most significant bits
newsletter of uw computer science & engineering
volume 22, number 2, autumn 2012
university of washington
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Industry Affiliates Startup Fair Chair’s message New CSE Faculty New hires in UW CSE Taskar joins UW CSE World Lab 6th Summer Academy for Deaf News Datagrams CSE ugrad alum survey Distinguished Lectures
msb22.2 PDF

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About MSB

MSB is a twice yearly publication of UW CSE supported by the Industrial Affiliates Program.

Editor: Kay Beck-Benton.
Contributors: Ed Lazowska, Hank Levy, James Landay, S. Morris Rose
Photo credits: Bruce Hemingway, Timothy Yu

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World Lab

World Lab:
A cross-cultural, interdisciplinary institute applying technology to attack important problems while producing the leaders of tomorrow

There are many urgent problems facing the planet: a degrading environment, a healthcare system in crisis, and educational systems that are inadequately training innovative thinkers to solve the problems of tomorrow.

teams brainstorming apps
Students from China and the U.S.
worked in teams of four to brainstorm
ideas and develop apps.

World Lab is a new research and educational institution that is ideally suited to tackle these grand challenges. The World Lab was founded by James Landay, Short-Dooley Professor of Computer Science & Engineering, and colleagues at Tsinghua, one of China's top universities, after Landay spent his sabbatical living in Beijing and working at Microsoft Research Asia. The World Lab is sited jointly between two of the world’s leading computing and human-centered design institutions, the University of Washington in Seattle and Tsinghua University in Beijing.

"In China I saw a lot of excitement and rapid development in computing," Landay said. "But I also saw ways that China and the US could learn from one another."

This past summer, the UW hosted the first World Lab Summer Institute, a summer exchange that brings together computer science, human-computer interaction and design students from the UW and Tsinghua, and challenges them to create prototypes for products and services that solve pressing social problems. Together they spent seven weeks developing ways that technology could be used to address global issues in health, environment, and education.

A student team developed an app
to locate and donate materials
to recycled artworks.

During the summer program, eleven Chinese graduate students and nine UW students took classes and worked together on group projects. The projects were developed by teams of four students, with a balance of Chinese and US students and an equal mix of design and technical expertise. Each team worked independently to develop a working prototype with demonstrable social impact. By the third week of the program each team had created a project concept video.

At the end of the seven weeks, the teams pitched their ideas along with a finished prototype and a high-quality video. The prototype apps included a social-networking tool to donate materials and view recycled artworks; a web platform for sharing and exploring first-hand accounts from history and our lives; an armband that prompts people to incorporate microexercise in their day; and a tool to help parents be more closely involved in many aspects of their child’s education. Though many of the ideas were non profits, each team included a business plan. More information on each of these projects is available here:

Six of the UW students, along with ten of the Chinese students, presented their work to an audience of academics, government officials, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and their peers in China this past September. The final presentations were held at Yuanfen~Flow, an incubator space in the 798 art district in Beijing and at Tsinghua University.

The summer program was funded through grants from Microsoft, Intel, Google, Nokia, and Professor Landay's Short-Dooley Professorship.

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