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10 most view post on the problem-solving blog - April 2020

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Problem-solving or computational Thinking

Confession time, this has been a research interest for me, along with a number of colleagues, since around 2005. It started with undergraduate students - investigating teaching and developing problem solving skills as a first step in developing programming skills through the use of LEGO-based robots and graphics based programming for undergraduate students. The main vehicle then for developing the problem-solving skills was the LEGO RCX Mindstorms robotics kits and series of gradually more challenging robot-based tasks. Lawhead et al (2003) stated that robots “…provide entry level programming students with a physical model to visually demonstrate concepts” and “the most important benefit of using robots in teaching introductory courses is the focus provided on learning language independent, persistent truths about programming and programming techniques. Robots readily illustrate the idea of computation as interaction”. Synergies can be made with our work and those one on pre-

Free Computing Resource: Junkbots and Scratch 1

The Junkbots project has been running for a number of years as an initiative to bring sustainability, computing and engineering together by building bots out of junk  details of the project can be found at. .  Junkbot is an extension of the Research into teaching problem-solving going on at the University of Northampton please feel to visit  for more details. One of the criticism of the robot programming part of the  Junkbots project  is not everyone necessarily gets a go at the programming. To address this a new feature has been added to the project, using Scratch to play with the ideas. This is the first of a set exercises to play with these ideas. The cleaning robot shown is loosely based on the LEGO Mindstorms RCX. The commands all in the My Blocks section Exercise 1: Moving the Robot Cleaner around.: Now go to

Pygame : Apollo Lander

In July 2019, I produced, using Pygame Zero and Python, a  (very) simple Apollo moonlander game - details on it can be found at . I wanted to test that I could do the same thing in PyGame (and Python) - literally can I do it.  The lander has to touch a red rectangle on the surface;  the mouse is used to move it in the correct direction.  When the lander touches the red rectangle: a sound is played the lander resets for another run; the target moves to a new location. Two images were used The lander image came from  shared by  Xfanmy.   This n eeded to be shrunk by about x10 to fit. Surface came from Vector Designed By from I am trying it out in Trinket (see below); so that there isn't a need to install Python or Pygame first. You can run it here if you just want to play. Have a go yourself and please f

Activity: Writing a translation program in Scratch

Scratch 3 the gift that keeps on giving; including the new extensions are Text to Speech and Translate; Text to speech - does as the name suggests, turns typed in phrases into speech via Amazon Web Services. Translate using Google (and I assume Google Translate?) to translate text between different languages. As an experiment, I wanted to play with clapping my hands, have Scratch the Cat ask me to enter a phrase and then convert that into French, German and Spanish with different voices. The resulting code is shown below. It is all started by a loud noise like a hand clap. The two extensions have been added to the blocks and are ready to go. The voice is initially set to Alto and the text-speech block has had the phrase "Please enter a phrase" typed in and says this. The ask block has the same question permanently set and the answer produced gets feed into the translations.  The remaining blocks do essentially the same thing - change the voice; - take the phrase ty

Activity: unplugged and plugged computing resource- Thomas' Tangles

In the  9th Edition  of the Hello World , Thomas' Tangles has been published (pg 74-75 just follow the link to download the whole magazine for free ), as part of an issue focussing on Computing and the Arts in schools. Hello World is a magazine for educators with an interest in computing and digital making, published by the Raspberry Pi Foundation. This activity is aimed at showing that using an algorithm, we can start producing drawings without a computer but with dice, squared paper and pens. Originally, it was developed as an unplugged (without a computer) activity within a chapter (co-written with Katherine Childs) on Computing and Arts  in the edited book Teaching Computing Unplugged in Primary Schools . The name Thomas' Tangles came from my son who developed the activity with me. An interesting thing to do  (well I enjoy it)  is to turn the idea in a Scratch version, for example as in tangles.  You

Build yourself a Crumble Eggbot from junk

Full details at There was three inspirations for this project ·       Eggbot - ·   Femi Owolade supported by Nic Hughes ran a session at Mozilla Festival 2016 using the Crumble’s to make a wheeled robot. ·   The junkbot project Kit ·       Kinder Egg (without the Chocolate and toy) ·       Crumble  also available at ·       4x Crocodile clips and leads ·       Battery pack and 3xAA ·       Vibrating motor ·       Tape (lots of) . Sticky-tack of some form. ·       Pens ·       Paper ·       Scissors ·       Glue and Gluegun (optional) Stage 1: Fix the vibrating motor into the Egg. Stick (sticky-tack is a good temporary method) the vibrating motor into the Egg w