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Summer MAP/MIP proposals (#1011)

Topics/tags: Overcommitment, things I had to write, unedited

Disclaimer: I did not bother editing this piece. I have too much other work to do.

It’s getting close to the time that I have to submit my proposal to get funding for summer research, particularly summer funding for my MAP (Mentored Advanced Project) and MIP (Mentored Introductory Project) research students. Last summer, I took a break from research students. I needed that break. But I miss working with students. So, with Michelle’s permission, I’m taking on a new set. The prior three summers, I ran code camps. I know the code camps make a big difference, but I can’t take the stress level of running camps. I thought I might incorporate a single camp into my summer, but I really do think I need to take another summer off from code camps. More importantly, I need to return to my prior project, the Mathematical Image Synthesis Toolkit, or MIST [1].

If I recall correctly, I typically put together three documents for summer research. I need to submit a formal application to Grinnell’s Committee for the Support of Faculty Scholarship (CSFS). I generally provide a broader description of the research for my students. And then there’s the application form.

Step one: Check for resources

Fortunately, I do not have to write all of these materials from scratch, or at least I don’t think I do. I should have my description and application form from a few years ago, as well as more recent applications forms. I may even have my own application to CSFS. Let’s see.

I have the project description for summer 2014 and the accompanying application. The latter may not have to change much, other than due dates. I can also bring in a more recent application from a different porject. But the project needs to be rewritten since we built the first version of MIST that summer. Was it really six years ago?

Do I still have the CSFS proposal? Yup. I haven’t linked to it because it’s not a public document. Perhaps I’ll share parts of it later.

I also have copies of the proposals my students wrote for SIGCSE 2015. I also have copies of the posters. I’m not sure that they’ll serve any real purpose, but it’s nice to have them.

What about the form I have to fill out? Let’s make that the next step.

Step two: Review the form

Project Summary
Provide a paragraph (200 words maximum) describing your project and its significance, recent progress (unless it is a new project), and how it will be developed during the grant period.

I can probably steal one from before.

Detailed Project Description (2 page maximum)
Please attach a document that contains (1) a description of your project and its relationship to your previous scholarly work; (2) expected outcomes (e.g., scholarly publictaions, public presentations, exhibitions or performances); (3) the progress made toward completion of the project (if previous CSFS funding has been received in the past for this project) OR the outcomes of your last CSFS funded project (if this is a new project); and (4) a brief justification for the budget (e.g., the need for travel, the tasks of student assistants, and the need for materials or supplies).

How student(s) will fulfill goals of the MAP. Include proposed venue of publication and/or external presentation.

Describe last funded MAP project and student results or outcomes.

Doesn’t that last question replicate one of the questions from the detailed project description? And where’s the budget?

Step three: Draft the short description

In the summer of 2014, I began a new project, an approach to image making that one might think of as mathematics for images. That is, my students and I drafted a semantics for what it might mean to add, subtract, or multiply simple images and animations and then began to build a Web-based system that put these semantics into practice.

Our initial experiments suggest that this is a promising way to help others think differently about computational image making. I am particularly pleased that one of our first users was able to create an animation that demonstrated their experiences of synesthesia.

I put the project on hold over the intervening time, during which my research team explored non-traditional approaches to middle-school code camps and how they generate interest and self efficacy, particularly among students traditionally underrepresented in computing.

This summer, I will restart the 2014 project. Initially, we must get the software working; the Web has changed significantly in six years. My students will then work on the next steps identified in summer 2014, including user testing, a Primer of sorts to help people reflect on this new model of thinking, an extension of the system to handle 3D images and printing, and a semantics of function for the system.

My first version was about 250 words. Cutting to 200 words was hard. But it was also useful. The text is a bit less wordy. I also had the opportunity to think about ordering. It’s probably worth my time.

Step four: Create the long description

What does the longer thing look like?

(1) a description of your project and its relationship to your previous scholarly work;

Haven’t I just done that? Okay, it’s time to try again. I’m not going to include the text here because it will make the musing too long.

(2) expected outcomes (e.g., scholarly publictaions, public presentations, exhibitions or performances);

If the College doesn’t have to be careful about spelling, do I?

What did I write last time? I’m not sure. In any case, we’ll build software. That’s a kind of outcome. On the more scholarly side, I hope that we can get a paper into the ACM Conference on Creativity and Cognition and the ACM SIGPLAN International Workshop on Function Art, Music, Modeling, and Design. There is a more remote chance we could get some aspect of the project accepted to ACM SIGGRAPH; perhaps in some software session. How’s that for optimism?

I’ll also expect my students to do the normal kinds of presentations: in the CS extras series, during Family Weekend, and at the Midstates Consortium Undergraduate Research Conference.

I might encourage them to submit poster proposals to GHC or Tapia. However, if I recall correctly, the timing never works out right; they have to submit in the spring for a fall conference, which doesn’t really match the timing of summer research.

(3) the progress made toward completion of the project (if previous CSFS funding has been received in the past for this project) OR the outcomes of your last CSFS funded project (if this is a new project);

Do I write about what happened six years ago? The students built software. It worked. They got a poster presentation and a demo out of it. I think that was in Kansas City. Then it went on hiatus.

The more recent project also yielded a bunch of posters and papers. I’ll have to dig them out of my CV. Should I rant about the way the administration handled my students’ trip to present? Maybe a short note; I’ll deal with the full rant in another venue.

It turns out that converting my references from BibTeX to HTML took more effort than I expected. I probably should have looked for an automated tool.

