What? You’ve got some spare time and you want an addictive online game where you build a machine to put a ball in a target? And you want that online game to use real physics constraints?


Here’s one that I did. My solution is effective, though not efficient. Once you solve a level, you can see other people’s solutions…

Could we use this as some sort of design competition in EPS2, or some other class?  Maybe score on time and number of parts used (could assign a cost to each part).  Lowest score wins…

This is something we’ve been trying to impart to our freshman. Maybe it will help if major, currently-cool, corporations say it too.

Official Google Blog: Our Googley advice to students: Major in learning

It’s easy to educate for the routine, and hard to educate for the novel. Keep in mind that many required skills will change: developers today code in something called Python, but when I was in school C was all the rage. The need for reasoning, though, remains constant, so we believe in taking the most challenging courses in core disciplines: math, sciences, humanities.

And then keep on challenging yourself, because learning doesn’t end with graduation. In fact, in the real world, while the answers to the odd-numbered problems are not in the back of the textbook, the tests are all open book, and your success is inexorably determined by the lessons you glean from the free market. Learning, it turns out, is a lifelong major.

Members of our lab also work to teach an introductory programming class here in the College of Engineering. This video out of K State helps us see what its like for students today…

a short video summarizing some of the most important characteristics of students today – how they learn, what they need to learn, their goals, hopes, dreams, what their lives will be like, and what kinds of changes they will experience in their lifetime. Created by Michael Wesch in collaboration with 200 students at Kansas State University.

A Vision of Students Today

In addition to that, a UC Berkeley Professor Harold Rheingold made a video of a professor’s viewpoint of a class full of students on laptops. This is part of his work exploring attention in the classroom and elsewhere. One of my favorite quotes was when he worked with a student that said, “There is a marketplace for [the student's] attention, and if the professor couldn’t compete, that was the professor’s problem.”

Attention in the Classroom

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And the 14 Grand Engineering Challenges of the 21st Century Are… | Wired Science from

The National Acadamy of Engineering put together a committee to decide on some engineering Grand Challenges. 

So…get to ‘em, everyone! =)

Thought this would be an interesting discussion piece.

STSC CrossTalk – Computer Science Education: Where Are the Software Engineers of Tomorrow? – Jan 2008

It is our view that Computer Science (CS) education is neglecting basic skills, in particular in the areas of programming and formal methods. We consider that the general adoption of Java as a first programming language is in part responsible for this decline. We examine briefly the set of programming skills that should be part of every software professional’s repertoire.

The main argument here is that students are becoming programming plumbers – basically able to follow set patterns or string together libraries, but lack knowledge in fundamental computing areas to enable them to solve complex or large scale computing problems efficiently.  The article also describes some computer engineering skills/knowledge that programmers should have.

In the Iowa College of Engineering, first year students have a programming course in which they learn C.  However, the course skips pointers, references, and memory management in order to simplify the course and retain more students.  I’m not sure when, if ever, pointers and memory management are re-introduced into the engineering curriculum.  Perhaps somewhere in the EE track.  As a programmer, I hated having to deal with memory management and pointers, and I have been extremely happy to move from strongly typed compiled languages like C, C++, Java into scripting languages like Python and Ruby. But I think that a fundamental knowledge of memory management becomes like a common abstraction between languges that lets you learn new languages and techniques more efficiently.

Today I attended the 4Cast Conference on Social Networking and Campus Impact.  The purpose of the conference is to get people from around UIowa that are interested in social networking together in one place to discuss how to use social networking on campus.  I’ll try to blog about it as things go along.

9:00: Conference start.  Jon Winet gives an overview of social networking, web2.0, collaboration tools.  Gives examples of weblogs, facebook/myspace, Google docs, flickr, twitter.  Issues about privacy and data mining/aggregation.

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The Phoenix Mars lander will be landing on Mars on Sunday, 5/25.  This is a lander, not a rover; it’ll stay in one spot and dig for water and signs of life. 

They’re using the same entry/descent/landing system as the Mars Surveyer that failed spectacularly in 2001 (stupid metric system), as well as parts from the Mars Polar Lander.

Minor correction:  Mars Polar Lander was in failed in Dec 1999 and it probably failed  due early to  engine shutdown in the  last little bit of landing.  Mars Climate Orbiter has the honor of the unit conversion  issues.  Thanks Kurt Schwehr, from Tucson Science Operations Center.

Like the Phoenix bird of ancient mythology, the Phoenix Mars Mission is reborn out of fire; this new mission was created from the embers of previous Mars endeavors. Phoenix will use many components of two unsuccessful Mars missions, MPL and MSP ‘01. Using lessons learned and an extensive testing program, scientists and engineers are confident that Phoenix will rise from the ashes revealing clues in the martian arctic soils about the history of water and potential for biology.

 I thought it was interesting that the project site mentions a number of times that Lockheed Martin is responsible for the spacecraft engineering.

Anyway…have a look.

Phoenix Mars Mission – Home

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