Computer Science Teacher
Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

July, 2010

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Team USA Heads to Poland to Compete in the Imagine Cup


    Well the USA may be out of the World Cup but that’s not the only international competition going on these days. The Imagine Cup is a (some would say THE) major student technology competition in the world and the international finals are taking place in Warsaw, Poland. And the US is still in that. And represented by some truly outstanding young people from universities and even one high school.


    Team USA, ably headed by  Randy Guthrie (including Tom Ziegmann our Student Insider) is off to the Worldwide Finals starting, July 3rd to compete, collaborate and celebrate with students from 70 countries to solve the world’s toughest challenges with software- for all the action check: The 2010 competition started with more than 325,000 high school and university students registering across more than 100 countries and regions. Among this elite group of students, there are 5 outstanding teams from the United States, which ties Taiwan and Brazil with the most teams representing their countries in the finals. Of course a personal favorite of mine is TEAM BEASTWARE who won the Windows Phone 7 “Rockstar” award from the US. You have to love a high school team who can hold their own against university students. If that doesn’t give you some hope about the US education system I don’t know what will!

    Who are Team USA? Here’s an introduction to the teams who will be representing the United States in this final round:

    1.TEAM MOBILIFE (Software Design) using Windows Phone: Kayvon Ghaffari, Wilson To, Helena Xu from University of California, Davis; University of California, Los Angeles; University of California, San Diego

    The Mobilife project introduces innovative application technologies into the market of mobile medicine by pairing the widely-available Windows Mobile platform with computer-assisted intravital microscopy to provide on-field analysis of the human microcirculation to detect developing microangiopathy in children using a cellphone. This non-invasive, in-vivo procedure will provide doctors with information on a patient – enough to pre-diagnose different vascular diseases such as type-1 diabetes mellitus, pediatric hypertension, and sickle cell anemia. Mobilife’s technology offers a scientifically-validated approach that cost-effectively provides accurate microcirculatory information to diagnose vascular diseases in children.  See a video of Team Mobilife’s project on the People’s Choice website.

    · 2.TEAM VACCINE (Embedded Development): Patricia Day and Shawn McGhee from the University of Arkansas, Little Rock

    · This project is aimed at helping children around the world. There is a potential to save tens of thousands (or more) children from preventable diseases by providing a mechanism to the World Health Organization, Unicef, Doctors Without Borders, Kenya Partnership, and others to allow for effectively recording/tracking of immunizations in remote regions of least developed and developing countries.

    3. TEAM ONEVIEW (Touch and Tablet Accessibility): Shaun Kane and Kristen Shinohara from University of Washington

    OneView is a Tablet PC-based application that enables students with varying abilities to collaboratively create, read, and edit diagrams. OneView provides a synchronized multimodal interface (visual, audio, text) that allows each student to use their preferred interface mode while collaborating with other students with different abilities. OneView enables pairs of students, either blind or sighted, to collaboratively view and edit diagrams. Using a single Tablet PC, a blind student can use an accessible audio interface, while her sighted collaborator uses a visual interface.

    4.TEAM NOTE-TAKER (Touch and Tablet Accessibility): David Hayden and John Black from Arizona State University

    Note-Taker is a portable, custom-designed hardware/software assistive device that improves the accessibility of higher education for students who are legally blind or have reduced vision. The Note-Taker Application allows low-vision users to view streaming video of a classroom presentation while, at the same time, taking notes in a split-screen interface with Microsoft OneNote. Much like their sighted peers, low-vision users can rapidly look between their notes and the board. Whereas fully students glance up or down, low-vision students using the Note-Taker need only move their gaze from one half of the display to the other. The Note-Taker Camera is a custom-designed USB camera that can be precisely pointed to any location where a whiteboard or digital projector might be located in a classroom, relative to the student desk. The camera provides 36x optical zoom and streams video to a tablet PC. Users can control camera positioning and zoom through intuitive tapping, dragging, and multitouch pinching gestures applied directly to the streaming video display. The Note-Taker Camera and Application has been used in class for more than 200 hours by students who are legally blind.

