Computer Science Teacher
Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

June, 2006

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Upcoming Webcasts on Mobile Game Development


    Are you interesting in learning about mobile device game programming? Perhaps as a way to get students interested in doing something a little different? If so than Rob Miles has a series of webcasts coming up that you may be interested in. There is more information including dates, times and subjects at Rob’s blog.

    Rob is on the faculty of the University of Hull in England. He’s written many articles on the subject and given presentations at conferences. If his presentation is any thing as interesting and funny as his writing than these are clearly don’t miss webcasts.


  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Where do project ideas come from?


    I love coming up with new programming projects for students to do. I just think that coming up with something different is fun, makes things more interesting for the students and helps keep a teacher fresh. But where do new ideas come from. Sometimes from textbooks of course. I have a large collection of textbooks and I know that many others do the same thing. They borrow ideas from old textbooks and fit them into a new programming language or design paradigm.

    But I really like to come up with ideas from real life. I think I found one today. Adam Barr, who works for Microsoft, wrote a blog post today about how Microsoft comes up with email addresses (called aliases here) for employees. The basic plan is the first name and the first letter of the last name. It’s all simple enough until you add some constraints.

    • No alias can be more than eight letters
    • If two people have the same first name and last initial the second person uses the first two letters of the last name
    • If two people have the same first name and the same first two letters of the last name go to a third letter and so on (never forgetting the eight character limit)

    Oh and because there were starting to be too many duplicates sometimes (alternate perhaps?) use the first letter of the first name and as many letters of the last name as it takes to complete the name or reach 8 letters. I’ll leave the rest of the constraints to the student, ah, I mean classroom teacher.

    To me this screams “text manipulation project.” And of course I love text manipulation projects. But wait there is more. Since you have to watch out for duplicates that opens the possibility for database additions or even hashing algorithms for duplicate detection. The sky is the limit. One could get very creative here.

    One last thing. To do this really right you need names. The more names the better. Good news. The US Census Bureau has lists of names. They have lists of the most common male and female first names and most common last names from the 1990 US census at their web site.

    Each of the three files, (dist.all.last), (dist. male.first), and (dist female.first) contain four items of data. The four items are:

    1. A "Name"
    2. Frequency in percent
    3. Cumulative Frequency in percent
    4. Rank

    Now if that data doesn’t suggest some interesting data parsing and manipulation projects you really do need some summer vacation don’t you? Or am I just way too much the geek?

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Survey Manager Sample Application


    If you would like to try out some ASP .NET and database software and create something that is potentially useful at the same time you may want to check out the Survey Manager Sample Application.


    The Survey Manager provides a rich client interface to enable you to manage a database of teachers, students, classes, and surveys. Surveys and quizzes can be designed and assigned to specific classes. A web-based interface allows students to complete a survey. This application integrates with the ASP.Net Membership provider so that you can define students in the client application and assign usernames and passwords which are applied to the membership tables in the database, providing login accounts for students to use the web interface.

    You do need the SQL Express Edition and Visual Studio Professional or better. The Visual Studio Academic version in MSDN AA is the same as Professional by the way.

    Maybe just a little learning project to spend some time with this summer. But think about the possibilities for using it in a web development course or as an extra project in a programming course.

    [Thanks to Blake Handler for sending me the link.]

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