Guidelines for Student Projects in my GEMs

What is the goal of the project?

I want you to have fun! I hope you can find a topic that interests you, and that you will enjoy finding out more about. I want to give you the opportunity to show your creativity. The project counts 35% of your grade.

The projects are done in groups of four to six students. If you are planning to do a very special topic, and you're having a hard time finding somebody interested in it, I MAY also approve individual projects or groups of two or three. The chances of me approving such requests are best if you approach me early.

The project can be a normal paper project, a web page, a physical model or a combination of all these. I don't have any set rules about length or scope of the project.

Help! I don't know what to write about!

Many topics will only be touched upon in lectures, and you may explore them further on your own in the projects. I have a list of possible topics on the course page, but I also encourage you to propose your own topics and send them to me for approval. Follow the links from the web page. See if you find something you think looks interesting. Use the discussion forum to brainstorm. I hope that you will be able to find something that you are enthusiastic about.

Help! I can't find a group to join!

Don't worry, you're probably not alone! Post a message on the discussion forum and you'll probably find other people in the same situation.

What should I include in the proposal?

I will check that the topic is suitable for the course and that you have enough material. I would like to see what sources you have found and hear a bit about what you plan to do. The proposal should include the title, the names of the members of the group, a brief outline, and a list of the main references. One or two pages is enough.

How should I submit the proposal, the project and the homework?

Please submit to the IVLE workbin. However, I don't want to get 50 files called project.doc. Please use the number of your group and the title of your project in the file name. For example “09 Celestial Navigation.doc”, “12 Proposal.doc” or “44 Sun Homework.doc”.

Please submit the proposal, the project and the homework in both hard copy in class and soft copy in the IVLE workbin. I prefer to read the hard copy, so if you create a web page, please print out a hard copy, too. If you have animations or other things that you can't print out, please include a note where you indicate which parts of the web site I should look more closely at.

If the project is a web page and you have a server to put it on, you can just submit a file with the URL. However, I would appreciate it if you could also give me the files on a CD, or zip the files into one file and upload.

How long should the project be?

I don't have fixed limits. It depends on the topic. If the mathematical content is high, the project can be shorter. If you have interesting computer animations or physical models, the text can be shorter. It is easy to make a very long project by copying material from the web. That will not impress me!

I want to make a model!

I love physical models, but there has to be some purpose to them. They must either have an educational purpose, or they have to be genuinely decorative. I prefer something that I can either use in my teaching next year, or which I will be proud to display in my office.

Unfortunately, some of you make models that I honestly don't find very interesting. Do not believe that a model is a short-cut to a good grade. In fact, many groups have gotten a bad grade because they spent too much time on their model instead of the written report. Only make a model if you feel that it will genuinely add to your project.

Be especially aware that astronomy models are tricky. The dimensions of the universe are astronomical, and you cannot make a physical model that really gives a true picture. The purpose of my simple demonstrations in class is to show you that you can get a rough idea with simple means. But if you put a lot of effort into an elaborate model, I would expect something more than a rough idea. If you want it realistic, you may be better off with a computer model. Be careful about the size, too. I don't have a lot of space in my office, and if your model is very big and not terribly interesting, you have a problem.

I don't want to discourage you, and many of you have made models that I show off to everybody who comes by my office. Just make sure that it doesn't look like a primary school project!

What makes a project good or bad?

Helmer Aslaksen
Department of Mathematics
National University of Singapore

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