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Advice wanted on the most suitable systems to introduce programming to young people

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(@davee)
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Joined: 3 years ago
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In the course of the Introductions forum at

https://forum.dronebotworkshop.com/introductions/hi-my-name-is-michael-taggart-brand-new-to-this/paged/2/#post-44404

@dubbadan asked:

Have you tried looking at visual block-style programming environments, such as ArduBlock or Blockly? I've been wondering how I might spark my 11 year old son's interest in programming, as he does occasionally talk about what goes on behind the games he plays. I haven't tried any of these environments yet, but I want to.

Although there were already a few replies to the original question. I have created this new topic in this forum, initially to file my own answer, with the hope others will also contribute below.


   
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(@davee)
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Hi @dubbadan et al.,

  Sorry, I am not familiar with the programs you mention, although I have just spent a few minutes previewing them. I don't know enough about the present range of options to give a good overview, but I think it is important to match the 'product to the client', as 'young people' come with different aspirations and interests, with the result that something that works with one, may be a total washout with others. Therefore, I offer some general observations as to what to look for.

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  My 'kids' are no longer 'kids', but I recall when one of them was (about 25 years ago) an 11-year-old 'standard brick' LEGO fan, who also enjoyed the LEGO robotics offering. This product combined the block style programming with specialised LEGO blocks to produce a very simple form of robot. I do not remember its capabilities, but I think it was a version of 'turtle graphics', in which the 'turtle' is given commands like 'Turn Left' and 'Forward 10', so that a 'programme' instructs the robot to traverse a particular path. No doubt it could do a little more than this, but this was the essence.

This package suited this son, as it involved not only planning the programming, but also degrees of construction, obvious applicability of the principles to larger machines, and so on. Furthermore, it included all the parts, including instructions on how to use it, so that out of the box, he could quietly use it without supervision or support, a style which suited him. The main limitation was the limited 'expansion' available at the time, in terms of what could be programmed, etc.

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I believe other children might be more interested in simply programming on screen, which appears to be the case with Blockly and others, but I don't think my son would have engaged with that for more than a few minutes.

This suggests that if he were now of that same age, he might be interested in Arduino or Raspberry Pi, both of which support countless add-ons. Whilst that might be true, my concern is that, at least initially, he would have been lost in the countless number of options, etc., causing him to rapidly lose interest. In the right support environment, that might not have been an issue, but given the number of activities he engaged in at that age, it would have been a struggle.

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Obviously, many young people meet Raspberry Pi in their teens and before, and some will be instantly engrossed, whilst most will probably assume they 'can't do it', and ignore it.  Obviously, if a parent or someone else is able to introduce it at an appropriate age, then it may become a strong influence. Whilst I claim no particular teaching expertise, I would advise caution against trying too hard to push it. It might just be the wrong moment, when pushing too hard reinforces the reluctance. Leave a period before trying again.

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So in summary, the most important point is to make sure you know the child, including their interests etc, at this particular moment, before choosing a particular product or approach. Then, go slowly and gently. It seems to be one of those skills that can be a major success or a disaster. If it is not going well, be prepared to stop and try again some months or years later. Beware of trying too hard at the wrong time, as it will probably harden resistance to trying again at a different time.

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Also, have a look at @Inq 's 'back catalogue' of postings in the appropriate section(s) of this forum regarding his 'Inq' family of bots. My understanding is that he has taught the construction of at least one of his designs to classes whose participants covered a very wide range of ages.  He has also posted a good deal of the construction design, from 3D printer files to software to run on ESP8266s which enable the bot to be controlled from a WiFI web browser. Clearly, this would require considerable commitment of time to get started, but the videos are very impressive, so could be very worthwhile in the longer term.

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Just a personal view ... others may have better advice. Good luck, Dave


   
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Marvin
(@rob42101)
The Paranoid Android
Joined: 3 weeks ago
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Young people want results in short swift time. They've come into a world, where this is the norm, unlike many of us, who would have needed to spend hours, if not days, on a project, when we were 'youngsters', in order to see some results.

