The NCWIT EngageCSEdu Engagement Excellence Awards, recognized faculty who made a difference in their introductory computer science classrooms through excellent and engaging curriculum, contributing the best of the best to the EngageCSEdu collection — hundreds of materials for introductory computing courses that are peer reviewed and searchable by topic, programming language, and more.
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- Mark Gondree, Sonoma State University
NCWIT recognizes Professor Mark Gondree, Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Sonoma State University, with the 2019 Engagement Excellence Award for his CS1 assignment, Air Quality Index Calculator. The assignment is exemplary for its clarity of presentation, the quality of scaffolding, and the integration of a highly relevant and meaningful interdisciplinary topic: the scientific measure of environmental air quality. Students are asked to write a program that utilizes user input simulating data from environmental sensors to compute the appropriate air quality index and print the associated category metric. Professor Gondree includes relevant syntactic advice and hints, and effectively scaffolds the assignment by building in two checkpoints, each with sample input and output (subtly highlighting some special cases). These checkpoints integrate interactions with faculty into the assignment. In addition, he provides excellent references, allowing students to more fully explore this interdisciplinary topic. The assignment is coupled with a ‘redux’ version intended for students to revisit the topic once they have been exposed to more advanced data structures.
2018 Grand Prize Winners
- Clifton Kussmaul, Muhlenberg College
Dr. Clif Kussmaul is recognized for his work in bringing the collaborative learning technique, Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL), to the field of computer science, including developing a range of imaginative materials that other instructors can implement in their courses. Three of his POGIL assignments in the EngageCSEdu collection — POGIL:Search I, POGIL:Internet I, and POGIL: Internet III — are of particular note. Both are great unplugged activities to teach about aspects of the web (such as searching and caching) that should have broad appeal. Using compelling metaphors, these POGIL activities are great opportunities for students to work together on a project they all can relate to.
- Zoë Wood, California Polytechnic State University
Dr. Zoë Wood is recognized for her assignment, Impressionism and Implicit Functions: Looping 2D Space. In this highly creative assignment, Dr. Wood uses computational art as a means for exploring beginning computer programming concepts. Dr. Wood’s graphical approach, best exemplified in this Looping assignment, has a number of advantages. First, the visual output provides immediate feedback to students (e.g., in the Looping assignment, there is a “stroke of the paintbrush” for each nested loop). Second, connecting art topics directly to computing problems can engage a broader range of students. Finally, students have something — their art! — that they can share with others.
- Clifton Kussmaul, Muhlenberg College
2018 Honorable Mentions
- Leen-Kiat Soh, Elizabeth Ingraham, and Lee Dee Miller, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, for Computational Creativity Exercise (CCE): Storytelling
- Ria Galanos, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, for CS1 – Twitter
- Peter Drake, Lewis and Clark College, POGIL Assignments (Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning) for the Second Semester of Introductory Computer Science (CS2)
Dr. Drake is recognized for three excellent CS2-level POGIL assignments he contributed to the EngageCSEdu collection this year: Beetle, Shut the Box, and Towers of Hanoi. Not only are these assignments incredibly engaging, they are great examples of how to engage and retain students through the use of well-structured collaborative learning and with assignments that are relevant and meaningful to their lives. In particular, the Towers of Hanoi assignment is a novel and highly effective reboot of a tried and true assignment.
- Greg Hendler, Lea Ikkache, Brandon Westergaard, Anna Xambó, Doug Edwards, Brian Magerko, and Jason Freeman, Georgia Tech, Earsketch
The Georgia Tech team’s “EarSketch” assignment introduces CS0 students to Python through music composing and remixing. The interconnections with the music industry and the creation of music offers a unique and authentic experience in tying creative arts to computer science. By making interdisciplinary connections, giving students creative choice, and encouraging students to show off to others what they have done, this assignment employs key practices for retaining women and minority students in computing.
This December 2017 edition of ACM Inroads Magazine features the 2017 Engagement Excellence Award recipients.
- Elizabeth Boese, Lecturer, Department of Computer Science, University of Colorado Boulder, Using Programming to Analyze Real Human DNA Files
Using diet and DNA sequencing information, this assignment has students explore computing concepts (such as Python dictionaries) in a captivating way. This highly creative project helps students make interdisciplinary connections and see the meaningful contributions that computing makes to real-world problems. The project employs other effective pedagogical techniques, such as pair programming, and engages students at multiple skill levels through interesting extra credit opportunities. All of these practices can help encourage all students, especially women, to persist in computing.
- Mark LeBlanc, Professor of Computer Science, Department of Math and Computer Science, Wheaton College, Set of Assignments Applying Computational Analyses to Poetry
In Reading Poetry Backwards, Regex Play, and Only in the Poetry – Searching the Anglo-Saxon Corpus (all described in the teaching paper Computing and the Digital Humanities), students artfully “bend” poetry using programming and algorithmic thinking. By making interdisciplinary connections, this highly creative set of assignments helps students see the relevance of computing to their lives. These practices have been shown to be effective in encouraging all students, especially women, to persist in computing. In addition, the assignments have well-defined learning goals, scaffold students’ problem-solving by breaking down larger tasks into subtasks, and offer flexibility for a variety of instructors and students.
- Christine Alvarado (UC San Diego); Geoff Kuenning, Ran Libeskind-Hadas, and Zachary Dodds (Harvey Mudd College)
The award recognizes the multiple contributions this collaborative team has made to the EngageCSEdu collection. Professors Alvarado, Kuenning, Libeskind-Hadas, and Dodds’s assignments are consistently creative and do a great job of providing meaningful and relevant content to students. The assignment “Alien Robots” stood out as particularly creative and providing extensive student choice. Other noteworthy assignments include “Mastermind!” and “Sounds Good!“
- Sarah Diesburg and Ben Schafer (University of Northern Iowa)
Professors Diesburg and Shafer are recognized for their collection of labs that are designed to create an engaging classroom experience for all students and experience levels. The labs “Analyze Customer Data” and “Set and Dictionaries to Analyze Movies” are particularly engaging in their use of informal, conversational-style language and by providing relevant content and connections for students. These techniques help engage all students and promotes deeper thinking about the tasks at hand.
- Bill Punch and Richard Enbody (Michigan State University)
Professors Punch and Enbody are recognized for their extensive collection of projects that are designed to create interdisciplinary connections between computer science and various technical disciplines. This collection of materials does a great job of employing many different engagement practices, such as incorporating student choice and providing meaningful and relevant content. Two projects — both teaching about attributes — are particularly noteworthy. The first, Breast Cancer Classifier, makes clear interdisciplinary connections to biology and medicine, and provides student with relevant and meaningful content. The second, Income Classifier, provides students with worked examples with subgoals, and makes interesting interdisciplinary connections to economics and sociology.