Android Games Built by Middle School Students at BAYCAT SF


App Inventor was used in the summer program BAYCAT–The Bay View- Hunters Point Center for Arts and Technology in San Francisco.  In just a few weeks, these students learned the basics of app building and created a game. One is a fashion app where you can drag clothes into a virtual closet. Another lets you grab for dollars before the police officer snatches you. Another lets you skateboard while boulders fall from the sky, while two others are fun soccer games. The students learned some complex programming, with if-else blocks, timer events, and the like, and they also had to work with Photoshop and other tools to build their user interfaces. Impressive work!

Congrats to the students and to their wonderful volunteer instructor, USF grad student Roderick Lisam.

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USF students create App-Inventor-Compatible Yelp API


App Inventor provides a component, TinyWebDB, which can be used to talk to web data sources (APIs) that follow a specific protocol. You can use APIs bring in book data from Amazon, stock information from Yahoo Finance, and data from blogs (see appinventorapi.com for samples) There’s also a new Web component in App Inventor that provides another method for talking to APIs.

Last semester, Jackie Tong, a University of San Francisco student taking our App Inventor course, created an”App-Inventor-Compatible” API to Yelp’s recommendation data. The API gives access to simple search on Yelp.

You can access Jackie’s API directly from your App Inventor apps. Just add a TinyWebDB component and set the sourceURL to cs1072spr11.appspot.com.

 

You can also download the source code to modify it and add new Yelp commands. She wrote the code in Python and using App Engine, and she’s been kind enough to share the code at:

http://www.cs.usfca.edu/~wolber/appinventor/yelpTinyWebDBJackie.zip

Jackie was a beginning computer science student. She is exceptional, but her work shows that even beginners can create APIs using Python and App Engine, and thus, with App Inventor, can create web enabled Android apps.

Youth Radio’s Mobile Action Lab

Youth Radio's Mobile Action Lab

Youth Radio is an Oakland, CA organization which promotes young people’s intellectual, creative, and professional growth through education and access to media. They’ve won a MacArthur Digital Media and Learning Award and now they’re adding mobile apps to their game and and using App Inventor to make it happen.

Here’s a clip about them:

USF App Inventor Students Become App Inventor Teachers

USF Student-Teachers at the Technovation Challenge

USF Student-Teachers at the Technovation Pitch-Night

No women in computer science?  Not so fast! The University of San Francisco’s App Inventor class is helping to encourage more women into the field. These four students, recent A-listers in the USF course, are now helping high school girls learn programming and entrepreneurship in Iridescent’s Technovation Challenge.  Jenny Horowitz, Paige Carrington, Julie Cahill, and Melanie Garcia– Way to go!

For more info about the Tech Challenge, check out this PC World article

What is App Inventor? Ask Hal Abelson

Hal Abelson, the MIT professor who took a sabbatical at Google to develop App Inventor, wrote a recent piece for EDUCAUSE Quarterly. Not surprisingly, Hal’s article deftly characterizes the great potential of App Inventor in education and society. Here’s an excerpt that gets to the gist of App Inventor’s unique educational value:

One of my favorite App Inventor examples comes from an introductory computer appreciation course at Wellesley (one of the Google-sponsored pilots). The instructors, Takis Metaxas and Eni Mustafaraj, had the idea that students should learn about the societal implications of information systems by building some of these systems and seeing first-hand the choices involved. In one example, the class created a polling application. As people walked around the Wellesley campus, they could pull out their phones and see that there was a new poll — for example, “Who is your favorite female singer?” — and select and send their responses, which were recorded by a web server.

At the next class, Eni pulled up the web page and showed the results. Then she pulled up the database and said, “and here’s how you all voted.” The students were startled. In the “private” experience of using their phones to answer a poll, they’d simply not appreciated that:

  • The polling system could keep track of their identities along with their votes.
  • This was a choice made by the system designer.
  • They could experiment with that choice implementing their own variations of the polling system.

As a topic for introductory computing, this goes beyond the issues involved in learning about programming or computational thinking. It gives students direct experience with a technology — online polling — that has major social impact and lets them look through the eyes of the system implementer. By creating their own variations, students explore the design choices and grapple with the implications, social as well as technical. The next time these students encounter polling systems or proposals for electronic voting, they’ll be asking some good questions as informed citizens.

 

High School Girls and the Technovation Challenge

How do we get more women in computer science? App Inventor may be part of the answer.

This year’s Iridescent Technovation Challenge has expanded to NYC and Socal along with the Bay area. This is a program where high school girls spend two nights a week learning app development and entrepreneurship, aided by college students and young professionals. NYC’s program was featured in a PC Magazine article. Three USF students– Jenny Horowitz, Julia Cahill, and Melody Garcia–  are instructors at the San Francisco Challenge taking place at Google’s SF offices.

Girls at the NYC Technovation Challenge

The nation-wide finals are May 21 in the Bay Area. I’ll be there!

 

Google’s Mark Friedman at USF’s CS Night

App Inventor Director Mark Friedman gave a great keynote talk at USF’s CS Night.

Our CS 107 students– non-cs majors with no prior programming experience– presented and demo’d their Android app projects alongside the seniors and MS students.

CS 107 students Jose Malave and Crystal Ferguson show their app

CS 107 student and filmmaker Angelo Taylor

CS 107 student Angelo Taylor documented the night with this short film, and librarian supreme Shawn Calhoun contributed these photos