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Teaching children to program Python with the Pyland game

Alex Bradbury
September 28, 2014

Teaching children to program Python with the Pyland game

Presented at PyCon UK 2014.

See the code at: https://github.com/pyland/pyland

This summer, a team of interns at the University of Cambridge Computer Lab have been working on a project to teach children to program in Python through a programming game. The primary target platform is the Raspberry Pi, though multi-platform ports are planned for the future. It is, of course, open source. The game consists of a number of challenges and puzzles which invite the user to apply programming techniques in order to progress. I will discuss the motivation for the game, give a demo, give some insight into its implementation, our plans for the future, and how you can get involved.

Alex Bradbury

September 28, 2014

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  1. Who is this guy? • Alex Bradbury, @asbradbury, [email protected]

    Researcher at University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory (compiler! many core architectures!) • Contributor to Raspberry Pi since the beginning • Co-author of Learning Python with Raspberry Pi • Writes the LLVM Weekly newsletter http://llvmweekly. org @llvmweekly • Co-founder of lowRISC, a project to create a mass produced open-source System-on-Chip http://lowrisc. org @lowRISC
  2. What is Pyland? • A programming game consisting of a

    set of challenges - solve the puzzles, get the treasure • Characters can be controlled with Python scripts • Featuring lovely 2D tile- based artwork • Summer intern project: Ben Catterall, Heidi Howard, Joshua Landau and Ashley Newson supervised by me and Robert Mullins
  3. Pyland motivation and aims • “To provide a fun and

    creative environment on the Raspberry Pi to aid children learning programming and more general Computer Science concepts.” • Provide a bridge between Scratch and Python (11-12 year olds?) • Be engaging, appealing, fun! • Give motivations for programming: demonstrate how programming can be used to achieve goals much faster
  4. Status • It was a 10 week project... • Runs

    great on the Raspberry Pi • Core engine features implemented and working well • Three ‘sample challenges’ • Not quite ready for exposure to the little ones • Support multiple characters, concurrent execution of multiple scripts
  5. • Code plus some architecture docs at github.com/pyland/pyland • MIT

    licensed code, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC-BY-SA) art assets • SDL2, OpenGL and OpenGL ES rendering • Python 3 (of course!) • Main engine: C++11. Each user script runs in a different Python thread • Python API calls push to the event queue to be processed by main event loop • Maps created using Tiled map editor, challenges implemented with some C++ code :/ Implementation details
  6. What’s next for Pyland? • Full set of challenges ◦

    This is *difficult* (thanks for your help, PyCon UK teacher attendees!) • Integrated text editor • Multi-platform support • Better error message feedback (see Khan Academy etc) • GUI prettification Further future: • Make your own levels in Python and share them • Collaborative programming over the network
  7. “Hey Alex, how can I help?” • Sponsorship (we’re looking

    for matched funding for art assets, more development work, ...) • Code (try it out, add new features, bugfix) • Challenge design (we have a bunch of art assets currently unused) • Test it out with kids (in a few months time) • Advice - how do you think we should take this further?
  8. Questions? Twitter: @ProjectPyland, @asbradbury Github: github.com/pyland/pyland Web: http://www.pyland.org Thanks to:

    our summer interns (Ben Catterall, Heidi Howard, Joshua Landau and Ashley Newson) and the Broadcom Foundation