Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Use Sizzle and Snazzy Graphics to Keep 'Em Coming Back

Carnegie Mellon University announced an unusual and most welcome contribution to their project devoted to teaching people to write computer programs. Electronic Arts (EA), one of the leaders in computer entertainment, has committed to underwrite the development of the next generation of the programming environment and it will license the use of its graphical figures library from the widely successful SIMS role playing game to be used in Alice 3.0.

Why is this so significant?

Here are three reasons:

  1. It will be an easier sell. Teenagers already familiar with the SIMS game will be more likely to give Alice a try because of the characters and association with EA.
  2. It will be easier to attract more attention to their mission. According to a 2005 UCLA study, the number of computer science majors at US institutions of higher education have dropped by 50% since 2001. That's alarming. While many more students and post-grads learn computer languages on their own today than 5 years ago, it's still a troubling trend for US competitiveness. Without the conceptual understanding and formal education provided by a college degree, fewer companies will hire US computer scientists in the decades to come. The Alice project creates an environment that shows computer programming to be relevant and interesting.
  3. It will be easier to produce higher quality results for the students. The EA library provides better tools with which to work. Look at the difference in characters below.

But don't take my word for it. Show this project to a high school student and ask him or her their opinion.

Visit www.alice.org for more details.

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