June 14, 2015
June 14, 2015
June 17, 2015
Computing & Information Technology
26.1360.1 - 26.1360.14
Educational exhibit: a novel way of learning parallel computational thinking from Kinetic sculptureUnderstanding computing is tough challenge for those who are unfamiliar with it and isespecially hard when the concept is abstract. This paper describes a novel way of educating non-computer scientists (e.g. students, K-12, senators, elderly, etc.) the concept of parallelcomputational thinking. Parallel computational thinking involves the basic understanding of theconcept of parallel computing, where multiple computing resources are simultaneously used tosolve a computational problem. Without parallel computational thinking most modern scientificdiscoveries are impracticable (e.g. sequencing the human genome, confirmation of the Higgsboson). However educating novice learners of the importance and sophistication of parallelsystems that grow exponentially large and change rapidly has been a challenging task. Inparticular, parallel computing devices have been inherently designed as a “black box” in whichthe only indication of transmission is through limited external cues (i.e. flashing LED lights orthe hum of the system).In order to visualize and better understand the data transmission mechanism and algorithmicpatters of parallel computing, a kinetic computing sculpture comprising of a functional cluster ofRaspberry Pi computers has been built by an interdisciplinary group of researchers. In thissculpture, each computing device is attached to a compact servo mechanism fitted to analuminum structure that reacts to both computation and data movement of parallel programsrunning on the system. An interactive touch screen display along with the sculpture allowsvisitors to interactively select and view the effects of various parallel computation choices thatcomputer and computational scientists make every day.In this paper we provide an overview of the design of the kinetic sculpture and the touch screenuser interface. The study reveals that experts from different disciplines anticipate dissimilarity inthe design process. However, by interdisciplinary collaboration this notion of disciplinarydifference was reformed. Preliminary user evaluations of the parallel computing sculpturesuggest the kinetic sculpture to be an effective learning exhibit that visualizes parallel computingpatterns. Participants of the study were first asked about their basic understanding of parallelcomputing and their background in computer science. The participants were fairly familiar withcomputational concepts, they had either taken a computer science course or had someone in theirfamily who has a computer science background. The participants enjoyed their interactiveexperience with the sculpture and explicitly mentioned that they had learned something new.
Chowdhury, B. T., & Blanchard, S., & Cameron, K. W., & Johri, A. (2015, June), SeeMore: An Interactive Kinetic Sculpture Designed to Teach Parallel Computational Thinking Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24697
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