Kids Coding: Da Vinci Innovation Lab

Date:  Nov 1, 2017

In my opinion, learning how to code / programming is important to my kids.  Both Jay & Kay have learned how to program in Scratch, Lego Mindstorms, as well as Swift Playground, Minecraft modding, etc.  All these are using “Blocky” diagram, drag and drop them and code “magically”.

I think this is fine for novice programmers, however, if the kids get too used to it, when they grow up, and when it comes the time to do “real” “text-based” programming, there might have a 50%-50% chance to “drop-out” because they don’t like the “text-based” style of programming.  Such as program using Python or C, C++ or Perl, Php or so on.  I have been exposing them to Arduino, which used C as programming language, Raspberry Pi using Pythons, etc.  But so far, I have not had any chance to make them raise any interest in those.  Because it is “harder” to understand.

Until I came across Da Vinci Innovation Lab.

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It is located within the Suntec mall, on 3rd floor, between tower 2 and tower 3.

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OK.  You will have to go and Google it on the web site to get more info on the company itself.  It has a German flag on it, so, I believe it is a German origin.  I heard the owner is a Taiwanese, I think.  They also have a branch in Taiwan.

Laptop:  Each station will be given a laptop so that you can do your coding.  Communicating with the robots – Lego Mindstorms.

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Robots:  Each student will be given a box of Lego parts to build your robot.  Each student will program the Lego Mindstorms EV3 robots.  And each robots will be connect back to the laptop using Wifi connection.  The EV3 robots has be “hacked” to used with the Python based blocky programming.  Means, they not using the Lego Mindstorms EV3 blocky programming (that comes with Lego Mindstorms) to program.  Instead they used a proprietary language environment that is available only in Da Vinci Innovation Lap.  Means, you cannot do the same thing at home even you have the EV3.  (because you dont have their proprietary programming environment).

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Every tasks are different.  They will make you go think of the solution and try to code.

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Teacher to Student Ratio:  Seems to be 8 students to 1 teacher if at maximum for each table.

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Language:  The main language to teach is Python.  But in order to make it easy to learn, they also come up with a blocky style of programming which is available for the “basic” and “intermediate” module.

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Why I think it is good?  As you can see, the blocky style of programming is on the left.  All are blocks where you need to attached in sequence in order to execute with arguments for the command.  One thing I like is, the equivalent codes for Pythons are always displayed on the right hand side.  And when teacher explains it, he will always point to the block and point to the matching lines of codes, and explain to the students what are the actions they have programmed.

After a few classes, I think students will be familiar with reading the “text-based” Python codes.  And this is very important.  to be able to read the Python codes.

Remember the moto… “the more you see, the more you will get familiar, and by nature, you will be able to write Python scripts next time in no time”.

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The course:  Basic modules has about 80 tasks for part A and another 80 tasks for part B.  After that you get to Intermediate modules which has similar 80 tasks for part A and another 80 for part B.  After that, you go into Advanced class which has the last 80 tasks to complete (with no blocky).

I think they designed the whole course based on similar 1st year university course at  Stanford University as well as Carnegie Mellon University.  Given 2.5 hours per week and it will take about 1.5 years to 2 years time to finish all the 3 levels, more than 400 tasks.

The siblings:  Okay.  Jay is 11 years old, and of course he can grasp the concepts fast.  Kay is 3 years younger, it is definitely slower as he has not learned a lot of things yet being 3 years younger.

So, on the first 2 days, I can see that Kay is asking his brother Jay to help him in class.  That is why both of their progress seems to be in similar pace.

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I have a chat with my young one.  This is what I tell him.  Daddy pay money for both him and Jay so that they can have fun.  And the teacher is available for both of them as part of the “membership fee” paid.  So, I told Kay, he has to learned how to asked teacher to help him, instead of relaying on his brother.

So, on the 3rd day, Kay listen to me, and asked teacher to help him whenever he got stuck.  So, he completed module #4, with about 8 tasks.  But for Jay, because he is not “disturbed” by Kay, he gets to enjoy doing his tasks.  He completed until module #7, and 17 tasks together.

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The Lab Schedule:  This is the lab schedule.  The interesting thing about this Da Vinci Innovation lap is, it is just like a workout gym.  you have to buy membership.  Then, you get to use the “gym”.  The 3-months membership is $399/month.  And you can come as many days you like too.  And you still pay the same amount of money for the membership.

So I figured I signed up the 3-months membership for them.  My workplace is at Suntec.  And the Nov-Dec holidays is coming.  And after exam, they usually are quite free.  So, I was thinking, may be I can bring them a couple of times a week to spend time in the lab.  And try to complete the Basic Python course, sooner as possible.

But the only restrictions is I think there are 4 public holidays in a year where they are not open.  And you can bring them in everyday if you want to.  But the limitation is 2.5 hours per day.

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Trial class:  I think they are running a promotion now where you can get a FREE 2.5 hours to try it out.  It’s free.  That is why the parent – me, can go inside to visit them and see what are they learning and doing in class during this trial class.

In actions!  Let’s see the robot in actions!!!

So, this is one of the task.  Every task you completed, you show it to your teacher, and they will mark it down in your file to prove that you have done and pass the task.  The tasks are designed in such a way for you to learn as you play.

OK, let’s look at the “Jay Code”.  See whether Jay understand or not, or can he explained his code to me.  Yes, he can.

Kay’s robot has a bit of error.  But can be easily corrected.  So, the kids will need to learn how to solve the problem and thru simple programming solve the problem.

Companions:  There will be all kind of students there.  From all over Singapore.  And this is a class where you gets to interact with people.

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Their buddies from LWPS (Lorna Whiston Pre-School) are here for the lessons too.  Great!  Now they have new friends and familiar buddies… I can imagine all the laughters when they see each others.

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So, I think it is a great course to sent your kids to.  And I really hope that after they gone thru this course, they will be a real coder.  At least can code in text-based programming language.

Come at night:  Not many students are in night class from 6-8:30pm at this beginning stage.  So, I think it is a good thing.  Because the teacher to student ratio is 1 to 2.  May be when more and more people sign up for the memberships, it will get busy at night too.

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Oh, I have not stopped their usual Lego EV3 programming class at Wonderworks!  They still go there to have fun with their familiar friends.  That one is to design and program the robots.  This Da Vinci Innovation Lab is to write using Python and solve problems.  So, it is different a bit.

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So, let’s see how it goes.  This coming Saturday, they will participate in a mini-competitions.  There will be prizes.  I will give an updates after that competitions.  And I will give some new comment if have after 3 months.  Jay & Kay has taken robotics class from WonderWorks since K2.  So, this is something different and I hope they like it.

And yes, I signed them up yet another non-academic class.  🙂  I want them to have fun, and have the childhood I think they will like.  🙂

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So, is your child coded for success?  hahahaha

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