[plt-scheme] Prereqs for robotic programming

From: Stephen Bloch (sbloch at adelphi.edu)
Date: Tue Feb 17 09:56:29 EST 2009

On Feb 16, 2009, at 10:02 PM, Marco Morazan wrote:

> 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:...

It's fairly common to use robotics as an introduction to  
programming.  I haven't taught such a course, but (like Logo turtle- 
graphics, Alice, or Lyn Turbak's BuggleWorlds in Java) it's quite a  
natural fit if you think of programming in a purely imperative/ 
sequential way.  Your colleague will probably succeed in getting  
students interested in programming, getting them to do experimental/ 
exploratory programming, and teaching them the sequential,  
conditional, looping, and perhaps (void) procedure-calling constructs  
of a programming language.  BW will probably not succeed in teaching  
them general principles of program design, because that's not what (s) 
he set out to do (and it may not have even occurred to him/her).  By  
the end of the course, most of the students will probably not be  
prepared to write programs of more than a few dozen lines, but  
they'll be able to get the robots doing some simple tasks.  A few  
particularly sharp ones may be able to write, by the seats of their  
pants, programs of several hundred lines which, though ugly and  
inadequately-tested, work correctly most of the time.

The gravest concern is that they will come OUT of your colleague's  
course thinking they know how to program.

Stephen Bloch
sbloch at adelphi.edu

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