This Week @ Predicate – 4/24

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Reminder – Spring Break / Round 2
(Week of April 30th)

Hi Parents, just a reminder that we will not hold classes over the week of April 30th for the second half of our spring break. For reference, our full spring schedule is available on our website: http://predicate.us/index.html#enroll.


This Week @ Predicate

We’ve hit the halfway point of our Winter Session and innovation awesomeness is in full effect. Our behind the scenes tour this week takes us through randomness, (virtual) collisions, and “brickatory”.

Adventures – Game Makers
Predigame – Randomness”

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Our Predigame platform is showing our young innovators how to create more with less typing. This week we highlighted how to introduce random colors and movements to our game. While we’ll still focused on drawing circles and squares – it’s amazing to see some of the mini-games that have been created!

Foundations – Python Gaming
“Virtual Collisions”

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This is one of those classes where coding meets math. The topic of our class was detecting when two circles collide with each other. This builds a bit on our previous exercise of bouncing against wall. We introduced a practical example of the Pythagorean Theorem – it’s a topic we recognize many have yet to cover in school, but when they do, hopefully it will bring back a memory to our bouncing balls code. In addition to collisions our classes were presented with a number of coding challenges (one of the first times we did this in a Predicate class) – it was really good to see our innovators explore a bit on their own and figure out how to solve these problems!

Foundations/Journey – Physical Computing
“Brickatory”

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This week we took some existing code and integrated in our potentiometers. The topic of the class is “value normalization” – reading data from a potentiometer provides some number between 0 and 1. This number can be “normalized” into a different range (e.g. 0 to 10, 0 to 100, etc). There are a number of applications of a potentiometer once the readings can be normalized. Our example was controlling the paddle on a game of breakout.

Breakout is a bit more fun playing competitively. We introduced a special version of the game “Brickatory” where everyone in the class could compete against each other. We recognize that some of our innovators are starting to get a bit clever, so we came prepared to ensure they didn’t go in and try to cheat. Needless to say, we didn’t catch all potential cheats but we’ll be the first to admit that hacking code for personal benefit – IN OUR COMPETITIONS – is perfectly acceptable!

This Week @ Predicate – 4/10

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Reminder – Spring Break / Round 2
(Week of April 30th)

Hi Parents, just a reminder that we will not hold classes over the week of April 30th for the second half of our spring break. For reference, our full spring schedule is available on our website: http://predicate.us/index.html#enroll.


This Week @ Predicate

It’s Week 4 of our Spring Session and we had a number of fun exercises in store for our classes. Our behind the scenes tour this week takes us through the bouncy shapes, object abstraction as well as Pandora and Potentiometers.

Adventures – Game Makers
“Predigame – Bouncy Shapes”

This week our tour of the Predigame platform focused on moving shapes. We showed how to create code to create big shapes, small shapes, fast shapes, and slow shapes – lots of opportunities to explore and understand cause and effect. And that’s just what they did! It was a REALLY engaging exercise where the whole class got to see how to they can create and control with code.

Foundations – Python Gaming
“Object Abstraction”

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In order to get more of something to draw on the computer screen, our young innovators tend to copy and paste oodles and oodles of code. We often say in the field “don’t repeat yourself” – meaning that when it comes to code, copying and pasting will work, but isn’t necessarily the best answer. We introduced a concept call abstraction that allows is to describe an object (e.g. a Ball) and then easily create many of them with just a few lines of code. It’s a clever trick and made it really easy for our innovators to generate many many objects without a bunch of work.

Foundations/Journey – Physical Computing
“Pandora and Potentiometers”

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This week we explored how to stream music from Pandora and automatically animate our 16 LED assembly. This uses the same software that is frequently on display during ABC’s The Great Christmas Light Fight (here’s an example video). Everyone in the class got to pick their custom pandora station and we walked through how use that station in an automated light show.

