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Games and puzzle can be used to great effect both in research and education.
I am actively involved in spreading this gospel within the OR/MS community.
I have published a number of papers on this topic, some of which appeared in the electronic journal INFORMS Transactions on Education. All contain on-line web based modules.
I am also of the opinion that the development of educationally rich OR/MS games can help a great deal to promote the profession.
My point is that games and puzzles can become a major application in OR/MS. I am actively involved in promoting this idea.
Here is one of my favourite quotes regarding the role of games in research and education in such disciplines as operations research, management science and computer science (Moore [1959, p. 292]):
The origin of the present methods provide an interesting illustration of the value of basic research on puzzles and games. Although such research is often frowned upon as being frivolous, it seems plausible that these algorithms might eventually lead to savings of very large sums of money by permitting more efficient use of congested transportation or communication systems. The actual problems in communication and transportation are so much complicated by timetables, safety requirements, signal-to-noise ratios, and economic requirements that in the past those seeking to solve them have not seen the basic simplicity of the problem, and have continued to use trial-and-error procedures which do not always give the true shortest path. However, in the case of a simple geometrical maze, the absence of these confusing factors permitted algorithms A, B, and C to be obtained, and from them a large number of extensions, elaborations, and modifications are obvious.
The problem was first solved in connection with Claude Shannon's maze-solving machine. When this machine was used with a maze which had more than one solution, a visitor asked why it had not built to always find the shortest path. Shannon and I each attempted to find economical methods of doing this by machine. He found several methods suitable for analog computation, and I obtained these algorithms. Months later the applicability of these ideas to practical problems in communication and transportation systems was suggested.
Just in case: Claude Shannon is considered the founder of digital circuit design and information theory.
Moore, E.F. (1959), The Shortest Path Through a Maze, pp. 285-292 in Proceedings of an International Symposium on the theory of Switching, 2-5 April, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press, Cambridge.
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