with Leigh Ann Yoder
Introducing the Airhead 2000!
This week’s class was probably the most challenging of the semester. We continued our study of Finite State Machines, also known as Finite State Automatons – FSM or FSA for short.
First, we tackled the Airhead 2000 homework by drawing out the FSM together. Some of the students struggled with the homework, but I believe most understood after we reviewed.
Next, I pushed the students beyond their comfort level by illustrating two FSM’s. One was used to add two binary numbers, and the other was a parity checker. The purpose was to cycle back on topics we covered in the beginning of the semester, but now focusing on how the computer is actually instructed by the programmer.
After those mind-boggling examples, we took a break by officially defining an FSM and went on a virtual treasure hunt. The students were pirates and had to take imaginary boats between islands. They were successful when they found the shortest route to Treasure Island. When the students completed the activity they realized they had created another FSM.
With a firm understanding of FSM’s we discussed their applications in Computer Science, specifically in the following areas: the lexical analysis part of the compiler, text editing, computer networks, and string searching within a word processor.
Finally, we had a brief discussion on artificial intelligence and how a computer can appear to understand and respond appropriately. Think Siri.
We covered a lot of material! The students should be proud of themselves. Grasping the concept of an FSM at such a young age is truly an achievement!
I wish all of my students and their families a blessed holiday.