Mercedes R. Lopez



About Me

My Mentor

The Project



Background Reading

Final Report

Contact Info.

CRA logo



Summer 2007 Internship at Duke University
 sponsored by
Computing Research Association Distributed Mentor Project (CRA-W DMP)


Week 1 (June 18-22)

This first week has been primarily a week of getting acquainted with my new surroundings, learning my away around campus and the neighborhood, setting up accounts and acquiring access permissions, and meeting people. I read a couple of papers about previous research, provided my my mentor, Susan Rodger, and began to learn how to program in Alice. I also began designing this web page. By the end of the week we'll decide which project will be best for me to focus on. I'm leaning toward the Alice project, which will involve designing a short program to provide primary and secondary school teachers with some techniques and tools for teaching programming with Alice to their students.

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Week 2 (June 25-29)

The focus for this week is primarily to read papers [relevant to this project] that have been published and writing short summaries of each, as well as maintiaining this web page. As time permits, I'll go through the chapters of the book, "Learning to Program with Alice" (Dann, Wanda P., et al) and take notes that might be useful for training purposes. I also played around with Alice and created a couple of virtual worlds. I've got to say that they are quite infantile, though... so I visited the website and viewed some of the virtual worlds that have been submitted by others and was quite impressed, especially with one world called "requiem", which played almost like a feature film!

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Week 3 (July 2-6)

As usual, reading papers is one of this week's topics., but the main focus is learning Alice. There was a holiday mid-week, and I met with another DMP student -- we spent the day at the Durham Festival of the ENO.  Prof. Rodger has contacted an interested party to see if/how we can collaborate on this project. Also, I sent an email to the other DMP student in the area with a list of dates Prof. Rodger and I are available to meet. 

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Week 4 (July 9-13)

I didn't get much done this week. I did manage, however, to resolve some problems that arose regarding server space and usage. For several days I wasn't able to access the server on which this website resides. I've completed the first few chapters of the Alice textbook and began going through the CS4 lessons from Prof. Rodger's Duke academic website. I also made a good dent in perusing the assigned articles and will be updating that portion of the website shortly. Focus is still learning to use Alice. Next week, Prof. Rodger and I may be meeting with a teacher who wants to use the system to create animated worlds in her elementary school classroom.

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Week 5 (July 16-20)

This week I'll be assisting Prof. Rodger at a mini-seminar on Alice for young girls (Here's a link to the materials used in that workshop: Alice materials). In addition, we'll be meeting with an elementary school teacher later in the week to go over some ways that Alice could be used to enhance her curriculum. I created PowerPoint slides that describe how to insert a dummy camera at an object and then setting the object to be the ccamera's vehicle so that we can view an AliceWorld from an object's point of view. On Thursday morning, Prof. Rodger held an introductory Alice programming workshop for 15 high school females, at which I assisted.  In the afternoon, we met with the Math and Science powers-that-be at the Board of Education to discuss the possibility of preparing educators to teach Alice to their students (focus on grades 4-8); Professor Rodgers' ideas were very well received. On Friday, we met with the head of the teacher education program at Duke to discuss the possible implementation of Alice into their teacher curriculum; again, the ideas were very well received. 

Due to a personal family emergency, I must complete this internship at home in San Diego. Arrangements have been made with a co-mentor. For the remainder of this project, the format of these journal pages will change to reflect daily input, after taking a couple of weeks to resolve the non-project-related issues that have arisen.

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Week 6

Sunday (August 5): Last week I secured office space at UCSD, obtained a key, and restructured this webpage.
Monday (August 6): Today I reviewed the material I had already covered in Alice, with particular focus on counters. 
Tuesday (August 7): Continued to review, and summarized a paper (for details, go to the Background Reading web page).
Wednesday (August 8): I reminded Prof. Rodger to request the curriculum plan from Jan, so that I may create an AliceWorld that is useful, rather than providing a demo of what's possible. Continued to learn Alice.
Thursday (August 9): I haven't begun to create a "usable" AliceWorld yet. Playing with examples from the course web site..

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Week 7

Friday (August 10): Read and summarized journals. My computer is in the shop, so I'm using a  borrowed computer. I'm not sure if my hard drive is compromised, yet, but I do have the webpage backed up. I may, however, have to resummarize the papers I've read.
Tuesday (August 14): Prof. suggested that I contact Jan, so I sent her an email and cc'd Prof. Rodger. If I don't hear from her, I'll create something based on a popular children's book.
Friday (August 17): Obtained four of the Magic Tree House books, I'd like to do a game of some sort -- perhaps jeopardy-like or else a board game where the players advance by answering questions correctly instead of by rolling dice in which, perhaps, questions are worth varying numbers of squares to move ahead, and a wrong answer moves the player back a square. My computer is still being repaired. Apparently, it needs a new motherboard, which is on order. I should have it back by Thursday of next week.
Saturday/Sunday (August 18/19): Read the four Magic Tree House books and began to create a list of quiz questions to include in the animations for books 1 and 3 (Dinosaurs and Mummies, respectively).  I'll begin with the dinosaur book.

