teaching machines

SIGCSE Madeup Workshop

I submit a lot of papers, workshops, and grants. Many are rejected, but occasionally one will get accepted. Like this one, a workshop to be presented at SIGCSE 2016 in Memphis, TN:


Madeup is a text- and blocks-based programming language for making things up—literally. Programmers write sequences of commands to move and turn through space, tracing out printable 3D shapes with algorithms and mathematical operations. The language is designed to teach computation from a tangible, first-person perspective and help students integrate computation back into the physical world. In this workshop, we empower educators to use the freely-available and browser-based Madeup programming environment in their classrooms. Participants should expect to learn actively.

Signifi cance and Relevance

Madeup joins a crowd of existing teaching tools, including Scratch, Alice, and many others, all of which aim to make computing more accessible to new learners. What sets Madeup apart from existing projects is its physical product. The model that a programmer creates does not remain virtual. It can be printed, felt, carried in a pocket, and handed to a parent or friend—all of which may make computation real and relevant in the eyes of the programmer.

In using Madeup, programmers operate in the spatial domain, which we believe is of particular importance to STEM learning. In fact, two specifi c spatial cognitive processes have frequently been found to associate with successful participation in STEM: mental rotation and cross section inference, both of which play signifi cant roles in Madeup.

Expected Audience

Target audience members fall into at least one of two pro les: “outreachers” and “makers.” An outreacher is an educator who is helping people navigate the field of computer science for the fi rst time. This person searches constantly for accessible metaphors to explain algorithms, experiments with visual languages and other learning tools, and thinks Logo is one of the best inventions ever. The maker is an educator who isn’t happy with virtual-only demonstrations and text-based output. This person loves Arduino and Raspberry Pis, but fears gadgets may overshadow learning—especially in the case of 3D printing, which this person hasn’t yet figured out how to integrate with computational thinking.

Space and Enrollment Restrictions

We impose no particular space or enrollment restrictions.

Expertise of Presenters

Dr. Chris Johnson graduated from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where he spent his time visualizing high-dimensional volumetric data. He has worked at several Department of Energy laboratories, powering large display walls and building interactive molecular visualization tools. He has taught computer science courses for seven years, using digital media for many of his homeworks and lecture examples. In 2013, he began building Madeup.

Dr. Heather Amthauer turned from neuropharmacology to computer science at the University of Kansas, where she got her PhD. She has taught computer science courses fi rst at Frostburg State University and now at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire. She coaches FIRST Robotics teams at local schools.

Dr. Ryan Hardt worked in the healthcare industry for a few years before he went back to get his Computer Science PhD from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. He teaches mobile software development and software engineering courses.

Dr. Peter Bui teaches computer science at his alma mater, the University of Notre Dame, and is a co-developer of Madeup.

Rough Agenda

  1. Hello, Madeup (1.5 hours)
    1. Learning Madeup via its blocks interface (30 minutes)
      1. body-syntonic learning and Logo
      2. programming constructs: expressions, control flow, abstraction
      3. thinking in 3D
      4. exercise
    2. Generating models (50 minutes)
      1. turning paths to solids with generators
      2. exercise
    3. show and tell (5 minutes)
    4. break (5 minutes)
  2. A short history of 3D Printing (30 minutes)
    1. printing technologies
    2. limitations
    3. demonstration
  3. Making computational artifacts (1 hour)
    1. gears, lidded boxes, ziggurats, etc.

Technology Requirements

Electricity will be needed for participant laptops, and we request a projector and screen that all may see our demonstrations. We will supply our own 3D printer.

Other Information

We have used Madeup in several workshops and summer camps in our local community, and it has been well-received by students, parents, and fellow educators. Its website will be made available to the public in fall 2015. Its source is also freely available on GitHub under the GNU GPLv3. A poster demonstration of Madeup appeared at SIGCSE 2015.

We received the following reviews:

Status: Accept

Reviewer 1:

Summary: A workshop that will demonstrate how to use a simple drag and drop language to program a 3D printer.

Strengths: The presenters put a lot of thought into who might take this workshop. It should definitely be publicized this way. I would not normally think of taking it, but when I read the target audience, I realized that I fall in to one of their catagories.

Author Comments: Try to include your target audience description in your abstract for the program. It may get people thinking about attending that otherwise might not.

Reviewer 2:

Summary: Workshop introduces the Madeup programming language for 3-D modeling and realization via 3-D printing.

Strengths: Madeup is a popular programming system, and 3-D printing has good track record of attracting students to computing. The set of open source supporting materials will be a positive asset participants can use following the workshop.

Author Comments: Description of audience would be strengthened by an explanation of how the the workshop will address the needs or interests of the “outreachers” and “makers”. These groups appear different enough, but the agenda does not appear to differentiate the take-aways for each group.

Reviewer 3:

Summary: Authors information shall be removed for fair evaluation.

Author Comments: Authors information shall be removed for fair evaluation.

Reviewer 4:

Summary: The workshop will present Madeup, a new computational environment for using Python-like code to create 3D objects that will be printed.

Strengths: The new Madeup tool is a great addition to our field! We need more computational approaches to making. I think this would be a popular workshop.

Author Comments: It would be good to cite related work — other beginners’ languages for 3D making.

Reviewer 5:

Summary: Presenters propose to present a hands-on workshop on 3-D printing using madeup. The workshop is mainly for participants interested in outreach activities for K-12 schools.

Strengths: With all the hoopla for 3-D printing and Makers culture, I think this workshop is perfectly timed. The presenters seems to be well qualified with lots of experience. I would myself consider attending this workshop.

Author Comments: I think it would be really beneficial if the presenters add a section where they cover tips on buying 3-D printers. There are so many printers out there with so many different capabilities and price tags, that it is really important to learn from other people’s experiences. I recently had to pick a 3-D printer, and sitting down with an experienced 3-D printer user was the most useful thing for me.

Thanks, reviewers, for your encouraging words. It’s nice to hear that my reviewers themselves would consider attending.

I serve as a reviewer for this conference and others, and I know reviewers don’t always understand the submission rules. In the case of workshops, authors are specifically told that reviews are not blind:

Workshop proposals undergo review but not blind review.

I don’t think Reviewer 3 understood this, so we missed out on this person’s comments. I’m curious if I know this person and if they intentionally recused themselves.

While workshops aren’t nearly as competitive as papers (35.4% of the submitted papers were accepted, and 48.6% of workshops), I am very happy to share Madeup in this three-hour long demonstration/tutorial format.


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