I would suggest a a project such as The Turtle System as lessons learned with that, can be transposed into physical turtle style robotics, should said child take up the interest and want to expand on it.

Just MHO on this topic, based upon something my daughter did, some years ago, while in junior school: she found it fascinating, that she could write a script (I think it was 'Scratch') that made a 'turtle' move though a maze, on screen.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.


   
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robotBuilder
(@robotbuilder)
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@rob42101

Posted by: @rob42101
Just MHO on this topic, based upon something my daughter did, some years ago, while in junior school: she found it fascinating, that she could write a script (I think it was 'Scratch') that made a 'turtle' move though a maze, on screen.

Reminds me of my 7yr old granddaughter who was fascinated how I could write a program to play game. The game in question was a clone of Diamond Miner and she enjoyed playing it. I asked if she would like me to show her how it was done. Yes was the answer. After some thought I suggested we use Scratch. Oh we did that at school she exclaimed. I downloaded the software and she took over playing games written in Scratch. There was no interest in actually programming her own little game.

https://www.commonsense.org/education/articles/4-things-everyone-should-know-about-early-stem-learning

 

 

 


   
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(@davee)
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Hi @robotbuilder@rob42101,

  Thanks for your contributions, which help to fill the picture, and prompted me to also consider the wider aspects of the question, rather than just thinking about a specific 'product'.

----

Looking back, I was interested in science, and electronics in particular, more than a decade before I even saw a computer in the 'metal', so micro -processors/-controllers/-computers were a 'natural' interest for me from the hardware side.

So my first encounters with computers preceded the microprocessor 'revolution' ...they were simple programming on the Uni mainframe saved me some time and boredom, 'writing up' up 'science practicals', which inevitably including some repetitive calculations. Ever since, the idea of doing the 'same thing' multiple times, compared to 'teaching' a machine to do it once, and then pressing 'go' every time I wanted it repeated seems a much better idea.

So being able to use small, personal machines was a natural development to be interested in. These days, the principle includes making small plastic parts, thanks to the 3D printer world. And, combined with the ability to consider the electronics side, makes it even more interesting.

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But all of this is now history ... I don't think 'young' people have changed much ... but the environment, in terms of what is available, is completely different. The challenge implied by the question, is probably not so much considering that 'young' people are different, but rather what is relevant to the world that we all now live in. I have always tried to follow the 'latest and best available', not recreate the past. Of course, some people like to recreate the early retro games, experience etc., which is fine if that interests you, but for the majority, the 'starting point' is completely different.

I look forward to suggestions as to what newcomers of the available technologies of today, (regardless of their physical age, but not forgetting the younger ones), regard as relevant and exciting.

Best wishes to all, Dave


   
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Ron
 Ron
(@zander)
Father of a miniature Wookie
Joined: 3 years ago
Posts: 6512
 

@rob42101 @dubbadan  People I really respect have recommended the following, give it a look https://bityl.co/O7qC

First computer 1959. Retired from my own computer company 2004.
Hardware - Expert in 1401, and 360, fairly knowledge in PC plus numerous MPU's and MCU's
Major Languages - Machine language, 360 Macro Assembler, Intel Assembler, PLI/1, Pascal, C plus numerous job control and scripting languages.
Sure you can learn to be a programmer, it will take the same amount of time for me to learn to be a Doctor.


   
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robotBuilder
(@robotbuilder)
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Joined: 5 years ago
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@zander 

A$13.00/month after free trial (billed annually)

Different to the old days where you had to learn from books (if self taught) and none of those interactive visual displays.

 


   
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Ron
 Ron
(@zander)
Father of a miniature Wookie
Joined: 3 years ago
Posts: 6512
 

@robotbuilder For sure. There were no computers or courses about computers when I went to school. Much of my learning came from books.

First computer 1959. Retired from my own computer company 2004.
Hardware - Expert in 1401, and 360, fairly knowledge in PC plus numerous MPU's and MCU's
Major Languages - Machine language, 360 Macro Assembler, Intel Assembler, PLI/1, Pascal, C plus numerous job control and scripting languages.
Sure you can learn to be a programmer, it will take the same amount of time for me to learn to be a Doctor.


   
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