Sun Community Champion - Xu Bin

By Rich Sands, March 2006  

How cool is it when experts from all walks of life come together united by technology and community, and make a difference? Sun's quarter century of innovation would not have been possible had enterprise developers, academics, and committed individuals not taken our technology and run with it - taking it places we never would have dreamed. The Sun Community Champions Program recognizes the singular contributions of the best and brightest stars of our communities - those leaders who've shown the way for us all. I'm very excited to have the privilege of writing a monthly column highlighting our Champions, what they're up to, their valuable perspective on where Sun technologies are headed next, and what we all can do to make it happen.

So its with great pleasure that I present to you our first highlighted Java Champion - Mr. Xu Bin of Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. A member of the Java Champions community since October, 2005, Xu Bin is an assistant professor at the university, having graduated from there with a degree in Computer Science. He began teaching Java Programming back in 1999, and since then over 2000 students have benefited from his courses. He is an expert adviser to the Ministry of Education in China on the Java content of the National Computer Ranking Examination, and the author of three Chinese language books on Java programming. He's the faculty adviser to the Java Users Group (JUG) at Tsinghua University. But perhaps most of all, Xu Bin is helping to bridge the digital divide one student at a time. He is a tireless advocate of Java technology in China, leveraging NetBeans within the Chinese education system to teach students cutting edge software engineering, and train his colleagues to do the same.

question Can you please tell us a little about your university, its computer science program, and its role within the Chinese Academic GRID? How have you been involved?

answer Tsinghua University is one of the most famous universities in China.It was founded in 1911. Many Chinese politicians and scientists graduated from this university, such as the national chairman Hu Jintao and the former prime minister Zhu Rongji. In recent years many leaders from other country have visited this university, for example, the US president Bush visited the campus twice. The department of computer science and technology in Tsinghua is one of the best computer departments in China. The students attend many international activities. For example, they won the RoboCup World Championship in 2001 and 2002, and they are almost within the world top 10 in the ACM college student programming competition since 2000. My department, the Knowledge Engineering Group, takes part in many national research works, such as the National High-Tech Plan and the National Natural Science Foundation. I am now an assistant professor of the department. While doing research work, I have been teaching Java for students since 1999.

question As a teacher, you've been active in educating Chinese students in Java technology. What have been the biggest challenges to teaching the Java programming language?

answer The biggest challenge is how I can introduce the newest development of Java technology to the students. Every year new Java technologies come to birth, from J2ME to J2EE, from JINI to JXTA, from JDK1.0 to Java 5.0 etc. I must teach students the advanced Java technology.

question But you've succeeded despite these issues. How have you overcome these challenges?

answer For me the most important thing is to catch up with the development of Java. There are two efficient ways to do that. The first way is to cooperate with the inventor of Java - Sun Microsystems. For instance, we have a close relation with Sun China and ERI China. The second way is to attend the most important Java conferences. I attended JavaOne from 2000 to 2002, and JavaChina 2005. Then I can get the newest information about Java and introduce it to my students.

question Can you give us an example of how NetBeans helped you bring the Java language to life for your students?

answer An IDE is very helpful to students to learn Java. In my former teaching, I used to ask students to use the JDK and Ultraeditor [a simple text editor] to program Java. Now I teach the usage of NetBeans to my students, and ask them to finish their project with NetBeans. This makes them learn Java easier.

I would also like to mention some works about how we have promoted Java and NetBeans in Chinese colleges. In 2005, with the cooperation of Sun Microsystems China, I organized two activities. The first activity is the JavaCup 2005 college students Java competition, and the topic is doing a J2EE project with NetBeans. Nearly 100 teams around China attended the competition, and 6 teams were awarded prizes by James Gosling at JavaChina 2005. The second activity is the Chinese college Java teachers training camp. We collected about 60 teachers together. All of them are teaching Java courses in Chinese colleges. We discussed how to teach Java course and learn the usage of NetBeans.

question The Java Champions program started last year at JavaOne, and brings together a varied group of experts from around the world, with broad experience and interests. What are your hopes for participating with this select group of passionate Java advocates?

answer I met some of the Java Champions before, like Dr. Heinz [Kabutz] from South Africa visited me years ago. I think I benefited from the discussion through email. For example I am discussing with Sun Microsystems about the supporting of BlueJ [an IDE optimized for teaching beginning programming] in China. The idea from the Champions to make BlueJ a NetBeans plugin may be a good solution. Anyway, I hope the Java Champions can meet face to face at the JavaOne conference.

question What are your plans to carry on in teaching Java and NetBeans in China this year?

answer In about August 2006, we still plan to do two activities. The first one is the JavaCup 2006 college students Java competition, and the topic is developing plugins with Netbeans. The second one is the deeper training of NetBeans for college Java teachers. I hope all these works can help the students and teacher to learn and use Java and NetBeans.

RS: Thank you very much, and best of luck with the JavaCup 2006 Challenge!

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