Crystal Island is a test bed narrative-centered learning environment implemented in Valve Software's Source game engine used to make the popular Half-Life games. Narrative-centered learning environments are virtual environments that combine story contexts and educational support strategies to provide effective, engaging learning experiences. Crystal Island places students in the middle of a remote, island research outpost, when suddenly, research team members begin falling victim to a mysterious illness. It is up to the player to solve the unfolding science mystery. Narrative-centered learning environments use artificial intelligence to deliver plots, character actions, problems, and advice customized to students' actions in the environment.
We are currently on tools for data collection, processing, and analysis for use in empirical studies involving Crystal Island. We have also used the Crystal Island environment and have determined a model of empathetic behavior. Next we plan to investigate how this empathetic behavior affects the user's emotions and what this implies for empathetic agents in pedagogical environments.
We are working together to quantitatively and qualitatively assess the impact STARS is having on individual students, the computer science department, and the surrounding community. We hope to enhance the STARS Alliance's impact on fostering diversity and broadened participation in computing, and empirically evaluate that impact for presentation to the larger computer science education community.
We have conducted interviews with previous and new STARS students; gathered demographic information about the department's undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty; and begun preparing surveys to investigate student perceptions and experiences involved with computing. We are also preparing "climate" surveys to assess departmental perceptions of the Raleigh STARS Alliance's impact, as well as conduct interviews with successful Raleigh STARS students in November.
The new Raleigh STARS website will be a place for members of the Raleigh community to learn more about the Raleigh STARS Student Leadership Corps. We will provide information on the projects current STARS SLC students are undertaking, as well as information about the students themselves, and information for applying to or assisting with the STARS SLC program.
The information provided in the site will provide a new look and feel designed to be both aesthetically pleasing and easy to use. We also plan to use technologies such as Flash and Google Maps to provide cool new features. The new website will use PHP and CSS to provide a modular and clean design to make the site easy to update and maintain. The website will also follow Section 508 accessibility guidelines for individuals with disabilities.
Pair programming is a programming practice where two people work on the same code at the same time. One of these people, the driver, does all of the actual typing of code. The second person, the navigator, observes the driver and tries to actively make suggestions and prevent possible mistakes. Traditionally, the driver and navigator can switch roles at any time.
Ripple is a plugin for the Eclipse Interactive Development Environment which facilitates remote pair programming. Ripple allows two people to pair program without having to be in the same room. When two people use Ripple, one will be the driver and one will be the navigator. When the driver does anything from creating a class to typing code in the editor window to launching a newly created application, the same thing happens on the navigator's side. This type of communication is one-way, as the navigator's role is to observe, not to actually write code. Ripple also provides a chat window for two-way communication.
The Raleigh chapter of the STARS Alliance is proud to offer a middle school outreach program in the 2007-2008 academic year. SPARCS (Students in Programming, Robotics & Computer Science) consists of weekend workshops at Centennial Campus Middle School. The workshops will be guided by knowledgeable computer science and IT majors from North Carolina State University and St. Augustine's College.
The SPARCS workshops include hands-on learning activities to introduce the students to computer science concepts and practical applications. The first two workshops, in November, will focus on Alice programming for 3-D games and animations. Alice is a free programming environment, so the students will be taught skills that enable them to work independently on Alice programs until our meetings next semester.
Future sessions will include topics such as website programming, robotics, and computer hardware. The SPARCS program will continue in January and extend through May. To conclude the program, there will be a field trip and final presentation session to share the middle school students' experiences with their parents.