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Join the CONSTRUIT! student team

CONSTRUIT! is an EU Erasmus+ project led by Warwick1 that began in October 2014 and runs until September 2017. The theme of the project is 'making construals as a new digital skill for creating open educational resources'. 'Making construals' is the core technique that underpins Empirical Modelling2. It can be seen as an alternative approach to software development3.

As part of the CONSTRUIT! programme, we are concurrently developing

  • an environment for making construals (the 'MCE') - NB the latest version of this is at the url:

http://jseden.dcs.warwick.ac.uk/scifest16

There is also a more experimental variant of JS-Eden that can be used on a mobile device at the url:

http://jseden.dcs.warwick.ac.uk/nickEXP/index-dev.html

Some demonstration resources in the form of an online workshop that you can explore can be found here.

  • materials to support and illustrate construal making ('MCM').

We would like to recruit a team of third year project students to work alongside the CONSTRUIT! team on both aspects of this agenda. Each student would address a different topic, and supervision would be arranged both through one-to-one meetings with Dr Meurig Beynon and through participation in group meetings at which the student team and CONSTRUIT! researchers would meet for general discussion and exchange of ideas. The official supervisor would either be Dr Mike Joy, the coordinator for CONSTRUIT!, or Dr Alexandra Cristea.

The specific topics we have in mind are wide-ranging and suit students with different interests and levels of technical expertise. It would not be appropriate to describe these topics in detail here, as they relate to a new way of thinking about computing that will at first be unfamiliar. Students who are interested in finding out more should first consult the three illustrative construals - and associated presentations - that were exhibited to teachers and schoolchildren aged 8-19 at the annual SciFest meeting at Joensuu in Eastern Finland in April 2015. These can be accessed by invoking this version of our evolving online environment for making construals:

http://jseden.dcs.warwick.ac.uk/scifest (last year's prototype - now transformed, see the link above)

and selecting 'Light Box', 'Hex Colouring' or 'Nim' from the project list. If, after a little experience of playing with these construals and reflecting on the associated presentations, you would like to consider joining our project team, please email me - Meurig (wmb@dcs.warwick.ac.uk) - with some indication of what sort of topic related to developing the environment and/or materials for making construals would be most appealing. If there is sufficient demand, we shall organise an information meeting for interested students at the beginning of term. A few notes on the two aspects of our agenda cited above are appended by way of additional guidance.

The environment for making construals ("MCE")

The 'current' version of the MCE is the 'scifest' variant of JS-EDEN. JS-EDEN belongs to a family of interpreters based on the EDEN interpreter4 that was initially developed by Edward Yung as a third-year project in 1987 (e.g. tkeden, dtkeden, Web EDEN). All the developers have been computer science undergraduate or masters students, and many went on to do research in EM.

JS-EDEN, conceived and first prototyped by Tim Monks in his MSc dissertation5 in 2011, exploits an ingenious blending of EDEN with JavaScript and HTML56. Some knowledge of JavaScript and HTML5 is valuable for development work, but there is plenty of scope for working primarily/entirely with JS-EDEN, for which specialist coventional programming expertise is not required. There are good reasons to explore environments for making a construal that involve collaboration using several workstations (a kind of multi-screen 'workbench' for making construals) - the essential mechanisms to support this are already prototyped. Other topics of interest concern:

  • novel ways of representing, generating and managing scripts for construals (e.g. Scratch-style ways of expressing definitions, custom-built utilities to replicate and transform definitions, meta-definitions for script construction and transformation)
  • mechanisms for monitoring and replaying interactions with construals
  • extensions to support richer forms of input (e.g. using analogue input devices or sensors), data representation (e.g. relational tables, line drawings, 3D models) and output (e.g. audio, video, robotic action)
  • extensions to support concurrent agency, both in design and development, and in modelling and simulation.

In most cases, there are existing JS-EDEN prototypes that could be used for inspiration or as a basis for further work. In some cases, well-developed precedents can be found in previous elaborations of the original EDEN interpreter.

Materials to support and illustrate construal making ('MCM')

CONSTRUIT! aims to disseminate the principles of making construals to many different target groups across Europe. This is being done through scheduled events that take place annually at Warwick in December (e.g. with computing undergraduates from our partner institutions), at SciFest in Finland in April (primarily with schoolchildren) and in Greece in May (with teachers / student teachers of computing). The resources we develop for these purposes will be packaged as 'virtual workshops' that are suitable for self-study.

Third year project students can support this agenda in a variety of ways. Core activities are:

  • developing illustrative construals with associated commentaries and exercises such as were produced for SciFest. In making your construal, you could choose to build on previous work (e.g. on subjects such as Donald Michie's MENACE application, timetabling the thrd year project oral presentations, teaching linear algebra or parsing), or address any subject in which you have an interest or knowledge (e.g. a hobby, sport, a game, or any application you fancy). It will of course be important that the construals you make are good exemplars; it may be helpful to study the EM project7 and WEB-EM8 archives for inspiration and guidance in this respect.
  • producing resources by way of exercises and documentation to enable teachers who are not specialists in computing to use the MCE.
  • developing suitable environments for archiving construals and keeping track of the variants of a 'basic' construal.
  • conducting empirical studies of how makers from different target groups and with different levels of expertise interact with construals.
  • studying the design of interfaces for the MCE e.g. with reference to the proposed collaborative multi-screen workbench.

There are rich resources by way of existing construals that were developed for earlier EDEN platforms (see for instance the resources that have been show-cased on the Web EDEN platform9, and the EM project archive7). By contrast, relatively few construals have yet been developed for JS-EDEN, and significant features (such as relational data base and 3d modelling) are not yet supported. Finding effective ways to transform construals built for an earlier generation of EDEN interpreters into JS-EDEN is another important objective that calls for standard technical skills but presents new and interesting challenges.

Background references

  1. See the project website at construit.org
  2. See the Empirical Modelling (EM) website at warwick.ac.uk/em
  3. See 'Introduction to EM', formerly a module on the 4th year MEng / MSc programme
    http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/sci/dcs/research/em/teaching/cs405
  4. See the 'EDEN Handbook' at http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/sci/dcs/research/em/software/eden/langref/
  5. Tim Monks, A Definitive System for the Browser, September 2011
  6. See the JS-EDEN Git Hub repository at https://github.com/EMGroup/js-eden/
  7. The EM project archive: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/sci/dcs/research/em/projects/
  8. The WEB-EM archive: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/sci/dcs/research/em/publications/web-em/
  9. Examples of Web EDEN use: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/sci/dcs/research/em/software/webeden/moreinformation/

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ERASMUS+ Programme 2014
Key Action 2
Project number
2014-1-UK01-KA200-001818


This page is a "working document" containing both public information about the project and private resources for the use of project members.

The public website for the project, which contains the official outputs from the project, is hosted at construit.org.