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  1. #1
    Obscure Node
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    Help me get my nephews and niece into programming!

    Hi there! I am hoping the wonderful RPS community might be offer to point me towards some educational products that I might be able to give to my 12-year old, 10-year, 8-year old and/or 6-year old nephews and niece. I am not so worried about the age-differences, I just want to know what you recommend in general. Somewhere in mind are the words "LOGO" and "Alice," but are there other "mini-languages" or platform that are good? Or, are there any particularly engaging commercial products that teach more established languages? Just thinking it might make for a good present this upcoming holiday season. Thanks for your help!!

  2. #2
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Boris's Avatar
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    That's quite an age spread. LOGO and Alice are nice. If you want to get more into the hardware tinkering side of things, get them Arduinos, some LEDs, a servomotor, little speakers, stuff like that. The Arduino language is pretty simple and quite fun.

  3. #3
    Lesser Hivemind Node Harlander's Avatar
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    There's a few programming languages aimed at getting kids a handle on the ideas of programming. One that I keep hearing about is Scratch...

  4. #4
    Lesser Hivemind Node Wheelz's Avatar
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    Yeah Scratch is a good one for that sort of thing I think, it's very pseudo-code orientated, so a lot closer to written language then an actual programming language. For the older kids, if you find they're quite enjoying scratch, then python might be a good next step.

  5. #5
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus
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    Python! Fuck me that's like recommending they learn Russian for kicks (assuming they're not Russian - in which case replace that with Japanese!) ;0

    When you say "get into programming" I think you need to be clearer these days. If you mean "develop games" then pointing them at one of the many (often free) game-making tools might be a better use of their time (and a better leveller of their ages). They require some programming - sometimes - but offer a lot without needing to do all the nitty-gritty stuff, e.g. they can make a game with minimal hard work!

    If you're planning on them becoming commercial developers instead - can I recommend you let them get a proper career such as medicine or law because - well - just because...

  6. #6
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus neema_t's Avatar
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    Arduinos and Raspberry Pis would be my suggestions. Get the former - an Uno - along with a decent starter kit and 'Making Things Talk' (there was one example where a toy monkey was turned into a Pong game controller) and the latter with... I don't know, something to teach them Scratch (comes with the vanilla Raspbian distro). As both are extremely popular there's no shortage of reference sites and tutorials for all kinds of things.

    They're relatively cheap, can be made to be quite good fun and at the end of the day, if they don't go for either one or the other then you've got two great toys for yourself to play with.

    If you don't want to spend anything at all, you could try Processing? It's drier than either the Arduino or the Pi as there's no cutely tiny hardware to play with but you can even hook up an Arduino to communicate with Processing to make things like an etch-a-sketch with little effort, or a sound-sensitive drawing program, that sort of thing.


    Edit: Lego Mindstorms is a fair bit more expensive than Arduino or a Pi but you get a lot of toys like motors, light detectors and obviously they know how to Lego (that's a verb now) already (...right?!), they might get on with that a little better and could even make a simple robot in a day.
    Last edited by neema_t; 26-11-2013 at 05:51 PM.

  7. #7
    Lesser Hivemind Node RobF's Avatar
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    Scratch is a great choice.

    There's also Kodu from MS which uses Scratch as its building blocks but it's far more immediate with it starting with something on screen already.

    Aaand now's probably the best time to grab Gamemaker with the Standard edition of Studio being free. Which means you can do pretty much anything with it aside from punt out cross format stuff. It's a bit of a faff to get the free version but it's well worth doing. Especially before they take the offer away again, natch.
    My actions are in no way born out of some sort of Darwinist offensive
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  8. #8
    Lesser Hivemind Node Similar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RobF View Post
    Aaand now's probably the best time to grab Gamemaker with the Standard edition of Studio being free. Which means you can do pretty much anything with it aside from punt out cross format stuff. It's a bit of a faff to get the free version but it's well worth doing. Especially before they take the offer away again, natch.
    Also, you can't get the free upgrade on Steam, for some reason (rather unimpressed by that).

  9. #9
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    Thanks much, everyone! Since I live pretty far away, I am scared of giving them stuff that I can't at least figure out with them, but I will talk to my brother and see what he things about these various options, and if he wants to be bothered helping them! :) As always, the RPS Community rocks! I may have to look into this GameMaker thing, just for myself :).

  10. #10
    Lesser Hivemind Node RobF's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Similar View Post
    Also, you can't get the free upgrade on Steam, for some reason (rather unimpressed by that).
    They're unable to get this sort of offer passed through Valve.

    To be honest, I'd be wary of having any tool you might come to rely on tied to Steam anyway. In the case of software, I'd definitely stick with not having to rely on a(nother) third party wherever possible.
    My actions are in no way born out of some sort of Darwinist offensive
    I just get a bit fidgety times
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  11. #11
    Lesser Hivemind Node Similar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RobF View Post
    They're unable to get this sort of offer passed through Valve.
    ah. Just have the impression they don't prioritize the Steam version as highly as the non-Steam one in general. It sounds like updates come out slower and such, which is a bit odd when they went to the trouble of integrating Steam Workshop.

    To be honest, I'd be wary of having any tool you might come to rely on tied to Steam anyway. In the case of software, I'd definitely stick with not having to rely on a(nother) third party wherever possible.
    yeah, I can certainly agree with that.

  12. #12
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus somini's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RobF View Post
    To be honest, I'd be wary of having any tool you might come to rely on tied to Steam anyway. In the case of software, I'd definitely stick with not having to rely on a(nother) third party wherever possible.
    On the other hand, Steam is the only relevant package manager for windows. Good to keep many things updated.
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  13. #13
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  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by trjp View Post
    If you're planning on them becoming commercial developers instead - can I recommend you let them get a proper career such as medicine or law because - well - just because...
    Medicine: Takes like 10 years before you can get a job. Obviously not for everyone. It also helps to come from a wealthy background as well what with all these student expenses now.

    Law: Unless you know someone in the bizz you will find it hard to get anywhere. Also harder if you are a women.

    Programmer: Can end up getting treated like a sweatshop worker :/

    You just can't win

  15. #15
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Zephro's Avatar
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    I would suggest steering them clear from game programming except as an educational toy. Never ever recommend anyone to do a games course at Uni, do straight Computer Science and learn lots of maths. Bit early for a 12 year old I know, but general advice.

    And yeah being a programmer sucks. Do an MBa, it's clearly bullshit but gets you a good job.

  16. #16
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus somini's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zephro View Post
    Do an MBa, it's clearly bullshit but gets you a good job.
    Gnhhhhh.
    I tough this thread was supposed to be idealistic?
    Steam(shots), Imgur, Bak'laag, why do you forsake me?

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