(4) a brief justification for the budget (e.g., the need for travel, the tasks of student assistants, and the need for materials or supplies)

Budget? What budget? I don’t see it on the form. Maybe there’s a page two. I don’t need to budget for conference travel; that gets handled separately. We will be conducting user studies, so we need money for that. Is there other travel? I should take them to the Des Moines Art Museum to think about art. And the 20/20 Exhibit at the Stanley Visual Classroom also seems appropriate. We should also work with the Grinnell College Museum of Art.

Am I done? I hope so. I think just need to submit.

Step five: Answer the remaining questions

Nope. There are at least two more questions

How student(s) will fulfill goals of the MAP. Include proposed venue of publication and/or external presentation.

I feel like I answered that already, but it never hurts to repeat yourself. I suppose I should also add student tasks.

Students will develop software, extend semantic models, and conduct user studies.

The software we create will be one form of publication. We will also submit a conference paper, which is a typical form of refereed publication in computer science. Potential conferences include the ACM Conference on Creativity and Cognition and the ACM SIGPLAN International Workshop on Function Art, Music, Modeling, and Design. There is a slight chance we could get some aspect of the project accepted to ACM SIGGRAPH.

I will also ask the students to present in the CS extras series, during Family Weekend, and at the Midstates Consortium Undergraduate Research Conference.

I will encourage the students to submit to the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing and to the ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing Conference. Since submission deadlines for those conferences are in early spring, and the conferences often expect single-author work, it may not be possible or appropriate for them to submit.

Describe last funded MAP project and student results or outcomes.

I feel like I did this one, too.

My most-recently-funded MAP project was the code camps project in summer 2018. Students had two papers on that project accepted to the SIGCSE 2019 Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education, which I have listed in the attached document. The acceptance rate for that conference was approximately 30%. A few of the students presented at the conference, but the Administration’s last-minute cancellation of planned conference travel meant that not all students were able to present.

I could add something else.

I did not conduct a careful study of the effect of my project on the students. My sense is that they developed both a sense of efficacy and ownership as they created and offered curricula.

That seems good.

Now can I submit?

Step six: Answer even more questions

Nope, it appears not. There’s another set of three questions. Why is that some Grinnell forms have everything on one page and others use multiple pages? And why doesn’t Qualtrics signal how many pages there are and how far along you’ve gotten? [2]

Work in preparation or submitted (include scheduled performances/exhibitions/presentations)

I don’t have any work currently submitted. I guess I should just say that.

Publications (last 3 years)

Can’t they just take that from my CV? How do I separate papers from presentations, when both happen together in my field (at least at the major conferences)? I’m going to just copy and paste from my CV, even thought he formatting will be horrid.

Oh, it’s going to be even more horrid than I thought. They only provide a one-line entry, rather than a text box. I can’t even read what I pasted.

I’m guessing I’m not done.

Step seven: Fill out the budget

Wouldn’t it be good to show the budget form on the first page, so that you know what the fields are that you’re describing? I guess not.

I can’t believe that the student stipend has not gone up in six or more years. We’ve raised tuition by about 15-20% in that time. Shouldn’t the stipend go up at least a bit?

Damn! I could have asked for $1000 in supplies per student. Live and learn. Maybe that’s why they have the explain your budget page long before they tell you what goes on the budget. That’s okay; I’ll get by with the assorted output supplies. I suppose I might have asked for iPads, which might be a better medium for the project. But I’ll leave that for another summer; for now, we’ll just use mine.

Am I done? I press the arrow button.

Step eight: Answer budget questions

Nope. There’s another page.

Please itemize Other expenses

Didn’t I do that on the page they asked me to submit? Let’s see: A brief justification for the budget (e.g., the need for travel, the tasks of student assistants, and the need for materials or supplies). I guess you could argue that this is different.

Please itemize Materials/Supplies to be purchased

Are they serious? I don’t know what to write. It’s hard to predict exactly what we’ll need in advance. 3D printer supplies, ink cartridges or fees to use digital printers in art department, other similar materials: $1000.

Now I’m done! I can tell, because there’s a Submit Request button. That’s much better than the right arrow that appears on most Grinnell forms [3].

I can even download a copy of my answers. Or something like a copy of my answers. It doesn’t include the PDF I was supposed to attach. And I see that those references did not appear all that clearly. C’est la vie. I hope that’s not a reason that they’ll reject this.

Step nine: Create materials for students

Now I need to recruit student researchers. That means a longer project description and an application form. I think I’ll leave those for tomorrow.

Step ten: Reflect

It appears that we switched to another application form last year, a year in which I didn’t take summer students. Having served on the Committee for the Support of Faculty Scholarship, I understand why some of these additional questions were added; unless you require them to fill out a field on a form, faculty don’t necessarily provide the requisite information. But too much of the form felt repetitive or like busy work. My time could have been spent better on other endeavors.

On the other hand, I’m asking for a good chunk of change. Perhaps I should have to do some work. Most of the money is going to support students, but inserting a rationale seems reasonable.

As I said, the PDF from Qualtrics is not particularly readable; I hope the committee also gets the separate PDF they asked me to upload.


Postscript: I started this musing about a week before the research proposal was due. I finished both the musing and the proposal on the evening it was due. Sometimes advance planning fails to serve me sufficiently well.


[1] My research students named it.

[2] #HCIisEverywhere

[3] #HCIisEverywhere


Version 1.0 of 2020-02-07.