Friday, July 11, 2014

NYC BigApps Hackathon, our final frontier!

Hacking at WeWork

We are wrapping our program with the NYC BigApps Hackathon. The nano team decided to work on foodCompass to find healthy restaurants for commuters. Jared, from Thoughtworks, provided us nano T-shirts for the team!

Our first hackathon session was on Saturday, June 7th, at WeWork/Charging Bull, in the financial district. We took over a nice room (thought not enough ventilation). We spent the morning deciding on what application to work for and which features to add. We collected all the potential features on sticky notes that each nano hacker could tackle on. Our first session was an incredible success. We used github to collaborate on the shared codebase. At some point, all the mentors were hacking along with some complex Javascript in the last hour, and the final merge was not working. Ricky untangled the github merging issues! We were one of the few teams to present a functional working project by the end of the day!

The nano hacker team did a great short presentation and the judges were thrilled on the achievements. At the end of the day, there were some raffles for some devices. The members of the Nano Hacker Squad acquired a good number of these: Benno got an Arduino, Lucas got a Pebble and Mario got $250 gift card on Octoparts.

Hacking at Falchi Building

Our second hackathon session was in Long Island City, Queens, at the Falchi Building, on Saturday, June 21st. The space was sponsored by Coalition for Queens. We spent the morning visiting the NY Designs Fabrication Lab and attending a UX workshop by Luke Miller from Yahoo (Pain. Pleasure. Context. Behaviors). After lunch, Kiera went ahead migrating foodCompass to the iOS platform. We had plenty more features to add to foodCompass. Giordan added support for dragging a pin from the google maps and recompute the new restaurant locations. Olivia worked on CSS according to a color scheme designed by Mia. Lucas added support for more buttons and the print functionality. Vaughn added support for different transportation options. We had a successful live application to present. Mario and Julian were enjoying Niagara Falls and couldn't attend.

(Photography by Jennifer)

BigApps Block Party 

By unanimous consensus, the nano hacker squad looked forward to showcase foodCompass at the BigApps Block Party in Industry City, Brooklyn, on Saturday, July 19th. Vaughn couldn't attend due to summer camp. The team submitted the online application on Saturday, July 12th, which was the deadline. The team was devastated to learn that in 2013 there was a BigApp entry titled Healthy Food Compass. I'm guessing that this prompted Julian to add a differentiating feature like the YELP category select drop-down. He kept working until the last minute (well, 10 minutes before the actual presentation). While Lucas and Mario customized the pin icon in Google Maps. The team had 2 minutes to present the three slides to the judges. Everyone wanted to talk, so they did! Everyone: Kiera, Giordan, Lucas, Olivia, Mario and Julian. After 3pm, they showcased the web application while Kiera showcased her iphone version using the ios simulator. The WiFi reception wasn't optimal, so the web app was behaving a little spotty. The food options at Industry City were great: Melt ice-cream sandwiches and pizza from Sottocasa. However, we should have probably used foodCompass to find healthy options in the neighborhood! The mentors who attended: Benno, Matt, Ricky and Pedro. Also, Jared provided more nano T-shirts for kids and mentors.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Programming Core Concepts

Have you seen the movie, Men in Black?

Benno dressing like a rock star

Ricky dressing like a rock star

Lita, an upcoming nano mentor

Matt forgot to bring his rock star suit

I can see who got the munchkins

(Photography by Jennifer)

The mentors have differing views on teaching computing concepts. Few (including myself) favor constructionism, others are more into instructionism (and lecturing). The 1-1 teaching model is probably the most effective learning model; however, in my opinion, it doesn't translate well into collaborative learning which has been an objective from the start. Given our open-ended and flexible mentoring context (sometimes it's just myself, sometimes we have a full house enough for a comfortable 1-1), I'm becoming less dogmatic about the "one" ideal approach, instead it seems that exposure to multiple differing approaches is working quite well. I like a balanced approach where we do have effective learning as well as a collaborative component, such as pairing (and/or eventually full team collaboration). We'll do what works. Given that we have very committed mentors, we are all eager to make it work. So far, we have done a nice exploratory exposure to different aspects in web programming: web page (html/css), audio, video, animation and graphics. From our last mentor's discussion, we decided to cover core programming concepts: loops, lists/arrays, booleans, if-conditions, and dom events. The hacking model is based on providing enough of a working small program that nano hackers can tinker and add features without deep understanding of the core concepts. It's been effective for engagement and getting things done. It's about time to cover the programming core concepts now.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Creative Programming

The first month, we have covered few exercises on basic HTML, CSS and Javascript. We built few self-destructing timers for Mission Impossible's style missions. Ricky brought us delicious CSS diner. The current month, we focused on media: web audio, canvas animation, web camera with webrtc, and html5 video. Nano hackers enjoyed Patap immensely. Last week, we played with green screening using the code from seriously.js and experimented some tweening examples. At one point, we all look into Lucas's screen. He discovered Chinese in the code for the Twitter button. This week we got few drawing applications and for the few more demanding, we tried voxel.js (Minecraft in Javascript). We also had Giordan to join us for the first time. Giordan has been a regular at CoderdojoNYC and busy creating Minecraft mods in Java and Eclipse.

We have no clue how green screening works, so we tested with yellow.

Lucas keeps teaching us few tricks

Lucas discovered Chinese in Twitter's button

Nano hackers in action

How to float a nano hacker head?

(Photography by Jennifer)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Little Intro to Code

This is a little intro to code made by me. It is a little html, css, and a little javascript.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Nano Hacker Squad: The Initiative

The nano hacker squad started as a pilot initiative to rule the world. There are a couple of inspirational sources: the hackathon building/learning model, hacker hours (for adults) that Aidan started in NYC few years ago, and my interests in facilitating collaborative learning web technologies for kids. The focus of the pilot is to mentor very tech-enthusiastic kids from coderdojonyc as a hackathon team for the annual YRS hackathon (festival of code). 

We have support from great mentors from coderdojo and ZocDoc: Ricky, Pedro, Benno, Matt, Nick. Omar and Aidan signed up to help through the online forum. Jennifer, a parent, provided a lot of feedback before launching this initiative, as well as on-going support. Thoughtworks has been graciously hosting the event at their offices (Thanks Jared for the snacks!)

During the pilot initiative, we are learning how to facilitate collaborative learning for kids. We are making mistakes and addressing them at every iteration. The progress and engagement have been fantastic!

At this rate, the Nano Hacker Squad will rule the world!

Lucas is teaching us how to code

(Photography by Jennifer)