Franklyn Turbak

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I am an Associate Professor in the Computer Science Department at Wellesley College. I started here in 1995 after receiving my bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in Computer Science from MIT.

My passion is the study of programs and programming languages, which is at the heart of both my teaching and research. My interests include the design, analysis, and implementation of expressive programming languages, graphical representations of programs, and the visualization of computational processes. I am co-author of the textbook Design Concepts in Programming Languages.

Since 2009, my research and teaching activities have focused on blocks programming languages. At Wellesley, I lead the TinkerBlocks research group, whose goal is to democratize computing by creating blocks programming languages that are more expressive and easier to use. Most of our work involves improving and studying MIT App Inventor, for which I am a member of the core development team. The current focus of the TinkerBlocks team is analyzing App Inventor project data for missed abstraction opportunities and exploring collaborative blocks programming.

Since 2015, I have led the organization of four blocks programming research workshops whose goal is to bring together researchers from around the world to share their work and build a community in this area:

For several years, I developed and taught the Inventing Mobile Apps course, in which students without previous programming experience designed and built apps for Android smartphones using App Inventor. Sadly, due to enrollment pressures for other CS courses, this course it no longer taught.

From 2012 to 2016, I was the lead PI for the NSF-funded Computational Thinking Through Mobile Computing project, which explored using App Inventor to teach fundmental computing concepts.

In my courses and programming environments, I embrace constructionist learning principles that encourage people to view themselves as designers and inventors. Together with Robbie Berg in the Wellesley Physics Department, I developed the Robotic Design Studio course for introducing liberal arts students to engineering. I have also taught Wellesley's Introduction to Engineering course, which serves as a bridge to engineering opportunities at Olin College and MIT.

My hero is Captain Abstraction.

Here is the whole book jacket.

The Book

Design Concepts in Programming Languages
by Franklyn Turbak and David Gifford with Mark Sheldon
Published by MIT Press in July, 2008

Last updated July 27, 2022