BCSWomen & BCS Mid Wales AppInventor family fun day

July 10, 2013 - Computing at School

On Saturday I went back to Ysgol Bro Ddyfi to run my Android Programming Family Fun Day. This didn’t go quite as planned, but it was OK in the end…

The way the day is set up is that the first half involves everyone getting the software installed on their own computers, and then working together to build a simple app, edit that app, and get it working on their phones. Then we’re supposed to break for lunch and after lunch everyone does their own thing. This didn’t quite go as planned last weekend – we ended up having to busk it a bit more than usual because of internet issues1.

One activity we did manage was an obstacle course – I made a wobble board app – a simple app with two buttons and a clock, which reads the accelerometer, and then sums up the amount of wobble the device has been subjected to. We used this with an obstacle course to get people thinking about what kinds of apps they could make, and also just to get them moving around a bit. My hope was that we’d get to discusss what made a game (could you add graphics to the wobble app? maybe a ticking bomb, or a basket of eggs?) but things became just a little bit too chaotic for that with the wifi issues. It did get people up and moving around though.

Eventually the wifi issues got too much for some attendees, who went home, and the remaining people just got on with making whatever apps they wanted. Here are a couple of pics from the day…

One attendee made a drawing app – with lines, stars, colours and so on:

The Bro Ddyfi IT club lot (Tomi, @robertarthurbt, Little Cake Kid and @misterlukeherb) with their heads down looking busy and keen

Anne @matusound and Nils in matching Chaos Computer Club Hoodies (everyone else was at lunch, which is why the room looks a bit empty!)

Rob (of Raspberry Jam fame) managed to replicate my “wobble table” app and get it working on his phone – here he is testing it on the obstacle course:

And here’s a photo of the helpers having a relaxing drink after the day was over – from right-left: Amanda, Tomi, Wayne, Fred.

The feedback forms were really positive, all things considered, and make me want to run the day again nearby to try and see if I can’t run it according to plan at least once. I was actually very surprised at the feedback – I was so busy panicking I hadn’t realised that people were actually getting quite a lot out of the day. One highlight for me is that it finally pushed me to get the materials translated, so you can now get the handout (all 14 pages) and the slides in Welsh from http://www.hannahdee.eu/appinventor; as usual, all creative commons so if you want to run it yourself you can.

1More detail on the internet problems – if any readers have any idea what might be going on , do let me know:

Despite a bunch of testing about a month ago we weren’t able to get the school wifi to run AppInventor properly; it seems that either something’s changed about the way the two halves of AppInventor connect to each other, or something’s changed about the Powys schools wifi proxy. The upshot was that we spent about an hour in a mad panic before everyone arrived, then we spent another couple of hours trying to rig something that would work, either through the wifi, or tethered through people’s smartphones (not ideal!). The first symptom was a certificate issue – it’d work on older java but not recently updated java and I think that’s because java’s tightened up what it considers safe. Once we got the blocks editor open, there was a further issue: it would load, but the open project wouldn’t update (it was like the connection between the two windows was broken). I’m not sure what could possibly cause this; we first thought it was connected to the certificate issue but now I’m not so sure.


  1. Anne & Nils says:

    We so enjoyed this workshop! Especially the aim at mothers & sons / fathers & daughters was a great idea – and largely worked out well. Yeah, the internet …. when I came home I had to reinstall my security program for my online banking…it had vanished into oblivion. Despite all the calm chaos – which I greatly liked because it is so like the real IT-world, we got a lot done, had a great day with each other (mother & son), learned a lot (him about patience with anything computers and me with apps programming). We really appreciate the courage the organizers have taken to allow people to bring their own devices – talk about jumping in at the deep end. Nobody lost their cool, nothing was taken too seriously, it was just like at any hacking event ;-) – no artificial sandbox, really.
    I’d love to do this kind of thing again, just fiddling, being able to ask the experts when needed, some guidance and inspiration but lots of flexibility to do your own thing. Self directed learning – we need lots more of it.
    Thanks again everybody and great to see almost 50% women experts!!

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