September 17, 2008

My Masters’ Work

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:14 pm by carolynresearch

I might as well start this with a brief description of what I’m trying to do.

In my previous life, before going back to school, I worked mostly on control systems. I loved writing software which made things move, and the bigger and faster the thing that moved, the better. I still do a little big of that on the side, controls for packaging machines that my father in law designs. If I didn’t still do a bit, I would have to take a roomba apart and add some new sensors or something.

Somewhat related to that, I’ve always wanted to know that I wouldn’t make these big things crash, hurt someone, or otherwise cause major damage. I’d argue that lots of software has the potential to cause financial damage or even kill someone, but for me, factory machines and trains always gave me more of a visceral desire to make sure everything worked right. I’ve always been fascinated by the various tools and methods which are supposed to help us all make correct software.

So, I’ve decided to take a look at a couple lightweight formal methods tools, and how some novices (undergraduates) use them. Particularly, I’m interested in where they find it hard and make mistakes. For my masters’ thesis research, I’m using a bit of a grounded theory approach to look at patterns of errors that they make. I’ve looked at previous research in programming and debugging, and also at some previous work in mathematics education. I’m trying to put it all together, run my experiments, and turn this all into a piece of research.

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