Visionary Research at SAP: NTLS Education Technology Leadership Award

Computer programming is at the heart of SAP and is a focal point of many educational offerings. A joint team of researchers at SAP and UC Berkeley are pushing the frontier of how interactive visual programming can broaden participation in computing without compromising on technical rigor or expressivity. The group’s work has recently drawn international attention.

Jens Moenig pictured with award
Image via Jens Moenig

SAP scientist and openSAP team member Jens Moenig has been awarded the National Technology Leadership Summit (NTLS) Education Technology Leadership Award, which recognizes individuals who have made a significant impact in the field of educational technology over the course of a lifetime. The NTLS consortium is a coalition of 12 national teacher education associations in the U.S. advancing the effective use of technology in schools. The award is the consortium‘s highest honor.

The research group at SAP and UC Berkeley is spread out over sites in Walldorf, Barcelona, and California. Bernat Romagosa and I collaborate with Moenig from the SAP side, along with Lauren Mock, Michael Ball, Dan Garcia, and award co-recipient Brian Harvey at UC Berkeley, to develop the blocks-based programming language Snap!.

Building on the design of Scratch from MIT, which Moenig previously helped develop, Snap! blasts off the ceiling of blocks-based programming. Unlike other visual programming languages, Snap! embraces advanced concepts otherwise only found in the most sophisticated languages, immersing beginners and experienced programmers into writing data structures, higher order functions, and even custom control structures, while remaining a welcoming playground for absolute beginners.

The Snap! programming environment runs in the web browser inside a vibrant online community of learners. The The free and open source software has been translated into more 40 languages. Snap! is taught in colleges and schools worldwide. SAP uses Snap! in digital literacy and computer science outreach initiatives such as the openSAP platform, the SAP Young Thinkers program, and the Meet and Code inititative.

Aside from writing the programming language, the group investigates new pedagogical approaches to programming education. Their latest curriculum bridges the realms of media computation and data science in a uniform notional machine.

openSAP screenshot of Snap! programming

Media computation is a new way to learn general purpose programming by playing with the ingredients of our favorite pictures, music, movies, and books. Strategies used for analyzing or generating media can then be applied to general data as an introduction to data science.

Snap! is SAP’s gift to computing education.

Jadga Huegle is part of the openSAP team at SAP.