Purdue Annual Report

Annual Report 2010-2011

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Page 25 of 31

L A U N CH I NG NE W LEADERS BRIEF Cyber-tutors for multiplication Principal Investigator Yan Ping Xin (far right) works with Lafayette School Corporation students on the PGBM- COMPS Intelligent Tutor software. Clicking steadily with her mouse, a fourth grader in Lafayette, Ind., builds one, two, three towers of cubes in the computer- ized Cubes and Towers Playground. The youngster is part of a project funded with a $2.9 million grant from the National Science Foundation designed to help struggling students gain multiplicative reasoning skills. Principal investigator Yan Ping Xin's premise is that concep- tual understanding needs to go above and beyond concrete level of operations and that children with learning difficulties must transition, at their own pace, from concrete operations —such as counting cubes in towers or apples in baskets—to abstract reasoning through algorithm and/or mathematical models. But in a classroom of 30 children, it would be diffi- cult for the teacher to tailor lessons to individual children. That's where the cyber-tutor can help. As students complete simple mathematical tasks, the software engages the students in tasks that are designed to promote their conceptual understanding to the next level on the basis of their current performance. Once students advance to abstract models, they can solve problems involving larger numbers that would be impossible to count physically. "This bridges arithmetic learning with algebraic learning," says Xin, an associate professor of special education. BRIEF Sustainable comfort A living philodendron wall that filters the air, photovoltaic panels that actually send energy back to the grid, and a smart phone-enabled system that controls temperature, lighting and electricity consumption—these are some of the features that yielded Purdue's INhome second place in the Solar Decathlon 2011. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy in Washington, D.C., the event featured 19 solar-powered homes built by collegiate teams. Work on INhome began in fall 2009 and involved more than 200 students from six colleges and schools: Technology, Engineering, Liberal Arts, Agriculture, Krannert, and Health and Human Sciences. While some teams focused on con- structing homes that could be easily transported to the Mall for the competition, Kevin Rodgers, project manager and a graduate research assistant in the College of Technology, says that Purdue's team focused on aesthetics as well. photo courtesy of Yan Ping Xin 24

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