posted March 7, 2006

Computer Science Research Presented

Multiple students and faculty members from the department of computer science at Hope College presented their research at the ACM Special Interest Group in Computer Science Education's 2006 conference, which took place on Wednesday-Sunday, March 1-5, in Houston, Texas.

A total of four students and three professors from Hope made three presentations during the event.

A trio of students and their faculty mentor presented the paper "How to Integrate FPGAs into a Computer Organization Course." The presenters were junior Sara Henry of Saline, senior Kathleen Ludewig of Ithaca, N.Y., junior Leslie Tableman of Grand Rapids and Dr. Michael Jipping, who is a professor of computer science and chairperson of the department.

The three students and Jipping had worked together during the summer of 2005 as part an NSF-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates program, developing software and hardware that will be used to help students learn digital logic concepts in the course "Computer Organization." Most approaches to the class either use software simulations or simplified hardware to help students learn about the design of the circuitry making up computer components such as memory and CPU. The Hope group worked to combine the two approaches, using a software simulator to design the circuits, and then downloading the circuit to a special piece of hardware called a Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA). The approach

allows students to design complex circuits using software, and then see the circuit actually realized in working hardware.

Megan Patnott, a junior from Holland, participated in the Student Research Competition. She first presented her work on the project "Programmer Defined Formatting" as part of a poster session. She was subsequently one of five students selected to participate in the semi-final round, which consisted of oral presentations describing their research in more detail.

The hypothesis of Patnott's research is that allowing programmers to format their source code in the same way that word processors allow formatting of documents may lead to increased comprehension of the code, which in turn could lead to software that is easier to maintain and potentially contains fewer bugs. Patnott's contribution to the ongoing project was to implement an extension to the Eclipse program development environment to allow code formatting to be applied in a real environment. Her work was performed in collaboration with Dr. Ryan McFall, associate professor of computer science.

Dr. Herb Dershem, who is a professor of computer science, and McFall presented their paper titled "Experiences Using a Collaborative Electronic Textbook: Bringing the Guide on the Side Home with You."

The paper described the use of the electronic textbook application developed by McFall and his research students in the "Programming Languages" course taught by Dershem during the fall of 2004. The electronic textbook project seeks to develop an electronic textbook that takes advantage of both digital media and the communication capabilities of networked computers to enhance the ways that textbooks are used in college courses.