Stats Made Easy

Practical Tools for Effective Experimentation

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Catapulting into the world of Second Life

One year ago, Bill Hathaway, founder of Six Sigma web-based trainer, announced their development of a university campus in Second Life – a 3D virtual world where users can socialize, connect and create using voice and text chat. That’s pretty cool, but what intrigued me was the picture shown here that accompanied Bill’s e-mail. It depicts an avatar-hurling catapult called the Avapult.™ (Avatars are the in-world characters assumed by the participants, for example, I am known in Second Life as “Stat Mathy.” My moniker betrays my interests!)

It took me a while to work through some issues related to my Vista operating system, but the day came not long ago when I typed in “moresteam” and teleported to the island home of the Avapult. I watched as Bill’s avatar donned a Viking helmet (in homage to me being a Minnesota football fan), climbed on to this fearsome-looking engine of destruction and flung himself virtually over the cliff. Unfortunately, Bill’s character missed the target but came close enough to become ignited. The virtual-human missile, easily tracked by its trail of smoke, then plunged into a swamp, where it literally (figuratively?) found itself up to its behind with an alligator.

So, in addition to the normal engineering challenge of determining which Avapult factors are significant, students of’s virtual university will face real (?) world stressors that make it imperative to find the best combination of settings quickly. That underscores the need for multifactor design of experiments (DOE) such as those detailed in DOE Simplified, 2nd Edition, used as a reference for web-based Six Sigma training. As Bill says, “this will be help teams separated by distance to build rapport among members, especially in advance of a blended learning classroom session.”

Tuesday I travel to Columbus for my twice-a-year teach at Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University, who team up with for blended training on Six Sigma aimed at executives seeking Black Belt (BB) status. This Spring’s bunch of BBs have been invited to take a shot at the Avapult. I will be interested to hear how this goes. The proof for me will be seen in how well the teams do at my semi-annual paper helicopter fly-off. In the past, when confronted with the task of putting DOE tools to task, some of my students, especially those who work in non-technical areas like personnel, seemed very unclear on the concepts. I feel sure that work on the Avapult will be very useful for education on design and analysis of experiments.

My son Hank, who assisted me in a trebuchet response surface method (RSM) experiment that I wrote up in RSM Simplified, is way ahead of me on the virtual world. He traveled to MoreSteam island on Second Life the other day and scoped out their Avapult. I volunteer my alter ego Stat Mathy as fodder for Hank’s designed experiments. However, I plan to first purchase chain-mail shorts as discouragement against the gator!


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