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Lazar Nikolic ’03 of Roswell, Ga. is working to enhance and improve computer-based tutoring systems for his work as an EXCEL Scholar this summer. Nikolic is assisting Chun Wai Liew, assistant professor of computer science, in the TUTOR project with the goal of refining the often inflexible computer learning modules used by students.

The expansion of computer-based tutoring systems has been a boon to education and has led to greater learning opportunities for students, but the programs are often limited. The TUTOR project aims to use Artificial Intelligence techniques to enhance these systems.

Says Liew, “We’re trying to create a program where student and computer interaction is possible through a variety of ways. Lazar and I are working on how to create a program that will analyze and critique a student’s answer to problems, specifically in freshman year physics.”

According to Nikolic, a double major in mathematics and computer science, the project differs radically from typical formulaic class work.

“The problems are rather abstract. I have to really think about how to tackle this work. These are open-ended questions with a zillion different solutions,” he says. “That is both a challenge and very freeing.”

Liew concurs. “I’ve been working on this project for three years,” he says. “Lazar understands that this is a work-in-progress.”

Nikolic, who is interested in attending graduate school, finds that the EXCEL project provides good experience for future academic ventures.

“EXCEL is giving me a good feel for what grad school will be like,” he says. “I have to set my hours, make my own decisions, and accomplish tasks without a lot of supervision.”

He adds, “I haven’t yet decided if I’ll concentrate in computer science or mathematics, but I have a definite interest in Artificial Intelligence.”

Nikolic plays on the varsity tennis team. He made the Academic Athletic Honor Roll and the Dean’s List. He is a member of Kappa Delta Rho fraternity and the winner of the James P. Schwar Prize, which funded the EXCEL project.

Categorized in: Academic News