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[Conference News] Robots Teach Programming Skills

In a scheme envisioned by a trio of New Zealand researchers, robots use a sophisticated, intuitive visual language to more fully involve computer science students in solving programming challenges. James Diprose, Bruce MacDonald, and John Hosking of the University of Auckland will describe their creation, Ruru, at the 2011 IEEE Symposium on Visual Languages and Human-Centric Computing, which takes place this September in Pittsburgh.

Robots are useful tools for teaching novices programming as real outcomes of programming decisions can be seen immediately. However, robot software development has unique problems that make aspects of programming more difficult than general software development. These problems include the inherently unstable robot platform itself, the robot’s environment and its interactions in three-dimensional space, and the fact that physical events occur in real time. Ruru, a novel visual language that addresses these difficulties through a principled approach to its design, also visualizes robot inputs intuitively in real time and allows users to amend parameters at will. The New Zealand scientists envision the usefulness and user-friendliness of Ruru as key to engaging novices in learning and practicing programming skills.

Learn more about papers to be presented at VLHCC 2011 at www.cs.cmu.edu/~vlhcc2011.

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