Following on from last month’s session this Coder Dojo focused on algorithm development, giving the young coders a deeper understanding of coding and the reasons behind the results produced. Once again our team were on-hand as mentors, to provide advice and guidance to the young coders in attendance.
To kick off the session the young coders were asked to consider: who is smarter – computers or humans? To illustrate the point everyone was given a set of basic (and therefore somewhat ambiguous) instructions for a drawing, such as “draw a diagonal line”. Due to a lack of specific details everyone naturally perceived these instructions differently. Therefore, what was supposed to result in a picture of a kite instead ended up with a nonsensical collection of lines. The point – to show that, just as with computers, if we are not given specific instructions it is hard to know what is expected of us.
This task ultimately aimed to portray that computer programs are simply a list of instructions with particular characteristics known as algorithms, which tell the computer what we want it to do. The session also showed everyone what happens when we get coding wrong, depicting computer errors such as Y2K, Arian5 etc, which detail what went wrong in the design.
So, what makes a good algorithm?
- Specific – it must not be ambiguous
- Correct – the instructions enter must be valid and correct
- Relevant – must be at the right level of detail
While the session drew on the similarities between humans and computers it also highlighted areas where computers still cannot compete with human intellect, such as problem solving, human thinking and emotion. Until we can express human thinking as an algorithm true artificial intelligence isn’t possible.
After a short break, Roger from Zapcoder took to the floor to introduce their product and show an example of coding being used in the real-world. Zapcoder, currently in development, is a prototype that aims to let users create and share games and apps from any device, effectively turning coding into a more accessible and enjoyable activity for programming enthusiasts. Roger’s advice to the floor was to consider programming games as a starting point, as one of the big problems with learning to code is young coders often don’t know what they want to do.
Another fantastic session with some great discussions and activities, Coder Dojo continues to be a success and we look forward to the third session on Sunday 23rd September back down at the inspiring Glasgow Science Centre.