    5. TEAM BEASTWARE (Windows Phone 7 “Rockstar”):  Christian Hood and Eric Lo from the Advanced Technologies Academy high school in Nevada  (also won our high school “Bliink” competition earlier this year)

    The project is a 2D game that involves the player controlling a machine that destroys other machines by using the accelerometer. The objective of the game is to destroy as many enemies as possible before the health runs out. The player has three different actions they can perform which are shoot, repair, and defense. The shoot action fires bullets in the direction of the machine. The repair action restores a small amount of health instantly. The defense action reduces the amount of damage taken for a short period of time.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Reflection on ISTE 2010


    Well I’m back from ISTE for a bit over 24 hours now. My luggage has even arrived. It apparently decided to spend a few extra hours in Denver. I had a great time at ISTE as I always do. It was a great time to reconnect with a good many people who I know either in person or online or both. I missed some people though – ISTE is just sooo large! Some of the highlights for me were the SIGCT breakfast forum (picture of me addressing the group below) and the SIGCT business meeting. And the ISTE Mansion – more on that in a bit.

    I have been involved with SIGCT for longer than I have been at Microsoft and there are so many great friends at these events I wouldn’t miss them.


    I spent a lot of time working the Microsoft  booth this year. I spent a lot of time demoing and talking about Kodu for example. Lots and lots of interest in Kodu for young children. There is now some curriculum available for Kodu and we handed out a lot of USB thumb drives with copies of those materials. You can get them online from the Kodu Classroom kit link. I also talked a lot about XNA and Small Basic of course. Between those three things (and Visual Studio with Visual Basic and C#) Microsoft really has tools for teaching the full range of programming from age 8 through high school.

    I did get away from the booth for a few things though. I attended a Tweet up sponsored by Dell and Microsoft, a reception sponsored by HP and Microsoft, and some team dinners. I also got to hang out one night in the “ISTE Mansion.” What’s the ISTE Mansion? Well it turns out that a number of people who attended decided to save some money by getting together and renting a house for the week. They found an absolutely amazing house and Tuesday night they had a few people over for dinner and conversation. And honestly conversation is the key to getting value out of ISTE for me. If it were not for conversations we could all stay home and watch everything on video streams.

    Some of my best conversations happened away from the booth and the exhibit floor. Even the receptions and parties are a bit overwhelming for me and while I have some conversations there. Many of the best conversations came at the Bloggers Café, conference center hallways and hotel lobbies. I learn a lot listening to teachers. I learn about their successes (and some wonderful things they are) and their challenges. I get to know them as people as well. Over the years I have developed many terrific friendships at ISTE and related conferences. (TCEA and SIGCSE are two of my very favorite events) So I am home tired but happy. I learned a lot, enjoyed the company of smart friendly teachers and generally had an experience well worth my time and money. So thanks to all who made ISTE so great for me.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Career Outlook for CS Students


    The CACM web site has an interesting interview with Joel Adams (Joel Adams Discusses the Career Outlook for CS Students) Joel Adams’ report on The Market For Computing Careers summarized employment data and projections from a number of sources and shows an optimistic about job openings. Unfortunately the number of people being prepared for CS and IT careers is not projected to meet the need. This is a problem for the companies who need these trained people but it is an opportunity for students and the educational programs who could prepare them for future careers. The interview includes discussion on a number of topics beyond the job projections though.

    For example, this exchange is related to my blog post on making CS interesting again where discussion of words like “geek” and “nerd” came up in the comments.

    Speaking of the “nerd/geek” stereotype, some people, such as David Anderegg, a professor of psychology at Bennington College , have suggested that the terms “geek” and “nerd” should be banned External Link. What’s your reaction?
    I agree that the stereotypes are damaging, but I disagree that the terms should be banned. I believe in responsible free speech, and generally dislike strategies to ban pejorative terms and introduce “politically correct” (PC) replacements. The PC replacements eventually become pejorative, and the cycle starts over.

    So I think a better strategy is to admit that there are some nerdy/geeky computer scientists, but not let them be the standard bearers for our discipline. We need to find a way to leverage the power of mass media to create a more positive association for the term “computer scientist” in the average person’s mind.

    I highly recommend the whole interview though. Lots of things to make you think about the future of the computer science field in the US and beyond.


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