Category Archives: STEM Education

Most popular programming languages?

There are many surveys of programming language popularity. Many of the popular surveys have problems with the survey methodology such that they likely produce erroneous estimates of programming language popularity. For example, one survey looks at how many times each programming language is looked up on Internet search systems.

The chart, below, comes from GitHub and bases popularity on the number of “pull requests” that are made to the GitHub software repository. Using this method, JavaScript is the most popular programming language, followed by Python, Java, Ruby and PHP.

Python has become a standard for use by non-computer science students. Whether your college studies be in mechanical engineering or geology, there is a good chance you will learn Python for data analysis projects.

Java is now an old programming language, but still used especially for Android programming. It’s popularity for desktop applications is starting to diminish.

Ruby become popular about ten years ago. Ruby is based on a concept of “frameworks” that provide pre-made program skeletons which you adapt to make your own application. Ruby is very popular for quickly creating web-based applications.

PHP pre-dates Ruby – PHP is a script language that runs on the server side of a web application. PHP is very easy to learn and couples easily with MySQL databases, making the combination a great solution for web-based, database-backed applications.

Finally we get to the “C” derived languages including C, C++ and Microsoft’s cousin C# (a very powerful language with great development tools.). C dates back to about 1970 or so.

C++ was developed in the 1980s and added object oriented programming to C and has since expanded in many ways. C and C++ are commonly “compiled” into machine instructions for each CPU and are used for high performance applications, including operating systems, video games and media applications.

C# has features resembling Java and C++ – but in a more modern design. In some ways, C# is where some wish C++ had gone

Capture

MIT Professor Seymour Papert, passed away 31 July 2016

MIT Professor Seymour Papert was a forward looking visionary who pioneered the adoption of computing concepts in children’s education, including the development of Logo, Mindstorms and turtle programming. His distant work back in the 1960s and 1970s lay the foundation for today’s use of MIT App Inventor in children’s education. His contributions to education and computing are greatly appreciated.

Much more about Paupert’s background may be read in the NY Times or in this essay by a colleague here.

Fewer professional coders in the future?

That is the actual future of software development: It will become so easy and second nature, that for ordinary tasks you won’t even have to think about it.

Source: Dear Google, the future is fewer people writing code | TechCrunch

Tools like MIT App Inventor, and others, are making programming so easy that it no longer requires extensive training and high levels skills to create many types of useful programs.

Specifically,

Writing code will become less and less necessary, making software development more accessible to everyone. This will allow people to solve new and unique problems for themselves, and true software engineers will continue to find ways to empower others through various platforms.

We used to call people who wrote programs, programmers. Later, this was change to titles like software developer, software engineer or sometimes computer engineer. Today, the media has short circuited the entire field to just “coders”, which seems like a downgrading of skills and title.

A “switch board” user interface panel for App Inventor apps

In the last post, we introduced some concepts for building “creative” App Inventor user interfaces that feature visually appealing user interface controls rather than the usual bland buttons.

In this post, we look at creating an array of toggle switches. Tapping a switch flips the switch from left to right, or right to left.

Concepts

In developing this user interface, we learn two concepts:

  1. We expand on the previous post and its use of images to create custom buttons.
  2. We see how a user interface control can be stored in a list and referenced like a variable within our apps.

Source code:

The User Interface

I called my app “Mission Control” because any good mission control panel needs lots of switches!

The user interface features 9 toggle switches in a 3 x 3 array. The purpose of this app is to demonstrate how to implement this type of interface – the app does not otherwise do anything interesting.

Tapping any toggle switch causes the switch lever to move to the other side of the switch. Here is a screen shot showing some toggle switches to the left and some to the right.

Screenshot_20160204-140323The Designer View

Continue reading A “switch board” user interface panel for App Inventor apps

Making “pretty” App Inventor user interface controls

In the real world, “user interfaces” look like electric light switches, push buttons or control knobs, temperature dials on ovens, volume controls on radios and so forth. We can mimic these types of controls for our touch screen Android apps. We do not have to rely on the boring desktop-like clickable button or checkboxes in the App Inventor user interface palette.

A previous tutorial showed a trick to make the color of a button vary continuously. This tutorial shows how to use our own images, instead of the boring button, together with a bit of code to bring these buttons to life.

User Interface View

Below is a sample “toggle switch”. Press the switch icon once and the toggle moves to the right; press it again and the toggle moves back to the left.

toggleswitch1

toggleswitch2

Here is a slide switch. Press the slide switch once and the switch position moves to the right and the switch illuminates in green. Press the slide switch again and the switch returns to the left.

switch1

switch3

Here is a concept for a raised momentary push button. Pressing the button changes the appearance of the button while your finger is on the button – to look like the button is pressed in.

UI1

UI2

The Designer View

Continue reading Making “pretty” App Inventor user interface controls

What if your App Inventor apps had cooler user interface controls?

How about this – a panel full of toggle switches! Tap a switch to flip the switch from On to Off!

Screenshot_20160118-164605I will soon post a tutorial on creating simpler interfaces than the above, but that will be followed by a tutorial to create the above “panel of toggle switches”.

I have ideas for many interesting interface components – I do not yet know if all of them can be built in App Inventor – but we will see!

Writing Android apps in Javascript

Another way to develop apps for Android is to write apps in the Javascript program scripting language (note – Javascript is not related to Java, in spite of the similar name). By using a special platform called Cordova, it is possible to package Javascript programs into a self contained Android .apk file that runs on the Android OS.

Even better – it is possible to package your Javascript app, using Cordova, into forms that run on iOS (iPhones and iPad) and Windows Phone too!

Continue reading Writing Android apps in Javascript