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Week 8

Monday (August 20): I think I need to learn about nesting with Alice. I've been giving some thought to how I'm going to develop the game. I think I'm being a bit too ambitious, so instead of a board game, I'm thinking about creating a simple multiple choice quiz in which score is kept and the correct answers will generate some sort of animation, as well.
Wednesday (August 22): I think that multiple choice is the best way to go for the questions, and every correct response advances the person's pawn on the game board. I did start to load objects into an AliceWorld, and designing the background, but I haven't coded yet.
Friday (August 24): Added more questions to include in the animation for the Dinosaur game. By the way, my conmputer is STILL at the repair shop. There was a problem with the motherboard. I hope to get it back next week because the system I'm using is very cumbersome when running Alice. I also submitted suggestions for additional Alice objects.
Sunday (August 26):
For the game, I think I'm being overly ambitious (environment-wise; I really liked the Candyland environment that one of your students did). I WANT to create a game in which the user can select one or two players, and they can each choose a pawn. I wanted to make the playing board environment reflect the different scenes from the books. For example, an area of the board looks like Frog Creek with the oak tree and treehouse. Another section may be the interior of the tree house. Another area will have a hilltop looking down at a lake and the anatosaurus babies. Another will show t-rex, etc. Then I thought I'd superimpose colored shapes following a path from start to finish. Each question would be worth 3 points (spaces to move), initially, and one less point if the question was initially answered correctly and the player tried a second or even third time. Hitting the space bar gives the correct answer, with no movement of the players peg. There would be no need to keep score, since winning would be obvious by reaching the end. When that happens, the flying reptile picks up the boy (since there isn't one, I'll improvize) and flies him back to start and the player is prompted with a question that asks whether or not to play again. Instead, I think I'll grab as many icons as I can that match the books and place them randomly on the screen. When a question is answered (chosen from a drop down menu, or else a multiple choice letter typed in), the icon that most closely resembles the subject of the question will do some sort of animation: a happy dance if answered correctly, or a sad-type of animation if answered incorrectly. Of course, score will be kept. I might allow a second try for fewer points, and hitting the space bar will provide the correct response for no points. Of course, an instruction screen would be displayed at the beginning. At the end, the total score would become prominent after a "game over" prompt, along with a "you answered x number of questions correctly on the first try" type of message. Then, ask if the player would like to play again.
Tuesday (August 28):
 Played around with existing AliceWorld games created by others in order to see different ways of incorporating scoring as well as setting up the game areas.  I loaded what I think are all the objects I'll need for the dinosaur game, and coded the introduction/instructions for playing.

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Week 9

Wednesday (August 29): I'm stuck on how to display the score, so must go and review that material.
Thursday (August 30): Finally, I've got a handle on the scoring.  I was forgetting to pass parameters.
Wednesday (Sept. 5):
I created the scoring system and began popuating the game with quiz questions.  I think I'm going to have to use nested loops to keep track of the iteration through the quiz questions and the number of guesses a player has used per question. I may have to just do a simple scoring system and give just one try per question.
Tuesday (Sept. 4):  I had to delete the space bar showing instructions because I couldn't figure out how to get the world to stop and simply display the screen. I had thought that by moving the instructions to a different view I would solve that problem, but it isn't working.
Thursday (Sept. 6): I played around with creating methods that would help the user select their player token, but the program wasn't doing what I liked, so I created another, then another method until I made a mess of the program. I had already put in a lot of new information and didn't want to go back to an earlier backup. Instead, I opened up an earlier backup and printed the code I had written, and reinserted it. It isn't perfect, but at least I don't have to recreate the proverbial wheel.

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Week 10

Sunday (Sept. 9): I finally got the introduction working so that I'm happy with it. I'm not sure how to display the questions. If I continue as i did for question 1, the game will continue without waiting for user input. I solved a similar problem earlier by having the user input yes or no, but I don't want to do that for each possible choice of answer; that would be sloppy. What I'd like to do is create a list of correct answers (an array?), and then (pretty much I did the passing of parameters to set the game up according to whether annie or jack was clicked on) iterate through to see if it's correct. If so, then the appropriate animation would occur. The problem is that -- as with the clicking of jack or annie, if no click occurred, the game continued anyway.
Monday (Sept. 10): I'm feel pretty good about this program now. Using Alice has really helped to clarify some ambiguities in my understanding of passing parameters and sharing them within various methods. Today I worked on creating the arrays for the questions and answers.
Tuesday (Sept. 11):
Somewhere along the line, I confused my backups and created new code in both DinoGame and DinoGameNewFormat. DinoGame seems to have everything I need, so I'm going back to that version. I have completed most methods and the arrays. Now I need to figure out how to iterate through the questions and call the correct methods without causing errors.
Saturday (Sept. 15):
I don't know why or how it's occurring, but my methods are disappearing from the world I've created and I have to reconstruct much of what I've already completed. I'm trying to figure out how to work with array visualizations, also. Once again, I've been a bit too ambitious. I wanted a different animation for each correct answer, but in the interest of time, I'm going to ikeep it simple and repeat the correct answser animation..
Friday (Sept. 21):
I finally got the major kinks ironed out and got the program to run properly with the first three questions. Now I just need to tweak the mechanics and populate the rest of the questions. I should be finished at some point today. I feel such a sense of accomplishment!  I truly believe that incorporating the use of Alice in grade school will help encourage young students to pursue computer science. At the very least, it will help build the critical thinking skills that are so necessary for success.

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