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Prof. Doug Harms Tells Publication, "Computer Science is My Passion"

July 26, 2013

The current (July 20) edition of ComputerWorld Bulgaria features an interview with Douglas Harms, professor of computer science at DePauw University.  Dr. Harms was a presenter at the 14th International Conference on Computer Systems and Technologies CompSysTech'13, which took place June 28 & 29 in Ruse. The professor spent the 2004-05 academic year teaching in Bulgaria at the University of Ruse after being awarded a Fulbright Scholarship
 
At last month's conference, "I presented a report on the results of my research for an introduction to computer science course I teach," Professor Harms tells the publication. "DePauw University decided to buy 30 robots and in my CS1 course students use robots for the semester and then return them. These robots are not particularly powerful, but they are inexpensive, and this allows each student to afford to use them. I developed software that provides an interface to the robot using the laptop, and the students write programs to control the robot. In most classes in computer science, when students write programs, things happen on a computer. In my course, when students program the robot, it performs actions such as looking at certain things, avoiding walls and obstacles, and responding to light. The robot has a camera, which allows students to write programs to perform simple image analysis, such as blue screening, where foreground and background images are combined to produce a composited image. We also talk about the application of some types of artificial intelligence. Computer science is my passion and I try to inspire my students and show them how interesting it is."

Harms, who chairs DePauw's computer science department, also discusses service learning. "Usually, the implementation of such initiatives connect with community partners," he explains. "Ideally, the university and community partners work together to benefit all parties. 

"I have worked on three projects to introduce students to the lives of others. In El Salvador we helped medical doctors by measuring heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature, and we also had a construction project. In the mountains of El Salvador my students and I also created an Internet café with satellite connection, and we provided computers, cables, routers, and software. We also taught local residents of the village of Santa Marta to use a computer and use Skype, to connect with families living in the U.S.. I have also led a team of students to study tensions on the border between Mexico and the U.S."

Harms adds, "For 9-10 years, DePauw has a program to take old computers which the university no longer needs, refurbish them and and then donate them to local families in Greencastle, Indiana, who lack access to technology. Throughout this period were distributed around 5,000-6,000 computers. We accept donations from anyone who decides to bring their old computer, rather than to discard it. There are several government organizations that are our donors, the largest of which is the Agricultural Department of the United States. Students then refurbish them. We have an agreement with Microsoft which allows us to install Windows 7 on these computers and distribute them to qualified recipients at very low prices. My students and I organize workshops with the local community members to train them how to use a computer and the Internet."

The complete interview is available in Bulgarian at ComputerWorld's website.

Doug Harms was named an Indiana Campus Compact Faculty Fellow for the 2012-13 academic year.

Source: ComputerWorld Bulgaria

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