[plt-scheme] Prereqs for robotic programming

From: Marco Morazan (morazanm at gmail.com)
Date: Mon Feb 16 22:02:44 EST 2009

Dear All,

I am faced with a colleague, call him Prof. BW, that believes that he
can recruit students with no background in program design and
implementation into a robotics course that requires students to write
programs. Here's a small part of our exchange:

Prof BW: You mention that "[...] it is inappropriate to recruit
students that have no background in programming into a robotics course
[...]" - I am not sure what you base this on. I would suggest that it
really depends on the particular course, its design, and its goals.
Robotics courses are used even in high schools to get students
interested in and exposed to programming and problem-solving
techniques, as I am sure you know.

Marco: If a robotics course requires students to write programs then
background on how to design programs is required. It is inappropriate
to recruit students that do not have such background. These are skills
that can not be picked up or develop on the fly in the context of a
robotics course.

Prof. BW: It is tricky, but with the right tools it can work fine.

Marco: The right tools can, indeed, make writing programs easier by
eliminating the need for cumbersome syntax (this is what visual
programming thought it could deliver and has failed to date), but
these tools do not eliminate the need to design the programs that are
to be written. It will be a nightmare for students with no programming
background to implement any motion or sensor-exploiting algorithms.

Prof. BW: I am sure students will enjoy such a course. It will not be
a nightmare.

Marco: I am sorry you missed my point. I was not commenting on whether
or not you will get the students to enjoy the course. I was commenting
on having students design and implement programs for a particular task
without knowing how to design a program in the first place.

I think this gives you an accurate picture. Any suggestions?




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