Creative Automata: Reframing Computing Education Using First Principles

Distinguished Chair of Arts & Technology and Professor of Computer Science at UT Dallas Paul Fishwick will give a talk titled Creative Automata: Reframing Computing Education Using First Principles at the Computer Science colloquiua on Friday, Nov. 8, 2013 in ECS South 2.410 from 10:30am to 11:30am. Refreshments will be served at 10:15 am.


Computing affects all aspects of our professional and daily lives. The phrase “computational thinking” reflects a recent national thrust to emphasize the importance of computing in K-12 and at university.

We need to find ways to manifest computational thinking, and find approaches for injecting it into informal and formal educational settings.

However, programming languages are still the most common approach to computational thinking. Society has come to believe that computer science and programming have nearly identical meanings.

We propose an approach that returns computational thinking to its roots in automata theory and discrete mathematics. However, this presents another challenge: most people find mathematical notation difficult to follow or disengaging.

Our approach, then, is treat notational representation as a human interaction media design problem with the benefit of applying the arts and humanities, in the process, to capturing the attention of a wider audience. Methods, approaches and examples will be covered for this process.


Dr. Paul Fishwick is Distinguished Chair of Arts & Technology and Professor of Computer Science at UT Dallas. He has over 200 publications including “Simulation Model Design and Execution: Building Digital Worlds” (Prentice Hall, 1994) and other edited volumes in simulation.

His research area is in modeling and simulation, with a recent emphasis on exploring the use of simulation modeling in representing mathematical structures, including automata and dynamic models.

He has served on all major editorial boards related to modeling and simulation, including IEEE Trans. on Systems, Man and Cybernetics, ACM Trans. on Modeling and Computer Simulation, and SCS Transactions where he serves on the advisory board. He is Chair of ACM SIGSIM.