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

July, 2010

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Advice For An Imagine Cup Team


    The following is a guest post by Pat Yongpradit. Pat is the computer science teacher at Springbrook High School in Silver Spring, Maryland. His students competed in this year’s Imagine Cup in the Game division and were one of the top 10 teams in the US. This is pretty impressive when you realize that most of the other teams were from colleges and universities. I asked Pat to write up some information and advice for potential future Imagine Cup teams. His reply is below.

    So you’ve learned XNA, have made a couple cool games, and want to flex your skills on the national and international stage and tackle a social cause as well? Then the Imagine Cup is right for you. The Imagine Cup is an international game and software design competition that encourages students to use the technical skills to address social issues.

    Do you also enjoy distracting yourself and your peers with impromptu video game challenges, spending 100 plus hours on a project in addition to your homework, and being berated by a mentor for still not having a functioning prototype with one week before the deadline? Then the Imagine Cup should be renamed the “Your Name Here” Cup, because it has your name written all over it. (Of course there isn’t actually a physical Imagine Cup like there is a Stanley Cup...that is kind of the reason why they called it the “Imagine” cup.) Assuming you know what the Imagine Cup is, here is some advice, not in order of importance.

    1. Most importantly, come up with a basic version of your game that you can be satisfied with and build off of, if and when you have extra time. Many teams end up with some code here and there, but nothing completed that sticks together and resembles a game.
    2. Get a good artist. There must be some digital art kids in your school who would jump at the chance to work on a real game.
    3. Do not put programming brilliance above sound game design skills. Plot. Progression. User Interface. These things are probably more important than a really cool physics effect.
    4. Realize that a good project will take dozens and dozens of hours... more time than you will definitely have allotted from the beginning... so plan for the fact that you won’t plan enough time.
    5. Make small goals with clear deadlines. Delegate the goals. Impose consequences on those that don’t make their deadlines. If they are a scrawny programmer, make them do push-ups. If they are a buff programmer, make them do push-ups with the scrawny one on their back. Just don’t punish anyone by taking the Xbox away, for what will 70 percent of your team meeting time be spent doing?
    6. Take the Xbox away.
    7. Lastly, and definitely most important of all... take the Xbox away. Now.

    You can read more about Springbrook’s High School Imagine Cup Team at

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Microsoft Research Illuminates Mars in 3-D With WorldWide Telescope


    Cool stuff for us space nuts. It’s a database project with a difference. Microsoft Research has joined with NASA to create a new 3D way to experience Mars. Press announcement at Microsoft Research Illuminates Night Sky and Mars in 3-D With WorldWide Telescope Also they have created a new 3D spherical image of the sky. This sounds very exiting and it show the way that computer science technology is changing the way we do all sorts of other sciences – in this case astronomy. More information below.

    Yesterday, at the 2010 Faculty Summit, Microsoft Research and NASA are providing an entirely new experience to users of the WorldWide Telescope, which will allow visitors to interact with and explore our solar system like never before. With the new Mars experience in the Worldwide Telescope, viewers can now take exclusive interactive tours of Mars, hear directly from NASA Scientists, and view and explore the most complete highest resolution coverage of Mars available, which will allow users to experience the red planet in 3-D. To experience Mars up-close, viewers can download the new WWT Mars experience at

    Also as part of the new user experience in the WorldWide Telescope, Microsoft is also announcing a first of its kind, a high-resolution spherical ‘TeraPixel’ sky map. The map is the largest and highest-quality spherical image of the sky currently available and was created from data provided by the Digitized Sky Survey, a collection of thousands of images taken over period of 50 years by two ground based survey telescopes. The new high-quality image will provide scientists with the ability to navigate through space dynamically to make their own discoveries.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Interesting Links 12 July 2010


    I’m up early this morning to take a flight out to California. I’ll be presenting at the annual CSTA CS & IT Symposium tomorrow. I’m very excited as I hear there is a full house expected. Since I was on the program committee (and highly honored to be part of it) and had a hand in picking the presentations I’m sure happy people saw things they wanted to attend. And honestly there are several sessions in each time slot I would like to be at myself. Shaping up to be a great event. I will be blogging afterwards. And probably Twittering live (follow me on Twitter @AlftedTwo if interested). So in that spirit I’d like to start off with a couple of links to blog posts by high school computer science teachers who are bringing up some interesting discussion points. I hope you will visit them and add you opinions.

    Garth talks about the confusion between teaching math and computer programming for many students in a post called Algebra vs. programming syntax – x=x+1 makes no sense . This a a point I have heard before. The syntax we use in programming often looks like what they do in algebra but it doesn’t always mean the same thing. This can be confusing. Some comments already but I hope you will add to them.

    Hélène Martin writes about how to create computer scientists. It is a great post that relates a lot from her personal experience. The comments are all worth reading as well. I hope you will join in.


    Now for some Imagine Cup news. The world wide finals of Microsoft’s Imagine Cup competitions were held this past week in Poland. I didn’t get to go but follower along from home on Twitter, blog posts and news releases. It was quite an event.

    A pair of high school students were the top team in the Windows 7 Rockstar event. I’ve blogged about that before so the big news is that they were the first people to get Windows Phone 7 phones outside of Microsoft developers. My friends who were at the Imagine Cup tell me these are some really great kids too so we’re all very happy for them.

    Michelle Obama congratulated Imagine Cup 2010 winners via video. (Check it out!)

    From Martin Schray (@mschray) I learned about a Windows Phone 7 Development webinar on 7/15 with Rob Cameron. If you want to learn about creating games for  Windows Phone 7, this sessions with Rob Cameron during the AT&T Developer Webcast, XNA Game Development for Windows Phone 7 may be just the place to start.

    Channel 9 recorded an introduction to "Small Basic" with Vijaye Raji who is the man behind the project. View it at

    Bob Familiar (My new manager and on Twitter @bobfamiliar) Posted some information about WebMatrix which was announced last week: You know the question…What is the WebMatrix? Web Matrix has some great potential in education so please visit Bob’s blog and check it out.



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