The Design Challenge: The Rules

February 14, 2010

in Assignments

Our next “activity” in class will be a design challenge: where we give you a visualization problem, and ask you to propose solutions to it. Its an actual hard problem that someone on campus really cares about, and that I’ve thought about a bit. (I’m not telling you ahead of time).

What will happen:

  • Feb 18th (Thursday) – During class we will officially begin the challenge. We will introduce the problem in class. The domain experts will come to class to discuss the problem, and answer questions. We will show off a few of our own prototype solutions (that we will make available to you). We will tell you about the sample data. We will assign everyone to a team.
  • March 4th (Thursday) – Before class, you will create a posting describing your solution. You don’t have to turn everything in, but if you have a prototype, it would be good to link to it (so others can experiment with it). Include pictures in your post of what things look like on the example data.
  • March 4th (Thursday) – During class, each time will give a brief presentation of their solution(s). Our domain experts will attend to discuss.
  • March 4th-5th – After class, everyone will comment on everyone else’s design (each person must make a comment on every other team’s posting). This feedback will hopefully help improve the designs.
  • March 11th (Thursday) – Final handin due before class. Details to be provided.

We will provide you with:

  • Example data. (note: for the final handin, we might provide other data sets for you to test on as well)
  • A description of the domain, the data, and the kinds of tasks the visualization should support.
  • A few example visualizations (implemented in different ways, including Processing sketches and Excel spreadsheets)
  • A team to work with.

What you need to create:

A design (or designs) that address the problem. While you might just create example visualizations of the example data sets manually (say using a drawing program), we would prefer that your team produces a tool (or tools) that can take different data sets as input.

Some documentation (requirements to be determined later)

About the software you create:

  • There are no requirements as to what tools you need to use. Use whatever programming language, user interface toolkit, etc. that you like. The only restriction is that you must be able to give a demo in class (so it must either run on your laptop or my laptop).
  • We would prefer solutions that we (the rest of the class and our domain experts) can experiment with. Things that are easily deployed on the web are great. Or programs that are easily portable.
  • Personally, I would probably use Processing or Matplotlib (a python graphics library that interfaces with numerical tools) or maybe just write a C++ program using OpenGL.

We hope that each team will work together to design solutions to the problem. With an entire class trying, we’ll probably come up with lots of solutions – some of which might really help the domain experts.

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