Students Learn Computer Programming Skills Through Dance

The National Science Foundation recognized software that translates dance moves to a computer avatar, teaching students basic computational skills.

Students can now dance and pick up key computational skills at the same time, thanks to a research project from Clemson University. A team of students and faculty members from Clemson created VEnvI (Virtual Environment Interactions), a program that teaches computational thinking through embodied cognition, prompting recognition from the National Science Foundation.

VEnvI combines basic concepts from dance and basic concepts from computational thinking. To use VEnvI, students first learn choreographed dance routines and then program virtual avatars. In the process they are taught programming concepts, such as sequencing, looping and conditionals.

Using VEnvI, students can learn programming concepts like sequencing, looping and conditionals.

VEnvI is inspired by Alice, Looking Glass and Scratch, all program environments that use animation to tell stories. VEnvI comes after an initial pilot study where students testing the pilot said that they wanted to use a more realistic avatar. The team used motion capture to capture the moves of professional dancers to create a realistic avatar that students enjoyed using.

The team created a series of videos demonstrating VEnvI to middle schools students. The video “Learning Computations Thinking Through Creative Movement” explains the software from its inception to completion. The NSF recognized the video in its 2016 video showcase, “Advancing STEM Learning for All: Sharing Cutting Edge Work and Community Discourse,” selecting it for Presenter’s Choice amongst 156 other videos.

According to the video, the team is taking steps to incorporate immersive virtual reality technology. Through the use of Oculus Rift, students will be able to stand next to their characters in a virtual environment.

For a video demonstration or to download the program, visit the VEnvI site.

About the Author

Sri Ravipati is Web producer for THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at [email protected].