The Zoo, Mindstorms and App Inventor

These first few weeks of school have been a zoo.  The elementary school is trying to go techy.  All the teachers have iPads now (although most are dust collectors) and the 6th grade is going 1-1 with iPads.  The elementary principal is trying to get the teachers to use more tech in their classroom.  All of this requires tech time: troubleshooting, software and app research and purchasing.  I teach half time and tech the other half.  It is not working well.  Oh well, when things go to crap maybe the scheme will change.

My Programming I class is trying to do Mindstorms robot kits this semester.  I got tired of Scratch and Small Basic every Programming I (I get bored easy teaching the same thing year after year) and I had enough kits for everybody so I thought I would give it a try.  The kids are really getting into it.  Of course we are just building tri-bots at the moment so things might change when they have to program.  I will be using the NXT-G language initially but I do want to transition to RobotC eventually.  I do not like NXT-G at all.  Guess I am just a line code guy.  RobotC is just easier to work with and has a lot more versatility.  The problem is I do not own licenses for RobotC.  The trial license is good for 30 days so I am going to try and fit the RobotC part of the course into that window.  Should be fun.  Money constraints at a low budget private school make things a challenge at times.

Of course as soon as you start relying on tech to teach with the tech starts dying.  We already have two bricks (out of eight) without working screens.  Hopefully the local electronics guru in town can fix them.  I cannot afford new bricks.  The best laid plans, etc, etc.  I may be back to drawing houses with the Small Basic turtle.  Nothing wrong with that as far as learning programming goes but just not quite as fun for the kids.

My Programming II/III are diving into App Inventor.  I want to see if we can get a Tic-Tac-Toe game working.  I am plagiarizing the heck out of Alfred Thompson’s Tic-Tac-Toe blog post for Windows Phone.  I am still a little tweaked at Microsoft for ending his blog.

I had better go fix stuff.  Lots of stuff.


2 Responses to “The Zoo, Mindstorms and App Inventor”

  1. Laura Says:

    Garth, you might give calico a try ( It’s been made to work with nxt, and it’s free. It’s a great development environment in general. I use it for python programming, but it’s got Ruby, C#, scheme, and a couple of others. I hear ya on the tech/CS split. I’m there, too. Spent quite a while figuring out how to set up a web site for lab scheduling. Wheee!

  2. Laura Says:

    Specifically, here’s some info on using the NXT libraries:

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