Monday, June 20, 2011

Open Letter to Dr. Martin Ester - The Director of Computing Science Department at SFU

Dear Dr. Martin Ester, The Director of Computing Science Department at Simon Fraser University

I am Naoya Makino, a fourth year Computer Science student and currently taking the SFU Undergraduate Semester in Dialogue. How can SFU make the student experience even better? Can SFU improve the quality and impact of its research? How can SFU strengthen its community ties? The university is seeking those answers, and I believe that the Department of Computing Science could approach these questions by promoting the use of open datasets at City of Vancouver in classes and contributing to the Greenest City 2020 Action Plans through the students’ work.  

I transferred from Langara College two years ago and now I am enjoying courses and university life with many new friends. University gives me a new path way that I never imagined. It is a place where I get to see the wisdom of human civilization. Science shows me what is possible and gives me hope and a sense of future. Computer Science reminds me of the time I spent with a toy car back then and making it from my imagination. It is a sense of adventure. Having the excitement of learning something new today, I can apply that knowledge to make something new that I  never imagined yesterday. This gives me confidence, widen the curiosity, and brighten the future. I would like to appreciate for providing me the best quality of education and opportunities to meet extraordinary people.

Taking the semester in dialogue, I am increasingly aware of what is around me and what is happening in the City of Vancouver. One of the projects I am fascinated is Greenest City 2020. Vancouver has set ambiguous goals to be the greenest city by 2020 and the goals include access to nature, green buildings, creating a zero waste culture and many more. It is clear that none of these goals can be accomplished by the city alone. It should be collaborative efforts of all citizens, institutions, and specially municipalities. I strongly believe that the Department of Computer Science at SFU can play a significant role in this work. There are many talented students who are eager to gain an experience and use their skills to contribute to the society, and the city is in need of supports to computer-related works in many of their targets. If university courses could use city's resources and integrate into the course curriculum, it will be beneficial for both university, students and the city. Students can get hands on experience with real world data, university can promote sustainability learning and bring awareness to the community, and the city gets work done. Learning can be fun, practical, and beneficial to the community.

In particular to Computer Science Department at Simon Fraser University, there are number of courses that could use city's resources into the course and make the learning experience more practical and fun.
  • User Interface Design CMPT 363: Dr. Ted Kirkpatrick shows interests in using open data in this course.
  • Web Development CMPT 470: Dr. Greg Baker is welcoming students to use datasets from City of Vancouver and make “App for Greenest City” in CMPT 470 course project.
  • The Database System CMPT 354: Use the datasets and "hack" the data to see what students can retrieve the new meaning out of it.
  • The Geographic Information Science program: Dr. Rob Cameron could use open datasets
  • Other courses might consider using the open datasets are CMPT 467, DDP Capstone, MSc projects, and graduate dual degree program (GDDP) projects.
There are countless opportunities in the class and the university can use these potentials to contribute to the community and make the next leaders of green economy. Therefore, I would like to recommend for all Computer Science professors to take a look at Open Data Initiatives and the Greenest City Initiatives at City of Vancouver and consider using their resources into our course learning tools.

I am actively involved in Open Data Initiative at City of Vancouver; in fact I was at a meeting with Open Data Initiatives with civic developers to talk about concerns and opportunities about the open data. I have been having a conversation with Greenest City Initiatives about potentials of city collaboration with university and they are keen to assist guidance and could consider adding more datasets into the data catalogue. I am very happy to talk more about the potential use of city data at computer science courses and I am willing to be a contact person with City to move this forward. I appreciate for your considerations and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this.

Cc. Dr. Robert D. Cameron - Associate Dean, Faculty of Applied Sciences

With Best Regards

Naoya Makino
Simon Fraser Univeristy

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