A Coffee Assignment for Introductory Programming Students

Ordering hot drinks, such as coffee, at a cafe is a familiar experience to most students and provides an excellent context for students thinking about algorithm design, including conditionals (if/else), lists, loops and variables.

Our recent PhD graduate, Dr Rita Garcia, led the design of a coffee programming assignment for the Engage CS Edu website that utilises her PhD Codification Pedagogy. Codification Pedagogy is an instructional approach to introductory programming assignments that scaffolds students in their understanding of programming assignment descriptions and problem-solving processes.

The ''Coffee Barista Assistant Assignment' invites student to develop a tool that generates instructions to build a customer's cup of coffee. The assignment can be implemented without computers in an 'unplugged' way by having students design their solutions using flowcharts or pseudocode, or implemented using the Python programming language. Using both, instructors can start the assignment as an unplugged design activity in which students learn how to identify repeated patterns, moving onto implementing their solutions in Python.

In the video below, we present an instructor overview of the assignment. We walk instructors through the assignment context, pedagogical layout and the benefits of using the activity. The assignment has a basic path for all students to complete while containing additional layers to challenge high performing students. Through this programming assignment, students gain experience and proficiency with variables, conditionals, lists, and functions.

This assignment was designed for the Engage CS Edu initiative, a website that has hundreds of introductory computing course materials for instructors to freely use as well as research-based teaching practices that support diversity in learning and teaching of CS and a community for broadening participation in CS. This video was prepared by Dr Rebecca Vivian and Dr Rita Garcia to be presented as part of a showcase of assignments for the 2020 SIGCSE conference. 

You can find the coffee assignment information and resources on the Engage CS Edu website. The resources developed for this project are supported under a Creative Commons License CC BY-NC, enabling educators to freely use and remix content. We encourage educators to also explore the many other assignments and valuable resources on the website. If you have tried the assignment with your students, let us know on Twitter by tagging us @cserAdelaide

Tagged in News, Resources