AdaIC News Winter 1995

Spotlight on Education:

Letter from the AJPO

Donald J. Reifer, Chief

We need to arm those using Ada with the skills, knowledge, and abilities needed to put it and the software-engineering principles it embodies to effective use.


This issue of the newsletter focuses on the results of several of our education and training initiatives. One of the goals of our Dual-Use Initiative is to make Ada the premier language for teaching computer-science and software-engineering fundamentals in high schools, colleges and universities, and Service schools. You'll see by the data we've reported in this issue that we've made some progress.

The first Ada Dual-Use Workshop

At the first Ada Dual-Use Workshop last October, academics told us we had a lot to do in order to get Ada accepted by both our teaching and research institutions. They asked for help in the form of grants and research contracts. They argued convincingly that the single biggest barrier to Ada adoption today was the lack of low-cost compilers and tools. They asked us to make courseware available so they could lever it to update their offerings. This advice was heeded as we developed our Dual-Use Program Plan. And, as I will show you, we have come a long way in a year.

College and university grants

During the past year, we have made over 40 teaching awards under our Ada Curriculum Broad Area Announcement. Curricula (both graduate and undergraduate), courses, and teaching artifacts are being developed to introduce software-engineering and computer-science concepts into the classroom _ primarily using the newly released Ada 9X standard.

In the last round of awards, 14 grants were given to schools of the caliber of the University of Maryland to take the Ada programming language into business, engineering, and computer-science departments. Because of the success we have had with this program, we plan to make these grants an annual event.

In a separate development, the Ada Joint Program Office (AJPO) and the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) partnered to award a major research contract under an ARPA Broad Area Announcement to develop a per-sistent Ada 9X binding to an object-oriented database. Both thin (Windows, etc.) and thick (CORBA, etc.) bindings will be made available via this award to the general community. This is a major accomplishment because it shows that Ada can con-tribute to the world of research in a big way.

On-line courseware

The materials being developed by our grant program are being made widely available through an arrangement we have made with the ASSET Reuse Library. West Virginia University is under contract to take the products of our grants and catalog them and put them on-line in this library, so they can be easily accessed by the academic community. Under this arrangement, materials can be FTP'd via the ASSET library and the Internet anywhere where they can provide added value. The materials should make it easy for professors to update their existing courses to incorporate object-oriented and Ada 9X concepts.

Academic Ada 9X textbook

To address the high cost of tools within the universities, the AJPO let a competitive contract to develop an Ada 9X textbook with a compiler environment shrinkwrapped to it for sale in the college bookstores for under $60. This textbook should be available in early 1996. The textbook complements the numerous vendor programs that have been born over the past year to provide colleges and universities with compilers and tools free or at very deeply discounted prices. These initiatives will make it easy and inexpensive for students to acquire the tools they need to learn Ada using their PCs and Macs.

Megaprogramming in High Schools Initiative

The AJPO has also teamed with ARPA to launch an initiative aimed at teaching students megaprogramming (i.e., building software with building blocks instead of lines of code) in Ada in high schools. A hands-on course is being developed by the Virginia Center of Excellence (VCOE). To be piloted later this year, its purpose is to influence the university feeder chains. If successful, this CS-0 course will be distributed along with software to interested schools across the nation via the AJPO's Ada Software Engineering Education Team (ASEET), which will act as an extended mentoring network. The states of California, Colorado, Mississippi, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia all have expressed interest in offering the course.

Practitioner training

The AJPO has also sponsored over 25"Ada 9X for Ada Programmers" courses and seminars. These are aimed at updating the skills, knowledge, and abilities of Ada programmers primarily working within government shops. Several "Ada 9X for Managers" classes have also helped to let DoD managers know what Ada 9X can do for them. The primary targets for training last year were our technology-transfer partners projects. As part of the program, about 400 government programmers and managers were trained in the rudiments of Ada 9X. We plan to sponsor more seminars this year based upon the successes we have had with this initiative. Targets of opportunity this year include the I-CASE pilot sites and Central Design Activities migrating to Ada.

Service School Initiative

The AJPO conducted a survey of DoD Service schools and academies last year to determine what we could do to help them get ready for Ada 9X. Many of the schools had already switched many of their computer-science courses to Ada. Others, like the Air Force Institute of Technology, had active research programs aimed at demonstrating the advantages of Ada for defense-system applications.

The most overriding need identified by the survey was the need for education materials that could be used as resources to help instructors update their courseware for Ada 9X. In response to this need, the AJPO developed an educator's CD-ROM that contains "best of breed" courseware. We plan to update this CD-ROM later this year and release it to the general public once it is completed.

Research library

As noted elsewhere in the newsletter, the AJPO has moved to newer and better quarters. As part of the move, we have opened a research library to share the volumes of information we have on Ada with the interested public. This is not a lending library. Instead the public can come in and access the materials we have anytime we are open by simply making an appointment with Becca Norton, our librarian, on 703/681-2451. The library is located at 5600 Columbia Pike, Arlington, VA 22204.

Ada Joint Program Office

We have gained a new employee since the last newsletter within the AJPO. LT Michelle Smith (U.S. Navy) joined the team last month. She has taken over the job of training coordinator. She is the person you should contact for more information about any of the programs or initiatives within this newsletter.

In conclusion

Education and training are important elements of the AJPO's overall dual-use strategy. We need to arm those using Ada with the skills, knowledge, and abilities needed to put it and the software-engineering principles it embodies to effective use on their programs. We know that we are just scratching the surface with the initiatives we have launched. However, we are to do more as the strategy unfolds.

You can help us!

We are hoping to get more constructive ideas at the Second Ada Dual-Use Workshop _ which will be held in Washington, D.C., in February 1995. Those of you from academia are encouraged to participate. We need to know what else we can during the next year do to make Ada the premier programming language taught in our colleges and universities.

Donald J. Reifer, Chief
Ada Joint Program Office
Defense Information Systems Agency


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