Computer modeling and simulation offers a unique perspective on events because of the ability to hold some variables constant and change others, and run a scenario repeatedly searching for underlying themes. This facilitates an understanding of the cumulative impact of seemingly minor events on grand outcomes. Computer simulation has been used as an analytical tool in the natural sciences, business, commerce, government and politics.
This course focuses on the creation and application of computer simulations to model strategic international events concerning warfare. The course is project-based, requiring computing and international affairs students to work together in multidisciplinary teams to analyze specific questions utilizing computer-based modeling and simulation tools (largely, but not exclusively “NetLogo”). The students will collaboratively define and evaluate specific questions in international events, formulate hypothesis concerning the resolution of these questions, develop modeling and simulation software to aid in an analysis, and apply the tools to test hypotheses and formulate conclusions from this investigation.
The learning objectives will be accomplished in the context of a specific wargame scenario. For example, a team interested in World War I might focus on the German Schlieffen Plan. This was Germany's plan for the invasion of France through Belgium and Luxembourg in 1914, at the beginning of the Great War, that subsequently was halted at the First Battle of the Marne, six weeks after the war began. There has been 100 years of debate over the reasons that the plan failed, and this debate continues among scholars today. Through computer simulation the group would replicate the plan (or some portion of the plan) and test a particular explanation given for the plan's failure.
Alternatively, student teams could analyze battles from antiquity, the gunpowder age, or the 20th Century. It may also include potential future scenarios, such as the use of anti-satellite weapons in future conflict. Simulations from previous classes included Gaugamela (Alexander the Great vs Darius), Zama (Scipio vs Hannibal), Cannae (Hannibal vs Roman Legions), Bunker Hill, Gettysburg, Tarawa, and the US Marines’ retreat from the Chosin Reservoir (Korean War).
Upon successful completion of this course, you should be able to:
- Demonstrate the ability to formulate specific study questions concerning international events and formulate hypothesis that can be tested through experimentation with computer simulation tools.
- Develop an understanding of the capabilities and limitations of modern modeling and simulation techniques as applied to the analysis of strategic international events.
- Demonstrate an understanding of accepted methodologies and practices concerning the creation and use of computer simulations to study international events to derive reasoned and justifiable conclusions.
- Demonstrate an understanding of the underlying models, abstractions, and software realizations used in modern wargame simulations.
- Demonstrate an understanding of the basic software architecture and elements of modern wargame simulations.
- Demonstrate the ability to communicate complex concepts to multidisciplinary teams including students from computing and international affairs backgrounds.
- Demonstrate the ability to understand and incorporate concepts from a different discipline and integrate them in the development and use of wargame simulations.
- Demonstrate the ability to collect and incorporate data from historical and other records for use in wargame simulation tools.
- Students will be proficient in basic mathematical skills and be able to formulate problems in international affairs mathematically if appropriate. Use software, process and analyze information, quantitative and qualitative methods.
Note: Sample syllabi are provided for informational purposes only. For the most up-to-date information, consult the official course documentation.
You can view the lecture videos for this course here.
Before Taking This Class...
Technical Requirements and Software
To participate in this class, you need the following computer hardware and software:
- Broadband Internet connection
- Laptop or desktop computer with a minimum of a 2 GHz processor and 2 GB of RAM
- Windows for PC computers or Mac iOS for Apple computers.
- Complete Microsoft Office Suite or comparable applications and ability to use Adobe PDF software (install, download, open and convert)
- Mozilla Firefox, Chrome and/or Safari browsers
All Georgia Tech students are expected to uphold the Georgia Tech Academic Honor Code. This course may impose additional academic integrity stipulations; consult the official course documentation for more information.