Innovative Teaching has 400 Students Riveted

Featured Faculty: Alexandre M. Bayen

This semester witnessed a dramatic change in the teaching of E7: Introduction to Computer Programming for Scientists and Engineers.

Using innovative showmanship techniques, Systems Engineering Professor Alex Bayen and his team of GSIs have managed to engage their class of over 400 E7 students in an unprecedented manner.

The team created a live Towers of Hanoi demo using floating tubes around Bayen and GSI’s as “human poles”. In another class, Bayen illustrated loops by swing dancing with former E7 GSI, Dr. Kristen Parrish. Throughout his lectures, Bayen uses images that are meaningful to students, like comparing the parallel workspace levels in recursion to parallel dream levels in the movie, Inception.

“Connecting with students is very important,” Bayen said, “It helps convey the material with references they can relate to.”

Head GSI Timmy Siauw (PhD candidate, Systems Engineering) entirely redesigned the E7 notes to reflect more modern content. The course integrates Timmy’s now famous “Robot Tournament, where student program functions to fight each other in a gigantic contest for class-wide domination.

Timmy has also developed an autograding system that automatically grades the homework code submitted by E7 students. The system has reduced days of grader time to a few hours per week.

“My goal as an E7 GSI has always been to show how powerful, useful, and fun programming can be. I am glad I got a chance as Head GSI to invent tools that can benefit current and future semesters of E7,” he says.

Published 03/04/2011