I just got a hold of my new Lego MindStorms kit, and I’m pumped. Now before everyone says, “Jeez, another toy for those dev guys”, this is actually a very important tool for my job!
Part of my role (and the team I belong to in Microsoft), is to work with developers of all sizes, to ensure they get fired up about developing, and also to de-mystify the whole programming myth; that programming is boring and for geeks.
NO WAY! Programming is not only cool, but it’s for everyone. So how does all this relate to the Mindstorms?
Through my friend Deeps (he is our Academic Evangelist), I go out and see lots of Universities, and spread the word about .NET and the tools associated with it. But it wasn’t until I became mates with Nevhan (who did his work experience with us in Melbourne) that I realised, we don’t do much with high school students (or anyone under Uni student age). After scratching my head for a while, and wandering how we should connect with high schools, I had a chance meeting with Brian Keller at Tech.Ed Oz this year, and everything fell into place.
Brian showed me his cool demo using the Lego Mindstorms RIS 2.0 kit and a top secret ;) .NET SDK, and I immediately thought, wow, this is sooo cool. Why is it cool? Because we are losing mindshare with young people everyday from a IT point of view. IT isn’t seen as cool anymore, or even as a viable career. This is a combination of a number of elements, one of them being around fun and satisfaction. I mean, have you ever tried to get young people banging on the walls about writing that next killer CRM app!? Jeez, I don’t even get excited about that! But that’s not all IT is about. So we need to get the message out to young people that programming is cool and fun, and you can do it as a full time job, if you wish!
So after chatting with Nev, we spun up this idea called “impact” programming. The gist being you take an existing bit of code that makes the robot do something, change some part of the code, then watch the impact of your change. It really makes it easy to see how code works, and just how natural it is.
So Nevhan and I (and most of the other techies at Microsoft) are going to be working on a bunch of cool “impact” demos, and will be taking to the streets around Christmas to run some high school dev days. Stay tuned. And anyone interested in helping out (Al, I know you’ll be keen matey), just drop me a line.