Just Association - Creative, Collaborative Interfaces.

Program Your friends

Before we introduced the young people to StarlogoTNG, we wanted to demystify programming a little bit.
So we talked to the young people about how stupid computers are, and how most of the computers we use
will only ever do something if they are programmed to do so.
Below are some of the activities and ideas we introduced them to.

Zombie-Robots in the Fact Centre (still image)

Think all the simple tasks you do every morning before you even come to school.
Things that we take for granted, but are actually quite complicated.

Could you explain how to do your tie?

How would you instruct someone to make the perfect cup of tea?

Computers will only do things if they are given the right instructions.

Programming is just a matter of breaking things down and giving really clear instructions.

We set the young people a series of movement based tasks so that they could get to grips with these ideas.

Program Your Friends: Activity Scripts

Program Your friends Activity One
A swarm of Zombie-Robots (warm up)

The Cast
1 Programmer - To read out a series of instructions to the rest of the group
Between 6 and 60 Zombie-Robots - creatures with no initiative, who would only move if they are given the exact instructions to do so, never doing anything more than they are told.

Here are the instructions

Once this activity starts you must all keep moving all the time, no stopping unless the programmer says so.

1)Moving quite slowly, walk randomly around the space, avoid bumping into each other, and the walls.

2) Without telling anyone else, choose another young person from the group, and try to follow them.

3) If at any point I clap, you all must scatter and find yourself an empty space.

4) Still without telling anyone else, choose somebody that you want to avoid.

How did you find that?
Was it easy?
What other instructions could we add?

Explain that this is actually a really complicated kind of programming.
emphasize the importance of simple instructions - That complex patterns can emerge from lots of agents following simple instructions at the same time.
But, that if you send messy or contradictory instructions, you can fry the computers head.

Program Your friends Activity Two
Zombie-Robot Assault Course

The Cast
Groups of 4-6
1 Zombie Robot
4-5 Programmers

Each group is given a portion of the room and randomly lays out six cones on the floor in their space.

This time the Zombie-Robots can understand two instructions.
1) How many steps to take forwards
2) How many degrees to turn left or right

The aim is for each group to program their Zombie-Robot to walk a path that touches all the cones in the least number of moves.

Yp take it in turns to instruct the Zombie-Robot, one move at a time.
Group to write up their finished 'program' of instructions once they have found the simplest route.

The Characters Emotional Scripts

The young people were each given a character to use as the central character in their game.

The Characters were either:
A German Soldier
A Land Army Girl
A British Soldier

We put the young people into groups with others who had the same central character,
and asked them to generate a visual mood board, responding to the following questions about their character.

What do they miss from back home?

What are they afraid of?

What are they looking forwards to?