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My wife got me a binary clock for Christmas. It has a number of settings. It can tell time in 12-hour or 24-hour time and it can tell it in binary coded decimal or true binary. Now I admit that I'm not as up on binary as I should be. The days when I had to program in binary are long gone and even back in the day I used to think more in octal and hexadecimal than true binary. So I've got it telling time in binary coded decimal. I can pretty much recognize zero though 15 on sight. So I can tell time using this clock pretty much as quickly as I can with an analog clock. I suspect that a lot of students, well, perhaps the general population really, would have a harder time with it.
Binary counters and binary clocks make great programming projects. There is one at MainFunction.com for Visual Basic .NET. I'm sure that there are a lot of other programming languages that would also work. The things I like about that project are that is helps teach multiple things.
If you want to spend some of your focus on real object oriented design there are some obvious objects to consider in this sort of project. An object that displays in binary from a decimal input for example. A container object that holds several binary display objects is another. There are a lot of possibilities.
[I'm still on vacation so replies to comments and email will be slow. This post was written earlier for display later.]
I spent some time last week talking to some people from The Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education at Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey. They have an impressive portfolio of 20 K-12 curriculum projects that make the Internet a lot more than the simple though large library that is the extent of usage that many educators put it to. These projects use I"Internet-based real time data to engage students in doing authentic science investigations with a quantitative analysis component." They tell me that these projects are currently used by 100,000 students from 35 countries around the world. I can easily see why.
The collaborative projects involve students collecting data locally and sharing it globally. There are middle school and high school projects. If you can boil water and use the Internet to communicate at all (seriously) you can participate in these projects. Imagine having your students share their own data with data from around the world. Talk about broadening their experience outside their own community.
The real time data projects allow students to find out what is going on in the world outside their neighborhood and in their own backyard using scientific information that is provided in real time over the Internet. Where was the last earthquake in the world? Or the last one in your state or country? There is a project for that.
These are great projects that have been well tested and tried out. This organization has been helping teachers with Internet based projects since 1988. That's experience. Do you know a science or math teacher looking to bring some of the real world into their classroom? Perhaps something to make science more real to support the theory? These are projects well worth looking at. Good stuff.
[By the way I am actually on vacation so response to comments and email will be slow. This post was written earlier for display later.]
We pretty much teach the modern history of computers as something that happened in the United States and the United Kingdom. We talk about men like Turing and von Neumann working in the 1940's and 1950's on the first real computers. Oh sure we talk about older calculating devices a little big - Babbage, Leibnetz, and others. We make occasional reference to the abacus but other than that we tend to talk about modern computing being done in the US and Western Europe. So I was pleased get a reminder of other places where early research was going on. This time Israel in the Middle East.
The IEEE recently honored the building of the WEIZAC at the Weizmann Institute of Science, a research facility in Rehovot, Israel, by naming it a historical milestone. Built in 1954 & 19955 this was the first computer in the Middle East. Israel was not the technical leader that it is today which makes this event even more significant. In fact the work that this computer enabled was probably a large contributor in bringing Israel into the science and technology position it has today.
There is an important message here I think. What this says to me is that computing (computational thinking, the ability to process large amounts of data, calculate difficult and complicated results, etc) has been an important part of scientific advancement for over 50 years. I see no slowing down of this either. In fact if anything computers and people who understand how to use them are becoming even more important as time goes on. So if you want to be a scientist or an engineer computer science is something you are going to have to know something about.