TEACHING FUNDAMENTAL COMPUTER PROGRAMMING CONCEPTS TO MECHANICAL ENGINEERING STUDENTS USING PALPABLE INTERACTIVE VISUAL LEARNING AIDS
AbstractPointers have long been the Achilles heel of mechanical engineering students attempting to master dynamic memory allocation in mechatronic applications. They are abstract and intangible, both opposing characteristics of a discipline based on the concrete (and often hands on) physical world. With this said, pointers are considered an important threshold concept opening the door to the implementation of complex microcontroller applications in our digitally connected world.
One of the primary challenges in learning the application of pointers is that the programming syntax and the abstract memory management concepts are often taught simultaneously. The natural progression of learning is to first comprehend the concepts followed by the syntax. Further newer learning theories suggest a conceptual understanding can only result through abstraction of experiences using metaphorical linkages.
The following research body is focused on proposing a new strategy for teaching this complex concept using low cost physical props as a palpable interactive visual medium to provide the requisite experiences for concept abstraction. The learning aids are designed to enforce a strict process flow mimicking the invisible actions occurring internal to the microprocessor. Data is collected via questionnaires administered pre and post lecture delivery. Analysis of the results suggest moderate to high improvement in student comprehension of computer memory allocation concepts