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Project Generator

Semester Projects. Students in Biol 470/570 will be required to complete semester projects. Semester project proposals should be submitted to the instructors for initial evaluation at the end of the first week in the course. Final project proposals should be submitted to the instructors at the end of the second week.
Students will use various techniques to encourage creativity throughout the course, and are encouraged to apply these techniques to their projects. Students are encouraged to brainstorm and collaborate on other student's projects.
In the final week of the course, students will be required to give a five-minute presentation with no more than five slides on their project, similar to a venture capital pitch. This presentation may be accompanied by a written report, a web site, a business plan, or a model or working prototype.
Here are some sources for ideas for projects. Students are free to use other sources.
1. The Bug List. See Conceptual Blockbusting, page 138. Come up with a list of specific small-scale needs.
"Take a paper and pencil and construct such a list. Remember humor. If you run out of bugs before 10 minutes, you are either suffering from a perceptual or emotional block or have life unusually under control. If you cannot think of any bugs, I would like to meet you."
2. Top Ten Lists. Many scientific or technical journals publish end-of-the-year reviews of innovation and discovery over the past year. Review the recent innovations and discoveries. Think of ways to extend or improve them, or let them inspire you to think of something new.
3. Science Fiction. Read some science-fiction novels set more or less in the present. Explore the feasibility of one or more pieces of innovation in a novel, improving and extending the innovation if possible. Suggested novels include three novels by William Gibson: Pattern Recognition, Spook Country, and Zero History.
4. iGEM Projects. There is an international competition ( www.igem.org) to genetically engineer microbes using standard parts. Several years' worth of past project descriptions are available. Develop an iGEM project or improve the toolkit.
5. Posole is the Opposite of Innovation. Google Correlate is a tool to explore a database of search terms over a time course or by geography ( www.google.com/trends/correlate). Use Google Correlate to discover an interesting relationship between search terms, or between a set of search terms and time or geography. Develop an innovation based on your findings.
6. Swords to Plowshares. Many innovations are first deployed on a large scale for military usage. Later, they make their way to civilian applications. Examine military innovations at the DARPA website ( www.darpa.mil). Consider the feasibility of adapting a particular military technology to civilian usage. Applications might include medicine in developing countries, public transportation, communication, and improvements in infrastructure.
7. Buggy Whip Manufacturing. Consider big changes in the last five or ten years that have affected specific industries. Look at industries that have disappeared or that are obviously doomed. Examples include the large record companies, most newspapers, travel agents, and video rental stores. Devise a plan to rescue a company in such an industry, or devise a plan for a new company that takes advantage of disruptive innovation that threatens established companies in a specific industry. You might find it helpful to read Seth Godin (Linchpin, Tribes, Poke the Box, etc.)
8. Existing Patents. Most innovations that have been produced commercially are protected by patents. Investigate any innovation that you find inspiring. Often, the patent numbers will be included in product literature or on websites. Enter the patent number into Google, or just browse or search patent genius ( www.patentgenius.com) directly. Reading the patent applications can be inspirational. Perhaps some of the thinking there can be applied to entirely different areas. Perhaps you will think of alternative approaches to solving some of the problems addressed by existing patents.
9. TED. It is possible to get tired of reading, but it is hard to get tired of watching great presentations by innovators on the TED Conferences website ( www.ted.com). The site features talks in technology, entertainment, and design as well as in science. Extend some of the ideas that you hear there, or let these great talks encourage you to apply that spirit to your own project. Imagine that your project presentation at the end of the course is a stepping stone to a TED talk of your own.
10. Raymond Kurzweil. Raymond Kurzweil is an innovative engineer who has become a futurist. He has collected many interesting people around him at the Singularity Institute. Explore innovations at Kurzweil Accelerating Intelligence ( www.kurzweilai.net) for inspiration; see also the website for the Singularity Institute ( singinst.org). There are excellent videos at both sites.
11. WIRED. Pick up a copy of WIRED magazine. There are plenty of ideas to explore in each issue.