icampus.mit.edu) which were started January 2003 or later, two, CycleScore and iQuarium, have fully launched successfully and have operational web sites.

iCampus is an alliance with Microsoft Research to fund student and faculty projects which seek to create and implement innovative educational technologies.

MMITT, FrontDesk problematic

The Molecular Mechanics Interactive Teaching Tool project, which planned to build an interactive sensor-based molecular model kit, was dropped right away in January because of patenting issues, said Bisbee. One of the project’s main goals was to keep everything open-source, and there were existing patents on some of the technologies the project was developing, she said.

FrontDesk, a project that was intended to help dormitory desk workers with tracking of packages, rentals of movies and equipment, and guest lists, is now being revamped and is looking for new members, after the student principal investigator decided not to return to MIT. “We haven’t made any decisions about FrontDesk yet,” Bisbee said.

“The project is still continuing, albeit a little behind schedule,” said Edmund L. Kay ’05, one of the team members. “Right now, we’re just trying to reorganize and continue development. Depending on when we find new people and the academic schedules of the people who are still on the project, we’ll figure out a realistic timeline.”

DomeView ‘moving along’

DomeView is another iCampus project, which aims to deliver campus news in an efficient format on display screens around campus.

According to the iCampus web site, it will “interactively link the community by allowing its members to post and receive dynamic information about the campus.” The project is continuing to move along, Bisbee said.

A prototype for the displays has been created and permission has been granted for their locations. It is now a “question of pulling everything together... as soon as we know something is going to happen, we will continue to fund them for a few months,” Bisbee said. At some point, ownership of the project will be transferred to a student group or an MIT office, she said, although it is not known to whom yet.

RiverRat has functional prototype

RiverRat is another iCampus-funded project selected in January, based on 2002’s ShuttleTrack project, which sought to install Global Positioning System transmitters on all MIT SafeRide shuttles to allow students to track their precise locations. RiverRat plans to implement a similar system with MIT’s sailboats to be used in spectating and analyzing races.

The project’s members have created and tested a prototype, Bisbee said. “What they need to do now is make their display work... they’re continuing to work on it,” Bisbee said.

“We’re pretty far along with the project,” said team member Robert S. Damus ’99. “The microcontroller, radio, and GPS all live now on a printed circuit board that has been completely populated and tested. The software side of things has begun to pick up. We have a complete architecture in place and are currently writing the GUI as well as the backend database management and server software.” The team will be distributing a brochure describing the project at a competition at MIT this weekend, Damus said.

“We’ll probably have an alpha version of the software in the next month or so... Unfortunately, we might lose undergrads and grad students as they start to get hosed [around this time of year]. But I could definitely see a spring deployment,” Damus said.

ShuttleTrack

As for ShuttleTrack, after running from May 2003 to early summer of this year, the Web site (http://shuttletrack.mit.edu) is currently not functional.

The project required troubleshooting from both the hardware and software side, said Krishnan Sriram G, the principal investigator.

The three other students who worked on the project have graduated, leaving Sriram as the only student associated with the project. “The difficulty was that it came down to [my] time,” Sriram said.

“I have been working with Information Systems, trying to transfer the knowledge and work with them, and looking into the possibility of them supporting it as a long-term service.”

Overall, “I think iCampus is a wonderful success,” Bisbee said. “We have juggled between making things that improve education and things that just improve student life and we’ve tried to do both. Certainly we’re much more known on campus than we were when we started out, and we’re always happy to talk to students about projects that they have in mind.”

Approximately $1.5 million has been used to fund a total of 19 student projects through iCampus, she said.