Monday, March 13, 2017

Script Academy

In a comment to a post on Reaktor Blog, a guy called Evgeni pointed me to a site called Script Academy. It's a site for kids to learn coding. And it looks promising! It has a treasure map too!



And it promises "After completing this course, your child will be able to create simple games and share them online." 

Well, we tried it with my 8-year old veteran coder girl who's used Vim at the age of 4 but since then gravitated towards other interests like 3D printing and playing the violin. Anyways, Script Academy starts in an easy way: Just click on buttons to generate Javascript that guides the (cute!) Owl to her baby. You can see the generated Javascript code and then run it. This was easy. Except the "run" button was a bit hard to find at first. For me. For the kid, it was peanuts.

Then came the part where you have to actually write the Javascript yourself. That didn't appear to be very hard, because example code was given. But here lied a surprising catch! Here's the result.



I guess there was a bit too much freedom this time. Give a kid a text area and she'll fill it with - well - anything on her mind at the time. I love her too!

Let's see if we return to Script Academy later!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Black Hawk Down!

Btw, did you know I'm a helicopter pilot?

I have this 30€ helicopter from Clas Ohlson and I can totally land it on a dime. I mean, a two-euro coin. On a good day. But usually at least on the living room floor given enough room for maneuvering. My daughters, of course, share my passion for aviation.




I also have a spare chopper that has one of its main engines busted (not at all caused by a crash landing on my part). Or at least, had until today when my daughter wanted to build her own boat with a motor. So we had a long discussion about boat design, like, how should the weight be distributed (down), where the water line goes when it floats (dunna), where should the motor and the propeller be placed (down), how to make sure the axle hole won't leak water (grease?) and so on. Then she draw her boat with Tinkercad, with the intention to print it with our 3D printer. Here's how the design looks as of now. The design contains fittings for a little motor I had earlierly salvaged, that's something like 30*20*15 millimeters big.



You might notice that the motor compartment looks big for the tiny boat and the propeller placement isn't perfect: it'll be hard to get the whole propeller underwater. We are not boat engineers are we?

Then I remembered the spare chopper. It still had two (working) ultra-tiny motors, a control board and a Lithium Polymer battery onboard so it might be the perfect technical platform for the new little boat. So, we stripped all the unnecessary parts from the chopper and here's what we have now.





A nice radio-controlled motor-controller-battery package salvaged from a broken chopper! Let's see what comes out when we print the hull and combine it with the motor package. Do you think it'll float or sink?


Saturday, December 3, 2016

Going 3D with Tinkercad

I ordered a 3D printer for some of my own hobby projects and re-branded the purchase as a x-mas present for the whole family. Then I decided I need to learn some 3D design. I started yesterday with Fusion360 recommended by a colleague. I managed to create a shining box with rounded corners and could not remove the rounded corners. Gave me the same inadequate and stupid feeling I got with Photoshop before my friend taught me how to use it. 

So I "downgraded" myself to Tinkercad. And got it instantly. What a wonderful piece of software, running in my browser! This is what I created in a minute, as a proof of concept.



Today I told the kids about the upcoming 3D printer and they went mad. They already knew about such things and had seen one in the library. They wanted to print 3D Pokemons, of course, but I told them that the point is to create your own things, now just print stuff from the 'net. So today I showed Tinkercad to my 7-year-old and she was like "ok, looks a bit like Minecraft, what should I do in this world?". Well I told her that you can mess around just like in Minecraft. Plus the little bonus of being able to 3D print the result. BOOM! She went crazy.

Tinkercad was easy for me to learn and unsurprisingly it was easy for her too. So she crafted this little world in 15 minutes or so: 


After a bit she taught Tinkercad skills to her 5-year-old little sis too.




... and here's what the 5-year old came up with:


So, we had lots of fun and will have more tomorrow (bedtime came too early again). Cannot wait until the printer is delivered. I strongly recommend trying Tinkercad if you haven't done 3D design before or would want to let your kids try it too. It's online and it's free. A 5-year old can use it. You can too!

Have fun!

