parh09-ieeete-motivating-ce-freshmen - 360 IEEE...

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360 IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON EDUCATION, VOL. 52, NO. 3, AUGUST 2009 Motivating Computer Engineering Freshmen Through Mathematical and Logical Puzzles Behrooz Parhami , Fellow, IEEE Abstract— As in many other fields of science and technology, col- lege students in computer engineering do not come into full contact with the key ideas and challenges of their chosen discipline until the third year of their studies. This situation poses a problem in terms of keeping the students motivated as they labor through their foundational, basic science, and general education coursework. At the University of California, Santa Barbara, the Computer Engi- neering Program has sought to remedy this problem by offering a required freshman seminar, entitled “Ten Puzzling Problems in Computer Engineering.” This pass/not-pass seminar, which meets once a week and is graded based solely on attendance, introduces the students to some of the most challenging problems faced by computer engineers in their daily professional endeavors and at the frontiers of research. To accomplish this feat in a nontechnical way, these problems are related to popular mathematical and log- ical puzzles. Each class session (60–75 min) begins by introducing the students to puzzles of a particular kind and letting them par- ticipate in formulating solutions. General solution methods for the puzzles are then discussed by the instructor, who then proceeds to demonstrate how the puzzles and their solution strategies are re- lated to real technical challenges in computer engineering. The new one-unit course was well received during its first two offerings in spring 2007 and spring 2008, and its continuation is planned. Index Terms— Computer engineering education, freshman seminar, problem complexity, problem solving, puzzling problem, teaching-research links. I. INTRODUCTION F RESHMAN seminars, which are being offered by many universities, have at least four different objectives. Some are aimed at helping students with the transition from high school to college. Others strive to create excitement and chal- lenge by allowing the students to work in a small setting with a professor and fellow students on topics of special interest. A third category aims at introducing college freshmen to general challenges of college-level learning, resources available to students, and important study skills. Still others aim to offer a sampling of milestones, achievements, and societal impacts of a particular field, such as computer and information sciences, serving in effect as an overview of the discipline. Freshman seminars of all four kinds tend to forego the formal setting and requirements of a regular college course, focusing instead Manuscript received June 26, 2007; revised July 10, 2008. First published May 05, 2009; current version published August 05, 2009. The author is with the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering,
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This note was uploaded on 12/28/2011 for the course ECE 1 taught by Professor Chen during the Fall '08 term at UCSB.

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parh09-ieeete-motivating-ce-freshmen - 360 IEEE...

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