[Sugar-news] Sugar Digest 2014-05-15

Walter Bender walter.bender at gmail.com
Thu May 15 13:37:17 EDT 2014

==Sugar Digest==

Happy 6th Birthday Sugar Labs

1. I just got back from Turtle Art Day in Kathmandu, Nepal. OLE Nepal
helped organize a 2-day workshop with 70+ children from four schools. Many
thanks to Martin Dluhos, Basanta Shrestha, Subir Pradhanang, Rabi
Karmacharya, Bernie Innocenti, and Adam Holt, all of who contributed to the

It was not a surprise that children in Nepal are like children everywhere
else: they take to programming like ducks to water. We began by taking the
children in small groups to learn some basics about controlling the turtle:
one child plays the role of turtle, one holds the pen (a piece of chalk)
and the rest, in a circle, instruct the "turtle" how to draw a square. They
need to be very precise with their instructions: if they just say "forward"
without saying how far forward, the turtle keeps walking. If they say
"right", without saying how far to turn, the turtle keeps spinning after
they draw a square, I ask them to draw a triangle then they are ready to
start with Turtle Art. I've posted a few of the chalk drawing in the wiki:
simple ones [1] from my session to more elaborate [2] from those working
with another one of the mentors.

After working with chalk, we went to the computers. On a laptop connected
to a projector, I introduced Turtle Blocks, and again ask for a square. I
show them that they can snap together blocks, e.g., forward 100, right 90;
showed them the repeat block; and then I show them how to use the start
block to run their program with the rabbit or snail (fast or slow). Over
time, I introduced the pen and let them explore colors for awhile. Next, I
introduce action blocks: make an action for drawing a square and then call
that action inside of a repeat block followed by right 45 and you get a
pretty cool pattern. This was followed by more open-ended exploration. I
introduced a few more ideas, such as using "set color to heading" (the
color is determined by the direction the turtle is heading); "set color =
color + 1" to increment the color; and "set color = time" to make the color
slowly change over time. I also introduced a few other blocks, such as
show, speak, and random. Finally, I introduced boxes. For this, I use a
physical box: I ask the children to put a number (written on paper) in the
box; then I ask them what number is in the box. I ask them to take the
number in the box and add 1 to it. Again I ask them what number is in the
box. I repeat this until they get used to it; then I show them the same
thing using Turtle. The example program I write with them is to go forward
by the amount in the box, turn right, and add 10 to the number in the box.
I asked them what they think will happen and then show them that it makes a
spiral. When they run it with the "snail", they can see the number in the
box as the program runs. Another block I explicitly introduced was the
"show" block. We programmed an animation with "show image", "wait 1", "show
image", "wait 1", ... They recorded dance steps using the Sugar Record
activity and used those images in their Turtle projects. As often as
possible, we tried to have a child show their work to the entire group. At
the end of the second day, we had a table set up for an exhibition; we had
to keep adding more tables as more and more children wanted to show off
their projects.

We originally planned on break-out sessions on Day Two, but we had a
technical glitch on Day One, that slowed things down quite a bit. The
children were running Sugar 0.82 on XO 1 laptops, which is nearly six-years
old. They had them connected to the mesh network, which cannot scale
properly to 70+ machines. The result was a lot of frozen machines. It took
most of the day to figure out what was wrong. Once we turned off the
radios, everything worked great. I also had to spin a stripped down version
of Turtle Art, since a number of dependencies I use, such as some Python
2.7 features, were unavailable on 0.82.

We did have one break-out session for robotics. I brought a Butia to Nepal
and I wrote the typical program with the kids to have the Butia go forward
until it got to the edge of the circle (everyone was sitting in a circle on
the floor); whomever the Butia approached had to push a button so that the
Butia would spin and then go in another direction. We then added a few
embellishments: the Butia would say "ouch" or "that tickles" when the
button was pushed; and we had it take a picture of the child who pushed the
button. We saved the files so we could use them to make an animation in
Turtle Art.

Of note: One child approached me to say he is teaching himself to program
Python. I showed him how to export Python from his Turtle Art projects.
I'll be curious how he uses that feature. I am making a new set to "Turtle
Cards" [3] to demonstrate the steps we took in explaining Turtle to the

2. While I was in Kathmandu, I had a chance to meet with the Nepali FOSS
community, thanks to Shankar Pokharel, Ankur Sharma, and Subir Pradhanang.
We had a nice talk about the challenges and opportunities facing FOSS in

3. Just before my trip to Nepal, I was in Mexico attending Aldea Digital
[4]. The central plaza in Centro Historico in DF is turned into the world's
larget free Internet cafe for two weeks. I gave a lecture about Sugar and
ran an impromptu Turtle Art session. (We installed Sugar in a VM on twenty
Windows 8 machines and ran a session.) I also had a chance to meet Ian, the
9-month old baby of Carla Gomez: a future Turtle Artist.

=== In the Community ===

4. Mike Dawson, formally of OLPC Afghanistan, wrote a nice commentary on
the Keepod [5] in which he mentions Sugar on a Stick.

5. Google Summer of Code begins on the 19th of May. We'll be meeting every
week in IRC on Fridays at 2PM EST.

6. There is still time to enter the Sugar Background Image Contest [6].

=== Tech Talk ===

7. Daniel Narvaez has been building F20 images for XO [7]: The XO-1 image
boots into Sugar (latest from git) and wifi works. He has also built XO-4

8. Daniel also built tarballs for 0.101.5 [8, 9]. We are now in string, API
and UI freeze.

9. Please help us with testing of Sugar 102. See [10] for details.

=== Sugar Labs ===

10. Please visit our planet [11].



[1] http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/go/File:Chalk1.jpg
[2] http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/go/File:Chalk2.jpg
[3] http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/go/Activities/Turtle_Art/Turtle_Cards
[4] http://aldeadigitalmx.com/
[6] http://contest.sugarlabs.org
[7] http://shell.sugarlabs.org/~dnarvaez/oob/
[10] http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/go/0.102/Testing
[11] http://planet.sugarlabs.org

Walter Bender
Sugar Labs
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