Real-World Problem Solving in Entry-Level Programming Courses: A Case Study on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

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Conference Proceeding

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In teaching introductory computer programming courses, problem solving with computers is an important topic and algorithm design is essential. We developed a team-based project to teach students solving real-world problem. Students are provided with six satellite images of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and asked to develop computer programs to outline oil contaminated areas. Working on the project in a team, students conducted initial analysis of the problem, identified patterns of oil slicks by visualizing satellite images, and designed algorithms to delineate the oil slicks. The open-ended problem allowed the students to gain experiences in user interface design, use of arrays, decision-making, and repetition with hands-on experience. The project has also been adapted in teaching classes of computer science general education and digital image processing.

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Presented at the 2013 IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference (FIE) on October 23-26, 2013 in Oklahoma City, OK.