Codea Programming at Alford Academy

Earlier this year, Dr Daniel Doolan visited Alford Academy to give a workshop of Codea Programming for the iPad. The event  was part of the STEM challenge linked to the Aberdeenshire initiative “Be Part of the Picture”. The Challenge formed a part of the S6 Induction Event coordinated by Mrs S Ogilvie (Acting Depute Headteacher and PT Faculty Modern Languages). Pupils were asked to express positive things about Aberdeenshire; people, place and environment around the themes of eFashion, Mobile Visualisation and Parallel Computation. Activities included designing and making LED bracelets -  clothing with sewn in conductive materials (batteries included!) -  3D Electronic Billboards -constructed from Lego and controlled through Scratch – and iPad array displays.

Mrs Jan Holt (PT Faculty Business Education and Computing) designed the event and led a multidisciplinary team from Art and Design (Mr Moffat), Physics (Mrs Booth), Textiles (Mrs Woolley),  Computing Science (Mr Scott), Business Education (Mrs Taylor),  Mathematics (Mr Kerr) and HWB (Mr Cruickshank).  Additional support across these areas was provided by Mr. A Spiers.

One of our CS4 Students Jamie MacGregor also came along and helped with the workshop as well as the preparations beforehand. Prof Patrik Holt also joined us and gave a workshop on Arduino microcontrol.

The workshops were held in the morning and after lunch the students worked together in groups to come up with some novel ideas for what they could do with the technologies they had been working with earlier in the day. Around half a dozen judges then went around to each group to see what they came up with. The judges comprised of those visiting from the School of Computing Science & Digital Media (Jamie,  Patrik & myself), with the other members of the panel comprising of teachers from Alford Academy. Just prior to the end of the day the top three project ideas were presented and prizes were then given out to the winning groups. The videos below should give some sense of what the day was like.

The Codea workshop began by giving a few PPT slides introducing Codea and how to think computationally i.e. breaking down a problem in to its constituent parts. The classic example of this is of course “how to make a cup of tea”. Things inevitably go wrong when developing software, the key thing to learn of course is to keep calm and take note of the errors that are being highlighted by the development environment. Its almost impossible to talk about program errors without first mentioning the first actual computer bug found in Relay 70, Panel F of the Mark II Aiken Relay Calculator back in the 1940s. Following on from this we then set about the task of writing some programs directly on the iPads using Codea.

The first program was a simple Torch that changed from displaying a white or a black screen, altering on each touch by the user.  Following on from this we modified the Torch application to display random colours upon sensing a touch. The third programming task was to divide up the screen into a n x m matrix displaying a random changing set of colours for each rectangle displayed. With the understanding of how to split up the screen into several distinct areas we then added touch interaction and an array of colours allowing us to start creating some art in the form of Space Invaders and Mario. The final task of the workshop was to turn the sixteen iPads we brought with us to the workshop into one large LED sign, with each iPad displaying an individual letter. Some of the text we spelled out included “Hello World Hello”, “Stay Classy World :-)” and “We Love Aberdeenshire”.

A full list of all videos can be found at :