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Using the Matlab-based iRobot create simulator to engage introductory computer programming students in program development and observing computational errors

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2 Author(s)
Fan, K.D. ; Cornell Univ., Ithaca, NY, USA ; Dimiduk, K.C.

The excitement and appeal of robotics is leveraged in an introductory computer programming course by making use of the iRobot Create simulator written in Matlab. The simulator allows students to visualize their code in action which provides motivation for addressing errors in the code. Students are introduced to approximations in computation and learn how errors can build up. In the Fall 2010 semester, students completed four programming assignments of increasing complexity using the simulator. Students liked “seeing” their robot follow their code and more than 40% reported an increased motivation to learn computing skills. Students reported no change (42%) or a gain (33%) in their ability to understand and interpret code, which was confirmed by comparing their programming performance in the final exam to that of students in previous semesters (that didn't use the simulator). A strong correlation between a high exam score and a student's choice to discuss computational errors through the simulation exercises was observed. On the survey a majority of students reported that the simulator helped them better understand the concept of approximation and error.

Published in:

Frontiers in Education Conference (FIE), 2011

Date of Conference:

12-15 Oct. 2011