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

January, 2012

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Microsoft Stores Thrilled to Become FIRST Sponsors!



    In an exciting new partnership, Microsoft Stores across the country are teaming up with FIRST robotics teams to provide Kinect hardware and software development kits along with technical support. “It just seemed like a perfect fit,” explained Steph Ramsey, a Community Development Specialist at the Mission Viejo, CA Microsoft store. “We are thrilled to be able to use our resources to sponsor and support teams that are as passionate about technology and technology education as we are.” The 14 Microsoft stores are deeply committed to community engagement and promoting technology education to students. As Steph put it, “These kids are the future engineers and scientists and by supporting their curiosities we are enabling them to grow towards their full potential.” clip_image004

    The partnership will focus on Microsoft Stores providing both Kinect hardware and Kinect software development kits to FIRST teams as well as a space for teams to develop and display their robotics creations. In addition, Microsoft Stores will be able to use their technical resources and know-how to both assist and challenge the teams as they create and develop their technical skills.

    clip_image006Developed in order to better engage with technology enthusiasts, the first Microsoft Store opened in 2009. Determined to engage with the local community, the stores have already developed partnerships with several teams such as Code Orange (FIRST Team 3476). As seen in the photos, the Mission Viejo store was transformed into a robotics fanatics’ playground on December 10, 2010, when Code Orange team members shared their experiences with customers and store patrons. “We loved the opportunity to work with the local Mission Viejo Store, it was a perfect opportunity for our team members to engage with others passionate about technology in a space designed just for that purpose” noted Dr. Shelley Nordman, mentor of Code Orange.

    If you are interested in partnering with a Microsoft Store to learn more about Microsoft technologies or spread the word about FIRST please find the store closest to you and e-mail!

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Interesting Links 9 January 2012


    Wow! What a weekend I had. Microsoft was pretty involved with the kick off of this year’s FIRST Robotics Competition. We gave each of the 2,200 or so teams a Kinect to use to control their robots. I was able to attend some of the kickoff events including presenting a workshop on Kinect for FRC and the Founder’s Reception at Dean Kamen’s house the night before the unveiling of the game. What an exciting game this looks to be. Ok there was ore to the week and I do have some links to share. I hope you find at least one of them useful.e

    Last month I posted about Microsoft Kicks Off Cloud Fundamentals Video Series The newest video, Cloud Computing Requires Transparency,” features Mark Estberg, senior director, Microsoft Global Foundation Services, speaking about the need to have a partnership between customers and cloud providers to ensure transparency. The video is showcased on Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing (TwC) Blog:

    Big App on Campus is now on Facebook.

    Windows® Phone is giving you the opportunity to create and publish your dream app. In doing so, you could win Big, a 4-day trip (for you and a friend) to the 2012 SxSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas. There are two categories to enter - free apps and paid apps. You choose. Then let your mobile app's creativity and popularity deliver the ultimate prize, 15,000 U.S. dollars.

    New from Coding 4 Fun  @coding4fun: Using the Kinect to build a NUI E-Book It's not an e-book about the Kinect but with the Kinect!

    From the Anita Borg Institute I found this great link.  "What may happen in the next 100 years" from The Ladies' Home Journal, Dec 1900. It is really interesting what they got right (not much) and what they got wrong (quite a bit)

    From the Kodu team @koduteam: Remarkable Asteroids game programmed in Kodu by a student in the UK.:

    Student developer of the week: Kyle Orth, Australia. Kyle already has five Apps in the Windows Phone Marketplace

    Last but not least, please remember the 12th Annual Computer Science & Information Technology Conference. - call for participation

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Kinect for FRC 2012


    WP_000285Tomorrow is the official kickoff for the FIRST Robotics Competition. One of the things that means is that today is a day of workshops at FIRST Place in Manchester NH. I started my day here by presenting a 45 minute workshop on how the Kinect is used with FRC robots this year. There were some things I could not cover because the full game details will not be released until tomorrow of course. But I was able to provide some context and some architectural information that I hope was helpful to the 60 or so attendees who were present and how ever any people were watching the web cast. I am told that the talk was recorded and I will link to that once I know where it is. But I did want to share a few pieces of what I talked about via my blog post. Sort of speaker’s notes as well as hyper links to the resources I talked about. You’ll find those links at the bottom of this post.

    A Kinect sensor is supported by a great software development kit (Kinect for Windows SDK) which is a great place to start. Programing expertise among FIRST teams is sort of all over the map. much of this is a consequence of there not being enough computer science in the curriculum but let’s not get into that now. For now, know that there are some additional resources that are being supplied for FIRST teams this year. Specifically the wonderful people at the WPI robotics program have created some libraries that have been tuned a bit by some of the FIRST staff. The diagram below (created by Kevin O'Connor of FIRST shows the general architecture.


    The Kinect device is connected though the Kinect SDK to an FRC Kinect Server program. This program, written in C#, may be modified by teams in any number of ways including adding their own custom gestures. The server passes on a lot of information to the Driver Station diagnostic and dashboard software. This includes:

    • Raw skeletal Data
    • Diagnostic data
    • Default Gesture data

    The server defines 9 different gestures by default. These gestures can be passed to the robot as if they were joystick or other controller data. This allows teams to use the Kinect out of the box without having to write Kinect specific code. Teams can also pass the skeletal and diagnostic data to the cRIO (an control device made and donated by National Instruments for the robots) and write code on the cRIO using Java, C/C++ or Java. This gives the teams an enormous amount of flexibility.

    I am really REALLY quite excited to see what FIRST Robotics teams do with the Kinect this year.

    FRC Kinect Resources

    All of the 2012 FIRST Kickoff workshops were recorded and are posted on the FIRST ThinkTank here:

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