Waterbear feasability-study project

 

Play with Waterbear -- build something & write a report. "Waterbear, a new "Scratch- like" visual programming language made its debut at a JavaScript conference this week." Waterbear will be built from Scratch, so it will be useful to have a foundation thereof for the report.

 


A little history on the Waterbear project.  In the beginning, there was Lego Mindstorms.  From wikipedia:

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http://130.212.75.70/workstation/sites/all/themes/acquia_marina/images/o...); ">Lego Mindstorms is a line of programmable robotics/construction toys, manufactured by the Lego Group....The hardware and software roots of the Mindstorms Robotics Invention System kit go back to the programmable brick created at the MIT Media Lab. This brick was programmed in Brick Logo.

The Scratch language, also developed at MIT, is a successor language to Logo.  From the website:

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http://130.212.75.70/workstation/sites/all/themes/acquia_marina/images/o...); ">Scratch is a programming language that makes it easy to create your own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art -- and share your creations on the web.

As young people create and share Scratch projects, they learn important mathematical and computational ideas, while also learning to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively.

And then comes Waterbear, a web framework based on Scratch.  Whereas Scratch is written in "Squeak," a language dervied from Logo also taking nods from both Smalltalk and Apple's Hypercard, Waterbear is written in JavaScript.  What's nice about this is that there's no client software to install.  People visit a website which is running a rich JavaScript framework which emulates the graphic environment of Scratch, allowing users to drag-and-drop bits of programming logic.  What's really nice about this Scratch environment is that it makes programming as straighforward as plugging together puzzle pieces and stringing together phrases such as "do this" "awhile" "then" "do that".

Although Scratch is a finished product, and suitable for use in the classroom in either K12 or teacher prep, the Waterbear framework is still in beta.  Some of the user interface is looking a little thrown together, and the JavaScript framework feels a little creaky (some of the buttons, including "Run," didn't quite work....).  So not ready for primetime but undoubtedly one of the educational tools to keep an eye out for, perhaps a production tool once they've got the kinks out.  I would like to take another look at Waterbear after another six months of development, and see what kind of community develops around it.  It is important to note, however, that the two environments are 100% compatible from a teaching perspective: the student interactions with Scratch and Waterbear are essentially the same.

The Scratch programming environment, however, is at version 1.4... maybe point one or point two software releases away from world-class greatness.  Imagine the Adobe Flash authoring environment, or really any sprite-based 3D modeling application (Bryce, Strata 3D, Blender, etc.), and you've got a good picture for how Scratch feels.  It is less complicated than (and more readily comprehensible than) Alice, Carnegie-Mellons object-oriented programming system which essentially attempts the same thing.  The Scratch program is freely available for all platforms, and would make a natural and seamless fit with projector-board technology such as the Hitatchi StarBoard.