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April 28, 2014 : SLIDESHOW: Computer Programming Class Conducts Flowchart Races
- Cheri Russo
Communications and Marketing Manager
Lancaster – Students in Associate Professor of Computer Science Technology Christine Wolfe’s Programming in C class got a special treat recently.  Wolfe allowed them to spend their class time outdoors.
“We’re doing an activity where we get to go outside,” said Student Frank Stone. “You don’t really get to do that very often in computer programming.”
Wolfe said when the weather is nice, students often ask to move the class outside.  But with her course content that is sometimes difficult.  However, Wolfe promised she would come up with something before the end of the semester that they could do outside, and she was true to her word.
“I decided to do flowchart races,” said Wolfe. “I brought in materials they will use to make large flowcharts on the lawn.  At the start, I will give each team a problem statement, and they have to build the flowchart. If they design an efficient algorithm, their chart will be small, and they can run through it quickly.  The less efficient algorithms will take longer to run.   Not only do they have to move through the flowchart, they will not know in advance the value of the input so they will have to be able to solve expressions at each step in the algorithm.  At the end, even if they are quick, they can be disqualified for not solving it correctly.”
The races were held on the lawn between the faculty and staff parking lot and the Lancaster City Bike Trail last Tuesday.  Wolfe said each student had a different role on each team.  The person who was selected to run the flowchart was the CPU or Central Processing Unit.
“The runner – the CPU – executes the program,” said Wolfe. “The students keeping time are the Clock Tickers because a computer executes its instructions on every clock tick.”
As Wolfe watched the students work, she would give them a little bit of a hard time when she saw students not following all the rules in an effort to win the race.  And she would do it with a little computer programming humor.
“You might want an upgrade on that CPU,” yelled Wolfe. “It’s skipping.”
Wolfe said she and the students had such a good time with the races that it may become a yearly event.