Nifty Assignments from SIGCSE

I got back last week from another great SIGCSE Conference. If you don’t know about it, SIGCSE is the annual conference for the ACM Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education. While the conference has traditionally focused on higher-ed CS, it has been putting greater emphasis on K-12 topics in recent years, including a special two-day registration rate for K-12 teachers.

For many attendees, myself included, the highlight of the conference is the Nifty Assignments panel, which is run each year by Nick Parlante and Julie Zelenski. This panel presents creative, classroom-tested assignments, along with resources to help teachers adapt the assignments to their courses. These assignments can range from the simple and creative, to the complex and mind-boggling. Personally, I have been inspired by a number of the nifty assignments over the years, and have integrated variants of nifty assignments in my courses. This year, two of the nifty assignments particularly appealled to me, due to their “niftiness” and relative simplicity. Peter-Michael Osera presented the Speed Reader assignment, which had students write a program (in Python) for displaying words in succession and measuring a person’s reading rate. Stuart Reges presented the GeoLocator assignment, which had students write a program (in Java) that utilized the Google Map API to locate and calculate the distances between landmarks. Both assignments were farily simple to understand, could be easily ported to different languages, and would be motivational to many students.

All of the Nifty Assignments from past years can be found online at http://nifty.stanford.edu. Check them out if you are looking for inspiration on creating or adapting your own “nifty” assignments.

Dave Reed
College Faculty Representative, Chair-elect

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About Dave Reed

David Reed is the Director of Computer Science and Informatics at Creighton University in Omaha, NE. He has been involved in K-12 CS education for more than 20 years, serving as Chief Reader of AP Computer Science from 2004-2008 and on the CSTA Board of Directors since 2009. He was a member of the ACM/IEEE Computer Science Curricula 2013 Task Force and is the author of an introductory computer science text, A Balanced Introduction to Computer Science, which has been used in colleges and high schools.

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