Models And Simulation

What, Why, How?

  1. 1. What
    1. What is a model? What is simulation? Goal is to develop a repertoire of techniques and an eye for the variety of generic situations to which they can be applied. This means acquiring a new intuition of "what goes with what" along with a strong sense of limitations (what cannot be used where and what a given technique omits or remains agnostic about). Further, we want to leave room for innovation by treating techniques not as a repair manual to be slavishly followed but as a "bag of tricks" that can be creatively combined to help solve real world problems.
    2. Examples
      1. What will happen if the state takes full economic responsibility for foster kids when they reach the age of 18?
      2. If we have a million dollars to spend on juvenile justice, where should it be spent to best achieve our goals?
      3. How should Mills spread its financial aid money around to best serve its long terms goals?
      4. What would be the most effective approach to marketing the MPP program?
      5. What is the best allocation of work hours for toll takers on the Bay Area's bridges? How does the addition of Fastrak affect this over time?
      6. Where should stimulus package dollars flow in order to achieve the best recovery?
      7. What steps should be followed to achieve the shutting down of Guantanomo detention facility?
      8. If No Child Left Behind was either a good idea poorly implemented or a bad idea altogether, what would be a better approach to improving K-12 education in the US?
  2. Why
    1. In general, we want to be able to make decisions about courses of actions that will lead to desired outcomes.
    2. One question it is useful to answer is "how did this state of affairs come about?"
    3. Another is "what would happen if we did X?"
    4. Example: Video game controller
      1. What button or combination of buttons affects what behaviors? How does the environment seem to respond to my choices? How sensitive are the controls? Which events are subject to my actions and which ones not?
  3. How
    1. Reading, pen/pencil exercises, computer exercises
    2. Some things that will be necessary along the way (bring 'em or learn 'em)
      1. Facility with Microsoft Excel
      2. Mathematical notation and techniques (e.g., equations and functions, graphing lines and curves, basic linear algebra, compound interest calculations, exponents, probability, simultaneous equations)