As Neil Armstrong remarked, "This is one small step for man and one giant leap for mankind."
This historic occasion and celebration got me thinking about all the advances in technology that went into putting astronauts on the moon.
As many people have accurately noted, the computing power in the space shuttle was much less than the current smartphones that many of us have in our pockets. Although power is certainly an important characteristic, the capability of this computer was essential.
Yet, at the time, the computing power and the engineering know how that was required to advance society in such a meaningful way was considered groundbreaking.
From these advances, many modern day technologies were able to progress to the point of commercialization. In fact, may of these inventions are still used today.
Introducing Computing for Kids
In a similar way, we have a Scratch based project, Spaceship Captains, that we take many of our students through when they are just getting started with our program.
The basic premise of the project is that we are building a game with a spaceship as the hero, asteroids as the enemy, and lasers to help save the day. On occasion, we may also add the capability to mine objects like diamonds or gold in space. During the project, students use foundational computing techniques such as: conditional statements, loops and variables to make the game function as intended.
While building, some students get really in depth while designing the details of their spaceship. There are others who want to program multiple lasers to destroy the asteroid. And, there are still others who want to incorporate a random number generator to have their asteroid spawn unpredictably in outer space.
Regardless of the customizations, students really enjoy building this project. There is something that is alluring about space and something that is captivating about learning to build with technology. Combining these two themes is irresistible.
And, yet, the future knowledge creation of these students will be in many ways very similar to the computing power aboard the space shuttle. Years later, their computational ability and capability will far surpass that of when they first built their Spaceship Captains game.
Looking back though they would’ve never reached that point without a proper on-ramp and introduction to technology. In essence, the functionality of that project and their experience will make all sorts of new inventions possible. Here’s to all the future giant leaps students will take because of the small steps they are taking now to develop the foundational knowledge to be successful building with technology.