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Motivating Computer Engineering Freshmen Through Mathematical and Logical Puzzles

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1 Author(s)
Parhami, B. ; Dept. of Electr. & Comput. Eng., Univ. of California, Santa Barbara, CA, USA

As in many other fields of science and technology, college students in computer engineering do not come into full contact with the key ideas and challenges of their chosen discipline until the third year of their studies. This situation poses a problem in terms of keeping the students motivated as they labor through their foundational, basic science, and general education coursework. At the University of California, Santa Barbara, the computer engineering program has sought to remedy this problem by offering a required freshman seminar, entitled "ten puzzling problems in computer engineering." This pass/not-pass seminar, which meets once a week and is graded based solely on attendance, introduces the students to some of the most challenging problems faced by computer engineers in their daily professional endeavors and at the frontiers of research. To accomplish this feat in a nontechnical way, these problems are related to popular mathematical and logical puzzles. Each class session (60-75 min) begins by introducing the students to puzzles of a particular kind and letting them participate in formulating solutions. General solution methods for the puzzles are then discussed by the instructor, who then proceeds to demonstrate how the puzzles and their solution strategies are related to real technical challenges in computer engineering. The new one-unit course was well received during its first two offerings in spring 2007 and spring 2008, and its continuation is planned.

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Education, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:52 ,  Issue: 3 )