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Comparing The Use Of A Graphical Programming Language To A Traditional Text Based Language To Learn Programming Concepts In A First Year Course

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Conference

2009 Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

The Ever-Changing Course

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count

10

Page Numbers

14.345.1 - 14.345.10

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/5537

Download Count

59

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Paper Authors

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Kathleen Harper Denison University

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Kathleen A. Harper is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics & Astronomy at Denison University and has actively taught in the Fundamentals of Engineering for Honors (FEH) Program. She has also been an Instructional Consultant with Faculty & TA Development at The Ohio State University. Dr. Harper earned her BS in Electrical Engineering at Case Western Reserve University and her Ph.D. in Physics at The Ohio State University, specializing in physics education. Following her Ph.D., she worked as a postdoctoral fellow in the Physics Education Research Group at Ohio State with Alan Van Heuvelen.

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Richard Freuler Ohio State University

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Richard J. Freuler is the Faculty Coordinator for the Fundamentals of Engineering for Honors (FEH) Program in the OSU Engineering Education Innovation Center, and he teaches the three-quarter FEH engineering course sequence. He is also a Professor of Practice in the Aerospace Engineering Department and Associate Director of the Aeronautical and Astronautical Research Laboratory at Ohio State. Dr. Freuler earned his Bachelor of Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering (1974), his BS in Computer and Information Science (1974), his MS in Aeronautical Engineering (1974), and his Ph.D. in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering (1991) all from The Ohio State University.

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Stuart Brand Ohio State University

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Stuart H. Brand is an Engineering Lab Supervisor for the First Year Engineering Program at the Ohio State University College of Engineering. He earned his BS in Physics from The Ohio State University in 1997, after previously serving as a nuclear reactor operator and instructor in the U.S. Navy, at NPTU Charleston, MTS-635 and aboard the USS Atlanta, SSN-712.

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Craig Morin Ohio State University

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Craig E. Morin is a Design Engineer with MindWare Technologies in Columbus, Ohio where he develops medical research equipment. Previously, he was a Graduate Teaching Associate with the OSU Fundamentals of Engineering for Honors (FEH) Program where he taught labs and developed course materials. Mr. Morin earned his BS in Electrical and Computer Engineering (2004) and his MS in Biomedical Engineering (2008), both from The Ohio State University.

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Patrick Wensing Ohio State University

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Patrick M. Wensing is senior honors student in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) and has served as a Teaching Assistant for the OSU Fundamentals of Engineering for Honors (FEH) Program. He is also an undergraduate research assistant, working in the area of robotic locomotion. Mr. Wensing will graduate with his B.S.E.C.E. from The Ohio State University in June 2009.

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John Demel Ohio State University

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John T. Demel is Professor of Engineering Graphics in the Engineering Education Innovation Center. Dr. Demel is the Faculty Coordinator and teaches for the First-Year Engineering Program (FEP). He helped create and develop the FEP program. Dr. Demel earned his B.S.M.E. at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (1965) and his Ph.D. (1973) degree in Metallurgy from Iowa State University. He is a registered professional engineer in Texas. He was the institutional Principal Investigator for the Gateway Engineering Education Coalition from 1992 – 2003.

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Abstract
NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Comparing the Use of a Graphical Programming Language To a Traditional Text-based Language To Learn Programming Concepts in a First-year Course

Abstract

The research study sought to compare whether students can learn programming concepts using a graphical programming language instead of a text-based language. A small group of students was taught their first programming course using LabVIEW while the control group was using C/C++. One result showed that the C/C++ students (control group) had slightly better performance (10%) on equivalent final examination problems than the LabVIEW students. A second result showed that both groups of students performed equally in MATLAB programming exercises – their ‘second’ programming language. A third result compared the programming beliefs of the pilot and control groups with the instructors’ beliefs. The beliefs survey was administered at the beginning and end of the quarter. The pilot group of students exhibited a shift to more expert-like beliefs. This paper provides details about the processes and problems used in this investigation. The work described here began in early 2007 and was completed in 2008. This project was funded by the National Instruments Foundation.

Introduction

Ohio State’s First-Year Engineering Program was developed as part of a National Science Foundation (NSF) funded research and development project1. The honors sequence covers engineering graphics and CAD in the Autumn Quarter (Engineering H191), C/C++ and MATLAB in the Winter Quarter (Engineering H192), and a design/build project in the Spring Quarter (Engineering H193). The design/build project has teams of four students each building a small, autonomous robot to complete a specified set of tasks. H193 makes use of the graphics and programming skills developed earlier in H191 and H192. The student teams use the MIT Handy Board2 as the controller for their robots, and the students write their own program for the controller in Interactive C. Prior to this study, the primary programming language used in the H192 course was C/C++ with a short introduction to MATLAB. C/C++ was covered in eight weeks, and the introduction to MATLAB took about two weeks. Until very recently, the required course providing an introduction to computer programming for engineering students was only offered either in C/C++ or FORTRAN.

In Engineering H191 and H192, there is a hands-on laboratory exercise almost every week. Many of these labs, especially the ones for H192, require the students to collect and analyze data. They have traditionally used C/C++ and MATLAB to do the data analysis. Data acquisition hardware and LabVIEW software are used for a number of the hands-on laboratory experiments.

This first-year engineering environment was selected as the test bed to investigate engineering student learning and beliefs about computer programming in an introductory course. The study sought to compare whether students can learn programming concepts effectively using a graphical programming language instead of a text-based language.

Harper, K., & Freuler, R., & Brand, S., & Morin, C., & Wensing, P., & Demel, J. (2009, June), Comparing The Use Of A Graphical Programming Language To A Traditional Text Based Language To Learn Programming Concepts In A First Year Course Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. https://peer.asee.org/5537

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