Monday, November 28, 2016

New Rules for Minecraft

In case you haven't noticed, Code.org offers tons of fun tutorials for wannabe coders. The newest thing is the Code.org Minecraft Designer. I decided to give it a try with my two daughters, now 7 and 5 years old. Minecraft is especially my older daughter's favorite game; she loves to create her own worlds from the simple 3D minecraft blocks. I thought that coding in the Minecraft world might inspire her. Guess what happened?

The tutorial starts as do many other Code.org tutorials, by presenting you with a problem domain and a task. In this case, there's this sympathetic Swedish coder Jens, presenting us the Code.org Minecraft world and the fact that the World Has Stopped. Your task is to bring the animals back to life by coding. Like this:



Now this is a simple idea and there was nothing new really: a simple 2D world and the familiar programming blocks that are similar to the ones we've used earlierly in Scratch and other Code.org Tutorials. Yet, when I showed this to my older daughter, it totally captivated her. I had to read here the English instructions, like "The chicken is frozen. Place move and turn blocks in the when spawned slot to get it to work. I checked if there's a Finnish translation but it was very much lacking at the time.

Anyway, she had a very good drive and quickly steamed through the 11 assignments, animating chickens with loops, randomness and sound, learning about events by making sheep drop wool when "used" and so on. The best part was yet to come, though!

The 12th assignment is in fact a full-blown game editor, where you can make different creatures appear at different times and positions and freely code their behaviour by dragging code into their event slots, like this:



Here, for instance, the Zombies chase the player and attack when touched. The Iron Golems, on the other hand, chase the zombies. Until morning, that is. That's when it explodes!

This freeform editor thing totally really hooked by daughter into designing her game and having the creatures do a lot of funny things. Chickens laying carrots instead of eggs was good fun!

She also made a nicer version of here game for her little sister, who was scared of the zombies. In that version, the zombies are nice and actually a bit scared of sheep, which was a lot of fun to watch.

Better yet, you can also save your work and share it as a mobile-friendly web page. Try it yourself! You can go directly to the editor here. After running your game, click the Finish button, then share the URL that's presented to you. Then you can get back to editing the game. Each time you click the Finish button, you'll get a new URL.

In conclusion, this was by far the most enjoyable tutorial from Code.org so far. I've never seen my kids so thrilled about coding!

Oh, and do you want to try (a version of) the game my daugther made? Try here. Use arrow keys to move and spacebar to attack/use. Wait until nightfall to see the zombies, creepers and iron golems. Have fun!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Kid 2, Teaching the Teachers

I started the Girls Can't Code blog about 3 years ago with my 4-year old. Now I have another 4-year old who can't use Vim yet, a kind of a clean slate if you like. Should I teach her Vim or Emacs? Start with the command-line or go for Scratch to begin with?

I have to admit that she's already exposed to some coding stuff though: we've played the Robogem board together quite a few times. That doesn't make her a coder yet, and she can't read or write much yet but certainly shows interest in learning to do so, so I think this is a good time to start pounding the keyboard.

Today we kinda started that by launching the lovely Bubble Bobble game on our good old Commodore 64.

  

I've put a sticker with instructions for starting games on the machine, so it was just a matter of writing exactly as the paper said. But it takes some effort to find all the keys on the keyboard and to type the quote characters which require you to hold Shift while pressing the key. She made it the first time though and got the game running. She's playing with her big sister as I'm writing this.

Btw we did a little Turtle Roy refresher with Big Sis couple of days ago. She had forgot most of her mad skillz since we haven't been doing our computer too often lessons lately. We still have our little Egg Alert game project to complete. If I remember correctly, we have some images scanned and uploaded to Scratch. Hope so, as her computer (old Macbook Pro) broke down and she has to use mine for now.

Oh and yesterday I went to the Kilonpuisto School to teach programming to the teachers. That was good fun and I got a lot of positive feedback along the lines of "I'm no longer scared of coding now that I got to try it". There's a lot of work to be done now that programming is a part of the national curriculum in Finnish schools, while the teachers are still mostly clueless on how to teach something they know mostly nothing about. But like the teachers discovered yesterday, coding is not rocket science; anyone can learn the basics and have fun doing so. 

