Carnegie Mellon University

Dec. 7: Pausch Wins ACM's Karlstrom Outstanding Educator Award

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Byron Spice                          
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Anne Watzman
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Pausch Wins ACM's Karlstrom
Outstanding Educator Award

Professor Developed Alice Animation Tool to Teach Computer Programming

PITTSBURGH — Randy Pausch, professor of computer science in Carnegie Mellon University's School of Computer Science, has won the 2007 Karl V. Karlstrom Outstanding Educator Award from the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). The award recognizes his innovative efforts to teach computer science in ways that are accessible and fun.

Randy PauschPausch is the first Carnegie Mellon professor to receive the highly competitive Karlstrom Award, which includes a $5,000 prize. The ACM cited Pausch for his "outstanding creative contributions to the art of teaching and mentoring and for the innovative Alice programming environment with which novices can create interactive 3D experiences." Pausch also co-founded the Entertainment Technology Center and created the popular interdisciplinary project course "Building Virtual Worlds."

The award comes as Pausch's inspirational lecture, "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams" (visit: Randy Pausch Lecture), has become an Internet sensation viewed by more than six million people. Pausch, who has terminal pancreatic cancer, has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Good Morning America and the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, since delivering the lecture in September. Hyperion recently announced that this spring it will publish a book version of his lecture, titled "The Last Lecture," co-written by Wall Street Journal columnist and Carnegie Mellon alumnus Jeff Zaslow.

"Randy Pausch has had major impact on the education of students at Carnegie Mellon and throughout the world," said Randal E. Bryant, dean of the School of Computer Science. "His Building Virtual Worlds class provides a model for how to get students involved in interdisciplinary team projects.  The Entertainment Technology Center extends this approach to a complete master's degree in entertainment technology.  Most recently, the Alice Project has pioneered new ways to make introductory programming more appealing to both high school and college students."

Alice (www.alice.org/) is a revolutionary programming tool that enables computer novices to create computer animations using a drag-and-drop interface. Now used by 10 percent of U.S. colleges and universities and also in many high schools, Alice makes computer science more accessible to students by eliminating the initial frustrations associated with learning how to program computers. A version of Alice developed by Caitlin Kelleher, Pausch's final Ph.D. student, enhances Alice's storytelling capabilities and has been developed for use in middle schools, particularly by girls.

Carnegie Mellon makes Alice available free as a teaching tool. Pausch's team is now at work on a new version, Alice 3.0, which is being partially underwritten by Electronic Arts and will incorporate animation assets from EA's best-selling PC video game, The Sims. Other supporters of Alice 3.0 include the National Science Foundation, The Heinz Endowments, Microsoft, Google and Disney.

Pausch began work on the early incarnations of Alice while a faculty member at the University of Virginia. He joined Carnegie Mellon, his alma mater, in 1997 and promptly began the cross-disciplinary course Building Virtual Worlds. The course brings together artists and technologists in teams to create interactive virtual worlds. Building on the success of that course, Pausch and Drama Professor Don Marinelli founded the Entertainment Technology Center (www.etc.cmu.edu/), a joint program of the School of Computer Science and the College of Fine Arts, in 1998.

A magna cum laude 1982 graduate of Brown University, Pausch received a Ph.D. in computer science from Carnegie Mellon in 1988.  He was named a recipient of the Presidential Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation in 1991.  He was a Lilly Foundation Teaching Fellow in 1994-95.      

Pausch has also been named a 2007 ACM Fellow and is the winner of the 2007 ACM Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education (SIGCSE) Award for Outstanding Contributions to Computer Science Education.  This award will be presented March 12 at the ACM SIGCSE Conference in Portland, Ore., where he is scheduled to deliver a keynote address. The Karlstrom Award will be presented at the ACM Awards Banquet on June 21 in San Francisco.

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