Monthly Archives: April 2014

RTC’s Scratch homepage on scratch.mit.edu

If you want to check back and see if there are any new updates to Scratch projects on Rutland Tech Club, here is the RTC Scratch homepage.

http://scratch.mit.edu/users/RutlandTechClub/

From there, you can click on a project, run the project and also “Look Inside” to see the code blocks and sprite images.  If you see a project you would like to Remix, then just click the orange Remix button in the upper right corner of the Scratch Editor screen.

Have fun with Scratch!

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Scratch Starter Project to Animate Letters and Numbers

After working with Scratch a bit I realized that finding or creating the images for backdrop and sprites can be time consuming.  In fact, for a given project you could spend as much time on the graphic images that you would spend on putting the code blocks and events together.

So in order to expedite learning the Scratch coding blocks and categories, I have setup a Scratch project with some ready made sprites.  The project is titled, “Be Creative With Letters and Numbers”.

http://scratch.mit.edu/projects/21121172/

Scratch_starter_project_letters_numbers

I obtained the alphabet letters and number images from the free clip art website called wpclipart.com (Thank You).  The letter and number images for sprites are in the motif of a keyboard key per character.

http://www.wpclipart.com/computer/keyboard_keys/

Go ahead and run this Scratch project and “look inside” to see the “snap-together” code blocks for each sprite.  The Scratch Cat mascot gives you the introduction and instructions.  The letters A, B and C are animated when you press the respective keys on your keyboard.

If you want to start your own project, then just Remix this project.  The Remix will make a new copy for you to work with, and it won’t affect the original project.  If you are not a registered user of Scratch, then you won’t be able to save your work.  So you might want to register for Scratch first.

In order to Remix, click the “See Inside” button.  Then once you are in the Scratch editor, click the orange Remix button in the upper right corner of the screen (next to the See Project Page button).

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Scratch Programming Demo: Garden Box

Here is my first Scratch program, besides the Getting Started Tutorial.  Given that Rutland is known for it’s local foods, with the Farmers Market, RAFFL, the Vermont Farmers Food Center, and community gardens, I thought I would follow that theme.

Here is my Garden Box Scratch program.

http://scratch.mit.edu/projects/20595810/

garden_box_scratch_prog

Just click on a vegetable or flower to see a message.  Then click inside a square in the 3×3 garden box to plant the chosen veggie or flower.  Turn up your computer speakers to hear a musical note when each plant is placed in the garden box.

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Google Hiring, Mergers, Acquistions and Robots

Recently journalist and author Thomas Friedman from the New York Times wrote two commentaries on “How To Get a Job at Google”Part 1 was published on February 22, 2014.  Part 2 appeared on April 19, 2014.  Friedman twice interviewed Lazlo Block, Vice President of People Operations at Google.  Here is a YouTube video of Lazlo Block, speaking about Google’s hiring process.

Friedman’s two op-eds focus on direct hiring of employees by Google.  But this might also give some insight into jobs offered by other tech companies, and possibly other employers in the future.

What the Friedman op-eds do not point out is that Google grows not just through direct hiring, but also through mergers and acquisitions of other smaller, up and coming tech related companies.  Wikipedia has an entire page dedicated to tracking Google’s Mergers and Acquisitions.

Google’s first acquisition was on February 12, 2001 of Deja, whose coveted product was UseNet.  UseNet was the place for online forums of Internet users prior to the World-Wide-Web (www) and browsers that we all know today.  Since then, as of April 14, 2014, Google has acquired its 147th company, Titan Aerospace, which brings with it Project Loon, which seeks to provide Internet access to rural locations.

If you scan through this list of 147 companies, so far, you can see that Google wears many hats, including being an advertising and marketing company (via Google Ads and Ad Sense), a smartphone OS (Android), a video sharing service (YouTube), etc, etc.  This past weekend, NPR’s On The Media program highlighted “Robots and Artificial Intelligence”, including “Google’s Robot Brigade”.

What this suggests is that many Google employees were previously employees of other small companies, scattered throughout the U.S. and the world.  So another job option for college grads and other job seekers is that you can A) go work for another tech related firm, and B) start up your own tech company.  Who knows, maybe someday your employer or your company might be scooped up by Google, or other large tech firms (Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, et al).  So you can work in tech jobs elsewhere besides Silicon Valley.  Hopefully, more tech companies will spring up here in Vermont, and not just in Chittenden County.  How about here in Rutland County?

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Scratch Programming: Getting Started Tutorial

I’ve gone through the Scratch “Getting Started” tutorial to create my first Scratch Project.  Click here for the tutorial that walks you through creating the program step by step.  In order to save your project, you will first need to register as a user on Scratch website, by clicking the “Join Scratch” button in the top right corner of the screen.

Once you are registered, logon to Scratch, and start the tutorial project.  This project is a simple animation that teaches you some basic things about “sprites” and event-driven programming.  This project has two sprites, the cat and the dancing girl.  The cat is positioned via move commands.  The dancing girl is moved via having multiple “costumes” per sprite.  Each costume in a sprite is a separate picture.  The dancing girl has four separate pictures which are looped.  When the cat moves, the snare drum and cymbals play.  The “backdrop” image is the stage with lights.

You can choose some stock backdrops or sprites, or you can create your own within Scratch.  You can also upload other photos from your camera, or images you created with other software such as Microsoft Paint.

After I completed the tutorial, I was able to “share” it.  This allows other people to view the project.  Click the green flag to run the Scratch project.

scratch_tutorialhttp://scratch.mit.edu/projects/embed/20530666/?autostart=false

Next Event: April 26, Learn Scratch Programming

The next event is on Saturday, April 26, 1-3PM, again at the Rutland Free Library.  We are going to do another hands-on event.  This time we are going to start working with a programming tool called “Scratch” from MIT.  Scratch is another visual programming tool / language.  For those of you who participated in the Code.org Hour of Code event, you will notice that Scratch has some similarities to the visual programming approach of Hour of Code.  But Scratch has many more programming features, and introduces you to many more programming concepts and ideas.

http://scratch.mit.edu/

Scratch enables you to program your own interactive stories, games, sounds and animations.  You can also share your creations with others in the Scratch online community.  According to MIT’s website, “Scratch helps young people learn to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively — essential skills for life in the 21st century.”

In February, one person had a question about “sprites”.  Scratch does allow you to have one or more sprites (visual graphics to represent people, animals, characters, things), that can be animated.

For each sprite, you can tell Scratch to do different things based on different “events”.  This is called event-driven programming.  For example, you could play a sound, or have a character say something in a cartoon bubble, if the user clicks on something, moves their mouse or presses a key on keyboard.  These mouse/keyboard events drive the action on the screen.

I have only started to use Scratch myself, but it is a very nice tool and way to learn and develop programs.  I will send out more information later on.

Hope to see you on April 26th to start to learn Scratch programming.