Becky Blake

Becky Blake

Home Institution
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Year Participated

Year in School

REU Faculty Mentor
Colleen Lewis

Research Area Interest
Computers and Education

Project Title
Physical Java Models

Biography & Research Abstract


Physical representations are pedagogical tools used to build an understanding of abstract concepts in computer science (CS), which is important to making CS education more accessible. The use of everyday objects within physical representations can help students with less privilege and prior knowledge succeed and feel qualified to continue in the field by challenging the stereotype that CS is only for intellectual elites. Similar to how math uses physical representations, we have worked on developing physical models of coding concepts (e.g. objects/references, inheritance, method calls, linked data structures, arrays/arraylists, and conditional/loop execution). We have written an activity that uses physical objects to teach students about arrays. We received feedback on clarity and effectiveness from both high school students and AP CS A teachers. The activity uses an instructional strategy known as process oriented guided inquiry learning (POGIL), which is focused on building students’ conceptual understanding through collaboration. The effectiveness of these physical models will be tested through interviews with students where they are given either a 3D or 2D representation and are asked to work through a series of tasks. Through the design and distribution of these physical representations, we hope to make CS education more accessible and broaden participation in CS.


I’m an Illinois resident and a computer science major at the University of Illinois with interests in innovation and business. I am taking additional courses in anticipation of a dual degree in Innovation, Leadership and Engineering Entrepreneurship (ILEE) and a minor in business. My goal for the next few years is to take advantage of the many opportunities at UIUC, including REU, to explore my interests and contribute to the UIUC community. I’m a member of the Innovation Living-Learning Community (LLC), Women in Engineering and Women in Computer Science. I also play the violin in Illini Stings.