Category: Uncategorized

Binary Email Lights

[This is a guest post written by Zach.] I’ve been using a Raspberry Pi as a desktop for a while now and it has been working great, but one annoying thing was that I had to turn on both my monitors (in case the mouse is in the wrong one) when I wanted to check my email, so I thought to make a light box to tell me if I had an email. Also, flashing lights are always cool. I, with my dad, built a display box with three LEDs so it can show up to seven emails in binary. Hardware The hardware side of this project was pleasingly simple because the Raspberry Pi has built in GPIO pins. What

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Pytch: ‘Scratch-oriented programming’ in Python

An idea I first started thinking about and working on over four years ago — a stepping stone in the journey from Scratch to Python — finally has a public prototype. https://www.pytch.org/ Scratch is a wonderful system for beginning programmers. It has a visually attractive environment, a way of creating code with a drag and drop system which avoids the possibility of syntax errors, and a natural concurrency model, where multiple ‘sprites’ all obey their own ‘scripts’ at the same time. At some point, learners want to explore text-based languages. Python is very popular in schools, and of course it is heavily used in the real world too. When trying to learn Python, a learner coming from a Scratch background

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Circular Os and Xs

On a ferry journey, Jude wanted a pen and paper game that we didn’t already know how to play, so she invented a variant on naughts and crosses (‘tic-tac-toe’). You play it on this board: You still have to get three of your marks in a row, but there are more ways for this to happen than in normal Os and Xs: Three rings: Three radial lines: Three clockwise spirals: Three anti-clockwise spirals: We wanted to know whether there was a winning strategy, so we drew a whole pile of diagrams to work out how the play would develop: and concluded that the first player always wins. Winning strategy for first player One winning starting move is for X to

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Studying a Hallowe’en LED flasher

A friend kindly gave us some flashing-light stickers for Hallowe’en, and the natural thing to do with them once the festivities were over was to dissect them. So we did this, and found that each contained a square circuit board about 25mm on a side. When you press a little button in the middle, three coloured LEDs — red, green, blue — flash rapidly for about twenty seconds. It looked like they were flashing round in a circle, but too quickly for me to be sure of the sequence. To investigate, I set up the flasher approximately vertically, held in a lump of Blu-tack: Then I turned off the lights, pressed the flasher’s button, and took some pictures with a

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A set of Scratch worksheets

The school my three youngest children go to runs after-school activities, and I was part of a group of volunteers who ran an ‘Advanced Scratch‘ course. This was aimed at 10–12-year-olds who had done a reasonable amount of Scratch already, and wanted to explore more. We spent several sessions developing a much-simplified version of the great puzzle game SpaceChem, and then a few standalone projects. It went pretty well, with most of the students getting a lot done. As part of this, I wrote a set of worksheets, which I’ve now tidied up and made available under CC-BY-SA in case they’re of interest to anyone else: Scratch worksheets 2017/18 (Image above contains content copyright The Scratch Team, used under CC-BY-SA-2.0.

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An interesting piece-fitting puzzle

Via mathblogging.org, I came across Math=Love’s blog entry describing a piece-fitting puzzle, and thought it would be interesting to solve it exhaustively and answer the question in the blog entry: So far, we have found two different possible solutions. I’m looking forward to collecting data to help determine if there are more! I did this via a Jupyter notebook, and the results are here. I confirmed that the two known solutions are the only ones, up to symmetries.

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