On December 8, President Obama declared the importance of learning computer programming when he helped kick off the national “Hour of Code”. His encouragement reinforced the idea that technology users shouldn’t simply learn to use computer software, but that they should also learn to create new innovative custom software using computer programming. This phenomena of creation is now very present in the southeast, and in particular here in Georgia where Gov. Nathan Deal declared December 10, 2014 as the first Georgia Day of Code.
Recently, “ThinkTools” workshops have been offered by some Augusta University students to teach computer programming. These local workshops, facilitated by Savannah River Scholars Program (SRSP) members Chris Gonsalves (Computer Science major) and Jaime O'Meara (Physics major) and PRESTIGE Scholar Karen Cody (Mathematics major), are designed to train students on Augusta University’s campus how to create devices using electronics and computer programming in hopes of inspiring the next generation of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) students. Devices employing both electronics and computer programming are often referred to as cyber-physical systems.
The cyber-physical systems program at Augusta University is unique and well-developed. The Scholars teach programming on an inexpensive, programmable platform known as Arduino. This microcontroller is able to sense the environment and then control a variety of electric circuits including lights, sounds, and even robots. The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently funded a system based around Arduinos to better understand and then manipulate irrigation practices. The coding and circuitry is very specific, but the final product can be rewarding in many ways.
According to Augusta University Physics Professor and SRSP director Dr. Andy Hauger, the best part about using this programmable equipment is watching students actually design and build their own Arduino creations. By encouraging attendance at the “ThinkTools” workshops on our campus, Dr. Hauger hopes to expand interest in cyber-physical systems programming at Augusta University and in the community!
Article submitted by Katie Humphrey, Augusta University English Major