Stephen Edwards, an associate professor of computer science at Virginia Tech, received the 2006 PREMIER AWARD for Excellence in Engineering Courseware for Web-CAT, the web-based Center for Automated Testing developed at Virginia Tech. The award was recently presented to Edwards at the Frontiers in Education Conference in San Diego, hosted by the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

The PREMIER AWARD recognizes high-quality, non-commercial courseware designed to enhance engineering education. Joseph Tront, professor in electrical and computer engineering at Virginia Tech, presented the award to Edwards at the conference.

The award was founded by the SYNTHESIS Coalition, NEEDS, and John Wiley & Sons, Inc. to promote successful courseware, as well as provide models of excellence for educators planning to incorporate or develop courseware. Additional award sponsors for 2006 included Autodesk, MathWorks, and Microsoft Research.

“By changing he way we assess students, we can better focus their attention on the desired learning outcomes,” said Edwards. For computer science students, he believes that software testing activities promote reflection, a better understanding of the problem, and a deeper understanding of the solution developed by the student.

“By grading students on how thoroughly they test their own code, Web-CAT has helped students write code with fewer bugs. Previously, even the best students were writing poorly tested code. With Web-CAT, we have seen improvements across the board, with around 20 percent of the students producing commercial-quality code, in terms of the number of bugs the code contains,” said Edwards.

Web-CAT is a flexible, tailorable, automated grading system designed to process computer programming assignments. Web-CAT runs as a web application on a server and provides all of its capabilities via a web interface. All submission activity, feedback, visualization of testability findings, enumeration of statistical results, and grading activities take place on the user’s web browser. Web-CAT’s plug-in architecture makes it highly customizable and extensible, allowing it to support virtually any model of program grading, assessment, and feedback generation.

Web-CAT allows a student to submit his/her test cases along with the solution and grades on test validity and completeness as well as code correctness. It is a useful tool for grading students on how well they test their own code. For more information or to obtain a copy of Web-CAT, go to the Web-CAT website.

Edwards received his bachelor’s degree from the California Institute of Technology, and his master’s degree and Ph.D. from The Ohio State University.

The College of Engineering at Virginia Tech is internationally recognized for its excellence in 14 engineering disciplines and computer science. The college's 5,500 undergraduates benefit from an innovative curriculum that provides a "hands-on, minds-on" approach to engineering education, complementing classroom instruction with two unique design-and-build facilities and a strong Cooperative Education Program. With more than 50 research centers and numerous laboratories, the college offers its 1,800 graduate students opportunities in advanced fields of study such as biomedical engineering, state-of-the-art microelectronics, and nanotechnology. Virginia Tech, the most comprehensive university in Virginia, is dedicated to quality, innovation, and results to the commonwealth, the nation, and the world.

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