“Hour of Code, Scratch, App Inventor, they’re okay. They’re useful for teaching kids. But ultimately, the finished product – the software – resides inside the computer. The only result kids see are avatars or sprites running around the screen.”
“App Inventor takes it to the next level. You can export your program into an external device – your phone.”
“But to really make the code come alive, we should teach kids how to write code for physical devices that move, or interact, or do some sort of work. We need to teach them to build devices that run on the code they write.”
I listen as Mr Tam explains. You don’t interrupt when Mr Tam is delivering one of his ‘tech talks’.
“What we need to do is to conceptualise devices that kids would have fun building. And we need to build them from basic electronics components, so that they appreciate this is something they can build themselves from scratch. Buying ready-made parts would be like cheating. Besides, building our own devices affords great opportunity for us to infuse inter-disciplinary elements, like physics or a lesson on the evolution of tech.”
“We’ve transformed this Android phone into a remote control for the car, but what I really want to do is turn this Smartwatch into a sort of master control for the whole range of devices that we’re going to build. Depending on the sensors we hook up to it, it’d be able to report the temperature, time, humidity. And with the Bluetooth chip in, it will double up as the remote control for the car as well.”
“Like Knight Rider?” I ask.
Mr Tam, busy tweaking his schematic diagrams and PCB design, doesn’t hear me. “We’ll need to send this to China for fabrication,” he says instead.
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