[Edu-sig] Programming in High School

Winston Wolff winstonw at stratolab.com
Wed Dec 10 18:23:39 CET 2008

I agree that finding relevant problems that are easily solved with a  
quickie program is hard to find. One idea I've been toying with at  
Stratolab from our programming coures is having a programming game to  
artificially create interesting quickie programs.

How about Robot Wars of the past, but you are writing your robot's  
logic in Python? Each student writes a little program, drops them into  
a folder on the network.  The teacher's computer is running an Arena /  
Simulation. It checks the folder and loads any programs there and  
starts the simulation. Robots that die get deleted from the folder so  
students have to rewrite it and drop new copies in to see if they  


On Dec 10, 2008, at 12:12 PM, Warren Sande wrote:

> David MacQuigg wrote:
> >We need lots of examples where programming is useful to non- 
> programmers.  I already mentioned the real estate agent
> > needing to digest some data from the property appraisers office.   
> For the shop teacher: How about a homeowner wanting
> > to lay tiles, avoid wastage, and slivers that look bad along the  
> edge.  If you know Python, it is quicker to write a little
> > program than find one, purchase and install it, read the manual,  
> struggle with a bunch of stuff you don't really need,
> > and maybe not get what you want in the end.  I can think of lots  
> of examples in engineering, but they are not ordinary
> > problems that would seem relevant to high school students.  What  
> we need is a collection of relevant problems,
> > easily solved with a quickie program.
> These are not so easy to find.  For many of these types of problems,  
> creating a spreadsheet is more efficient that writing a program.   
> (Why re-invent the wheel?)  One could argue that having more people  
> know how to use Excel is a good thing and goes part of the way to  
> having a population that's more savvy at computers/math/problem- 
> solving.  That's another discussion.
> But the criteria of "relevant problems, easily solved with a quickie  
> program" is tough to meet.  Not much gets through that filter.   
> Problems that are relevant and complicated enough to be interesting  
> usually require a moderately complex program to solve them.  The non- 
> programmer has to make at least some investment in learning the  
> basics (variables, loops, control structures, operators, lists, I/O)  
> before taking on even the simplest problem-solving using a program.   
> So we need to convince people that it's:  a) not that hard   and    
> b) worth it.
> Warren Sande.
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Winston Wolff
Stratolab - Computer Courses for Teens and Kids
(646) 827-2242 - http://stratolab.com

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