Tuesday Oct 27, 2009

Programming and electronics for kids

I've been continuing to look into programming and electronics for kids. I wrote some of the programming options up a while back. Scratch is still a firm favourite.

On the list of things to try we have brickcc to try out with the lego NXT. Here's an old comparison of the various approaches to programming the NXT brick.

The other on-going project is a microcontroller - the STM Primer. Includes a screen, tilt sensor, and a single button.

On the electronics side (which is what lead me to microcontrollers in the first place), this is a nice article on kits for kids, and a second earlier one. There's also a bunch of kits available at makershed (the most surprising one is an EX-150, which is a couple of kits up from what I had. I think I had the EX-60). Here's a list of some microcontroller starter kits, and a different list of microcontroller like options.

Tuesday Mar 18, 2008

Second life appearance (24th April @9am PST)

I've been invited to appear in Sun's "Meet the authors" programme in Second Life. I'll be talking about my book on 24th April, 9am PST. Hopefully there will be copies of my free book available to some fortunate attendants.

I missed the kick-off event, which was Jonathan Knudsen's talk on his book "Kicking Butt with MIDP and MSA", the transcript is available. He's also the author of the "Unofficial Guide to LEGO Mindstorms Robots", which probably makes him a tough act to follow!

Monday Jan 08, 2007

Junior First Lego League

Last Sunday was the Expo for the Junior First Lego League. This is an annual event where teams of up to six children (aged between 6 and 9) work together to build a model out of lego.

We had a team of 5 kids who had put a lot of effort in to meet this year's challenge. The challenge was to design a model that demonstrated three levels of detail, the model had to fit in a 15"x15" area, and have at least one moving part. Our team chose to do a spider. We had a view of the spider on its web which had the least detail. A view of the spider's body, which actually had the most identifiable parts of the spider. Finally at the closest view we had a spider's head.

For me, one of the fun parts of the exercise was getting a bundle of kid-friendly reference books on spiders and learning about them. Spiders are one of the many things that we see on a daily basis, but it's not often I get the opportunity to really learn about them. The advantage of using kid-friendly books on this, is that the level of detail is just right for picking up the interesting bits, without the huge amounts of detail that might be found in text books on the subject.

Sunday's event was organised by playingatlearning which is a local group that specialise in supporting this kind of event. It was an enjoyable experience to be able to see all the other teams from the area who had all done stellar work in meeting the contest rules.

The organisers of the event had also got one of the teams competing in the First Lego League to come along and demonstrate their robot. Needless to say a robot eclipsed all the JFLL models, and quite a crowd gathered around the tuning that the FLL team was doing in preparation for their competition in San Jose on the 20th.

The whole experience was very rewarding. It took a couple of months of meeting up to decide on the model and to build it. But it was thrilling when, at the expo, the team was given the challenge of designing a fourth level of detail, and they really worked together as a team to achieve it.


Darryl Gove is a senior engineer in the Solaris Studio team, working on optimising applications and benchmarks for current and future processors. He is also the author of the books:
Multicore Application Programming
Solaris Application Programming
The Developer's Edge


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The Developer's Edge
Solaris Application Programming
OpenSPARC Book
Multicore Application Programming