Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Two papers recently presented at the 11th China-Europe International Symposium of Software Engineering Education

Two papers were recently presented at the 11th China-Europe International Symposium of Software Engineering Education, 29-30 April 2015, Zwickau, Germany http://whz-cms-10.zw.fh-zwickau.de/bo/index_CEISEE.html by two members of staff from the School of Science and Technology, University of Northampton.

Paper 1
Review of a problems-first approach to first year undergraduate programming

Gary J. Hill
(Head of Department, Computing and Immersive Technologies, University of Northampton, Northampton, NN2 6JB, UK)



This paper, predominantly discusses the teaching of programming and problem solving to undergraduate first year computing students, using robots/robot simulators and visual programming to emulate the robot tasks. The needs to focus initial programming education on problem solving, prior to the teaching of programming syntax and software design methodology is also considered. The main vehicle for this approach is a robot/robot simulation programmed in Java, followed by the programming of a visual representation/simulation to develop programming skills. Problem solving is not trivial (Beaumont & Fox, 2003) and is an important skill, central to computing and engineering. The paper aims to summarise the authors earlier research on a problems-first approach to programming (Hill & Turner, 2011, 2014  to further emphasise the importance of problem solving, problem-based learning/project-based learning and the benefits of both physical and visual solutions.

The importance of linking the problem-solving robot activity and the programming assignment, whilst maintaining the visual nature of the problem, will be discussed, together with the comparison of this work with similar work reported by other authors relating to teaching programming using robots (Williams, 2003, Burbaitė et al., 2013).

The approaches discussed have been disseminated to colleagues, not only within the author’s University, but also in Europe and internationally (Kariyawasam, Turner & Hill, 2012, Hill & Turner, 2011, 2014) . Development funding support has also been received from the Higher Education Academy (HEA) – Information & Computer Sciences (ICS) Development Fund (2015a) and the HEA-ICS/Microsoft Innovative Teaching Fund (2015b).


  • Adams, J., Turner, S., Kaczmarczyk, S., Picton, P., & Demian, P. (2008). Problem solving and creativity for undergraduate engineers: Findings of an action research project involving robots. Paper presented at the International Conference on Engineering Education (ICEE 2008), Budapest, Hungary.

  • Adams J. P., & Turner, S. J., (2008) Problem Solving and Creativity for Undergraduate Engineers: process or product? International Conference on Innovation, Good Practice and Research in Engineering Education July 14-16, 2008, Loughborough, England, Higher Education Academy. 9781904804659.

  • Burbaitė, R., Damaševičius, R., Štuikys, V., (2013) Teaching of Computer Science Topics Using Meta-Programming-Based GLOs and LEGO Robots, Informatics in Education - An International Journal (Vol12_1), pp125-142.

  • Beaumont, C., & Fox, C. (2003). Learning programming: Enhancing quality through problem-based learning. In proceeding of 4th Annual Conference of the subject centre for Information and Computer Sciences of the Higher Education Academy (pp. 90-95). Newtownabbey, Northern Ireland: Higher Education Academy.

  • Bloom, B. S. (Ed.). (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives, handbook I: Cognitive domain. White Plains, NY: Longman.

  • Chickering, A. W., Gamson. Z., F. (1987) "Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education." AAHE Bulletin 39:3-7. ED 282 491.6 pp. MF-01; PC-01.

  • Computing Curricula. (2001) IEEE CS, ACM Joint Task Force on Computing Curricula, IEEE Computer Society Press and ACM Press. Retrieved January 22, 2015 from http://www.acm.org/education/curricula.html.

  • Gallopoulos E, Houstis E, Rice JR (1994) Computer as Thinker/Doer: Problem-Solving Environments for Computational Science IEEE Computational Science and Engineering pp 11-23
  • http://dx.doi.org/10.1109/99.326669

  • Gold. N., (2010) Motivating Students in Software Engineering Group Projects: An Experience Report. Innovation in Teaching and Learning in Information and Computer Sciences 9(1), 10-19. DOI: 10.11120/ital.2010.09010010
  • http://dx.doi.org/10.11120/ital.2010.09010010

  • Greenfoot (2013) Teach and Learn Java Programming. Retrieved August 1, 2013, from http://www.greenfoot.org/

  • HEA-ICS Development Fund (2015a) HEA-ICS Development Fund [online] Available from: http://www.ics.heacademy.ac.uk/projects/development-fund/index.php [Accessed February 2015].

  • HEA-ICS/Microsoft Innovative Teaching Fund (2015b) "Developing problem-solving teaching materials based upon Microsoft Robotics Studio" [online] Available from: http://www.ics.heacademy.ac.uk/projects/development-fund/fund_details.php?id=88 [Accessed February 2015].

