Mardi Shakti has created an MIT App Inventor Study Group on Facebook. Check it out!
Raspberry Pi 2 is a US$ 35 computer board to which you attach a monitor, keyboard, mouse and Ethernet connection. You can use the Pi 2 for web browsing and other functions, but it also comes with Scratch.
Scratch is a programming system that is very similar to MIT App Inventor. You can learn more about Scratch in our previous post on that topic!
But because one of Raspberry Pi’s goals is to advance computer science education, there’s a few pieces of bundled software that can help achieve that goal. This includes a drag-and-drop visual programming language called Scratch (great for beginners to create animations and games), as well as Sonic Pi (for creating electronic music) and more advanced programming languages like Python (also included).
And speaking of STEM, here are some videos from yesterday’s Oregon City FRC FIRST Robotics Pacific Northwest District 2 (Oregon) robotics competition. 35 high school robotic teams took part, with Team #4488 “Shockwave” taking first by total points. I am biased: I am a volunteer engineering mentor with the Shockwave team, from Glencoe High School, Hillsboro, Oregon. Go Shockwave!
Press Release – January 14, 2015 | USFIRST.org.
New Movie Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, George Lopez, Carlos PenaVega, and Marisa Tomei Highlights FIRST® Students’ Famous Underdog Robotic Victory against MIT
‘Spare Parts’ Debuts in Theaters Nationwide on January 16 Featuring Robots Built by FIRST Teams.
Watch the Spare Parts movie trailer on Youtube here.
FIRST Robotics is not App Inventor, but FIRST is a high visibility showcase of youth STEM programs. Since 2008, I have been a volunteer engineering mentor with high school FIRST Robotics teams. The 2015 FIRST robotics competition season is underway now.
To learn more about FIRST Robotics in your area, or to start a team, visit USFIRST.ORG.
The team where I volunteer (Shockwave Team #4488!!!!!) has implemented several Android apps using MIT App Inventor. One of their apps, a robotic-themed game based on the 2015 competition, is available in the Google Play store as a free download. Other apps are used by the team during competition to collect data on other teams, which is then analyzed in an Excel spreadsheet (written using Visual Basic for Applications code) to develop optimal competitive game strategies.
(Sorry for no new App Inventor code examples this week – had an ear infection for a few days that caused dizziness. Everything is okay now!)
Blockly is the block code editor used in App Inventor. Blockly provides a way to write programs by arranging blocks of code, rather than writing out traditional “source code” text programs.
This approach is helpful for new programmers who can focus on the programming – and not the details of the structure of the programming language (of which there are many in programming languages like Java, C/C++, and C#).
App Inventor is an amazing way to create Android applications. You don’t need to be able to program to use it, but if you can then all the better.
All I can say is that as a programmer this is the first time in quite a while that a development environment and its associated “language” has brought a smile to my face. It’s not perfect, but if you give it a little room to grown on you might just smile as well.
Although App Inventor is sometime described as an educational toy that you can use to get kids interested in programming, don’t let this fool you into thinking that you can’t do real things with it. It makes a very good prototyping facility and a couple of the prototypes that I have created have actually ended up as final apps that are still in use.
I have the same thoughts about App Inventor too. App Inventor is much bigger than a tool for teaching programming.
Click the link, above, to learn how to select your desired language for the App Inventor interface.
Separately, Part 1 of my App Inventor Bluetooth tutorial may be published on Friday. Because the tutorial covers a lot, the tutorial will be split into a least two separate blog posts.
I also now have Bluetooth electronic parts to support Bluetooth connection on on my Arduino boards. I intend to use those parts to set up a wireless link between my Android phone and the Arduino – which opens up interesting possibilities such as using the Android phone to remote control an Arduino project.
Arduino is a low cost, simple to program microcontroller board. A microcontroller is a very small computer on a single chip. The Arduino board has a number of input and output pins that can be used to control lights, motors and other devices, and can process incoming electrical signals. For example, the Arduino has an on board Analog to Digital Converter (ADC) that converts input voltages of 0 to 5 volts to a number. I used the ADC feature in a project to measure voltage and current consumed by a particular smart phone, for evaluating the impact that algorithm choice has on battery power consumed and the life of the battery. (An “algorithm” is what we call a set of instructions to perform a certain task. For example, a sorting algorithm is a set of rules to sort values into ascending or descending order.)
With a wireless link between the Arduino and the Android phone, we can have sensors (like temperature, or light intensity) that are measured by the Arduino board, and then send those values to an app running on the Android phone. The phone could then, perhaps, process the external sensor data or collect it and send it on to the Internet.
The total number of MIT App Inventor registered users has reached 2.7 million.
My guess is the number went up, in part, due to the “Hour of Code” project in December, which provided young students with very brief introductions to many types of programming.
I just noticed the updated statistics at the appinventor.mit.edu web site:
- Weekly Active Users: 102K
- Total Registered Users: 2.5M
- Countries: 195
- Apps Built: 6.8M