Projects Beyond the Classroom: REST APIs and Conversational Bots

Written by Raviteja Lingineni and Pablo Peillard

The UTDesign Makerspace and Dr.Khan's CS 2336 had collaborated to explore web requests and ultimately craft an interactive IRC chat bot.

Overview

Students were assigned a project in CS2336 that allowed them to understand material that goes beyond the normal coursework and objectives. In fact, it pushed them to explore beyond the textbook itself and make use of external libraries and sources.

The project was designed to emphasize not only the programming aspect, but also the programming process.

What We Achieved with the Project:
  • REST APIs and making web requests are an important aspect of data transfer between client-server. Building a client application that can recieve and transform data is a fudamental skill to making client-side programs smarter and understand the database aspects better. Students were able to learn this.

  • Programs designed in courses are often non-interactive. In fact, they are static. However, building an IRC chatbot meant creating a chatroom that also opened up the bots to respond to multiple people. This meant students can share projects with each other.

  • External libraries such as gson were utilized in the program itself. Students were exposed to reading documentation and learning to use external libraries. Students are set on the path for success by learning to ultilize libraries and help forums to their benefit.

The Freedom To Create

Students were given an opportunity to make something with complete freedom. The project guidelines were far from rigid.Some were confused in the beginning to work with such an open topic; however, they figured it out.

Part of the discovery that takes place in the learning process. This allows them to think on their own feet instead of following set guidelines.

Interactive Learning

Computer Science Juniors Raviteja Lingineni, and Pablo Peillard were responsible for directing the workshops. They are leaders within the UTD Makerspace. Both of them have put a tremondous effort in organizing the workshops and directly interacting with the students to answer their questions.

In addition, allocation of time in class by Dr.Khan to allow Lingineni and Peillard to teach further made it more convenient for students to learn the new materials.
Lastly, the students were all brought together under one roof in Synergy Park North at the Makerspace to ask questions and interact with each other.

Future

The students have accomplished a lot with the project. Indeed, they were exposed to different styles of learning and material.

We hope to see this type of extended learning to take place in UTD Computer Science. This is a project that will definetely be done again.

The Makerspace

The UTD Makerspace is a space located in Synergy Park North that allows people to work on projects of their choice and get accquainted with individuals who can help make their ideas a reality. In addition, workshops and activities are held. Drop by on any Thursday evening at 7 for a brief tour.

They will also be putting on a host of new workshops for the Spring 2017 semester called the #Basic Series.

The new series will expose students to materials which class often fails to show. This will include basics such as building static websites, using git and understanding REST APIs.

You may find more about the makerspace at www.utdmaker.space