Thursday, November 12, 2015

What can you do with code?

I recently started mentoring a local high school's FRC team. Even though the challenge hasn't been announced yet, the team has started putting back together last year's robot just to get in the rhythm. We are also trying to recruit more students for the software team, since those who programmed last year's robot will be graduating this year.

So I was tasked with getting these students familiar with the code. Now these are students who have had just a little intro to programming, either through previous involvement in a robotics team or through an Intro level programming course. I myself would have to spend some time with the code and the API and understand how it all works before I can guide them. I couldn't get my hands on the code before our first meeting, so instead I thought of showing them some other real life code and their applications. To make it fun, I showed them a snippet of the code first and had them try to guess what the application is.

Here are the 4 snippets of code and the applications (the slides are below as well):

1. I am a big fan of FPS games and I thought the students must have played some kinds of those games and it would be a good start to get them excited. So I included the Doom 3 source code as explained at

2. I had to include the code that started the OSS revolution, so I included the starting point of linux kernel.

3. At this point, I didn't want the students to get overwhelmed to see that code can only be written by a team of very talented software programmers and takes years to write. So I included some code from the project that won the Astro Pi contest ( The code was written by students just like them and I explained to them what it does and that it would be sent to the International Space Station in an upcoming launch.

4. Lastly, I wanted to include something that would be fun to show that code doesn't always have to have world changing implications. I searched for some cool Raspberry Pi projects and found this:

In the end, I told them that it would be great fun to work on this project as a team. In the last slide, I asked them to not think "What can you do with code?", but "What will you do with code?".


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