Playing with Cargo-Bot

Over the weekend, I read about Cargo-Bot.  It really caught my interest for two reasons.

  • it was created on an iPad using Codea;
  • it’s a game that includes Computer Science concepts.

I have downloaded the Codea and played with it previously.  “Hello World” and a quick calculator was truly the extent of my use.  I guess I’m just a keyboard type of programmer guy.

So, I just had to check it out.  It’s a free download from here.

Within seconds of downloading, I had it up and running.  The “How was this game created?” was really interesting but how does it play?  There’s a tutorial – tutorials are for wimps – let’s give it a shot.  I loaded the “Easy” level.

Hey, this looks like the classic “Tower of Hanoi”.  It took me a couple of minutes to realize that the items from the Toolbox didn’t work immediately.  You have to drag them over into a Prog line and then click the big green play to make things happen.  So, I fiddled a bit and got the knack.  The idea is to move the cargo boxes in the stack to the layout in the goal.

It was a good bit of noodling but I finally got it to work.  Then, there’s a nice surprise!  You get the opportunity to record your actions and this recording ends up in the Photo library on the iPad.  But, from there, you can upload the result to YouTube!  So, here’s the result of my first attempt.

I played it a couple of times feeling pretty good and smug about myself.  But, then I looked really closely and saw that I got one star for my efforts.  Whaaaa……

Now, I’ve played enough Angry Birds to know that one star is a feeble effort.  It gets the job done but that’s about it.  What did I miss?  How could I make it better?

Time to give in, I guess.  I tapped “Hints” and found that the shortest solution uses 5 registers.  I appreciate that now we’re using computer science language.  Expecting to do some reading, I was pleasantly surprised that the tutorials were actually puzzles to solve showing the concepts.  I worked my way through a couple and got the concepts of looping, routines, and conditional operations.  And, more importantly, the advice that “Shorter programs are awarded more stars”.  That made me smile.  Optimize the code; forget brute force.  I like this very much.

So, it was back to the first puzzle and I’m now getting it.

Oh, that feels good.  Learning, puzzle solving, optimizing.  Now I’m really getting it.

The categories are “Easy”, “Medium”, “Hard”, “Crazy”, and “Impossible”.  Not being a sequential type of guy (slow learner, perhaps?), let’s try “Impossible”.  Well, that was humbling.  OK, let’s back off to, oh say, “Hard”.

That was a good way to chew up some time.  But, success was there after a while.  How long, I’ll keep to myself.

In total, this was a great experience.  I can’t remember when I’ve last enjoyed solving puzzles this much.  I’d like to say that I’ve solved them all but they are definitely a work in progress.

Quite quickly, the games passed Tower of Hanoi for puzzling and frustration and satisfaction when solved.

Computer Science teachers should take to this immediately.  There’s a real appreciation for the end product as well as the work that would have gone into it.  Every Computer Science teacher has solved Hanoi and passed the experience on to students, right?  You’ll appreciate the visualization of the algorithms that are created.  There’s just something reinforcing when things go right; and it’s funny to watch a runaway loop or going beyond the bounds of the game and the effect it has.  (I won’t spoil it)

If you’re not a Computer Science teacher, you’ll still appreciate a fantastic collection of puzzles.

OTR Links 05/29/2012

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.


The Ontario Curriculum has Flight covered as a formal Science and Technology topic in Grade 6.  There’s one interesting expectation that I’d like to reference:

  • 2.4 use technological problem-solving skills (see page 16) to design, build, and test a flying device (e.g., a kite, a paper airplane, a hot air balloon) Sample guiding questions: How does your device use the principles of flight? What were some challenges in getting your device off the ground? How might you change your device to make it fly better?

I’ve been in classes addressing this particular expectation and the building and testing their creations has always looked like fun.

I can recall building one type of paper airplane as a kid and it pales in comparison to some of the genius designs from kids.

But, no more!

At the website “Origami for Kids”, there’s a whole section dedicated to the construction and testing of paper airplanes.

Select the type that you’d like from the left side menu.  I played around with a Flat Bottom design.  Why?  I don’t know; it just looked like a bit of fun with all kinds of room to experiment with design.

The site shows very nicely how to construct the airplane.  First, you have a 3D representation of the final product and then an animation that takes you through the steps required to build the plane.

This is definitely a resource for fun and inspiration.

Of course, airplanes are but a beginning.  There are lots of other helpful paper folding activities.  It was really timely as I watched the Grand Prix of Monte Carlo today.  It gives an extra appreciation for the little bits that go into Formula 1 car design.

This is going to keep me entertained for quite a while!

OTR Links 05/28/2012

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Graphic Novel Resource

I’ve got a few resources tucked away for the times when I’m talking about graphic novels and comics in the classroom.  I got started down this path when we were looking to license a title or two for OSAPAC.  What we did end up licensing was great.  Comic Life Deluxe and Bitstrips for Schools are available to all publically funded schools and faculties in the province.  Both titles have had a big impact on language and literacy classrooms throughout the province.

As a computer science teacher, I had to go from zero to sixty in this genre.  It meant a great deal of personal research and talking to language colleagues about what they were currently doing and what they’d like to do with graphic novels and comics.

Today, I ran into a resource that I sure could have used at the time.  It would have straight lined a great deal of my learning.  It’s a LiveBinder created and shared by Brandi Clark, Sheryl Lee, Tammy Reynolds, and Carol Wilkinson.  There’s a wealth of resources in this LiveBinder.  They’ve created tabs:

  • Introduction
  • Benefits of Graphic Novels
  • Top 10 Professional Resources
  • Building a Graphic Novel Collection
  • Classroom and Library Applications/Strategies
  • Subject Based Resources

I enjoyed working my way through this collection and picked up some great ideas for the future.  If graphic novels, manga, or comics have a place in your classroom, I’m sure that you’ll enjoy this LiveBinder.

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