Loyola Professor Highlights Computer Science for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts
Dr. Ronald Greenberg provided some fun activities at Science Nights recruiting events for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts (November and December in Gurnee and Winthrop Harbor).
Hundreds of youngsters and parents attended, and Dr. Greenberg provided three main activities: Doodle Cars, computer science magic tricks, and robotics videos.
The younger students especially were captivated by the five Doodle Cars. These toys carry out one simple task that more advanced students often program into robots at educational robotics competitions. These cars will follow a black line on a lighter surface. Participants at the Science Nights were able to watch the cars navigate a pre-printed track, or they could draw their own track with a black marker on a white paper and set the car to follow it. (One place to purchase Doodle Cars is amazon.com .)
Following on the robotics theme, a computer was also set up to loop repeatedly through a robotics video from the Rehabilitation Institute (here in Chicago) showing a man with a bionic arm. Having obtained this prosthetic arm after losing his arm in an accident, the man was able to perform complicated motions just by thinking about moving his arm the way he would with his original arm. Other robotics videos were also available, for example a very realistic looking women, and a four-legged robot that could navigate rough and/or slippery terrain. (Some robotics videos can be viewed at illinoiscomputes.org .)
Finally, Dr. Greenberg performed two magic tricks. The principal trick that was repeated hundreds of times, often for the same youngsters who kept coming back for more, was a number-guessing trick. Participants were asked to select a secret number from 1 to 125. Then they were asked to look at seven different number grids that each contained about half the numbers in ascending order and to indicate which grids contained the secret number. After getting this information, Dr. Greenberg would instantly determine the secret number to the amazement of all. (This trick is based on exploiting the way that numbers are represented in computers in the binary number system.) Another trick, performed occasionally, is based on a simple error detection scheme used by computer scientists. (Both magic tricks and the underlying secrets can be found at illinoiscomputes.org .)