This is the second post about the coding club at my kid’s school. I was away for four weeks travelling for work and then getting sick, so I am still getting back up to speed with what the kids have been up to while I’ve been away. This post is an attempt to gather some resources that I hope will be useful during the session today — it remains to be seen how this maps to what the kids actually did while I was away.
First off, the adults have decided to give Python for Kids a go as a teaching resource. The biggest catch with this book is that its kind of expensive — at AUD $35 a copy, we can’t just issue a copy to every kid in the room. That said, perhaps the kids don’t each need a copy, as long as the adults are just using it as a guide for what things to cover.
It appears that while I was away chapters 1 through 4 have been covered. 1 is about install python, and then 2-3 are language construct introductions. This is things like what a variable is, mathematical operators, strings, tuples and lists. So, that’s all important but kind of dull. On the other hand, chapter 4 covers turtle graphics, which I didn’t even realize that python had a module for.
I have fond memories of doing logo graphics as a kid at school. Back in my day we’d sometimes even use actual robots to do some of the graphics, although most of it was simulated on Apple II machines of various forms. I think its important to let the kids of today know that these strange exercises they’re doing used to relate to physical hardware that schools actually owned. Here are a couple of indicative pictures stolen from the Internet:
So, I think that’s what we’ll keep going with this week — I’ll let the kids explain where they got to with turtle graphics and then we’ll see how far we can take that without it becoming a chore.
When I was a child, I had a doorbell at my bedroom door to ward off uninvited guests. My six year old, Matthew, has always been pretty enthused about building things, and so he wanted to give an electronics project a try. I thought this would be a good project to start out with for the kids, because its relatively simple, and there is a tangible result at the end (you press a button and something happens). Matt liked the idea. Because this project involved a fair bit of soldering, it turns out that Matt spent most of his time taking photos of the work, although we talked about what was happening at each step. I need to think harder about how to get him involved in the construction process — I think that will be easier once the bread boarding stuff from ebay arrives.
The design is relatively simple. I took the sample debounce circuit (a button, 10k resistor) and software and ran that first. Then we put a peizo buzzer across pin 13 and ground. That meant that with the sample software we had both a light and a noise when you pressed the button. Unfortunately, the pin 13 LED also turns on when the arduino is booting, which means we got two beeps per boot, which was annoying. The peizo buzzer therefore got exiled to pin 12.
Finally, the screech from the peizo buzzer was getting a bit much, so I implemented a simple on-off cycle instead of it staying completely on. This produces a noise a bit more like a cricket’s chirp, which is much less annoying. Finally, we put the whole thing in a case, and I think it looks pretty good. At the same time as putting in the case, we also added a battery power supply and power switch, as Matthew is now keen to take his door bell to school for show and tell.
The pictures in this post were mostly taken by Matthew. The source code (which includes a list of the wiring needed) is in my source repository.