The Spring 2023 Semester COMET Lab currently has over 40 members, an increase of 150% from the same time period a year ago. The COMET Lab numbers from Spring 2022 were about 16 students. While the Fall numbers increased to around 30 students.
The increase has largely come from the surge in enrollment of international students, as the Covid-19 restrictions on international travel have been lifted. The limitations created a backlog of students, who have now arrived in the SOIC programs in unprecedented numbers.
The number of projects in the Lab has also increased, with several projects being done in collaboration with the Polis Center. This has been especially valuable for the Data Science students, who are working to collect and process data for a variety of Polis Center uses. The Human-Computer Interaction students are also seeing several new projects from a variety of sources, including grant-funded projects from within the School, projects with external community partners, and Polis Center projects.
The size change has required a different approach to managing the Lab and the projects. Students have stepped up to manage many of the projects, and the teams have been working to formalize the roles various team members perform. New project management strategies are being implemented, and these efforts are being enhanced by several members of Nicole Van Andel’s Project Management course, who have joined the project teams as Project Managers this semester. Many of these changes are being implemented with help from Kim Sarver, a Project Manager from the Polis Center, who is coordinating the student workers engaged in Polis Center projects.
A student Leadership Committee has been established, composed of student leaders from the various project areas. They are working to find ways students can self-govern the Lab and create programs that will help students explore technical opportunities and develop needed skills. This includes programs for media production skills, cloud computing skills, and artificial intelligence exploration.
The large group has caused the Lab to search and experiment with new approaches to the work we do, but it has also presented an opportunity for change. It is hoped that the efforts will lead to a more student-centered organization that provides expanded opportunities for students to gain experience in both technical and leadership skills.