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Project suggestions for 2019-20

Project suggestion 1

Project title: Reconstructing historic construals

Keywords: Making construals, Empirical Modelling, the Construit environment, the tkeden interpreter

Suitable for: Students interested in re-engineering and enhancing interesting archival models using novel techniques

Abstract: Making construals is a new digital skill that derives from research by staff and students in Computer Science at Warwick (stemming initially from a third-year project in 1982!). It is based on three fundamental concepts: observables, dependencies and agency, Construals were initially developed using the tkeden interpreter, and an archive of examples was built up through undergraduate and masters projects, doctioral theses, and resources generated for 4th year level courses on 'Empirical Modelling' taught in Computer Science from early in the 1990s up until 2014. The current environment for making construals ("Construit") is aimed at a wide audience of learners and was developed in the course of the EU CONSTRUIT! project which ran from 2014-17. Construit is an online environment for which the archive of examples (unlike the EM project archive) has been developed primarily with learners without any specialist knowledge of computing in mind. The aim of this project is to extend the Construit archive so that it includes counterparts of significant construals developed by and for model-builders and learners with specialist computing knowledge. This will involve re-engineering 'classic' construals that feature in the EM project archive. These address a wide-range of topics such as third year project timetabling, railway accident scenario modelling, the flaws in SQL as a relational database language, exploratory modelling to support mathematical teaching and research, construals of classical algorithms such as heapsorting and expert systems for decision support. A project in this area might focus:

(a) primarily on a single case study (e.g. the reimplementation in Construit of the Clayton Tunnel railway accident scenario, the Temposcope, the heapsorting construal or the Uneddifying SQL Interface to a relational database)


(b) on developing principles that enable specific features of modelling in tkeden (which relied on a suite of special-purpose notations for handling line-drawings, combinatorial graphs, databases and 3d models etc) to be realised using the Construit environment.

Required skills: Good programming knowledge and knowledge of computer science principles. An appetite for understanding and refining engineering artefacts. (You would need to understand the principles behind making construals, but not necessarily have to develop construals of your own.)


Status: Available

Project suggestion 2

Project title: Making construals as a new literacy

Keywords: Making construals, computing education, programming

Suitable for: Students interested in principles of programming, computing education, practical work with teachers and pupils

Abstract: There is international interest in the field of computing education in the role of coding as a new lteracy. This theme has motivated many educational initatives, of which Computing at School (CAS) is the most prominent in the UK. The thought is that the modern world demands not only skill at reading, writing and arithmetic but some degree of mastery of computing. The controversial issue is to what extent such mastery can be identified with ability to program. Relevant issues are: What are the prospects for end-user programming? What is the relationship between understanding applications of digital technologies and program comprehension? What are the most effective methods of teaching programming skills? To what extent is software development informed by Computational Thinking? The lack of decisive progress in addressing such questions, despite several decades of intense research, has motivated some researchers to adopt new perspectives on the nature of programming and programming education. Bret Victor's work on Learnable Programming is one example.

The aim of this third-year project is to consolidate on the work of the three year EU-funded CONSTRUIT! project which was devoted to promoting 'making construals' as a new digital skill. The project will involve a range of activities of various kinds: making construals, evaluating their application, contrasting making construals with other approaches to computer use.

Required skills: Good skills in elementary programming. You would need to learn and be able to put into practice the basic principles and techniques behind making construals of a relatively simple nature. You would ideally enjoy working with others (e.g. teachers and pupils at school) by preparing and evaluating practical exercises (cf. the work of the Warwick Student Ambassadors).


Status: Available

Project suggestion 3

Project title: Applications of the Construit environment

Keywords: Making construals, model-building,

Suitable for: Students interested in new principles to support practical exercises in design and construction using the computer

Abstract: The Construit environment has promise as a platform for new kinds of model-building with distinctive qualities that are as yet relatively little explored. This has been illustrated in new applications developed in the course of the CONSTRUIT! project, which exploit features that were not available in earlier prototype environments for developing constuals, such as tkeden. A suitable project in this area could be directed at developing construals for a particular application, whether working from scratch with an original idea, or building on previous examples. The focus might alternatively be on a specific kind of application, such as construals that can be used to explore the history of science, to support mathematical education, or compose or analyse music, or on particular genres of construal making, such as e.g. involve integration with hardware, or are to be collaboratively developed. It might also be linked with project suggestion 1(b) above, or be directed at a comparative study.

Required skills: Good programming skills, a high level of creativity and appeitite for original and independent work. You would need to study and apply the principles of making construals, which involves being ready to adopt a different way of thinking about software.


Status: Available