I knew I had written about the song The Dollar before – I just didn’t realize it was so long ago.
We had our Dollar moment a few weeks ago.
I have taught some LEGO robotics courses for the DMA a few times. I’ve enjoyed it each time, but always left feeling a little guilty. Parents could have saved 2k by just buying the kit and doing a little web searching and playing with their own kids, instead of having me do it. But time and interest isn’t always there.
It hit a little closer to home last year, as I was dropping Sal off for his own 6 year old robot course summer school. They had some interesting kits, but were a bit pricey on eBay due to being discontinued. The replacement Mindstorms kits for kids wasn’t interesting to Sal though.
Especially after he went to the last day of the course I was teaching later in the summer. He really liked tweaking our full on NXT robot to compete with the other kids in the course. He wasn’t interested in downgrading to the elementary school version of their robotics kits when he had played with the big boys.
Still, when I threw out the option to have me go teach the class this year in San Diego, I thought with LegoLand there, it’d be slam dunk with the little guy.
“I want to do that!” he said.
It was going how I expected, but the phrasing was a little off. The way he said “that” seemed odd to me. So I probed a little more.
“I want to goto your class!” Not goto the beach and maybe the Wild Animal park, while I teach the class? “No, I want to do the class.” All day? “All day!” Every day? “Every day” he said with a huge grin.
Well, that wasn’t going to work.
Bottom line, I got my kid asking to teach him the stuff I’m teaching other kids. How could I focus on the other kids more than my own?
So this summer, I’m not teaching a DMA course, but instead, trying to figure out how to teach a 2nd-grader-to-be how to program. We’ll use the NXT kit I think, but I really think I’ll get more bang for the buck from the Scratch programming environment.
He’s played around with Scratch with his mom some afternoons. They had a game where you had to touch the ninja to score some points, then the ninja would jump away, and you’d have to go mouse over him again. Sal was really proud to tell me about how he had written a bug – since the game didn’t really end.
It’s a little sad, when one’s son’s way of mimicking one is by creating bugs. Says a lot about what he thinks of the quality of my work, huh?
Anyway, shameful example aside, we have talked abstractly about how we could define the game ending, and he had it in his head that he would want a big “THE END” to appear and when the color of those letters hit the color of the ninja, the game would be over.
We’ve also had long conversations about which came first, the chicken or the egg. He didn’t always see the connection.
But tonight, after his friend couldn’t make it over for some play time, to avoid any drama over the change in plans, we busted open Scratch and fixed up the game.
It was a pretty good first session. We defined the end of the game would be after X seconds. They have a very convenient timer that we made a lot of use out of. We added a game over background. Then we added another ninja, so you would have to avoid one while tagging the other. This second ninja had us doing a lot of copying each time we wanted to tweak something, so we got to talk about the responsibilities of each character in the game, and the background started to take over a lot more of the “management” of the game.
So he refactored a program already! And we had to debug some things. I don’t think he fully got the nuances behind the race condition we had when the game started and the initial state wasn’t set properly, but he did understand how message passing allowed us to have the stage tell each of the ninjas when to start running (which fixed our race condition). We are definitely hitting upon the notion of a controller.
Now, he’s dreaming of what’s next. I’m sure I’ll hear about it quite a bit tomorrow.
And I’m scared. And happy. And mainly glad that I’m going to be around to see it develop.
Here’s the game, if you want to try it out…and if you see the kid around sometime, I’m sure he’d love to talk to you about the game in more detail…