As a second activity in class we’ve switched from digital to analog. While we all use digital devices every day, we live in an analog world. This week we explored how to integrate analog signals on a digital computer – the process is called is called “analog to digital conversion” (here’s a quick video that explains the process). We wired in a “analog to digital” micro-controller to our hardware assembly – which is starting to look like a bowl of spaghetti! With this chip in place, we introduced a potentiometer, an electronic component that consists of a dial that applies or releases resistance as it moves from left to right (same as a fading switch). This is what we would call an analog device. Using the analog to digital converter we are able to “sample” the position of the dial – how far left or right. What can be done with this information? We have a cool surprise in store for next week!

 

This Week @ Predicate – 4/3

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Reminder – Easter Break

Hi Parents, just a reminder that we will not hold classes over Easter Weekend (Friday April 14, Saturday April 15, Monday April 17, and Tuesday April 18). For reference, our full spring schedule is available on our website: http://predicate.us/index.html#enroll.


This Week @ Predicate

We’ve completed our third week of classes here at Predicate and across the board our goal this week has been focused on skill refinement. Since the start of our spring session we’ve introduced a number of new technical concepts. Most of our classes this week focused on reinforcing those skills. Our behind the scenes tour this week takes us through making faces, screen animations and light shows.

Adventures – Game Makers
“Predigame – Making Faces”

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This week our tour of the Predigame platform focused on assembling shapes into faces. We started with an overview of grid coordinates and positioning shapes within the grid. The focus then shifted on creating larger objects.These days, it’s hard to code shapes without defaulting to emoji construction. We saw so many creative renderings come alive with just a few lines of python code.!

Foundations – Python Gaming
“Screen Animation”

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Everybody loves animation! These week we demonstrated how to take our emojis and float them across the screen. In order to animate we had to teach a little bit of algebra – a few caught on to this but crunching on some math in the context of code is always more fun.  Computer animation isn’t much different from how it was done back on paper; software paints a new character frame at a fast enough speed to give the illusion of movement.

Foundations/Journey – Physical Computing
“Light Show”

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This is our third week working with the 16 LED assembly. Last week we demonstrated how to download and play our favorite Youtube audio clip. This week we continued with the audio animation and completed our light show. The coding exercise has provided ample opportunity for our classes to appreciate some more advanced programming concepts – such as functions which allow code to be reused without repetition. For those who completed their show had the opportunity to code a binary clock where lights were used to display the current time in binary, 0 = off, 1 = on (e.g. 7:30:15 in binary would be: 0111:011110:0:001111).

 

This Week @ Predicate – 3/27

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It’s our second week of spring classes and we’re starting to see some some pretty cool coding prowess from our young innovators. Our behind the scenes tour this week takes us through custom colors, python emojis, and animating Youtube tracks.


Adventures – Game Makers
“Predigame – Custom Colors”

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This week we continued our tour of the Predigame platform with focus on creating custom colors. Specifically, we looked at the Red-Green-Blue (RBG) color spectrum and how fluctuations in intensities can change the rendering of a color on the computer screen. All in all there are 16 million color combinations available (255 combinations of red, green, and blue). For our young innovators, it was a chance to explore coding with color – matching our walls, shirts, shoes, even mastering the color cash and ketchup.

Foundations – Python Gaming
“Python Emojis”

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Our tour through with the Graphical User Interface (GUI) continued with basic shape coding. These days, it’s hard to code shapes without defaulting to emoji construction. And with that, this class was a blast! We saw so many creative renderings that came to live with just a few lines of python code. Even better, many innovators started to document their code – making notes for each circle to easily identify line of code to shape on screen – an aspect that always makes us smile!

Foundations/Journey – Physical Computing
“LED Animations”

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This week we wrapped up construction of our 16 LED assembly and started to explore all the different ways we can code animations. It’s way more than simply turning lights on and off – we can made them blink (both odd and even), move from left to right, fade, and split out/in. The options – as our classes started to explore – are nearly endless! It’s a bit hard to code an animation without a tune, so we showed everyone how to import their favorite song from Youtube – combining sound and lights – all powered with a few lines of python code. This project will continue into next week and we hope to have a showcase for the class to share some of their creations with each other.

