Professor's Last Lecture: Part 3

Randy Pausch's Last Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams
Given at Carnegie Mellon University
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
For more information, see www.randypausch.com
© Copyright Randy Pausch, 2007
Note that this transcript is provided as a public service but may contain transcription errors.

So then the question becomes, how can I enable the childhood dreams of others. And again, boy am I glad I became a professor. What better place to enable childhood dreams? Eh, maybe working at EA, I don't know. That'd probably be a good close second. And this started in a very concrete realization that I could do this, because a young man named Tommy Burnett, when I was at the University of Virginia, came to me, was interested in joining my research group. And we talked about it, and he said, oh, and I have a childhood dream. It gets pretty easy to recognize them when they tell you.

And I said, yes, Tommy, what is your childhood dream? He said, I want to work on the next Star Wars film. Now you got to remember the timing on this. Where is Tommy, Tommy is here today. What year would this have been? Your sophomore year.

Tommy: It was around '93.

Randy Pausch: Are you breaking anything back there young man? OK, all right, so in 1993. And I said to Tommy, you know they're probably not going to make those next movies. [laughter] And he said, no, THEY ARE. And Tommy worked with me for a number of years as an undergraduate and then as a staff member, and then I moved to Carnegie Mellon, every single member of my team came from Virginia to Carnegie Mellon except for Tommy because he got a better offer. And he did indeed work on all three of those films.

And then I said, well that's nice, but you know, one at a time is kind of inefficient. And people who know me know that I'm an efficiency freak. So I said, can I do this in mass? Can I get people turned in such a way that they can be turned onto their childhood dreams? And I created a course, I came to Carnegie Mellon and I created a course called Building Virtual Worlds. It's a very simple course. How many people here have ever been to any of the shows?

[Some people from audience raise hands] OK, so some of you have an idea. For those of you who don't, the course is very simple. There are 50 students drawn from all the different departments of the university. There are randomly chosen teams, four people per team, and they change every project. A project only lasts two weeks, so you do something, you make something, you show something, then I shuffle the teams, you get three new playmates and you do it again. And it's every two weeks, and so you get five projects during the semester.

The first year we taught this course, it is impossible to describe how much of a tiger by the tail we had. I was just running the course because I wanted to see if we could do it. We had just learned how to do texture mapping on 3D graphics, and we could make stuff that looked half decent. But you know, we were running on really weak computers, by current standards. But I said I'll give it a try. And at my new university [Carnegie Mellon] I made a couple of phone calls, and I said I want to cross-list this course to get all these other people. And within 24 hours it was cross-listed in five departments. I love this university. I mean it's the most amazing place.

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