Using Science Fiction in Teaching Artificial Intelligence

AAAI Conferences

Many factors are blamed for the decreasing enrollments in computer science and engineering programs in the U.S., including the dot-com economic bust and the increase in the use of "offshore" programming labor. One major factor is also the lack of bold new vision and excitement about computer science, which thus results in a view of computer science as a field wedded to routine programming. To address this concern, we have focused on science fiction as a means to generate excitement about Artificial Intelligence, and thus in turn in Computer Science and Engineering. In particular, since the Fall of 2006, we have used science fiction in teaching Artificial Intelligence to undergraduate students at the University of Southern California (USC), in teaching activities ranging from an undergraduate upper division class in computer science to a semester-long freshman seminar for nonengineering students to micro-seminars during the welcome week. As an interdisciplinary team of scholar/instructors, our goal has been to use science fiction not only in motivating students to learn about AI, but also to use science fiction in understanding fundamental issues that arise at the intersection of technology and culture, as well as to provide students with a more creative and well-rounded course that provided a big picture view of computer science. This paper outlines the courses taught using this theme, provides an overview of our classroom teaching techniques in using science fiction, and discusses some of the lectures in more detail as exemplars. We conclude with feedback received, lessons learned and impact on both the computer science students and noncomputer-science (and non-engineering) students. "Science fiction like Star Trek is not only good fun, but serves a serious purpose, that of expanding human imagination" Physicist Stephen Hawking (from (Krauss 1995))


Using Artificial Intelligence to Help Bridge Students from High School to College

AAAI Conferences

This paper describes work from the Bridges to Computing project at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. This project focuses on the transition from high school to college with the intention of encouraging more students to study some aspect of computer science. The Bridges project has both introduced new undergraduate courses into our computer science curriculum and revised existing courses, as well as developed activities for high school students to help better prepare them for college-level computer science. Here, we report on the use of ideas from artificial intelligence implemented within several of these interventions.


Using Declarative Programming in an Introductory Computer Science Course for High School Students

AAAI Conferences

This paper discusses the design of an introductory computer science course for high school students using declarative programming. Though not often taught at the K-12 level, declarative programming is a viable paradigm for teaching computer science due to its importance in artificial intelligence and in helping student explore and understand problem spaces. This paper describes the authors' implementation of a declarative programming course for high school students during a 4-week summer session.


Robotics Across the Curriculum

AAAI Conferences

We describe a comprehensive program using educational robotics as a hands-on, constructionist learning environment, integrated into teaching across the undergraduate computer science curriculum. Five courses are described in detail. For the three courses which have been offered multiple times, evaluations were conducted to assess students' attitudes towards the robotics-based curriculum. These results are presented here. Lessons learned are shared, and new directions for the future are highlighted.


Science Fiction as an Introduction to AI Research

AAAI Conferences

The undergraduate computer science curriculum is generally focused on skills and tools;  most students are not exposed to much  research in the field, and do not learn how to navigate the research literature.  We describe how science fiction reviews were used as a gateway to research reviews.  Students learn a little about current or recent research on a topic that stirs their imagination, and learn how to search for, read critically, and compare technical papers on a topic related their chosen science fiction book, movie, or TV show.