Coding for pre-schoolers: a ‘Turtle Logo’ in Forth

*New!* (26 Nov) – Turtle Logo v1.4 is available now! Entirely key operated, suitable for 3-4 years+ to 99 years. 750 lines of Forth code. Algorithmic drawing program with advanced features, incl. macro record & playback, color, etc. Works on WinXP to Win10.

1. Inspiring the next generation of technology builders.

A challenge faced by both parents and teachers is how to help young children develop a ‘builder’ relationship with technology, instead of becoming increasingly passive consumers of content created by others. The consensus on what’s important for older kids and adults is clear: coding. This enables children to participate in the creation of their own technological “micro-worlds” — environments rich in educational potential.[14]

This autumn, spurred by having our own young children (one aged 4 years, the other 16 months), we began an experiment, the result of which is a Turtle Logo program for Windows computers (freely downloadable) that is simple enough to be accessible for children from 3 years and older, while providing an extensible platform that can grow with the child.

The long-term goal is to enable children to express their creativity, artistry, and natural ‘builder’ impulses using coding, computer graphics, and robotics as readily as the previous generation could using paints, brushes, and building blocks.

Turtle Logo - Inspiring the next generation of technology builders.

Turtle Logo – Inspiring the next generation of technology builders.

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Sensors and Systems


… Integrating Sensors into the Ubiquitous Computing Stack

“Smart dust”, tiny leaf sensors, wearable computing — these and a host of other sensors that make measurements and communicate without requiring human intervention can now be readily integrated into dispersed systems to provide ambient intelligence, situational awareness, and the capability for adaptive behaviors or intelligent process automation.

Whether the sensor’s output is used to control the opening and closing of relays or thermostats, or to automatically raise alerts — the integration of sensors into systems is at the heart of the promise of ubiquitous computing. And with the ability to place hundreds of embedded sensors within a given coverage area, each wirelessly streaming information, the possibility of self-organizing sensor networks is increasingly becoming a reality.

This article takes a look at the sensor layer of a basic ubiquitous computing stack.

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Maxima for Symbolic Computation

Maxima is a symbolic computation platform that is free, open source, runs on Windows, Linux, and Mac, and covers a wide range of mathematical functions, including 2-D/3-D plotting and animation. Capabilities include algebraic simplification, polynomials, methods from calculus, matrix equations, differential equations, number theory, combinatorics, hypergeometric functions, tensors, gravitational physics, PDEs, nonlinear systems.  With an active developer base and responsive community, a user gets a secure future lifecycle of the product and plenty of help when dealing with problems. The result: an essential mathematical computing package for students, programmers, engineers, scientists, and mathematicians. This article will help you get started with Maxima.

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Bare Metal Programming: The C Language

…for Embedded and Low-Level Systems Development

C provides the convenience of learning one language while retaining the ability to target a variety of platforms including modern operating systems (Linux, Windows, Mac), real-time operating systems, systems-on-a-chip, and a host of microcontrollers for embedded development. And if you have to “mov” the bits around yourself (device drivers, DMA controllers), you can do that too. This is a significant efficiency over assembly languages which are essentially chip-specific control codes and therefore require understanding the architecture of the chip in each target platform.

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Knowledge Engineering & the Emerging Technologies of the Next Decade*

Between Mathematics, Computer Science, Software Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Statistics, is emerging an area of effort concerned, not just with using data or information gathered slowly over months or years, but with its real-time acquisition, interpretation and analysis, and its real-time use in appropriate decision-making, automatic adjustment, and intelligent response.

For a team capable of bridging the disciplines involved, the potential for application is truly unlimited.

*This article was originally written 15 September, 2005 when the author was Director of Engineering at BioSonics, Inc. It was published at MathSciTech on 12 January 2010.
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