Computer Graphics Laboratory ETH Zurich


Improved mobile robot programming performance through real-time program assessment

R. A. Siegfried, S. Klinger, M. Gross, R.W. Sumner, F. Mondada, S. Magnenat

ITiCSE (Bologna, Italy, July 3- July 5, 2017), pp. 341--346
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The strong interest children show for mobile robots makes these devices potentially powerful to teach programming. Moreover, the tangibility of physical objects and the sociability of interacting with them are added benefits. A key skill that novices in programming have to acquire is the ability to mentally trace program execution. However, because of their embodied and real-time nature, robots make the mental tracing of program execution difficult. To address this difficulty, in this paper we propose an automatic program evaluation framework based on a robot simulator. We describe a real-time implementation providing feedback and gamified hints to students. In a user study, we demonstrate that our hint system increases the percentage of students writing correct programs from 50% to 96%, and decreases the average time to write a correct program by 30%. However, we could not show any correlation between the use of the system and the performance of students on a questionnaire testing concept acquisition. This suggests that programming skills and concept understanding are different abilities. Overall, the clear performance gain shows the value of our approach for programming education using robots.

author = {Siegfried, R{\'e}my and Klinger, Severin and Gross, Markus and Sumner, Robert W. and Mondada, Francesco and Magnenat, St{\'e}phane},
title = {Improved Mobile Robot Programming Performance Through Real-time Program Assessment},
booktitle = {Proceedings of the 2017 ACM Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education},
series = {ITiCSE '17},
year = {2017},
isbn = {978-1-4503-4704-4},
location = {Bologna, Italy},
pages = {341--346},
numpages = {6},
url = {},
doi = {10.1145/3059009.3059044},
acmid = {3059044},
publisher = {ACM},
address = {New York, NY, USA},
keywords = {automatic program evaluation, gamified hint system, robotics in education, simulation, thymio},
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