Thursday, 31 March 2011

Problems First, a new chapter

Two members of the Computing Division of the University of Northampton have contributed a chapter to the book  Software Industry-Oriented Education Practices and Curriculum Development: Experiences and Lessons  edited by Drs. Matthew Hussey, Xiaofei Xu and Bing Wu.  ISBN: 978-1609607975 IGI Global to be published later this year.

Problems First

Gary Hill and Scott Turner


This chapter considers the need to focus initial programming education on problem-solving, in advance of programming syntax and software design methodology. The main vehicle for this approach is simple Lego based robots programmed in Java, followed by the programming of a graphical representation/simulation to develop programming skills. Problem solving is not trivial (Beaumont & Fox, 2003) and is an important skill, central to computing and engineering.

An approach will be considered, illustrated with a series of problem-solving tasks that increase in complexity at each stage and give the students practice in attempting problem-solving approaches, as well as assisting them to learn from their mistakes. Some of the problems include ambiguities or are purposely ill-defined, to enable the student to resolve these as part of the process.

The benefits to students will be discussed including students’ statements that this approach, using robots, provides a method to visually and physically see the outcome of a problem. In addition, students report that the method improves their satisfaction with the course.

The importance of linking the problem-solving robot activity and the programming assignment, whilst maintaining the visual nature of the problem, will be discussed, together with the comparison of this work with similar work reported by other authors relating to teaching programming using robots (Williams, 2003). 

Monday, 28 March 2011

Best Engineering Event Award.

The school was received a national award by Engineering UK and the British Science Association for an event during National Science and Engineering week – Best Engineering Event Award

The event Girls can do it too on Wednesday 16th March, had more than girls from schools across the county spent a day at Avenue Campus exploring science and engineering  through 

  • drama, 
  • workshops
  •  keynote speakers.

The credit goes to Tricia Goodchild,  Champion for Girls in the school who also recently won the WISE outreach award.

Some of these activities were supported by internal Widening Participation fund provided by DELTAE:

"It also illustrates how Widening Participation project funding can  support innovative activity   and enhance collaboration  between various WP projects  led by different Schools.( eg, the Girls into Engineering event and the Act Out theatre group) "- Rohini Corfield (Widening Participation Co-ordinator, DELTAE, University of Northampton)

This work forms part of the continued commitment from the School to Outreach activities.

For more details contact: Tricia Goodchild Champion for Girls into Engineering ( for other Widening Participation activities Dr Scott Turner ( Widening Participation Co-ordinator, School of Science and Technology).


Monday, 14 March 2011

Mind the Gender Gap – Reflections on addressing gender diversity in Computing and Engineering

Members of the school are to present a paper at the Learning Global Conference, Northampton 11th May 2011 on the work done within the school on addressing the gender gap in engineering and computer-engineering.

Presenter: Tricia Goodchild, Rashmi Dravid and Scott Turner


Worldwide, many studies have shown that numbers of women choosing to study and work in the respective industries is low in  both Computing  (for example Wilson, 2003; Tillberg and McGrath 2005) and Engineering (only 9% of UK engineering professionals are women (IET 2010)). Figures from EngineeringUK (2010) show the UK lags behind the rest of Europe for the percentage of females students obtaining first degrees in Mathematics/Computer Science (UK [27%] compared with Europe [32%],and Engineering (UK[15%], compared with Europe [20%]). 

This presentation is a reflective account of the range of activities (including some which are award winning (see, which the School of Science and Technology  has put in places to raise the aspirations of potential future women engineers and computer scientists in  both primary and secondary education.  The work reported has been heavily supported by contributions from our own UK and overseas students.

EngineeringUK (2010) Women in Engineering and Technology [online]. Available from: URL: [7/2/2011].
IET (2010) Mind the Gender Gap IET Member News 14th June 2010.
Tillberg,HK, McGrath CJ (2005). Attaching Women to the CS Major Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies - Volume 26, Number 1, 2005, pp. 126-140
Wilson F (2003) New Technology, Work and Employment 18:2 ISSN 0268-107

Thursday, 3 March 2011

More Nominations: Girls into Engineering Event

The Girls into Engineering Event for Year 8’s in National Science Week has been shortlisted with three other institutions for the  Best Engineering Event Award.  This event is expected to attended by 110 girls and their teachers.

This event has supported by funding  from DELTA E.

For more details contact:
Co Sec/Placement Manager - Northants Engineering Training Partnership
Champion for Girls into Engineering & Science
University of Northampton
Tel: 01604 893005

What do students thinks of exam?

Ajit, S.  (2017)  Exam as an assessment instrument in computer programming courses: student perceptions.  Poster presented to:  6th Internat...