The LCSI Summer 2016 Cohort

Posted 23 Jun 2016

We had our first meeting for our summer activiies at the Purcellville Library on the evening of June 22nd. Fifteen students showed up for 4 hours of controlled chaos; most faces were our ‘usual suspects’ we’ve worked with for 2 years at Loudoun Valley High School, but there were several new faces from Computer Math, as well as one student who was post-AP from Woodgrove!

The vent was largely unplanned, but there were a few ideas going into it. The evening started by talking about things learned over the last year, recapping the kinds of things we did last summer, and various ideas for what people want to do this summer; topics varied from ‘learn Python and/or Ruby’ and ‘practice cyberpatriot’, to things like ‘practice for HSPC competitions’ and ‘build a program that plays chess’.

We then spent several hours on a random collection of activities, sometimes breaking into small groups, sometimes gathering around the projector. We did things like:

  • Set up and played with an ‘arduino starter kit’
  • Played a game of chess while discussing what a data structure representing s chess board might look like
  • Stepped through an example program that played Connect 4, to look at how we can make a computer ‘think’
  • Looked at an example of machine learning using ‘Baysean Classification’ to identify the author of various quotes
  • talked about several apps students are considering writing
  • introduced several students to the concept and mechanics of an HSPC competition
  • Looked at several examples of combination programming/making projects involving soldering
  • Discussed philosophical topics around artificial intelligence, including the book ‘Godel Escher Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid’
  • Discussed the construction of a PDP-8 simulator, based around a Raspberry Pi.
  • Planned a continuation of last years 1980’s era Z-80 computer; we want to build a 64x64 grid of LEDs that simulates ‘Comway’s Game of Life’, programmed in Z80 assembly running on CP/M

We left with several ideas for our next meeting:

  • One post-AP student is considering the chess data tructure we talked about, and is writing some code we’ll look at
  • Two students were discussing an app they want to write in support of college freshmen, and we’re going to look at their ideas in a ‘Shark Tank’-style teardown
  • We will publish a well-known problem from a previous HSPC competition, so students can attempt their own solution and then spend some time discussing and comparing solutions
  • We’ll likely build stuff with the Arduino starter kit again
  • Evaluate a course we can all take together using the Loudoun Library’s subscription to Lynda.
  • Using an Arduino Leonardo tu turn an old Commodore 64 into a working USB keyboard.

Our next two meetings are scheduled at the Purcellville Library, in the Robey Room on:

  • Thursday, June 30th from 6:00 - 9:00pm
  • Wednesday, July 6th from 5:00 - 9:00pm

If you’re interested in hanging out and learning something, even in bringing your own agenda item, please show up! This isn’t a classroom structure, this is more like a bazaar of tech-related hangout.