Although undergraduate enrollment in Computer Science has remained strong and seen substantial increases in the past decade, retention of majors remains a significant concern, particularly for students at the freshman and sophomore level that are tackling foundational courses on algorithms and data structures. In this work, we present BRIDGES, a software infrastructure designed to enable the creation of more engaging assignments in introductory data structures courses by providing students with a simplified API that allows them to populate their own data structure implementations with live, real-world, and interesting data sets, such as those from popular social networks (e.g., Twitter, Facebook). BRIDGES also provides the ability for students to create and explore visualizations of the execution of the data structures that they construct in their course assignments, which can promote better understanding of the data structure and its underlying algorithms; these visualizations can be easily shared via a weblink with peers, family, and instructional staff. In this paper, we present the BRIDGES system, its design, architecture and its use in our data structures course over two semesters.

  1. BRIDGES: A System to Enable Creation of Engaging Data Structures Assignments with Real-World Data and Visualizations. David Burlinson, Mihai Mehedint, Chris Grafer, Kalpathi Subramanian, Jamie Payton, Paula Goolkasian, Michael Youngblood, and Robert Kosara Proceedings of the 47th ACM Technical Symposium on Computing Science Education (SIGCSE), pp. 18–23, 2016 Abstract PDF