Crystal Island is a narrative-centered learning environment targeting 8th-grade middle school students in microbiology. Narrative-centered learning environments combine commercial game technologies, rich story contexts and intelligent tutoring techniques to provide students with effective, engaging learning experiences. Students play the role of Alex Reid, a visitor to an island whose residents are falling victim to a mysterious spreading illness. It is up to Alex, the player, to solve the emerging science mystery and diagnose the spreading illness by learning about microbiology and practicing science-based problem solving skills. The curriculum underlying Crystal Island's science mystery is derived from the North Carolina state standard course of study for eighth-grade microbiology. Crystal Island is the platform upon which several research projects in artificial intelligence, education, and human computer interaction are being conducted. Active research includes interactive narrative generation, affective modeling, student modeling, tutorial dialogue generation, and intelligent creativity support. Current STARS students are working on adding new features to Crystal Island's basic game mechanics, building tools and infrastructure for new projects built upon Crystal Island's technology base, helping prepare for human-subject studies involving middle school students, and writing research papers. The Crystal Island project is an active collaboration between researchers, teachers, students, and staff from the IntelliMedia Center for Intelligent Systems, North Carolina State University's College of Education, The William and Ida Friday Institute, and several North Carolina middle schools. Funding is provided from the National Science Foundation.
As more and more technology becomes dependent on having a wireless network connection, it becomes increasingly essential to provide secure and efficient networking solutions. Different structures and solutions have been explored in recent studies, as with Philadelphia, PA or Austin, TX, but as a relatively new field it is important to study every aspect of any proposed city-wide setup. This project explores the efficiency and vulnerability of mesh networking, a self-healing and adapting cost-effective implementation of a distributed wireless networking over a large area, potentially such as the City of Raleigh.
Some access control policy testing techniques are costly due to the large number of tests required and are ineffective, failing to cover important rules. We are researching a new solution that implements combinatorial testing of access control policies. Our solution minimizes the number of required tests by considering t-way interactions of given attribute values. Our solution also generates single-valued and multi-valued combinatorial test requests and evaluates them against policies to expose faults.
iTutor is an intelligent tutoring system that assists students in learning programming skills and serves as an alternative for tutors. Given a programming problem, iTutor accepts a tutor's solution as input and guides students in solving the programming problem by giving feedback. More specifically, iTutor identifies specific scenarios, such as the student's solution not handling negative numbers, under which the student's solution differs from the tutor's solution. iTutor targets identifying behavioral differences rather than structural differences between the two solutions. iTutor includes advanced techniques in software testing and automatically generates unit tests that can expose the behavioral differences between the tutor's and student's solutions. We are currently developing iTutor as an Eclipse plugin to assist students in learning programming skills in the Java programming language. Initially, we plan to provide feedback in the form of specific scenarios such as the student's solution not handling negative numbers. In future work, we plan to extend iTutor to adapt natural language processing techniques in order to give more constructive feedback.
CSC 116, Introduction to Computing - Java, is a challenging course for incoming freshmen. Students in this class come with a wide range of programming experience levels, which can be very intimidating to those without much experience. In this project, we reach out to students in CSC 116 by serving as mentors to them. Students in the class can request to have a mentor who will assist them with their projects and learning programming concepts. The mentors can also help students as they adjust to college life. We hope that this project will help increase the retention level of students in computing, especially those students who are part of underrepresented groups.
The STARS Student Leadership Corps (SLC) website is a place for students, faculty, and sponsors to learn more about the STARS SLC. We 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.
This year we will continue to update the look and feel, designed to be both aesthetically pleasing and easy to use. The website uses PHP and CSS to provide a modular and clean design to make the site easy to update and maintain. The website follows Section 508 accessibility guidelines for individuals with disabilities. We plan to use technologies such as Flash and Google Maps to provide cool new features. We also plan to create an online version of the STARS SLC application.
The Raleigh Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center has an activities room where residents can play Po-Ke-No, watch television, read newspapers/magazines, and participate in arts and crafts. Computer use can now be added to that list of activities. When the group made the initial visit to the nursing home it seemed like no one even touched the computer in the activities room. Now, there are about 8 residents with e-mail addresses who know the basics. Once every two weeks our group, consisting of one student from each of the Raleigh Stars Alliance schools (N.C. State, Meredith, Shaw, St. Augustine's), visits the nursing home and helps the residents with e-mail and other computer skills. We also use a program called TypeFaster to help the residents learn to type properly. Our goal is to get the residents familiar and comfortable with using a computer on a regular basis so they can more easily stay in contact with their loved ones.
The Raleigh chapter of the STARS Alliance is proud to offer a middle school outreach program in the 2008-2009 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. This is the second year of this program.
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. We also hope to introduce web-development and help students to develop a website where they can document their progress during the SPARCS sessions.
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.