Inspiring Ingenuity

Alteryx, Bicycles and Teaching Kids Programming.


End of an era

Radio Shack is on its way out.  I was probably about 10 years old when my mom bought me a TRS-80 Model 1 (but level 2!) computer.  Although I had previously learned a little programming on my school’s time shared access to a PDP-11, this was my 1st computer that was all mine. Continue reading

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Raspberry Pi

My wonderful wife Nathalie surprised me this Christmas with a new computer!  That makes it sound like so much more than it really is though…  She gave me a Raspberry Pi, which is, by design, the most inexpensive fully functional computer ever, and maybe the smallest too.  It really was an awesome gift though, because a true geek loves nothing like learning, and the Pi is the ultimate learning/teaching computer. Continue reading


Teaching Science to Kids: MythBusters

MythbustersOur kids love the MythBusters.  We don’t have cable TV, but we do have Netflix, and they are happy to watch Mythbusters as long as we will let them.  This week the Denver Museum of Nature and Science opened MythBusters: The Explosive Exhibition.  Being members, we were invited to go to the special opening where we got to meet Kari and Tory.  The kids were so excited they could barely contain themselves.  Kari and Tory were so kind to our kids – they really were wonderful.  I am happy to hold them up as role models for our kids. Continue reading


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Teaching Kids to Program: How Young?

ImageNathalie and I started teaching our kids to program on our own without doing a whole lot of research on how other kids were being taught.  I learned how to program at a very young age, largely on my own, so I never doubted that they could learn.  The question is just how early to start.  Having kids in the house ages 6, 8 & 9, I was confident the 8 & 9 year olds would have no problems (having started myself at age 8), but I was a little skeptical of teaching the 6-year-old. Continue reading


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Lego Robot: A Mazing

With all the flooding and rain we have had in Boulder, all the trails are closed and most of the roads, so road biking, mountain biking & even trail running are all out…  So I guess it was the day to build a robot.

SONY DSCI have been wanting to build a robot that could navigate a maze.  We had previously played with the Robo Puppy, but with the casters for feet and the long neck, there was too much floppiness and it just couldn’t move very accurately.  Every time you sent a move command to it, it would lurch to one side or the other based on how the caster were sitting at the time.  Also the distance sensor was getting confused, I think partly due to be a little too high and partly due to its nose being in the way.  Clearly, we needed to start over with the hardware design.

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Teaching Kids to Program: Pong

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Last time I introduced the concept of teaching kids to program.  Can kids really program?  Let start by skipping to the end.  Click on the game on the left and play it for a bit…  I can wait.

Its fun, right?  Very simple but fun.  Our 8 year old was at the keyboard to make this game.  I was there for coaching and support, but all the design and behaviors came from the kids together and was “coded” by an 8 year old.

Programming with kids is no different that programming for a living.  You need to start with a plan.  It is OK, and even encouraged to diverge from the plan from the beginning, but you have to have an idea of where you want to go and you have to know where to start.  In this case we set out to write the classic Pong game.  We had no idea if we could do it in one session or how long it would take, but every journey begins with a step. Continue reading


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Teaching Kids How to Program

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Robo Puppy!

When I was 8 years old (or so, my memory isn’t very good any more), my school got access to a PDP-11 computer owned by another school 3 towns away.  We had 8 terminals running over a dedicated 2400 baud leased line, which gave us a whopping 300 baud connection at any given terminal.  At the time I couldn’t imagine needing more than 300 baud, since that was about as fast as I could read, why would anyone need more?

Being an 8 year old kid, my primary interest was playing games.  If memory serves me right, the only games available were the original Colossal Cave Adventure and a game called Skis where you had to build a business selling skis or something.  Of course I wanted more.  Someone handed me a copy of BASIC Computer Games and after hours of typing I was off and playing amazing games like Hunt the Wumpus!  Having to type in the source code was a quick jump start to learning how to program. Continue reading