8 Unconventional Student Research Projects

As the Fall semester approaches, its time to start thinking of potential research projects to focus on this year. Here are some unconventional student research projects to get your creative mind going . . .

1. Crickets Playing Pac Man

Grad student Wim van Eck turned to crickets to add a bit more unpredictability to a game of Pac-Man, casting them in the role of the lowly ghosts against a human-controlled Pac. Theres few details about how the system actually works, but it seems that the crickets actually proved to be more worthy adversaries than your typical AI-controlled enemy: at one point, a particularly clever ghost decided to shed its skin, probably knowing full well that it would become invisible to the games color-based detection system. Watch the video . . .

2. Urine (Youre In) Control

These MIT seniors developed a game that is played when using a urinal. The video game is our interpretation of the classic carnival game whack-a-mole. Position on the back of the urinal corresponds to position on the screen. The player attempted to hit hamsters as they jumped from one hole in the ground into another hole in the ground. A successful hit turned the hamster yellow, made it scream and spin out of contol, and rewarded the player with ten points. The parabolic paths of the hamsters concealed the grid-like arrangment of sensors, resulting in a fluid transition between input and output. The game was programmed in C++. See the whole project.

3. Flash Game – Flow

The addictive little flash game was posted on the USC website as part of his graduate thesis in the Interactive Media division. Within two weeks, it had over 100,000 hits – with no intentional promotion. In the game: as you grow, you can eat bigger and bigger things and survive at deeper and deeper depths. This eventually became a PS3 game. Play this addictive game online.

4. Rubiks Cube Solving Robot

University of Michigan students Doug Li, Jeff Loevell, and Mike Zajac created a Rubiks Cube Solver robot for their final project it can solve a Rubiks Cube in 54 seconds or less. Watch the robot conquer the cube.

5. Prototype Hand Gesture Based iPod Remote Control

Zhuan, Derrick, and Colin of Purdue University created Handy, a prototype hand gesture based remote control. The setup consists of a Handy box, an iPod Nano, and a BOSE Sound Dock. Watch the video to see it work.

6. Cheap Solar Power System

A team of MIT students, led by mechanical engineering grad student Spencer Ahrens, has come up with a prototype that one day could be mass-produced. The system is a 12-foot-suqare mirrored dish that concentrates sunlight by a factor of 1,000. Read the full story.

7. Star Trek Replicators and Diatom Nanotechnology

This paper helps demonstrate that silica can be replaced atom for atom without change of shape – a step towards the Star Trek replicator. Learn more about this Trekker project.

8. Using the Force: How Star Wars Can Help You Teach Recursion

The Journal of Computing Sciences in Colleges published this research article on how Star Wars can help students learn about recursion. Check out the papers abstract.

Any other student projects that should get mentioned here?