 

This Week @ Predicate – 3/20

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Happy Spring and Welcome Back! As a team we often ideate new ways to present technology to our student population. Our goal, as always, is to find some slice of course content that will present an engaging, exciting, and thought provoking glimpse into the computing field. The start of a new season, the culmination of weeks of planning, is always an exciting time for us. It was great to see everyone and we’re certainly happy many of our innovators shared our excitement to hack on some new course content.

Across the board we’re running eight classes this spring, covering three topic areas and igniting creative thinking for youth ages 8 through 17. Each week we will be posting similar updates on what we cover during our instructional time. Our young innovators will be learning some amazing things during the course of the seasonal program and we find these updates are a great way for parents to spark a conversation and reinforce some of these new concepts. We’ll do our best to keep the descriptions light and informative for our non-techie readers :).

Adventures – Game Makers
“Introduction to Predigame”

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Our Game Makers class is using a new game engine that we’re developing in house to make the fundamentals of coding easier for a younger audience. As we often say, there are also some nuances of coding that goes above and beyond basic familiarization with a keyboard. The use of special keys, such as “()”, “#”, “:”, as well as space and tab alignment can be a big impediment to learning. Some learning approaches swap the keyboard for “drag and drop” coding blogs that can be visually assembled into code. We think there is a better way. Our Predigame platform will return focus to the keyboards using an “do more with less” approach the coding – the platform will hide many of the stumbling blocks of coding while providing a simple way to create fully functional games with minimal typing. We look forward to seeing some amazing creations out of this class!

Foundations – Python Gaming
“Basic Shapes”

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This week we introduced some of the basic concepts for creating a Graphical User Interface (GUI) – an application much like Microsoft Word or Google Chrome that provides a graphical visualization to the user. Thus far many of the “user interfaces” that we’ve taught in class have been  “command line” or text only interfaces. For GUIs, the magic starts by creating a window and then painting basic shapes within that window. In order to position shapes, the class needed to learn about screen coordinates and the coordinate plane (we often hide math in our classes). Our first project, starting with basic shapes, is the creation of custom emojis.

Foundations/Journey – Physical Computing
“LED Animations”

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This week we introduced our first project – a 16 LED assembly that will be used to create moving light animations (think Great Christmas Light Fight). Our first class was primarily focused on wiring up each of the lights to the Raspberry Pi and followed with some basic coding to make sure every light was responding correctly – a precursor step for writing animations. The below picture is a sample of the project; while it certainly looks a bit crazy, these boards will look like a bowl of spaghetti in just a few more weeks 😉

What’s in the box?

studio-webWelcome to a new season! You may be wondering what’s inside your child’s white box. Well, it’s a Raspberry Pi computer kit. These are fully functioning credit card-sized microcomputers.

Raspberry Pi’s are great devices to learn the fundamentals of coding. You’ll child will use the Pi with us at our studio and can use their Pi to continue coding at home.  We encourage all of our innovators to spend a little extra time at home to reinforce some of the concepts we teach in class and it’s not hard to get started.

This Week @ Predicate – 3/16

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On behalf of our team here at Predicate, thank you for participating in our Winter 2016 session. We’ve had a great 10 weeks presenting some of the best projects the technology field has to offer and we hope your aspiring innovator enjoyed their time with us.

Learning technology is very much a lifelong journey and we are grateful that we could come along for the ride! It has been great to see the week in/week out skill development.

Our behind scene tour for the winter completed with “hungry hungry image”, a final round of musical Minecraft, and a custom free running gaming that runs on the web (and our phones!).

For those in our Tuesday classes, our winter season ended with a pretty wild March storm. It’s a tough way to end what has been a really great round of classes.


Adventures – Rock the Beat
“Musical Minecraft” – Part 3

This week continued our adventures with musical Minecraft. Specifically we worked with various shapes and patterns that were drawn and subsequently erased with a changing beat. We also created a custom speaker that would change the tone of a song depending on the proximity and if under water. We hope our innovators enjoyed a coding tour with Sonic Pi and a new way to extend a familiar game.

