A Browser-Based IDE For The Modified ECS Curriculum
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Dennis Brylow.
Lead Researcher: Casey O'Hare.
Resulting Publication: MUzECS: Embedded Blocks for Exploring Computer Science
Background & Motivation
Exploring Computer Science (ECS) is a computer science course which aims to improve representation of minority groups in computer science. It is targeted to early high school students, and is designed to work well in low-income communities. In order to expand the curriculum, we offer the MUzECS platform: a low-cost alternative to the final module of ECS, which currently uses expensive LEGO Mindstorms Robots. Currently, the MUzECS platform costs about 10% of the LEGO Mindstorms module.
Since our goal is to create a low-cost alternative to the current ECS module, we ought to be sure that we can adapt to new low-cost technologies which show up in high school classrooms. One such technology that has seen a spike in usage due to its low cost is the Chromebook, a lightweight laptop from Google which runs Chrome OS. Chromebooks, however, are unable to compile and run Java programs, rendering our initial MUzECS IDE unable to run on this platform.
In order to adapt, we created a powerful, web-based graphical programming environment for Arduinos and MUzECS shields, capable of running on stock Chromebooks as well as virtually any platform compatible with the Chrome web browser. Our solution consists of a browser-based IDE for Google Chrome, and a Chrome extension which allows for client-side execution of users programs. This is portable to more platforms than prior work, scales to a larger number of students with reduced load on webservers, and closes several usability and security issues with prior work.
In Proceedings of Blocks & Beyond 2015, an IEEE Symposium on Visual Languages and Human-Centric Computing (VL/HCC 2015) workshop, pages 127-132, Atlanta, Georgia, October 2015.
In Proceedings of SIGCSE 2016: Proceedings of the 47th ACM Technical Symposium on Computing Science Education, pages 228-233, Memphis, Tennessee, March 2016.
Preliminary version presented (lightening talk and poster) at RESPECT 2015: Research on Equity and Sustained Participation in Engineering, Computing, and Technology, first international meeting of the IEEE Special Technical Committee on Broadening Participation, Charlotte, North Carolina, August 2015.