Why choosing Ada as a teaching language? (2)

The following articles were posted to the Usenet newsgroup comp.lang.ada or the Team Ada mailing list, and report on the use of Ada as a teaching language.

They are sorted in reverse chronological order, i.e. newest first:

Happy reading...

Dirk Craeynest


Ada vs. C in University - Some results

Date: Wed, 14 Dec 1994 16:42:34 -0800 (PST)
From: cdaly@rational.com (Chris Daly)
Subject: Ada vs. C in University (fwd)
To: TEAM_ADA@ACM.ORG
This just came in through the pipeline here. thought you all might like to see it.

============================================================================
SUBJECT:  SUBTRACT C, ADD ADA/ RESULTS MULTIPLY
SOURCE:   ZiffWire via Fulfillment by INDIVIDUAL, Inc.
DATE:     December 13, 1994
INDEX:    [1]
ORDER NO: 404094#
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
PC Week via INDIVIDUAL, Inc. : Few managers can afford to do a software project several times, using teams with similar experience but different programming tools, to see if anything yields consistent improvements in speed or quality of work. At the State University of New York, Plattsburgh, though, Professor John McCormick has assigned the same project to each of his classes for about nine years, but switched languages at mid-decade.

Working in teams of three or four, McCormick's real-time-programming students must write 15,000 lines of code to control a system that would need about 150 switches to operate using hardware alone. In the five years students used C, no team completed the project -- even when more than half of the code was provided. With Ada, however, half of the teams completed the project before any support code had even been written. With some support code now provided, three out of four teams finish the project.

Specific factors in this improvement, according to McCormick, include both syntax and semantics. Ada leaves less room for single-keystroke errors, such as the common C error of using = (assignment) instead of == (comparison); its type-abstraction facilities reduce the need for error- prone pointer manipulation; and its modular facilities improve teams' coordination of effort.

This experience, McCormick notes, "has convinced all my faculty colleagues to support teaching Ada in our beginning courses. This spring semester, the first students with Ada as their mother tongue will enroll in my course. I can only imagine what these teams will accomplish." -- P.C.

[12-13-94 at 17:56 EST, Copyright 1994, ZiffWire, File: c1213551.1zf]

----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Wed, 14 Dec 1994 21:47:20 -0500 (EST)
From: Michael Feldman 
Subject: Re: Ada vs. C in University (fwd)
To: cdaly@rational.com (Chris Daly)
Cc: TEAM_ADA@ACM.ORG, MCCORMJW@splava.cc.plattsburgh.edu (John McCormick)
Hi, Team!

Working in teams of three or four, McCormick's real-time-programming students must write 15,000 lines of code to control a system that would need about 150 switches to operate using hardware alone. In the five years students used C, no team completed the project -- even when more than half of the code was provided. With Ada, however, half of the teams completed the project before any support code had even been written. With some support code now provided, three out of four teams finish the project.
Oddly, this article does not say that the system being controlled is a very nice HO-scale train layout. For those of you with access to TRI-Ada proceedings, check out John's paper in TA 91. He got the Best Paper award for that baby.

John is also the author of Dale/Weems/McCormick, a nice Ada-in-CS1 text. Normally I wouldn't hype the competition :-) but John deserves it.

Cheers,

Mike Feldman

PS - let's get him on this list. Or just write to congratulate him on the Mass Media picking up his story.


Student views on Ada

From: weberwu@tfh-berlin.de (Prof_Weber-Wulff)
Newsgroups: comp.lang.ada
Subject: Student views on Ada
Date: 7 Sep 1994 14:01:38 GMT
Organization: TFH-Berlin (Berlin, Germany)
A collection of student comments on Ada (We use Ada as the first language):
[...]

--
Debora Weber-Wulff, Professorin fuer Softwaretechnik und Programmiersprachen
snail: Technische Fachhochschule Berlin, FB Informatik,
       Luxemburgerstr. 10, 13353 Berlin, Germany
email: weberwu@tfh-berlin.de

Ada as "mother tongue" influences later life

From: mfeldman@seas.gwu.edu (Michael Feldman)
Newsgroups: comp.lang.ada,comp.edu
Subject: Ada as "mother tongue" influences later life
Date: 3 Aug 1994 14:35:13 -0400
Organization: George Washington University

[John McCormick asked me to post this for him. - Mike Feldman]
The State University of New York at Plattsburgh is a liberal arts college located in rural northeastern New York near the border between Canada, New York, and Vermont -- a six and a half hour drive north from THE CITY. We have about 90 undergraduate computer science majors. We do not have a graduate program. There is very little industry in our area. Although we face some difficulties from this lack of industry, there is at least one major advantage to it: our curriculum is not influenced by the job ads in the local newspaper. We can pretty much base curriculum decisions on pedagogical issues. A number of years ago, our department unanimously agreed to use Ada in all core courses. While the event of ALL members of a computer science department agreeing on one programming language is in itself newsworthy, that is not why I am posting this story.

