Interested in the Google Summer of Code

Bobby Powers bobbypowers at
Tue Mar 18 16:35:09 EDT 2008

Hi, I'm a master's student at the University of Bergen and I'm interested in
bringing System Dynamics to the XO.  Before I start, if there is a better
mailing list for this just let me know (I briefly looked through the other
ones liked from the Wiki, and this seemed the most appropriate).
System Dynamics (SD) [1][2] aims to help people understand the world by
explicitly modeling how pieces of it work and then performing experiments in
these models.  It is used around the world, frequently in majority world
countries, in development planning [3], for example.  More formally, its a
methodology for examining and describing the behavior of complex systems
with an emphasis on the effects that feedback loops and time delays have.
 At a basic level you have to specify the mathematical equations for the
different parts of your system.   The same problems can be solved by writing
code in a programming language (I had a course taught in Fortran a year
ago...), but usually in SD the modeling is done using a visual editor where
you can show causal relationships, stocks and flows graphically.  I
personally think the biggest short-fallings of the discipline are the
barriers to entry: the current software is far from intuitive and all the
major commercial offerings (there are no FLOSS products) [4][5][6] are very
expensive (educational licenses alone are frequently > $500 USD).

Will Wright studied SD and used ideas from it when designing SimCity [7].
 So I have several things I would like to work on:  first is a core
simulator that can transform equations into code (I'm currently working on
this for my master's thesis, but don't have and funding. eesh): I'm using
the JIT library from the LLVM project to be able to do this.  Second I want
to create a Sugar modeling interface that makes it easy and fun to create
models and explore their results (collaboratively, I hope!), and third I
want to hook this into Metropolis.  I think it would just be so cool if you
could click an icon in Metropolis and have the visual model that controls
the Metropolis world pop up (in the aforementioned editor) and be able not
only to fiddle with parameters, but change the structure!  If all of this
goes smoothly and there is more time, I would love to add the ability for
models to interact with and manipulate geospatial data.

I guess I am looking for people's reaction, is this something people like?
 I'm certainly willing to adapt myself to the collective needs and I wanted
to get a discussion started before the application deadline.  Oh I guess a
little more background on me:  I attended RPI in NY, USA for 2 years
studying computer engineering, but transferred because I wanted to do
something more applied.  I studied environmental studies (at SUNY ESF) for a
couple years, and got back into coding through classes on ecological
modeling and GIS.  I've been pretty heavily coding models, algorithms and
interfaces for the past 2 years, mainly in C#, ObjC and some Fortran, but
the past 3 months I've been using C++ for 8 hours a day and Python here and
there.  I've got a Mac with Linux (both FC8 and openSUSE10.3) and Windows,
and I've just started over the past few weeks to pick up GTK, although I've
used Cairo in a project for a couple months.  I've only dabbled with the XO,
but am really looking forward to developing bundles for it.

I'm eager to hear what you think!
Bobby Powers

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