Even though I wanted to do CS 110 again because it was being taught using robots, I was unsure of how they were going to modify the introductory computer science course. However, having the experience of using the robots for the past two days, I must say that the course must be a lot more enjoyable.
I am almost tempted to say that the scribbler is very "approachable." Not only is it more affordable, it is also sturdy in that there is no fear of any parts falling off and getting misplaced. Also it is very easy to use. Even though I was familiar with Python and basic computer science concepts, the robot and Myro were completely new concepts to me, but it only took a couple of days to become comfortable with both the scribbler and the software. The fact that it has a place to hold a pen and can therefore draw, is a big plus point because the drawing exercises are not only fun, but also help to make us understand how the robot is moving around. I also think that the drawing exercises are like an incentive to make sure that the robot moves around the way we want it to and therefore, the exercises lead us to teaching us how to have complete control of the robot. I enjoyed making the robot draw squares and stars and other polygons. The commands used in Myro are very simple and quick and easy to learn. The text is well written in the way that it teaches more about programming rather than Python. The fact that it gives attention to small details like teaching us about the commands "Alt+P" and "Alt+N" is very important. I do not remember learning about these until later in the course and even though they are not hugely significant, they are very useful. The focus on the importance of algorithms and functions is also really good. Many textbooks lead students to jump straight into coding a problem in the programming language being used and the importance and usefulness of algorithms is not stressed enough. The significance of problem solving is well addressed in the text. Also, at the end of most chapters, there is a section that reviews the new commands taught and the fact that Myro and Python are differentiated here is a great help.
The only major problem that I faced while using the software was getting to initialize the "comport." Also, the scribbler does not travel straight. I realize that this fact is mentioned and explained in the text, however, I think it would be helpful to work towards making the robot move in a straight line. I find that sometimes, the robot does move forward in a straight line when moving at a very slow speed, however, this is also not given. Having the set of sensors is also useful - while experimenting with the sensors, I find that even though the IR sensors sense an obstacle that is about two inches away, it does sense anything when it is in contact with an obstacle. It senses our skin, and it senses white objects or lighter objects faster than darker objects. Even though the scribbler can create sounds and beep a range of frequencies, it would be great to work towards making it play a whole song file; but also, I think it would be very interesting to have it create music and move simultaneously. The text can be expanded to include more about strings and the concept of arrays (lists in Python). I feel like strings and arrays are an important concept and need to be taught more about. Also, since the book is written through programming, more can be said about files along with strings, lists and other modules like the math module etc. Lastly, I think that it is important to improve the appearance of the robot. I have described it as an “ugly blue plate” previously, and I think that a better looking robot will attract a lot more attention than the scribbler that we are working with at the moment.
-- Mansi Gupta