Category Archives: Stratolab News

Tychos — Hackable Simulations are Computational Models

Most modern science heavily uses computer models and simulations and education is responding nicely with a lot of instructors adding “computational modeling” to their courses. Our new app, Tychos, is for building computational models for science, e.g. computer simulations of orbiting planets, brownian motion, natural selection, that sort of thing. The part I love most about it is learning by doing.

Learn by doing — There are many science simulation apps already and they are very useful for students to play with and get some intuition about the phenomenon.  Now imagine how much the author of the simulation learned when writing it—she needed to understand the phenomenon in great detail in order to translate it into code. What if all students went through that process?  Of course a simulation app requires hundreds or thousands of lines of code with only a few of them actually related to the science.  Tychos removes much of this boiler-plate code so an average student can write a science simulation in a handful of lines!

Take a look at Tychos and tell me what you think. We need people’s feedback to make it a useful educational tool.

Electropocalypse at Greenbrae Maker Faire

Greenbrae Mini Maker FaireIf you live in Marin County CA, and want to try out Electropocalypse or meet its makers, come visit us at the Greenbrae Mini Maker Faire on September 13. We are currently trying to find the market for this game—is it kids or adults, people who like games or people who like electronics? At the faire we are going to ask people lots of questions to find out.

Electropocalypse at The Tech—Saturday April 26

250x250-open-makeThe Tech Museum in San Jose on Saturday April 26 is having an Open Make event on electricity and we’ll be showing our game there. It sounds like a fun day of electricity with a bunch of groups showing off their electrical projects, including the Young Makers who are preparing for the big Maker Faire in San Mateo next month.

Here is more information:

Some articles on puzzle design

I’m working on a game to teach basic electronics. It’s hard to come up with electronics puzzles instead of homework problems. I found these articles to be useful in understanding puzzles: — The art of puzzle design lies in creating an original set of problems and solutions that are appropriate to the story you are telling. Even so, puzzles fall into recognizable categories and it is important to know what they are and when you can use them. Here are some of the categories. — Former Insomniac designer Mike Stout takes shares a useful rubric for judging the depth of play mechanics, including checks for redundant ones, in this in-depth design article, which contains examples from the Ratchet & Clank series. — Hamish Todd’s writes, “Portal has the best-designed first-person puzzles I’ve ever seen. They’re surprising, focused, and concise. They are also designed very perceptively, and we can learn a lot from looking at this perceptiveness. Read on for an analysis of Portal’s level design, and some lessons about what learning from it can do to improve game design.”

Play Long-distance Hangman

I’ve had the pleasure of working on Scoot-n-Doodle for the past few months and you must try it, it’s so much fun.

Scoot-n-doodle is video conferencing plus a drawing pad with games for families. Have you ever tried talking on the phone with your young nephew–a one minute conversation is about all you can hope for. It’s so hard to keep them in one place and there is not really much to talk about. With Scoot-n-doodle, you can play hangman, tag, or other games from your childhood. I’ll often play with my nephew for an hour at a stretch—what a difference between a painful 60 seconds of strained conversation to an hour of fun drawing crazy dragons or games of tic-tac-toe.

If you want to play with your relatives but they are far away, try  Scoot-n-Doodle. It’s part of Google Hangouts so you’ll need a Google Plus account.


Transferring Skills from Video Games

from Cultural Framing of Computer/Video Games by Kurt SquireJames Squire has an interesting article on using video games in education:

Cultural Framing of Computer/View Games

He talks about research on using SimCity and Civilization in the classroom, and also brings up Education Arcade project. My take-away is that how the game is used in the classroom is as important as the game itself. Just playing the game may be somewhat educational, but real learning happens when the players discuss the game afterwards, generalize strategies learned in the game to other situations, and identify places where the game is different from reality.

Stratolab is Closing our Studio

In this era of change, Stratolab is changing too. We are shifting our focus from after-school classes to software. In the new year we will be creating video games that teach. As a result, we are closing our cozy studio. January 31 will be our last class.

Last Chance to Take a Stratolab Class. Call Now. All courses are 30% off in December and January. This is your last chance to experience Stratolab. Tell all your classmates. Email all your friends!

Eric Scott joins Stratolab

Eric Scott is our new Advanced Computer Programming teacher. He runs Dolphin Micro, a web development company, but loves to teach a bit on the side. I have worked with him and he is an outstanding programmer. I’m very happy to have him on our team teaching our Game Programming for Teens course.

By the way, he also has a lot of experience in Marketing and Sales so he is a great consultant for building websites. If you need a website built, we recommend him highly.

Nine Complete Courses Take Flight for Fall

Expect the return of old favorites as well as some exciting, new courses here at Stratolab. For starters, Video Game Programming is available after-school and weekends too. Robotics Jr. (Ages 9 & up) and the more advanced Robotics for Teens (ages 13 & up) is back and refitted with new goals & contests. For all you builders, tinkerers and general gear-heads, DIY Electronics teaches you how to build a mini-music system that will rock your socks off. Returning with new tricks and techniques, our wildly successful 5 C’s of Comic Book Storytelling is bringing heroic justice back to Saturday mornings. Brand new to the line-up is Anime and Animation where you create stop motion films and Japanese style cartoon creations. A new course, Comic Illustration with the renowned artist & teacher John Rapone, covers drawing and illustration to bring any story to life.