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SeeMore: An Interactive Kinetic Sculpture Designed to Teach Parallel Computational Thinking

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Curricular Issues in Computing and Information Technology Programs II

Tagged Division

Computing & Information Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1360.1 - 26.1360.14



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Paper Authors


Bushra Tawfiq Chowdhury Virginia Tech

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Bushra Tawfiq Chowdhury is a PhD student in the in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech,
Blacksburg, VA, USA. Her research interests are in computational thinking, collaborative learning, and informal learning environments.She received her M.S. in Security Informatics from Johns Hopkins University and B.S. in
Computer Science from Dhaka University. Bushra has experience in undergraduate teaching and consulting in the
education and development sectors.

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Sam Blanchard Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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Sam Blanchard is currently Assistant Professor of Studio Art in the School of Visual Arts at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA. He received his Bachelor of Fine Art in 2002 from Ohio University and Master of Fine Art in Sculpture from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2004. Past research includes hybrid sculptures, installation, performance, and video artworks. Sam utilizes technology based fabrication methods to interweave everyday materials and objects to become extended metaphors of experience. He has an active international exhibition schedule, with upcoming solo exhibitions of his artwork at such venues as the Las Vegas Contemporary Art Center, the Delaware Center for Contemporary Art and The New Galley (Calgary, ON).

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Kirk W Cameron

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Kirk W. Cameron is a Professor of Computer Science and a Research Fellow in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech. The central theme of his research is to improve power and performance efficiency in high performance computing (HPC) systems and applications.

Prof. Cameron is a pioneer and leading expert in Green Computing. Cameron is also the Green IT columnist for IEEE Computer, Green500 co-founder, founding member of SPECPower, EPA consultant,Uptime Institute Fellow, and co-founder of power management software startup company MiserWare.

His advanced power measurement software infrastructure for research, (PowerPack), is used by dozens of research groups around the world. His power management software, Granola, is used by hundreds of thousands of people in more than 160 countries.

Accolades for his work include NSF and DOE Career Awards, the IBM Faculty Award, and being named Innovator of the Week by Bloomberg Business week Magazine. Prof. Cameron received the Ph.D. in Computer Science from Louisiana State University (2000) and B.S. in Mathematics from the University of Florida (1994).

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Aditya Johri George Mason University Orcid 16x16

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Aditya Johri is Associate Professor and Chair in the Applied Information Technology Department. Dr. Johri studies the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) for learning and knowledge sharing, with a focus on cognition in informal environments. He also examine the role of ICT in supporting distributed work among globally dispersed workers and in furthering social development in emerging economies. He received the U.S. National Science Foundation’s Early Career Award in 2009. He is co-editor of the Cambridge Handbook of Engineering Education Research (CHEER) published by Cambridge University Press, New York, NY. Dr. Johri earned his Ph.D. in Learning Sciences and Technology Design at Stanford University and a B.Eng. in Mechanical Engineering at Delhi College of Engineering.

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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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