teaching machines

Grandma Radially

My Stella homework never saw the light of day this semester. Students were to implement a kaleidoscopic drawing application. Pixels plotted in one wedge were mirrored around the radial axes of the image. I felt that I would have had to provide too much scaffolding code for students to feel ownership over the project, so […]

Not Tree

Hoffman Hills is a park 30 minutes west of me. Some people like to trek up its meandering trails to an observation tower and soak in the fall colors from the surrounding countryside. I prefer to visit the not-tree:

Landing in the Credits: Stories from Game Makers

I’ve been asked to serve on a panel at a GEEKCon that some folks at my university are putting on. The title is Landing in the Credits, and the panelists are students and alumni who have built games. I share here some notes on my contributions as moderator. Here we are at GEEKCon 2017 celebrating […]

Spec Adventure

The last few weeks of our introductory program class focus on objects. For a lab exercise, students design a Room class to support a text adventure game. Each Room has a description, four Room neighbors, and whatever other state the students need to support their interaction. One of the students designed an adventure that featured […]

Manual Bugs

Last October, I ran across this blurb in an article about the shooting in Las Vegas: As a software developer, the highlighted sentence puzzles me. As a human, the highlighted sentence puzzles me. The implication is that the report was incorrect because it was made by a human. Software is also made by humans. In […]

Center Bug

How do you teach elementary schoolers to programmatically trace a circle? Not with parametric equations involving sine and cosine, but with a turtle. You set them on its back, put the reins in their hands, and have them call out orders. The turtle only needs to know two commands: move and turn. Interleave these commands, […]

College Humor

Office hours was just about over, and the line that normally piles up outside my door had evaporated bit by bit till there was nothing left but a peaceful hallway. But then—footsteps. A student appeared at my door, said she had a joke to share, and then launched a crumpled up piece of paper at […]


On our way back from visiting family for Thanksgiving, we found ourselves behind this truck: It’s probably one of those new Tesla trucks, given its builtin navigation buttons.


A student and I are attaching a bunch of accelerometers to a wooden mannequin. When we pose the mannequin, an Arduino will pick up the new orientation of the limbs and communicate the pose to a Unity game, which will manipulate the corresponding virtual model inside a game. In a sense, the mannequin will be […]

Random Splats with Lobes

Earlier I discussed my silly dream of generating random splats. That dream had a sequel that the recent break afforded me time to pursue: generating random splats with lobes. I had a hunch that this task would be easier if I had a utility function for generating a random curve that netted a turn of […]

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