Space Clouds: Turtles in Space – Learning to Code

Here is something I have been thinking as part of the Countdown Institute.

The Countdown Institute  teaches young people aged 10 to 16 to learn programming skills using Space exploration

I have been a fan of Seymour Papert’s Turtles based on my work at feynlabs.

Turtles in Python(Python Turtles) and in general(Turtle Graphics) are a great way of learning to code.

Object Oriented paradigms (like Turtles) are an easy way to start learning Programming (as opposed to Procedural Paradigms) because they help to tie back to the problem / context easily. The Turtles concept also downplays the more complex aspects of OO programming such as Inheritance and Polymorphism.

Countdown helps enables young people to learn coding by solving problems in a specific context – in this case – Space exploration.

But we need a simple and a consistent way to model problems. Space Clouds is a data/modelling layer which relates Space exploration to coding within Space exploration. We can think of the Space Cloud as a unifying Data layer / software objects/class. It is a consistent way of modelling a problem and getting kids  to code

From a programmatic standpoint , we have varying space objects(Satellites, Drones, Planets, Space missions etc).

Like an Object (such as a Turtle) – each of these are Objects have behaviour and data

Each lesson starts with describing (modelling) the objects involved in the ‘world’ – ex in a high altitude balloon – jet stream could be defined as part of the space cloud.

This is a very easy paradigm to understand for a Child .. ie I switch on a device and the ‘sky lights up’ so to speak.

Depending on the problem – the Objects could be Planets, Satellites, missions(Orion, Rosetta)

Space Clouds is a simple, context specific modelling language for the context of space exploration created with the goal of teaching young people to code. Space Clouds is Programming Language agnostic. Current modelling languages like UML are designed for modelling entire systems and are not really suited for learning to code. 

The idea of Space Clouds can be thought of as the concept of in ‘Turtles in Space’

A recent blog on learning to code said that No-fuss setups and Task Oriented tools are key features to get more kids to code.

Space Clouds takes a similar approach by simplifying (limiting) input in early stages and connecting to a specific context

Image source Valiant turtle – wikipedia