Computer Science as a subject in mainstream UK secondary education is in a pretty sorry state [1,2,3] but it’s not all doom and gloom. While many long suffering school children are being force-fed a nauseating diet of Excel, PowerPoint and Access others are enjoying a nutritious platter of Raspberry Pi, Hack to the Future and Animated fun.
Here’s a brief report on one of these tasty appetisers: Animation 2012, a UK schools animation competition now in its fifth year.
Following the prize giving there was a carousel of activities which included:
- Jon Howard from the BBC provided a tour of game design, development and production using games such as Tree Fu Tom, Barkmania, Dick and Dom Let Rip and Tracy Beaker Party from CBBC and CBeebies.
- Lee Stott guided users through the creation of a digital camera using Microsoft.NET Gadgeteer an open-source toolkit for building small electronic devices using the .NET Micro Framework.
- Paolo Masci and Sinan Halilbeyoglu demonstrated some of the latest computing research using CS4FN magic and illusions
- Peter Sutton and Lloyd Henning showed how Artificially Intelligent computers can learn to do seemingly complex tasks with hands-on musical demonstrations.
- Samantha Bail demonstrated augmented reality, combining computer-generated imagery (CGI) and video in real-time to make the world around us appear to include strange objects
- John Pinkney and Colin Talbot provided a glimpse of the future with Lego Mindstorms and NAO social humanoid robots from Aldebaran Robotics
- Xin Bao demonstrated 3D computer graphics.
- Tom MacPherson-Pope and Tom Preston showed what is possible with the new Raspberry Pi, a computer that only costs about £20. They demonstrated Pi-Face an extension developed by Andrew Robinson which allows customisation of the basic Rapsberry Pi.
- Arturs Bekasovs demonstrated how to create fractal shapes, a fascinating class of geometrical shapes which are extremely easy to describe and yet can be incredibly complicated.
- Jonathan Heathcote demonstrated 3D printing with his own creation for making remarkable shapes out of plastic, many of which come from the thingiverse: digital designs for physical objects
- John Latham demonstrated The Baby, one of the first computers ever made.
- Steve Pettifer closed the proceedings with a talk looking behind the scenes of some the technology, psychology and magic of modern games.
- Steve Furber et al (2012). Computing in Schools: Shut down or restart? Royal Society Report
- James Robinson (2011). Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google, condemns British education system: criticising division between science and arts, The Guardian
- Keith Stuart (2011). Michael Gove admits schools should teach computer science: education secretary recognises the failings of ICT courses, The Guardian