FAYETTE, Iowa (November 3, 2008) - Joseph Elarde, Upper Iowa assistant professor of information technology, demonstrated the use of "robots" in his Introduction to Information Technology (IT) class to teach P-BASIC programming.
By using a robotic car with an embedded advanced microcontroller, students were able to program it by attaching the robot to their computer through a USB port. "The intent is to show the logic of programming visually in the physical world instead of just looking at words and symbols on a white board," said Elarde. "It also demonstrates that programming can be fun."
This was obvious when the quiet class of over sixteen IT students became more animated and enthusiastic as each programming step was executed through the robot. Students made the robotic car turn right or left, spin, back up, go faster or slower, make the lights flash and the siren blare through a string of commands.
According to Elarde, at only $79 per robot and software, the cost is minimal for a quality learning tool like this. He says as soon as the students get more proficient at programming their cars, they will be able to have actual competitions.
Other interesting projects Elarde includes in the IT program at UIU are an intranet radio assignment, in which students implement the computer hardware and software to broadcast music and video content to other students on campus and a parallel compute-cluster that will allow students to explore parallel programming, multiplayer games, and simulation modeling.
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