Posted November 2, 1998 at 1:28 am No Comments

If you’re a student at Carnegie Mellon University, you should really take advantage of the SURG (Small Undergraduate Research Grant) program. Conducting research as an undergraduate is a great idea because it lets you explore an area of interest in depth and apply the theory you’ve learned in your classes to a hands-on activity. Besides, research is a lot of fun, and it looks great on a résumé.

Coming up with a research idea isn’t so difficult — most people could think of hundreds of ways to spend $500. The challenge lies in writing a successful proposal. You can’t just throw together an essay and a couple of sketches and expect it to be accepted by the SURG committee. In order for your proposal to meet with approval, it needs to have certain key elements. Here’s a list of the things you should include when writing your research proposal:

  • buzzwords

“But Dan,” you may be thinking, “aren’t there other things to consider as well, like project design, methods of approach, feasibility, or background qualifications?”

No. All that really matters are the buzzwords. Lots and lots of buzzwords. Consider the proposal a friend of mine wrote last summer. We’ll call her “Angila” to protect her identity. Although Angila’s proposal had no actual content, it was so dense with buzzwords that you couldn’t read a single paragraph without encountering two or three. Naturally, it was immediately accepted by the SURG committee.

In case you don’t know very many buzzwords, here’s a list of a few to get you started. As you are writing, pick words from the list and insert them liberally throughout your proposal.

  • interactive

  • distributed

  • multi-user

  • autonomous intelligent agent

  • networked

  • multimedia

  • avatar

  • immersive

  • augmented reality

If you’re still having trouble, you may want to look at the sample research proposals below.

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Building a better blender.

  • Blender Optimization and Enhancement

Computer technology has progressed by leaps and bounds since the 1960s, but the ubiquitous household blender has remained virtually unchanged throughout the same time span. The traditional blender offers numerous opportunities for improvement: input/output buffering attachments, intelligent drink mixing agents, multi-user networking capabilities, immersive interaction manipulation devices, and even advanced “augmented reality” control interfaces. In this project I seek to transport the blender from the “June Cleaver” age to the Information Age.

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Taking a drag.

smokehat2.gif (5153 bytes)

Implementation of remote smoking deterrent.

  • Intelligent Smoking Avatars for the Physically Challenged

Although smoking is unquestionably an unpleasant and physically degenerative activity, it is unjust for people to be robbed of their ability to smoke when they lose control of their limbs. In this project I propose to design and construct a robotic smoking arm attached to a hat which would enable everyone to smoke freely, regardless of their physical condition. No longer will people too lazy or physically incapacitated to lift a cigarette to their lips be forced to feel the violent pangs of nicotine withdrawal!

If a robot-arm-smoke-hat-enabled individual should choose to quit smoking, they will be able to take advantage of the built-in remote force-induced inhalation deterrent mechanism. A remote control device, held by a friend or family member, will be capable of transmitting signals to a small receiver inside of the hat’s main cavity. The on-board signal processing circuitry will then relay instructions to the array of servo motors throughout the robotic arm, causing the hat wearer to be smacked in the fucking face.

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