Towards Infinity and Beyond!
Capstone FUTURE was a university master’s project that I participated this year from February to September. It was a collaboration project with students from universities of Turku, Finland and Fudan, Shanghai, China. 10 brave students from a variety of disciplinary joined forces to tackle an adventure with the future of mathematics education.
The problem ahead was that Hewlett-Packard’s Calculator division wanted to know what is the future of technology in mathematics education. As a heavily non-engineering team we took a stepped outside the box and started to wonder what could be “the next calculator”. As an end product from the project, we wrote a report of our study which is available for everyone, a market research for HP internal use only and a proof-of-concept level prototype.
As said, we had a very diverse team: engineers and business students combined with social and educational science students. Part of the engineering education reform in University of Turku, a multidisciplinary education is one key factor and Capstone projects are a great way to endorse that. Part of our team resided in Shanghai while others worked in Turku.
We started of in February trying to think what we should do during the project and decided to do field work in high schools both in Turku and in Shanghai. During the school visits we interviewed the students and teachers to find out what they think about the marriage of tech and education while wondering which way we would take the prototype development. We also conducted a Delphi panel for experts in related fields both in Finland and Shanghai.
While being in Shanghai for two weeks in end of May, the idea of collaborative platform got stronger and stronger and we decided to make a prototype of a tablet designed web platform where students could do their homework together. Hence, the idea of MathMates was born.
Since we were low on hardware engineering skills, we decided to make a web application. The user connects to the server and gets an unique session url. By sharing the url, the user can invite friends to join the same session.
Currently, mathematics and online don’t really work well together. Typing mathematical equations on keyboard with ASCII character set and one char high lines easily makes the equations error prone and hard to understand. So we decided to use touch features in our advantage by allowing the user to draw mathematical things on app just like with pen and paper.
A longer story of the prototype with more clarification about the design decision is in my home page.
For me, the project was a huge success in learning sense. This was the first time I participated in such project with people from different disciplinary as well as from two different countries and continents. Project trip to Shanghai was an awesome experience and presenting the prototype in SEFI Conference in Leuven, Belgium was a big reward since people’s reactions showed us that we had done a good job and that we had been thinking right questions and brought new ideas to the table.
The project gave me a huge boost on my self-confidence both personally and professionally and got me really interested in startup scene.