“Solving Complex Problems” is a nine-unit subject designed to provide students with the opportunity to work as part of an “imagineering” team to design a viable solution to a complex problem that requires an interdisciplinary approach. For students participating in the Fall 2002 offering, the mission (“Mission 2006”) is:
Develop a way to characterize and monitor the well-being of one of the last true frontiers on Earth – the Amazon Basin rainforest – and devise a set of practical strategies to ensure its preservation.
We know remarkably little about the physical, chemical and biological processes that shape the evolution of rainforest ecosystems, yet such knowledge is crucial if we hope to implement effective plans for the management of this unique resource. Exactly how the necessary knowledge base can be developed with currently available technologies, and how we might use that knowledge to improve our stewardship of Amazonia, is subject to heated debate. There is no “correct” answer to this problem set….
Students will break Mission 2006 down into well-defined tasks, and each task will be assigned to a team of between five and ten students. Each team will be assisted by two upper-class teaching fellows, and they will be able to rely on one or more “Alumni Mentors” for advice and encouragement. In addition, students may wish to take advantage of the expertise of our core of “Specialty Advisors”: scientists, engineers, and businesspeople who can provide special insights into the problems associated with living in or working on the rainforest ecosystem.