Championship Saturday…

…or … an opportunity to try out a little introduction to programming

I’ve always wanted to try to write something with Google’s Breadcrumb programming environment.  This is a simple introductory programming interface for text only content suitable for display on a computer screen or your web enabled smart phone.

As an introduction to programming, it has the components for sequencing and branching to introduce the concepts without learning a great deal of the jargon required for professional programming languages.  It’s all text based with just a couple of instructions and you’re ready to go.  Without dating myself too much, remember Zork?  You could conceivably write your own adventure game with the power of this language and run it on your phone.

Yesterday afternoon presented some perfect content for me to mess around with.  Amid other household things, I enjoyed the racing from Churchill Downs.  When the racing was done, I thought – wouldn’t it be handy to have all the results in the palm of your hand?  I now had my impetus to do this.

Learning the syntax and how sequencing and branching worked took maybe 10 minutes and before long I had a prototype up and running.  It was just a matter of gathering the results from the races and write it into the program.  A sampling of the code appears below.

(1) Churchill Downs

Louisville, Kentucky

Breeder’s Cup World Championship

November 6, 2010

Mostly Sunny
High: 47, Low: 29

Will this be Zenyatta’s special day?

[Click to see results from Race 1] (2)

(2) Race 1

6 Furlongs Dirt

Purse $50,000 Allowance

Daily Double / Exacta / Trifecta / Superfecta Pick 3 (races 1-2-3) / Pick 4 (races 1-2-3-4)

8 Devils Humor
6 Speightful Lady
3 Scoring Chick

[Click to restart] (1)

[Click to see results from Race 2] (3)

While it’s interesting to look at as a concept, I’m also thinking of the value of this for students.  Rather than letting all of the complications of a language get in the road, you can focus entirely on the finished product and the logic required to create it.  Wouldn’t this be a handy way for students to write their own language reference summary?  It would be entirely available on their cell phone for reference as they do their own programming in a more sophisticated language.

So, I created my Churchill Downs results program.  The application does two other helpful things.   First of all, it creates a flowchart illustrating the logic in the program.  This is very helpful for logic debugging.  Notice that I do have a straight line, sequential logic among the nodes as well as a branch to exit from each.

Secondly, since the most likely object of your programming will be a smart phone, a QR code is generated for your application.  Scan the code below (or click it for a conventional link) to get to my program and check it out.

I like the concept for introductory programming concepts in a real world environment.  If you’re reading this on Sunday morning, you’ve got a bit of time before football starts.  Why not create your own application for your smartphone and show off your picks for the day?  I’m sure that you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the ease with which you can create your first application.


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