The teachers walk out of their classrooms to their assigned places, and in theory, the children should follow in single line, calm and quiet. It’s Friday, as far as the children are concerned it’s the weekend, and so nothing is calm. I’m waiting for my daughter, but this time she’ll stay with her mother for 30 minutes, I have a meeting with a teacher, CodeBug in my laptop bag.
Parents come and go to collect their children, the remaining children are taken to a playground to let them relax a little, and my contact comes to shake my hand, and invites me into his classroom. It’s an interesting layout; a fairly large room with a separation, one classroom for everyone, and a small “workshop” for specific activities. I sit down and immediately bang my knee on the drawer under the desk. My one meter 85, six feet something build is not designed for sitting at a desk for an 8-year old, but it does have the advantage of relaxing the atmosphere. That and anesthetizing my leg.
I start by explaining what I want to do. This is who I am, this is what I do. I’m a part-time lecturer, I’m an author, and I want to get kids into engineering. I hope to achieve that with the CodeBug. I take the CodeBug out, and hand it to him. He looks it over, discreetly looking and testing to see if it is solid or not. It is. Next I show him the accessories I have; the star with LEDs, the separate RGB LEDs, and the crocodile clips.
Time to start. The first application is show is the typical “Hello, world!” application. His name is Benoit, so that’s what I’ll write. Using a touchscreen helps to get the point across; no mouse, no typing except for the name, and away you go. The CodeBug is flashed, and his name flashes across the screen. He’s interested.
Next up, something more interesting for the kids. With three variable resistors and the star, I upload an application I made earlier. By turning the resistors, you can add red, green and yellow components. He fiddles with the dials, nodding approvingly. I’m almost there.
Last demonstration. I tell him the truth, that I’m terrible with names. So I program the CodeBug, this time in front of him. It is a modification of the fruit keyboard; “Benoit” is assigned to pin 0, “other student” to pin 1, and “someone” to pin 2. I didn’t have enough inspiration for a fourth student name, but it works with 4. I flashed it, and nothing happened. I connected a crocodile clip, and told Benoit to hold the metal part. “Come on, trust me!”. Sheepishly, he does so. I take the ground clip, and hold it in one hand. Then I tell him – Okay, I’m terrible with names. So, this bug is going to help me. All I have to do is touch you, and the CodeBug will tell me who you are. As I say that, I briefly touch his other hand, and the CodeBug prints out his name. He looks at the CodeBug for a few seconds, and asks “May I?” Sure, go ahead. With the ground crocodile clip in his hand, he touches the feet; different names flash up. I tell him to imagine 4 students holding their clips, and then simply touching the teacher’s hand, or the table’s frame, or anything, really. Maybe this can become a game; the first to get the answer to a question touches something, and his name is shown. I can see the ideas flashing in his mind, and before even talking about the details, he asks when I can come. It’s the holidays soon, so this will have to wait until May, but he is very, very interested, and wants me to come. I’ve already received a text message since confirming that.
The final step was to think about what could be done with the CodeBug, and what examples could be used to get them hooked. Apparently, I already did a pretty good job. I now have a few weekends left to create some example applications.