Programming Games

At our Programming Club meeting this week, Adam and I veered from the usual course of events. It was our first meeting since winter break and we had a new student who’s in special ed programs.

For that kid, I started him off on Scratch, which is a hugely visual programming language for beginners. He played around a little bit with everything, and proved to be super adept at finding images that interested him online and using them in his programs. I think that’s a useful strength that Scratch has, as that’s an easy way to get most any kid engaged. Next week we’ll take another stab at actually building something with the different commands.

For the other kids, we had planned to start by playing Light Bot (can be found many places online with a search), and then work through a handout introducing arrays. But we only had 3 students who weren’t on Scratch, so Adam brought out his iPad and showed them the game I just found called Cargo-Bot. Both “Bot” games make students create little programs in order to reach a desired end. Cargo-Bot is hugely different from usual programming because of how extremely limited your commands, and the number of commands that you get, are. This is extremely useful for what we’re trying to do with our club — aka, introduce new topics by showing them that the stuff they’ve been doing takes too much work.

I take issue with two things in Cargo-Bot:

  1. The song has 8 counts of repeating the same two notes over and over and over again. It makes me feel unwell.
  2. The puzzles get hard REALLY fast. Our group spent about half an hour on one puzzle and we had to leave before we finished it. Admittedly they would have stayed if we had let them, but I felt that the meeting had carried on for long enough at that point.

So, perhaps we’ll get to arrays next week. But I do think these games are nice for reinforcing the habits of using recursion and conditionals to build an elegant program.

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