2002 Botswana Workshop on Teaching Computer Graphics


Presented with the collaboration of ACM SIGGRAPH, Eurographics, and AFRIGRAPH

Developed with the support of ACM SIGGRAPH

by Steve Cunningham

The 2002 Botswana Workshop on Teaching Computer Graphics was held at the University of Botswana from June 24-28. The arrangements for the workshop were made by Prof. Sampson Asare of the Computer Science Department, who handled publicity, travel support for participants, and other local arrangements; a great deal of credit goes to him for ensuring that laboratory and other resources were ready for the event. The resource persons for the workshop were Steve Cunningham, Professor of Computer Science at California State University Stanislaus, and Kirk van Gorkom, a student of Dr. Cunningham’s, who installed the GLUT system on the laboratory systems and assisted participants in details of programming and system operations.

The goal of the workshop was to give participants an understanding of the basic concepts of computer graphics, as outlined in the 2002 Computer Graphics Education workshop, and to show them an approach to the computer graphics course that fits the practical needs of the region and responds to issues of the mathematical background of students in the region.

The workshop began with a welcome from Prof. Sesai Mpuchane, Dean of the Faculty of Science, who challenged the participants to focus on building the scientific background of the region in order to take advantage of the technologies that are increasingly available to developing countries. In particular, Dean Mpuchane focused on the role of computer graphics in capacity building and in its effect on the social, cultural, and economic structures of the region, and on building regional connections toward a common goal of national and regional development.

Each day of the workshop began with a discussion of computer graphics concepts and later included work with some graphics code in the OpenGL API that implemented the concepts that had been covered. As the week progressed, the emphasis shifted from the discussions to the code implementations as the participants became more accustomed to graphics programming, ending with an original project that the participants developed in small groups.

As noted in the goal, the workshop emphasized the practical aspects of computer graphics, as seemed appropriate for the mathematical level of students in the southern Africa region, and used OpenGL as the graphics API because it supports the basic computer graphics concepts and is freely available on the equipment most often used in regional computer laboratories.

There were 17 participants in the workshop from five countries. These included:
Matthew O. Adigun, University of Zululand
Sampson D. Asare, University of Botswana
Kgotla E. Boabilwe, University of Botswana
Elvis Z. Dlangamandla, Swaziland College of Technology
Julius A. Ige, University of Botswana
Gabofetswe A. Malema, University of Botswana
Petros M. Mashwama, University of Swaziland
Gontlafetse Mosweunyane, University of Botswana
Nephas Mufutumari, University of Zimbabwe
Ernestina N. T. Mzekandaba, Eastern Cape Technikon
Ronald James Odora, University of Botswana
Francis J. Ogwu, University of Botswana
Laurette Pretorius, University of South Africa
Tembisa Rusi, Eastern Cape Technikon
Motlafsi Seotsamfana, National University of Lesotho
Frederik J. du Toit, University of South Africa
Peter Warren, University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg


The participants described some of the things they found valuable in the workshop. Their comments included:

Our department is introducing new courses and an MSc in computer science. We plan to have courses in computer graphics in all our degree programs. This workshop is a good foundation for our plans.

I have not used OpenGL before this workshop. This work will help enhance the only course we have in computer graphics and may give birth to a second course.

The course has been very helpful in getting me start with OpenGL graphics programming. This will help in making computer communication in experimental physics and engineering more fun.

Materials will be useful for modifying the content and presentation of the course Introduction to Computer Graphics, and will provide necessary insight into what sort of follow-up course to introduce.

We are beginning a new computer graphics course in 2003, and those of us involved in organizing the course are all on a steep learning curve since none of us has any computer graphics experience. We hoped that attending this workshop would provide us with a better understanding of where we are presently as well as where we want to go. I think that the workshop really succeeded in achieving this.

We believe, based on comments like this, that the workshop was very successful and that it helped plant seeds for future growth in computer graphics instruction in southern Africa. Of course, the workshop alone will not be enough to nurture these seeds and help them grow. To do this, we plan to follow up the workshop by creating a mailing list that will grow as we add new contacts, use, the mailing list to continue to challenge the participants and to give them ongoing exercises, meet at AFRIGRAPH conferences to talk about progress and share ideas, and develop follow-up workshops with African leadership and new participants to continue to develop the teaching resources of the region.

In addition to the value of this workshop itself, this is a model for future tutorial workshops to help develop the instructional resources in computer graphics worldwide. Eurographics is taking this as a significant part of its educational work, and there are discussions of other workshops within the next year that will benefit from the lessons learned in the Botswana workshop. We look forward to further developments and to seeing others offer such workshops.