A Classroom Bursting with Life

Students shouldn’t just study computers — they should build them. So says UW computer science professor Karu Sankaralingam.

The award-winning professor wants his students to not simply be users of technology, but creators. That’s why he employs a hands-on approach to teaching about technology: Sankaralingam has his students build computerized machines and then program them to perform tasks.

For example, students might build a small, motorized car that is able to navigate a maze using infrared sensors. Or, students might design algorithms for the ultrasonic sensors in a physical game that uses a spring-loaded system for launching a toy at a target. .

All this brainstorming, discussing, designing, and building makes for a classroom bursting with life. Sankaralingam links this energy directly to success in his own research. It turns out, what’s good for the student is good for the professor.

Sankaralingam’s excellence in the lab and the classroom haven’t gone unnoticed. In 2013 he won the UW-Madison Letters & Science Phillip R. Certain–Gary Sandefur Distinguished Faculty Award. And, in 2014, Sankaralingam was one of ten recipients on campus to receive a UW-Madison Distinguished Teaching Award. It’s safe to say that we can expect great things from this innovative and energetic professor — and the same can be said for his students.