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programming tool -language for children

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2 of my grandchildren is between 8 and 10 years.  Wanted to get them interested in "programing" . Someone that have recomendation in tools to use. Thinking to start with a launchpad and a robot-kit as a line-followr. Have someone of you experiens?  Any recomendation in a starter-kit? Are there "programming tool" for children. I know that LEGO has this, but they is expensive to startup,

rgds

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There is MPY which is very easy to use (he says shamelessly), it uses a subset of Python to program a Launchpad.

Or there is the Micro Python board which runs a full implementation of Python.   http://micropython.org/

 

Python is now the most popular introductory language. 

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Not necessarily related to microcontrollers directly, but I have seen several free/inexpensive phone apps out there which are games that introduce basic programming concepts. One that I've played is called light-bot, but I know there are many many others like it - that one you are controlling a robot and telling it what to do by writing a program using a sequence of commands, trying to complete an objective, and it's all done graphically. It starts really basic (commands are basically arrows and symbols for going straight, turning, jumping), but later levels even start to introduce concepts like loops and function calls. Then maybe you can use something like that to ease them into writing real code for a real robot, because you'd already have some programming concepts understood :-)

 

For something more hands on, there are some things out there like this: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2105764235/rekam-dr1-smartphone-programmable-car-program-on-t where you can control a small robot with fairly basic commands from your phone. I used something very similar with a group of high school kids that had never seen code in their life, and they picked it up really quickly - I bet younger kids could do it too.

 

-Katie

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The trick is keeping them interested long enough to learn something. Dealing with short attention spans is always a problem- immediate feedback / results are required. You can't hand a child a Launchpad and expect more than them flashing the LED's when they push a button on it, and then they're bored asking you things like 'now what'? More functionality requires additional hardware, and now you're trying to teach electronics engineering while teaching programming.

 

My 9 y/o nephew is somewhat fascinated by the tools and things I have here in my room but would rather build things with Lego's. Maybe start there, then segue into using NXT and other things with the Lego's?

 

And by all means enforce the concept that there are many paths to a destination. Python is good for some things while Java and Basic are good for others; C and its derivatives are good for things too. But nothing is worth anything if the underlying hardware isn't well understood.

 

 

... and I find myself still trying to come to grips with it all....

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Other languages (for children/education, not particularly for embedded): Squeak and Logo

 

Consider:

What are the children interested in?  (i.e. what do they like to do, etc.)  What do they have to do?

What could enhance their understanding, enjoyment, efficiency by applying programming to things that are relevant to them?

Figure out how programming could be relevant to what they want or need, how it could genuinely enhance their activities,

then what tools do they need to achieve that (what devices need to be programmed, what languages, etc.)

Then they may get interested in programming to the extent that it fulfills their other desires.  Which is probably about

as interesting as programming gets for most people.  If they get further intrigued with programming and want to pursue it,

great, if not - well they have a little familiarity with it as a tool and may know better how to recognize tasks that would benefit from programming.

(i.e., Before you do programming, do systems analysis.)

 

Of course first question is why get them interested in programming?

(Considering health cautions about too much screen time, especially for children, etc.)

 

Not that I have any objection to programming - it can be a useful tool, and for some (like me) it can be a fun intellectual exercise.

But too often computers/programming/etc. are seen as an ends, rather than a means to an ends.
(Like people using desktop publishing to do a grocery list, where the back of an envelope would do.)

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For the propeller there is the (non free) 12 blocks

http://onerobot.org/products/12blocks/

 

A similar tool is available for free for android phones.

http://appinventor.mit.edu/explore/

 

You can access sensors, but it's rather limited. Anyway it's a nice starting point..

 

Massimo

Concerning the Propeller / P8X32A, there's also "BlocklyProp", which is open source and free, but also still under development. However, it does appear to be progressing nicely.

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I thought that I saw @@adrianF demo mod kit on launchpad once.

 

Teaching kids to program is really hard, I made a slight attempt with my 9 year old nephew. He's really sharp but couldn't focus long enough to make sense of it. Frustrating to say the least I don't know if they are just overstimulated or it it is an age thing. I guess that I was 13 when I learned to program.

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