A puzzle-based seminar for computer engineering freshmen
AbstractWe observe that recruitment efforts aimed at alleviating the shortage of skilled workforce in computer engineering must be augmented with strategies for retaining and motivating the students after they have enrolled in our educational programmes. At the University of California, Santa Barbara, we have taken a first step in this direction by offering a required freshman seminar entitled “Ten Puzzling Problems in Computer Engineering”. This one-unit pass/not-pass gateway course, which is graded based solely on attendance, introduces our students to some of the most challenging problems faced by computer engineers in their daily professional endeavors and at the frontiers of research. To accomplish this feat in a manner that is both understandable and appealing to freshmen, the problems are related to popular mathematical and logical puzzles. Each 1-hour class session begins by introducing the students to puzzles of a particular kind and letting them participate in formulating solutions. Historical context, background, and general solution methods for the puzzles are then discussed by the instructor, who finally proceeds to demonstrate how the puzzles and their solution strategies are related to real technical challenges in computer engineering. The new course, which has been offered twice already, is supported by a website containing complete lecture slides, class handouts, and reference information.