There is something enormously cool about inspiring people. Isn’t it fantastic to be around a person when something inside them clicks and they get a revelation about their current state of mind, life, future aspirations? That’s one of the reasons why I love teaching every once in a while. I think computer science is cool, interesting and provides a very special way of looking at the surrounding world, so how neat would it be to convince students that computer science isn’t boring at all, that it can be exciting, that it’s cooler than cheesecake? How great would it be to inspire them to try and pick computer science as their university course choice? Pretty cool, pretty neat and pretty great are the answers.
Blue Fusion is aimed at just that. In case you’re wondering Blue Fusion is an event that’s been running in IBM Hursley yearly for the past 20 years. Here’s how it goes: we invite schools to take part in the event, interested schools send teams of six students over to participate in activities developed by IBMers that are aimed at getting the children interested in science and technology. Throughout the day the teams participate in 6 activities each. Two teams win - one by overall score, the other - by winning the finale. The whole Blue Fusion event runs for a week with 12 teams of different schools participating daily. The first two days of the event are normally called Bright Sparks and are aimed at younger children - Year 8, whereas the last three days are for older students - Year 10. The kids come over, engage in fun and educational activities, learn about IBM, see how IBMers work and generally leave happy. Some of them get inspired, some don’t, but hey it would be a boring world if everyone had the same interests.
This year Jamie, Matt and I are in charge of Blue Fusion 2015. We have been working on setting up the event since late October and while there have been a few snags along the way - we are pretty happy with the way it is turning out. This year we wanted to focus specifically on the computer science aspect of the event. We came up with a few new activities, we came up with ways to update some of the old activities. Here’s what we’ve got:
- FortRon v2 - a modification of an earlier activity, where the player needs to complete levels by modifying their behaviour through changing/writing Python code. Aimed at introducing the basics of programming.
- Big Blue Rover v2 - another modification of an earlier activity, where the player chooses sequences of actions to program a rover to collect resources. Introduces the basics of conditional statements in programming.
- Evo Algo - a sidescroller game, where the students have to collect coins that they can then spend on changing different aspects of the evolutionary algorithm used in every iteration of a level. Demonstrates the basic concept of evolutionary algorithms. 8 AR - augmented reality activity, where the players need to scan the environment with a tablet to find virtual objects that help them complete Python coding puzzles. Introduces the concept of augmented reality and the basics of coding.
- Amazebots - an activity where the player gets to program a remote controlled RaspberryPi based robot to navigate through a maze. The activity is aimed to demonstrate how interconnected software and hardware are and how simple commands can affect the behaviour of a device.
- Infection - a game where the students have to add actions to their viruses to infect/destroy as much “data” in a provided environment as they can. The activity is aimed at demonstrating the basic behaviour of a virus.
Activities teams worked pretty hard on creating/modifying their stuff and, with Blue Fusion happening next week, it’s pretty exciting to anticipate what it’s going to be like; to watch everything we’ve planned and organized in the last months become tangible reality. Slightly scary, but mostly exciting.