A pinboard by
Benjamin Morrell

PhD Student, University of Sydney


Educational benefits of an international coding competition where students get their code in space.

Zero Robotics is an international programming competition for high school students that gives the opportunity for them to get their code in space, controlling NASA’s SPHERES robots on board the International Space Station (ISS). Students form into teams to write code that controls the robots to compete in a challenging game scenario. To be successful in the challenge, teams need to understand the limitations of the robot, the physics of how it moves, and need to describe what they want the robot to do, using mathematics. They need to then develop a game strategy, and bring it all together in code to command the robot. At later stages of the competition, teams form international alliances of three teams to compete for the limited spots where their code is run on the robots, in space. We look into the educational benefits of how this program has been implemented in Australia, addressing both the technical skills of coding, mathematics and physics, with the soft skills of teamwork, project management and international collaboration. The underlying hypothesis is that “learning through solving motivating problems” is an extremely effective way for students to develop these skills. Rather than learning a concept for the sake of learning it, students are given the task to control a NASA robot in a game, and then are supported to learn the tools required to complete the task. This approach has been shown to be effective in teaching both the technical skills and the soft skills, as shown with students who have already gone through the program. On top of the skills development is the inspirational factor that can have long lasting impact, with Zero Robotics showing students the exciting possibilities they have in their future. Through reflecting on the effectiveness of the program we look to continue to improve Zero Robotics for students throughout Australia.


Students’ learning outcomes from cross-collaborative supervision in information seeking processes during work placements

Abstract: This article presents student experiences and learning outcomes in information literacy (IL) and evidence-based practice (EBP) following interdisciplinary supervision of their assignments by nurse educators, nurse supervisors and librarians in real clinical settings. The article is based on qualitative and quantitative text analysis of 102 individual student logs, qualitative text analysis of 36 student group assignments, feedback from an evaluation form and 285 blog and wiki comments from students, nurse educators, nurse supervisors and librarians. It is analysed according to the first five steps of the EBP model of and feedback from an evaluation form. The students’ learning outcomes in information literacy improved by using the EBP model. By the end of the project period, 83 % of the students had integrated a focus on research-based knowledge into their work placement assignment. The interdisciplinary joint supervision and a related blog and wiki communication forum had significant influence on this outcome space. The preparation programme for the students on campus, before work practice placements was developed collaboratively between the nursing education programme and the Learning Centre and library. There is very little existing research on the effect of cross-collaborative supervision in IL where both physical and digital tools have been used in work placements. This challenges established routines and ways of conducting supervision in IL in both the library and nursing education, because of the need to collaborate more tightly than before.

Pub.: 22 Jun '17, Pinned: 27 Aug '17

Development and application of the ChArduino toolkit for teaching how to program Arduino boards through the C/C++ interpreter Ch

Abstract: The growing popularity of microcontroller-based prototyping boards in many engineering and science applications has greatly increased the demand of mechatronic skills in the technical job market. The need to keep up with this new tend, combined with the proven effectiveness of integrating theoretical learning with hands-on, project-based activities has driven the development of new educational standards and curricula pivoting on the use of microcontroller-based prototyping boards. However, the most common Integrated Development Environments (IDE) used to simplify program development lack the intuitiveness and post-processing capabilities needed in an instructional environment. This paper presents an approach aimed at overcoming these obstacles. It provides a unique and comprehensive framework for programming Arduino boards through the C/C++ interpreter Ch. It extends the authors’ previous work on the topic by integrating a Graphical User Interface (GUI) and a library of functions, and by improving the serial communication protocol. The paper also shows how the toolkit can be easily integrated with other features and toolkits available in Ch such as plotting and line-by-line debugging to create comprehensive projects tailored for K-14 students at different levels. The concepts presented in this work are applied to programming Arduino boards but provide a general basis upon which similar frameworks can be implemented for other boards or in other programming languages.

Pub.: 27 Jul '17, Pinned: 27 Aug '17

Developing mentorship in a resource-limited context: a qualitative research study of the experiences and perceptions of the makerere university student and faculty mentorship programme.

Abstract: The aim of mentorship is to build the mentees capacity, enhance their skills and improve their ability to produce desired outcomes. However, the mentoring relationship is vulnerable to a number of challenges that may undermine its effectiveness and sustainability. We aimed to explore the experiences and perceptions of student and junior faculty mentees and senior faculty mentors at the Makerere University College of Health Sciences and identify the key factors defined by mentees and mentors as necessary for a successful mentorship program.A qualitative design involving focus group discussions (FGDs) and key informant interviews (KII) was used. A total of eight KII and four FGDs were conducted, audio recorded and transcribed verbatim. Open coding of the transcripts was performed, and major themes were identified through multiple readings based on thematic analysis.Six key themes were shared by the mentees and mentors including: 1) defining the role of the mentor; 2) desired characteristics of a mentor and a mentoring relationship, with an emphasis on mutual trust and respect; 3) overlapping roles of mentors and supervisors; 4) issues with the process for identifying mentors, including the benefits and drawbacks of the mentee selecting mentor vs. being assigned a mentor; 5) current barriers to mentoring, including lack of knowledge about current program, lack of formal structure, uncertainly about who should initiate relationship, and unclear roles and expectations and 6) recommendations for the future development of mentoring programme, including the need for a formalized programme, and training adapted to the local context.The mentees and mentors described the role of the mentor and desired characteristics of mentors and a mentoring relationship similarly. Most concerns about mentoring occurred when current mentoring programmes and practices were not well aligned with these desired characteristics. Recommendations for future development of mentoring included greater formalization of mentoring with mentoring programmes based on shared expectations and adapted to the local context.

Pub.: 16 Jul '17, Pinned: 27 Aug '17