This week I received a postcard from one of our graduates who is now working for a company in the Washington DC area. He is the 4th SUNY Plattsburgh graduate they have hired. This company is so pleased with these graduates they are planning a recruiting trip to Plattsburgh -- no short trip (I have to take 3 separate planes to fly to Washington). Now the interesting part: this company does its programming in C / C++. Our students have little, if any, formal exposure to C. We occasionally offer a 1 credit mini-course in C. And there is an elective graphics course that uses C. So these students really learned C / C++ on the job.

It seems that the discipline imposed by Ada has given these students the self-discipline needed to program well in C. The fact that this company is willing to travel to the frozen north to hire graduates with Ada experience when there are many local schools using C and C++ in their curriculums is a testimonial to the virtues of Ada as a first language. What is that saying about the first wine fermented in a cask flavoring all the future wine fermented in that cask?

John McCormick

===========================================================================
=  John W. McCormick                   Phone   (518) 564-2785             =
=  Computer Science Department         FAX     (518) 564-7827             =
=  State University of New York      mccormjw@snyplava.bitnet             =
=  Plattsburgh, NY  12901            mccormjw@splava.cc.plattsburgh.edu   =
=      USA                                                                =
=                           SUNY Plattsburgh                              =
=                                where                                    =
=       Computers + Model Railroading = Digitally Controlled Trains       =
=                                                                         =
=                        *      *     *                                   =
=                                          *                              =
=                                             *                           =
=          ##                           ##    T                           =
=        ######_########_########_#####_#########-                        =
=         o  o   o    o   o    o   o o  oo OOOO oo\                       =
===========================================================================

Ada a good basis for software engineering

From: weberwu@tfh-berlin.de (Prof_Weber-Wulff)
Newsgroups: comp.lang.ada
Subject: Ada a good basis for software engineering
Date: 7 Jul 1994 08:03:29 GMT
Organization: TFH-Berlin (Berlin, Germany)
Just before the end of the semester in "Software Engineering I" we got around to discussing Module Design Criteria and Properties. The students have had 2 semesters of Ada programming before attending this class. As I was explaining the stuff from the textbook about information hiding and isolating export from import interfaces someone noted: "Why are you explaining all this stuff? Isn't it obvious that that's what you have when you use packages??" Bingo! Ada has so warped their minds that they have difficulty imagining how to do it differently.

Ada is a great teaching language! And for those that have trouble understanding the "difficult" bits of Ada: I warmly recommend the Rationale by Ichbiah/Barnes/Firth/Woodger from 1986. It is well written and gives the reasons for so many little things - and makes an extrordinary amount of sense. We printed out copies for all the people teaching Ada here, it has helped pursuade some that it is a "good thing" to be teaching it.

--
Debora Weber-Wulff, Professorin fuer Softwaretechnik und Programmiersprachen
snail: Technische Fachhochschule Berlin, FB Informatik,
       Luxemburgerstr. 10, 13353 Berlin, Germany
email: weberwu@tfh-berlin.de

"They're changing to Ada!"

From: weberwu@tfh-berlin.de (Prof_Weber-Wulff)
Newsgroups: comp.lang.ada
Subject: "They're changing to Ada!"
Date: 1 Jun 1994 15:39:30 GMT
Organization: TFH-Berlin (Berlin, Germany)
A student in my second semester Ada class exclaimed at the beginning of class today: "You'll never guess what's happening at my company!" She programs COBOL part-time for a smallish financial institution here in Berlin. "They just announced last week that we're migrating to Ada!" And suddenly, she discovered, all the old COBOL cracks who had laughed at her for the sillyness she was getting stuffed into her head by going to college were flocking to her door to inquire about the language... So it's not such a stupid language after all, if real companies are starting to use it.

Great start for a lecture, I'm telling you!

--
Debora Weber-Wulff, Professorin fuer Softwaretechnik und Programmiersprachen
snail: Technische Fachhochschule Berlin, FB Informatik,
       Luxemburgerstr. 10, 13353 Berlin, Germany
email: weberwu@tfh-berlin.de

Dirk Craeynest (Dirk.Craeynest@cs.kuleuven.ac.be)
Ada-Belgium Newsletter Editor & Team Ada