Foundations – Physical Computing
“Hungry Hungry Image”

Over the past two weeks, we’ve been working with a force resistor that provides a rough weight measurement – from 0 to about 22lbs – and can be used in a number of practical applications. This week we extended our image pixilation game, “The Image Eater”, to pull a series of pictures from Giphy (the Google of animated gifs). The goal of the game was to destroy as many pictures in the least amount of time. The Giphy provided a nice element of surprise to the game – you never knew what was going to pop in next 🙂

Journey – Web Coding
“Free Running on the Web”

Our free running web game is now complete. With an added surprised we added a few mods to demonstrate how the game can be played from a phone. Our Journey innovators got to see how to create a game from the ground up – from basic web coding using HTML, CSS, and Javascript, animating sprites, capture keyboard events, to dodging obstacles and keeping score. We covered quite a bit of ground over the past 10 weeks.

Please remind your children to save off their game code and make a note of some of these skills. Down the road, a well defined code portfolio will be priceless 🙂

 

The Predicate Impact

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Changing the Way Children Learn About Technology

When we opened our doors last January, we sought to provide a meaningful program focusing on real-world applications of technology, using the “tools of the trade”, with instruction delivered by professionals who have a shared passion of technology and teaching. Predicate Innovators participate in a pretty unique experience and so many parents have sent us notes and pictures that showcase the direct impact our program has been having on their child’s education.

Here’s a few first hand accounts of the Predicate Academy experience provided by some of our innovators and their parents.


Drew is in our Foundations program and recently completely his first Predicate class – Physical Computing:

Predicate has allowed us to see excitement in our budding inventor – more than any other extracurricular activity he has tried!  Drew may be quiet while concentrating in coding class, but then he comes home and runs to set up the latest project declaring, “You HAVE to see this,” to the whole family! What an amazing and smart way to spread the love of coding and computers to our future inventors, scientists and leaders!


Kevin is in our Journey program and is completing his third class:

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Kevin’s experience at Predicate Academy has been amazing!  He has been able to apply what he has learned in his Journey sessions to create a video game in his high school’s Computer System and Video Game Design class.  Kevin designed a fully interactive game that required coding and creating sprites, sounds, backgrounds, objects, controllers, and levels.  The game has three lives and secret Easter Egg levels.  If a player passes all the levels, the game can provide up to thirty minutes of entertainment!

We are thrilled that Kevin is a part of something so special at Predicate Academy!  Not only is he gaining valuable real-life skills to take into the classroom and world, but Predicate has given him the knowledge and confidence to share these skills with his high school classmates!

Ryan joined Predicate for very first Bootcamp class and has completed Python Gaming, his sixth coding class.

Some time ago, Ryan decided that he wanted to be a coder when he grew up.  I knew he liked playing video games and Minecraft mods, so I guess that’s where he got the idea that he wanted to be a coder.  With the help of a junior programming book, we tried to do a little programming at home, but I was not very successful helping him to understand the concepts or make it applicable to his interests.  We came across a Facebook mention of a Predicate Academy open house and went to check it out.  Mr. Mike showed us the Python programming and physical computing interaction with the Raspberry Pi and Ryan was immediately hooked.  The computing projects at Predicate Academy provide him with just the right mix of challenge, skill development and fun.  Ryan looks forward to going to class every week and he can’t wait to continue learning how to code at Predicate Academy!


Kassandra joined Predicate in Summer 2016 for a Bootcamp class, worked with us to create a Robot in the Fall, and recently completed Physical Computing.

pastedimageOur daughter, Kassandra, has really enjoyed her classes at Predicate Academy.  She has a great interest in robotics and we believe that what she has created using the Raspberry Pi and the Python language is laying a solid foundation to enable her to pursue further studies.  Any parent who has a child interested in learning programming and applying that knowledge will find Predicate Academy to be a good investment.


New to Predicate? Read about our Jumpstart program.

