What does an 8-year old girl think about robots? A very short story about “The Smallest Robot” – “De allerkleinste robot”

1 Comment


As followers of this blog may have already noticed, I’ve been giving introductory programming classes to children and nowadays I have a student who is 12 years old. During our lessons, her sister (8 years old) is always very curious about what we talk about and she is generally surprised at what her elder sister can do with Scratch. A few weeks ago, with the help of a robotics book, I gave a lesson about robotics and prepared an assignment to create a very simple robotics simulator in which a hand-drawn robot should go around an obstacle and reach the treasure box. Next week, to my astonishment, not only did I receive a simple and interesting Scratch program from my student, but also a short story on robots from her little sister. The story is titled “De allerkleinste robot” and it is about very little robots, witches and wizards. I have to admit that I’m totally speechless when it comes to the imagination of a child:

De allerkleinste robot - The smallest robot

De allerkleinste robot - The smallest robot

Advertisements

What to do with your kids on a weekend? Visit the European Astronaut Centre on German Aerospace Day

3 Comments


There is an excellent opportunity for parents living in Belgium (or anywhere that is not far from Cologne, Germany) that presents itself every two years: German Aerospace Day. The latest event took place last year, and unfortunately our son was just a few months old then. Thus I decided to take a field trip and get familiar with the environment, so that maybe next time (or four years later) I can take him to this wonderfully exciting event in which a child can ask questions directly to the astronauts or walk inside the 1:1 scaled of International Space Station‘s Columbus module. And then maybe go through the initial procedures of applying for being an astronaut. On the more adventurous side, he can join the other children and build rockets, and then test them in real-time 😉 (Well, I’m sure some parents will have at least as much as their children, if not more.)

German Aerospace Day

German Aerospace Day

More

Programming for Kids – Action Time – Part 2 – Too young to hack?

Leave a comment


Too young to hack?

Too young to hack?


I had the great opportunity to attend to the second meeting of Devoxx4Kids yesterday evening. The main difference from the first one was the fewer number of people, but this in no way translated into a lack of enthusiasm or the intensity of brainstorming combined with fantastic surprises and toys.

We had our special guests from Dwengo, a Belgian non-profit that produces great electronic programmable boards (“everything in one package, better than Arduino” they say), as well as different types of robots and aim to bring together young minds and easily hackable systems together. After witnessing their demonstrations at the Robocup Junior event a few weeks ago, it was a serendipity for me to meet the creators of those systems in person.

I especially enjoyed the demonstration part during which the Dwengo founder took his Android smartphone, established a Bluetooth connection with the little Bluetooth chip add-on on the Dwengo robot and started to control the robot remotely, simply by moving his Android phone in different directions and speeds.

Later we compared the visual programming language developed by the Dwengo team, Dwengo Blocks, with the Scratch programming environment from MIT. It was nice to see that different teams from different parts of the world is converging when it comes to helping kids to learn program: Visual, yet powerful and flexible programming languages, browser-based, no-installation-needed programming environments, the ability to see behind-the-scenes of the visual program and the ability to control physical objects that act upon the real world.

Phones these days...

Phones these days...

For me, one of the most important outcomes of this meeting is that things started to take shape and we are on our way to work on creating a short, one-day educational introduction to computational creativity and thinking, as well as robotics and electronics. Thanks to the energy and organizational experience of Stephan Janssen and substantial input from the experienced group members such as Tasha Carl (of sagan.be fame), it seems like the result is going to be more than exciting.

Our son, now almost 9 months old is still too young for learning programming but I consider these meetings and the collaboration to follow a wonderful and great opportunity to prepare myself for the next years. I’m sure when he grows up he’ll be facing different technologies than what is available today but it is comforting to know that the grand unifying themes of computational thinking do not change that fast, and hopefully by the time he can understand what I say, I’ll be a much better guide.

Programming for Kids – Robocup Junior 2012 @ Technopolis

1 Comment


Robocup Junior - Technopolis 2012

Robocup Junior - Technopolis 2012

Thanks to the members of Devoxx4Kids, I have recently learned about a very interesting event: Robocup Junior 2012. This year’s event is organized at Technopolis, so I decided to go there with my wife and 8 month old son today (well, it is never too early to start, right?).

I was really surprised by the number of children at the event. The robotics tournament took place at a hall and most of the kids were either rushing to place their various robots on different challenge tracks, or very concentrated and busy on their laptops, trying to do the last minute bug fixes.

From robots running for rescue missions, to the ones that solved Rubik’s cube, the event was full of excitement, hacking and creativity. I also had the chance to drop by the Dwengo stand to see their robotics kit, powered by the famous Dwengo board. All that is left to do now is to find out how I can introduce all of this robotics to my students who learn programming in Scratch.

Below you can watch a slideshow of photos from the event.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

%d bloggers like this: