Developing Visualizations for AI Course Use

Dr. Paul Juell
North Dakota State University
Fargo, North Dakota, USA


The Visual Program project is developing visualizations to improve student learning. The visualizations are presented on the Web using VRML and Java. VRML allows fly through 3D models and Java supports sophisticated models. Students can fly through and inspect the images. They also build visualizations from their own programs. This project is using these as aids in understanding AI processes.

Acknowledgments: This work is partially funded by the National Science Foundation under grant DUE-9752548.

The VP Project


Some of the project's goals: The primary goal and motivating force is to support active learning.

VRML and Java

A nice way of fielding active visualizations

The WWWIC project

The Visual Program project ( is part of NDSU's WWWIC (World Wide Web Instructional Committee) effort. WWWIC (


The Development Process

Not all the products go through all of the steps.

Prepackaged Worlds

Figure 0: pen and ink search

Figure 1: depth first search

Figure 2: hill climbing

Instrumenting Student's Program

Student built Visualizations

We had the students create visualization for three of seven programming assignments. The visualizations they developed were for:
Figure 3: snapshot of the blocks world

state space searches

An example of the class of problems is the crossing problem. One version of the crossing problem is: There is a father, two sons and a boat on one side of a river. The boat can take 200 pounds. The father weighs 200 pounds, and each of the sons 100 pounds. How can all of them get across the river?

Our visualization of this problem, is simple, but it shows the state space search.

Figure 4: The crossing problem

(search path with backtracking)

Figure 5: Search space of a GA

Anecdotal Results