[OLPC-Games] High School Programming "Jam"

Kent Quirk kent_quirk at cognitoy.com
Mon Apr 16 18:07:02 EDT 2007

Hi, Clare.

I have a little bit of experience teaching high schoolers, and somewhat 
more experience teaching high school teachers. :-)

I'm a strong believer in teaching programming through game development. 
The students tend to be highly motivated to learn what they need to know 
to create the games. There are textbooks appropriate for high school 
students. Because the Computer Science SAT2 now uses Java, these 
textbooks tend to focus on Java as the programming language, including 
one that I was involved with. (Introduction to Computer Science using 
Java; by Liberty, Quirk, and Weiss; Glencoe 2004)

But if your goal is excitement rather than passing a test, I think 
you're doing it right.

The OLPC will support a variety of programming environments, but we're 
really concentrating on Python as the platform's primary language and 
PyGame as the most fundamental programming API.

If you get the girls programming games in Python using PyGame, you'll be 
in great shape. You'll have to teach them some fundamental concepts, of 
course, but this website has a paper where the author calls Python "the 
best language we have found for introducing programming to absolute 

In my opinion, it's useful to talk about programming by first talking 
about logic and using some tools to express programming concepts without 
the syntax. I hope that our Summer of Code projects this summer will 
generate some tools in that direction. All such projects are intended 
for completion early in the summer, so whatever we come up with will be 
available for your use this fall. Keep an eye on this list -- as things 
get released, I'm sure we'll be sending out announcements.


Clare Richardson wrote:
> Hello all,
> I'm coordinating an after-school program for high school girls in
> Austin, TX, to get them interested in technical careers and improve
> their computer/programming literacy.  Next year, our curriculum will
> focus around creating "serious", educational games on a topic of their
> choice.  These girls are very motivated by global issues, so I thought
> it would be perfect for OLPC.  For example this year, they picked topics
> ranging from alternative fuel sources to AIDS awareness to create a
> public service announcement about.
> I'd love for our curriculum to have an OLPC Games component so the girls
> see a purpose to the project, or at least have them create games in an
> environment compatible with the laptop.  I'm viewing this as a year-long
> "Game Jam", since we'll produce 15 - 30 simple games.  But, I have a few
> questions about feasibility and would love your advice:
> -- What's the best game programming environment for novices?  Python
> with PyGame?  Most of these girls have no programming background, and
> we're using this project to teach programming basics.
> -- Is there any existing OLPC curriculum similar to what we're doing
> (teaching novice programming through creating games)?  I believe part of
> the vision for the laptop is that children can create their own games.
> -- Does anybody have experience with game creation on the high school
> level (especially for "serious games")?  I've seen lots of courses on
> the university level, but we're looking for something younger.
> -- I've read on the wiki that an SoC student might be working on an Easy
> Game Toolkit. When could this be workable for us? We're starting our
> semester in late August / early September. I'm developing our curriculum
> this summer, so when could I start playing with it?
> Thanks!
> Clare Richardson
> Technology and Program Coordinator
> Girlstart
> www.girlstart.org
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Kent Quirk           I'm making a game about global warming.
Game Architect                        Track the progress at:
CogniToy                http://www.cognitoy.com/meltingpoint

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