Bridging the Gap: Introducing Agents and Multiagent Systems to Undergraduate Students


Emma Bowring and Milind Tambe. 2009. “Bridging the Gap: Introducing Agents and Multiagent Systems to Undergraduate Students .” In Educational Uses of Multi-Agent Systems (EDUMAS).


The field of “intelligent agents and multiagent systems” is maturing; no longer is it a special topic to be introduced to graduate students after years of training in computer science and many introductory courses in Artificial Intelligence. Instead, time is ripe to face the challenge of introducing agents and multiagents directly to undergraduate students, whether majoring in computer science or not. This paper focuses on exactly this challenge, drawing on the co-authors’ experience of teaching several such undergraduate courses on agents and multiagents, over the last three years at two different universities. The paper outlines three key issues that must be addressed. The first issue is facilitating students’ intuitive understanding of fundamental concepts of multiagent systems; we illustrate uses of science fiction materials and classroom games to not only provide students with the necessary intuitive understanding but with the excitement and motivation for studying multiagent systems. The second is in selecting the right material — either science-fiction material or games — for providing students the necessary motivation and intuition; we outline several criteria that have been useful in selecting such material. The third issue is in educating students about the fundamental philosophical, ethical and social issues surrounding agents and multiagent systems: we outline course materials and classroom activities that allow students to obtain this “big picture” futuristic vision of our science. We conclude with feedback received, lessons learned and impact on both the computer science students and non computer-science students.
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