Virtual Reality Innovator Honored with Karlstrom Award by ACM

Virtual Reality Innovator Honored with Karlstrom Award by ACM



The Association for Computing Machinery

Advancing Computing as a Science & Profession


Contact:            Virginia Gold





CMU Professor Developed Alice, a 3-D Animation Tool to Teach Computer Programming

New York, December 3, 2007  -- Randy Pausch, Professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, has won the 2007 Karl V. Karlstrom Outstanding Educator Award from the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) for creating innovative ways to teach computer science by making it more accessible and fun.   Professor Pausch’s team developed the programming tool known as Alice, a revolutionary software project that uses 3D graphics and a drag-and-drop interface to help beginning programmers, particularly women, overcome initial frustrations.  He is a co-founder of Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) which encourages technologists and fine artists to collaborate on projects that entertain, inform, and inspire.  The Karlstrom Award carries a $5,000 prize, which is supplied by the Prentice-Hall Publishing Company.

Professor Pausch was cited for his "outstanding creative contributions to the art of teaching and mentoring and for the innovative Alice programming environment with which novices can create  interactive 3D experiences."

In the early 1990s, Professor Pausch began work at the University of Virginia on what was to become Alice, a freely available teaching tool. Alice began as an easy-to-use scripting tool for building virtual worlds.  This Java-based interactive program enables users to create 3-D computer animations without the need for high-level programming skills.  Designed solely to teach programming, Alice is intended to appeal to those not normally exposed to computer programming, such as middle school girls, by encouraging storytelling through a simple drag-and-drop interface.  Its application makes it easy to create an animation for telling a story, playing an interactive game, or a video to share on the web

Professor Pausch arrived at Carnegie Mellon, his alma mater, in 1997, and instituted a broadly cross-disciplinary course titled "Building Virtual Worlds." This popular course, which put artists and technologists together, was critical to creating the Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) in 1998, as a joint program between the School of Computer Science and the College of Fine Arts.

Together with Don Marinelli, Professor of Drama and Arts Management at Carnegie Mellon, Professor Pausch constructed a curriculum for ETC’s two-year Masters program that forms interdisciplinary student teams to develop projects using interactive and other creative media.  Professor Pausch once termed the ETC a "dream fulfillment factory" as so many students went on from the ETC to their dream jobs.  The program offers opportunities for artists and engineers, working together, to apply advances in digital technology for creating new forms of entertainment, training, and education.

Professor Pausch’s focus on virtual reality included his stint at Walt Disney Imagineering in 1995.  On a sabbatical from the University of Virginia, where he had been teaching computer science, he applied human-computer interface expertise to help design virtual reality rides like "Aladdin’s Magic Carpet" and "Virtual Pirates of the Caribbean" for DisneyQuest.  He went on to do a sabbatical at the video game company Electronic Arts (EA) in 2004.  In 2006, EA agreed to help underwrite the development of Alice 3.0, the latest version of Pausch’s revolutionary tool, and to provide essential arts assets from "The Sims™" -- the all-time best selling PC video game.  Professor Pausch  has also consulted with Google Inc. on user interface design.

An active leader over many years in the ACM Special Interest Groups on Graphics (SIGGRAPH) and Computer Human Interaction (SIGCHI), Professor Pausch has served on the editorial boards and as a reviewer for several ACM peer-reviewed publications, including ACM Interactions, ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction, ACM Transactions on Computer Systems, ACM Transactions on Graphics, and ACM Transactions on Software Engineering and Methodology.  He is the author or co-author of five books and more than 70 articles on computer graphics, human-computer interaction, and virtual reality.

A Magna Cum Laude graduate of Brown University with departmental honors in 1982, Professor Pausch received a Ph.D. in computer science from Carnegie Mellon in 1988.  He was named a recipient of the Presidential Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation in 1991.  He was a Lilly Foundation Teaching Fellow in 1994-95.

Professor Pausch has been named a 2007 ACM Fellow.  He is also the winner of the 2007 ACM Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education (SIGCSE) Award for Outstanding Contributions to Computer Science Education.  This award is to be presented at the ACM SIGCSE Conference in March 2008, where Professor Pausch is scheduled to deliver a keynote address.

About ACM

 ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, is an educational and scientific society uniting the world’s computing educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field’s challenges. ACM strengthens the profession’s collective voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and recognition of technical excellence. ACM supports the professional growth of its members by providing opportunities for life-long learning, career development, and professional networking.