200 Students Can't Be Wrong! GamesCrafters, a Computational Game Theory Undergraduate Research and Development Group

Daniel D. Garcia, Yanpei Chen, Patricia C. Fong, Jerry Hong, Deepa Mahajan, Cynthia Okita, David Eitan Poll, Alan Roytman, Ofer Sadgat

The UC Berkeley GamesCrafters research and development group was formed in 2001 as a "watering hole" to gather and engage top undergraduates as they explore the fertile area of computational game theory. At the core of the project is GAMESMAN, an open-source AI architecture developed for solving, playing and analyzing two-person, abstract strategy games (e.g., Tic-Tac-Toe or Chess). The group is accessible to undergraduates at all levels. Those not yet ready to dive into code can create graphics, find bugs, or research the history of games for our website. Programmers can easily prototype a new game with multiple rule variants, design a fun interface, and perform extended analysis. Advanced students are encouraged to tinker with the software core, and optimize the solvers, databases, hash functions, networking, user experience, etc. Over the past six years, over two hundred undergraduates have implemented more than sixty-five games and several advanced software engineering projects. Since this is not a class, but directed group study, students can re-register as often as they like; most stay for two or three semesters. This allows for a real community to be formed with veterans providing continuity and mentoring as project leads, allowing for more ambitious multi-term projects. Our alumni have told us how valuable this experience has been for them, providing them with a nurturing environment to mature as researchers, developers and leaders. Their positive feedback, the overwhelming response we get when we demo at our annual campus open house, and the continued student enthusiasm tells us this could be one way to keep students excited and engaged by computer science.

Subjects: 1.8 Game Playing; 15.7 Search

Submitted: Jan 25, 2008


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