Category Archives: STEM Education

“Visual Development” system for Arduino

As you know, MIT App Inventor is a graphical-based programming system, or a “visual development” system where programs are constructed by dragging and dropping “blocks” onto a Blocks editor.

Arduino, which we mentioned in conjunction with our Bluetooth interface code, is a microcontroller system that is normally programmed in a language similar to the C++ programming language – which is text-based.

Mitov Softwware has introduced a new visual programming system for Arduino. I have not yet had a chance to try this out – the software is in “Beta” test phase and is not yet generally available.

The simplicity of an App Inventor type programming environment might then be available for Arduino applications. This is very exciting. It may be helpful for enabling more kinds of people, with different types of backgrounds than software developers(!) to write code for Arduino boards.

Program Arduino boards visually, fast and easy with Visuino #Visuino #Arduino

Source: Visuino – Visual Development for Arduino by Mitov Software

I have used this screen shot from their web site to illustrate the general idea – really looking forward to trying this out!

screenshot-03

MIT App Inventor usage triples during 2014-2015 school year

Source: MIT App Inventor usage for 2014-2015 Academic Year

As they point out, the cyclical ups and downs in usage suggest App Inventor is primarily used by students – with drop off in usage during school vacation periods.

That suggests an opportunity to expand usage of MIT App Inventor – by insuring that AI2 appeals to a wide audience of potential app developers and not just educational programs!

“Why Learning to Code is So Damn Hard”

Click through for the full post at Viking Code School – as they say, the early part can be easy, then things get tougher, followed by a challenging learning period – until confidence and skills flourish.

What every beginner absolutely needs to know about the journey ahead

Source: Why Learning to Code is So Damn Hard

MIT App Inventor makes many things easier – but eventually one must learn to think like a software developer and become familiar with concepts like data structures, algorithms, design patterns, and software engineering design and project management.

Raspberry Pi 2 (US $35) computer board features Scratch

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).

via Surf Report: Taking a bite out of Raspberry Pi.

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!

Continue reading Raspberry Pi 2 (US $35) computer board features Scratch

Motion picture highlights high school robotics

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!)