Has your child taken a class with us? Send a few sentences to info@predicate.us describing some aspect of Predicate’s program and how it has impacted your child. We’d love to add your contribution to our blog. Thank you for helping us embark on our mission.

This Week @ Predicate – 3/6

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Welcome to Winter Week 9!  Our behind the scenes tour this week takes us through another round of musical Minecraft, image eating, breakout with text, and free running with obstacles.

Adventures – Rock the Beat
“Musical Minecraft” – Part 2

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We continued our adventures with musical Minecraft. This week we coded mods for creating our own cities. From clearing land, laying pavement, to building skyscrapers, our innovators got to see first hand experience on the powers of writing code. Some of these tasks would be daunting in the game. Not so with code! Computers are really good at automating basic repetitive tasks.

Foundations – Physical Computing
“Image Eater”

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Last week we introduced the force resistor that provides a rough weight measurement – from 0 to about 22lbs – and can be used in a number of practical applications. This week we highlighted the application of force resistance in the context of an image pixilation game, “The Image Eater”.  The first round of our game was pretty basic – a certain amount of the image was “eaten” based on the strength of the resistor strike. The class got to customize the image, sound effects, and amount of damage per strike. We posted a video of our game on Facebook. The game was fun for all ages, even our teaching staff 🙂

 

Foundations – Python Gaming
“Breakout with Text”

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We’re starting to put the finishing touches on our breakout games. Our topic for this week was adding “Welcome” and “Game Over” screens, as well as final adjustments to levels, sounds, and images. There has been a significant amount of collaboration in this class – a combination of sharing tips and tricks for winning the game – which fuels further creativity and competition. We have a few more features to add to our game next week.

Journey – Web Coding
“Running with Obstacles”

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Our free running web game now has holes AND obstacles! We’re nearly “feature complete” at this point and we’ve been making some final adjustments to speed, player size, and the number and type of obstacles. The game is a ton of fun, both for coding as well as playing. We have a few more features to cover next week and we can’t wait to showcase our final products!

This Week @ Predicate – 02/28

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Welcome to Winter Week 8.  Our behind the scenes tour this week takes us through musical Minecraft, sensing force, multilevel breakout, and complete customization of our free running game.

Adventures – Rock the Beat
“Musical Minecraft”

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This week we combined our two favorite Raspberry Pi applications – Sonic Pi and Minecraft. We demonstrated how to create Minecraft mods using the same tool for creating music. All said, we have about two dozen mods that we’ll be coding up for the remainder of the class – each of them are equally awesome. From jumping to a beat, creating rain, and vacuuming up blocks, our class highlighted some pretty neat things that can be done with code. As a special surprise, we ended with Minecraft Fireworks – an awesome display of block animations and sound.

Foundations – Physical Computing
“Sensing Force”

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This week we introduced our second analog sensor – the force resistor. Like the potentiometer, the force resistor provides variable resistance – the amount of weight of the circular pad reduces the amount of resistance in an circuit. We demonstrated force resistance with a simple light bulb; as our innovators push the brightness of the bulb changed as a relation to the strength of a push. The force resistor is a key component of our next project, the high striker game, a mini version of a boardwalk classic.  

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Foundations – Python Gaming
“Multilevel Breakout”

Our breakout games are really starting to show off some creativity. From selection of background images, balls and paddles, each game has taken on a certain amount of individuality.  This week we introduced levels and the ability to configure certain aspects of the game as the player completes each level.  Backing the level is a key programming concept called “dictionaries”. In code, dictionaries hold keys and values. As it relates to levels, dictionaries allow us to identify the background images, number of objects to hit, speed of the ball, among others. The highlight of the class was, of course, playing each others game – a perfect opportunity for fun and collaboration. 

Journey – Web Coding
“Custom Everything”

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Last week we introduced custom “assets” – dropping in different images for animation. This week we demonstrated how to customize the rest of the game – obstacles, background images, and ground tiles. We also tweaked our game scoring, run speed, and jumping height. Our class has been generating a number of feature requests for things they’d like to add for the game. We’ll be prioritizing them and working on as many as we can over our remaining two classes.