  • Hill, G. and Turner, S. J. (2014) Problems first, second and third. International Journal of Quality Assurance in Engineering and Technology Education (IJQAETE). 3(3), pp. 88-109. 2155-496X.

  • Hill G. J., Turner S. (2011) "Chapter 7: Problems First", Software Industry-Oriented Education Practices and Curriculum Development: Experiences and Lessons, M Hussey, X Xu & B Wu (Eds.), IGI Global, USA, pp 110-126, ISBN: 978-1-60960-797-5.

  • Houghton, W., (2004) How can Learning and Teaching Theory assist Engineering Academics? [online]. School of Engineering - University of Exeter. Available from: http://www.engsc.ac.uk/er/theory/problemsolving.asp [Accessed November 2007].

  • JICC5 (2001) Java & the Internet in the Computing Curriculum, Higher Education Academy (HEA) – Information and Computer Sciences (ICS) Conference, South Bank University, London, 22nd Jan, (http://www.ics.heacademy.ac.uk/events/displayevent.php?id=127).

  • Kariyawasam K., A., Turner S., Hill G. (2012) "Is it Visual? The importance of a Problem Solving Module within a Computing course", Computer Education, Volume 10, Issue 166, May 2012, pp. 5-7, ISSN: 1672-5913.

  • Microsoft. (2006). Microsoft robotics studio. Retrieved February 14, 2008, from http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/robotics/aa731520.aspx

  • Savin-Baden, M. & Wilkie, K. (2004) (eds) Challenging Research in Problem-based Learning. Maidenhead: Open University Press/SRHE.

  • Turner S., Hill G. J., (2010) Innovative Use of Robots and Graphical Programming in Software Education, Computer Education, Volume 9, May 2010, pp. 54-6, ISSN: 1672-5913.

  • Turner S., Hill G. J., (2007) Robots in Problem-Solving and Programming 8th Annual Conference of the Subject Centre for Information and Computer Sciences, University of Southampton, 28th - 30th August 2007, pp 82-85 ISBN 0-978-0-9552005-7-1

  • Turner S., Hill G. J., (2006) The Inclusion of Robots Within The Teaching OF Problem Solving: Preliminary Results, 7th Annual Conference of the ICS HE Academy, Trinity College, Dublin, 29th - 31st August 2006, Proceedings pg 241-242 ISBN 0-9552005-3-9

Gary is also on the International Programme committee (http://whz-cms-10.zw.fh-zwickau.de/bo/CEISEE_ProgComm.html)  and was a panel member of the discussion of Software Engineering Education and Industry

Paper 2
Enhancing computing student employability skills through partnership working in STEM outreach.

Scott Turner, Associate Professor, Department of Computing and Immersive Technologies, University of Northampton, Northampton, NN2 6JB, UK

Student volunteering is growing in the UK and elsewhere, and there is an ongoing debate about whether it is really “self-evidently a ‘good thing’” or there is a greater need for reflection to determine whether this statement is true (Holdsworth and Quinn, 2010).  This paper presents a personal reflection of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) volunteering as a potential route to increasing Computing student’s employability.
This paper looks at an approach at the University of Northampton that involves:
  • ·         Linking but not combining a local STEM volunteering scheme to the National STEM Volunteers (STEMNet 2015)
  • ·         Creation of a STEM Steering Group that has representation across all parts of the university.

Three brief case studies of computing student volunteers at different stages will be presented and culminate with a personal reflection based on observations over a ten year period.


  • Brewis, G., Russell, J., & Holdsworth, C. (2010). Bursting the bubble: Students, volunteering and the community. Research Summary.

  • Junkbots (2015) Junkbots [online] Available at: http://junkbots.blogspot.co.uk/ Accessed on: 24th January 2015.

  • Sinclair J, Allen A, Davis L, Goodchild T, Messenger J, Turner S (2014) "Enhancing student employability skills through partnership working in STEM outreach; the University of Northampton approach " HEA STEM Annual Teaching and Learning Conference 2013: Enhancing the STEM Student Journey, University of Edinburgh, 30th April-1st May 2014

  • STEMNet (2015) Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Network [online] Available at: http://www.stemnet.org.uk/ Accessed on: 24th January 2015.

Scott is also on the International Programme committee (http://whz-cms-10.zw.fh-zwickau.de/bo/CEISEE_ProgComm.html)  and was a session chair for a paper session.

All views are the authors, and may not reflect the views of any organisation the author is connected with in any way.

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