Never to young to start?

30 October 2007

asheville family lego

I volunteer each week at my son's school, where he's in a gifted class. Lately, they've been working with Lego Mindstorms, as part of a unit on robotics. I'm helping with the "programming" parts. The kids assemble the robot according to the directions, and then we connect them to a Windows machine through the USB port.

The default programming environment is this drag'n'drop IDE where you connect blocks of actions, which can be parameterized.

If you want to see "agile development" in action, watch some 10-year-olds program robots.

They jump right in, drop in a block for a random-number generation, and then, um, they turn a light on, and move the robot forward a few seconds. Notice, the random number is never used. The kids just liked the look of that programming block. It was orange, and looked pretty next to the green block to drive the motors.

It's agile, but with YAGNI reversed. Who cares if they aren't going to need it?

Being a new-fangled "gifted" class, it's all about hands-on learning with very little pure instructional time. I quite had to fight the urge to teach the kids about use-cases and requirements engineering. I don't think you can even write unit tests in the visual Lego script.

They are only 10, after all, and it's Lego.

Of course, when you see ill-thought-out, buggy code in 15 years that has arbitrary un-used calls to Random.nextInt(), you can blame me, I guess.

Just Comes Natural

26 August 2007

asheville events fame family lego north-carolina

As a child, a friend of mine (my Attorney) and I were in the local paper for building a sprawling Lego city across my rumpus room.

This morning, my son continued the legacy, by winning a bring-your-own-Lego(tm) Transformer(tm)-construction competition.

The Asheville Citizen-Times wrote it up nicely.

HENDERSONVILLE – For Noah McWhirter, building Lego figures just comes natural. “I just build things with my wild imagination,” the 10-year-old Vance Elementary School fourth-grader said. “I don’t even think about them. I just make them.”

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Of course, I think part of the winning strategy was bringing The Intimidator Professional-Grade Toolbox, when most kids had some flimsy Tupperware or burlap sack. Bonus points for packing it to the gills with 1970s-era Lego(tm), inherited from dear ol' dad.

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