Code Week 2015: It’s official!

Plenty of activity has been taking place in the background.

Now the first press release has been published!

EU Code Week 2015 will take place between 10-18 October.

Ada Lovelace Day will also take place on 13 October.


Dough-Bots are Go!

So, the Riverside School Robo-Sharks made dough-bots this week.


Because every year with a new group of robot-builders, we need to go over some basic electronics before they can design and build a bot. So, we may as well have some fun and do something creative along the way.


The night before, I made two batches of dough – as per Squishy Circuits’ recipe. One batch was conductive dough (with a relatively high acid and salt content) – I left this in its natural colour. The other batch, I prefer to think of as ‘resistive’ dough rather than ‘insulating’. It had vegetable oil and sugar to replace the majority of the water and the salt content. I coloured this batch red so the two types were easy to tell apart.

I used an Arduino to test the difference in resistance between the two batches. Next time, I’ll probably write a simple script in Scratch to act as a graphical demonstration of the difference between the two and also show what happens to its resistance when you squish the playdough (playdough potentiometer, anyone?)…

I had decided to use coin cells rather than battery boxes with wires. Largely because I wanted to make compact, self contained dough-bots that the students could take away. However, the dough corrodes the surface of a coin cell alarmingly quickly. You have been warned…

We kneaded our dough and then arranged some simple circuits first of all to test the materials. The expression on people’s faces when they first see an LED  light up when stuck into playdough has to be seen.

Then, we started adding extra layers of resistive playdough around to shield parts of each structure, while adding extra pipes of conductive playdough to add more LEDs to a model where they were needed.

The End Result

Here are a few photos of some of the creations we made – it’s not easy to capture an image that allows enough light to  show off the detail of a doughbot while balancing the light given off by its LEDs

A partly-finished doughbot plant

A doughbot emergency vehicle

A doughbot dog

A doughbot monster

A doughbot lamp

Next week – Clay Alien Night Lights…



Coding is Fun – the Remix…

One of the great things about Scratch is the way that you can remix a project uploaded to the Scratch website.

Some time back I wrote a simple Concentration script. 16 cards face down, you need to pair them up to remove them. It’s not an original idea, but it’s interesting to look at other coders’ approaches to the problem.

According to the stats, there are several remixes of my old script bouncing about. So, I decided that a better “How do you say Coding is Fun?” challenge would be to add another remix to the pile. This one features eight languages. One of the things I’ve wondered about is whether a script that shuffles additional cards into the grid would be simple enough to add without it confusing someone looking at remixing it for themselves.

Anyway – here it is – enjoy…


Coding is Fun – politics less so…

So, I decided to do a simple Scratch script today…

Click on a country, and it will tell you how they say “Coding is Fun!”

The script was simple enough – create a tiny mouse-follower sprite that is almost invisible. Use that to detect what colour it is in contact with when you click the mouse over the map.

The first map I found at had a couple of problems. The Czech Republic and Slovakia were still Czechoslovakia. Also, Denmark had disappeared…

So, I started the search again. Found a suitable map – and hoped that Google translate could help me with the languages I have little knowledge of. Apologies to native speakers if my guess at how to say “Coding is fun” is way off the mark.

But then, what to do about Cyprus, Belgium, various parts of southern Spain or even Wales?

It seemed to be such a good idea at the time…


My Code Week Gallery

So, in the run up to Code Week, I’m uploading some fun, simple Scratch programs to a studio on the Scratch website…

Here’s today’s offering:



Four weeks until Code Week!

Last week was busy. It started with a presentation for the Google in Education online summit. I spoke on the theme “Turning Ideas into Reality” – which is what Code Week is all about. It’s also the slogan on a big banner that has graced my classroom for the past year.

One of my observations was that I sometimes feel like a “one trick pony” because for much of my teaching career, I’ve been delivering the same message – even when it has been highly unpopular to say it: that children can learn essential problem-solving skills and develop higher-order thinking skills through creating their own interactive multimedia applications to demonstrate their mastery of a subject.

In the next four weeks we’re going to see an explosion of creativity across Europe with hundreds of events put on to show how much fun coding can be.

On Monday and Tuesday of this week we held a couple of preliminary events to chat about what we could put on in our city for Code Week. There’s enough interest in putting on an introductory hour of code for people in our local community. We’ll have that up as a Code Week event as soon as we’ve finished the planning for it. We’ll also do something special for Ada Lovelace Day and a “Code as Art” competition, I’ll say more about these in another post…


ScratchJr is here!

Some of you might remember the Kickstarter campaign for ScratchJr – a crowdfunded version of Scratch aimed at younger users and optimised for tablets. You can now download the iPad version from the ScratchJr website where you can also find some starter cards and other useful resources to help get you going.


Learn How To Code…

Neelie Kroes invites you to take part in Code Week:


Coding is Fun! the video…

Here’s the official video for Code Week – enjoy!


Hello world!

The default post here is entitled “Hello World!”.

That’s usually the first thing you try to do when writing a program. There’s even a web page with 300 examples of how to write a “Hello World” program in a bewildering variety of languages.

Personally, I prefer to see if I can write a “High-Low” guess the number game as a first program…