Archive for November, 2011

GameMaker tutorials

November 17, 2011

I have been going through the two GameMaker tutorials that are built into the software.  They are the “Your First Game” and “Scrolling Shooters”.  It is always a challenge to work through a tutorial written by the software maker.  The number of assumptions about retained knowledge from the previous page is astounding (or maybe I just do not retain much when doing tutorials).  I believe the second tutorial assumes direct contact with the god of intuition.  It took me an hour to get the little plane to fly around the room like it was supposed to.  Of course having spent the hour I can now explain how it works to the kids.  I made all the mistakes.  Tutorial should never be written by the experts; they know the system too well and do not realize that idiots have to read these things.  I should become a tutorial author.

Tomorrow I am going to throw Kinect and Scratch at my two advanced kids.  I have it running (pretty easy, it had to be if I was going to get it running) and it is really slick for a garage project.  It sort of fits with my philosophy of teaching programming – find something cool to do and learn a language to do it.  The C# may have to wait until January when the book I ordered on Amazon “Beginning Kinect Programming with the Microsoft Kinect SDK” becomes available.  I simply do not have time to do my usual method of spending hours tinkering.

Kinect and Scratch together, OMG!

November 16, 2011

So I am surfing the web looking for Kinect programming stuff.  I find this link  I take a look at the Stephen Howell link.  I hit what may be a major jackpot.  Stephen has written a program that links the Kinect to Scratch.  Kids know Scratch.  Kids actually like programming in Scratch.  Throw in the Kinect and my “Oh goody” light goes on, my heart races and I think BAIT.  I have been playing with it for only a couple of hours.  The results are pretty interesting.  Stephen and I had several email chats getting the software set up.  The version of Kinect2Scratch he originally had posted only worked with the SDK beta1, not the beta2.  This was a problem because Microsoft took the beta1 link off of the Kinect SDK download site.  He posted a new version last night that works with beta2.
If you use Scratch in your programming class and you want your kids hopping around the room while they dream up games or activities for the Kinect that they can program, take a look at this.  It is simple enough for the lowest level Scratch programmer.
Stephen is not a fulltime programmer.  He is a professor at Dublin and the Kinect2Scratch is just a personal project.  I think he has made a major mistake making this available.  He is going to get buried in email.

The Good Idea Fairy is not a kind entity.

November 11, 2011

I just got burned hard by the Good Idea Fairy.  I read about Google’s App Inventor and thought to myself “Now that looks worthwhile for a few weeks in Programming I”.  I tinkered with the tutorials and got a good idea of how it works, built the samples and decided to give it a try.  Opps.  I got the kids started and let them run with the tutorials.  Reading the tutorial is about the only thing that worked correctly.  The first day was not a success but I figure we can work out the bugs as a group.  Then the website disappeared.  The tutorial site is still up but the app site is gone.  Sometime the Good Idea Fairy is just not kind.  I guess we are going to GameMaker for a while.

I am going to pick up a Kinect this weekend.  I have wayyy too much time on my hands so I thought I would use some of that wasteful social time normally spent with wife and child trying to refresh my C# and write some code for that.  We had a no-texting and driving assembly yesterday with a high-speed DJ.  He had an electronic software controller device that looked like but simulated the old multiple turn tables that allowed him to control his music and videos.  I casually mentioned that the device could probably be replaced with a Kinect and hand gestures.  He wanted to know how much I wanted to build it for him.  So I now have a robot project and a DJ project that are of interest.  Time to dig up those Kinect/C# tutorials.  Don’t you just love the Good Idea Fairy?

Computer Science classes need good bait

November 2, 2011

I ordered a Spark Fun Inventors Kit for Arduino and the Arduino Cookbook today.  It is not that I do not have enough to do but it might be an interesting diversion for my advanced kids.  Anything to keep them thinking and learning.  The physics teacher teaches a small electronic section and thought it might be a useful tool.  When I was in high school I took an electronics class.  Electricity had just been discovered I was predicting it would be more than a fad.  Good guess there.  It was one of my more enjoyable high school experiences.  I actually remember some of the stuff I learned (the stripes on a resistor mean something and bad things can happen if you short a charged capacitor).  I am also going to put a Microsoft Kinect on my tech grant this year.  Seems like there is a whole bunch of programming fun to be had there.  I kind of picture a robot with a video camera trundling down the school hall remote controlled by a kid in another room gesturing to a Kinect.  There has got to be a way.  Oh, and it has to climb stairs in our school.
There is a lot of rhetoric about getting kids into the computer science classroom.  My solution is a robot with a video camera trundling down the school hall remote controlled by a kid in another room gesturing to a Kinect.  About 10% of our kids take Programming I (out of 180 kids in the school this year), about 2% take Programming II.  My goal is to get most of that 10% in to Programming II and maybe III.  I think my plan will work.