Which probably applies to rocket science as well. Good luck Mr Elon Musk, I hope you get to Mars one day and come back alive, too!


Sunday, May 8, 2016

Moomins Teach Coding - Wait What?

If there’s one Finnish brand that will never expire, it’s got to be the Moomins. I read the same Moomin stories to my kids that my mom read to me. Also, every Finn seems to have a dozen of Moomin cups in their cupboard. You just cannot avoid them. I’m not sure if I’ve ever bought a single one, but I have like 5, which is probably below average. If you don’t buy them yourself, your mom or your friend will buy them for you.


So, when the Moomins start to teach coding, that’s not something to be taken lightly. And guess what I heard? Well it happens that my Japanese colleagues at Reaktor are organizing a Moomin Code School in Tokyo next Saturday. I was lucky to have a sneak peek at what they’re gonna give to the kids, so I took the "Moomin IDE” for a test drive with my daughter.

 

Things look up for the Moomins: the coding environment seems already pretty solid: it’s like Scratch but more focused and easier to use. You can learn the basics of programming, like command sequences, loops, even defining your own functions by dragging colorful blocks around. I would love to use this environment in my code schools too, before stepping into more hardcore stuff, that is.

My 7-year old coder girl picked up the Moomin IDE instantly. No wonder, because she’s already used Scratch and the layout is familiar. She easily threw together a program that draws a square and then, with a little help, named it “square” using one of the blocks in the "procedures" palette. This way a new block named "square" appeared in the palette. Using the newly made "square" block, she then made a program that draws a square 360 times, rotating just a little between repetions. The result was an awesome black ball! Too bad there’s no “change color” block yet, so we had to go back to Turtle Roy to make the Japanese flag:


Here’s our Turtle Roy drawing that draws the flag, btw: http://turtle-roy.herokuapp.com/?turtle=JRfxSaA8mI

Regarding the Moomin Code School event, I’m damn jealous it’s in Japan! Would love to see what’s up. Is the Moominpappa himself a hardcore hacker nowadays? Which one of the Moomin characters do you think will be the best coder? If I was looking for a Senior Moomin Architect, I’d probably hire this guy "Snork". If I was looking for a hacker-type I'd go for Little My.

little-my
Snork and Little My


The set of characters is just so juicy that I cannot wait for the Moomin Code School to land in Finland some day too. 

Here’s a link to the Moomin Code School event page: http://moomincodingschool.com/. There are instructions for joining on the page, in Japanese. So if you’re in Japan, I insist you go there and tell me what happened!



Monday, February 22, 2016

The Stuff that Coders Do

Greetings from wintery Finland! And sorry for being lazy on the blog. I'll try to get a grip on this:) We have indeed been coding every now and then, but mostly doing other stuff. Let's talk about the other stuff this time. Next post will be programming related, I promise.

So, what do coder girls do when they're not coding?

Well, they might play some Bubble Bobble on the Commodore 64. The kids can now connect the computer, disc drive and all the wires and use the "command line" to load games. The old Commodore is one of the favorite activities around here. There's just something magical about the machine and Bubble Bobble. Below, you can see someone hypnotized by the graphics shown while the game is loading.




But one should not stare too much into plasmas, LCDs and LEDs right? That's bad for the eyes. And the brain needs some fresh air too. So, we ride ponies!



Well, that was more like a one-shot activity but will not be soon forgotten. At home, the kids love ponies too. They watch them on YouTube and make their own, too. These things are a bit freaky though, huh?


One of our latest dad-daughter activities has been recording music in the home studio. Older sister can now pretty much operate GarageBand on her own and record the lovely voice of the 4-year old. Both the girls have been coming up with songs of their own and I really want to capture those for future listening. You can never get that 4-year-old voice back you know.





The bigger kid can also read and write notes to some extent, so she writes her stuff down while talking with granma on the phone.

So that kind of stuff.

Meanwhile I've been also been teaching programming to kids in Koodikoulu (Code School) events and was honored to have the Finnish president. It was pretty cute that he wore the same kind of name tag as the kids had:


You can read more about Koodikoulu on the Reaktor blog.

Next up: more board game development. See you soon!