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I am designing an introductory level programming class to be taught using Processing this summer. I have only four weeks and 90 minutes a day with students. Given my student demographic (middle schoolers), I am not anticipating getting much beyond the basics of the coordinate system, basic color options (stroke, fill, RGB values), variables, and loops. Since it will have more of a summer camp feel (i.e. fun, no homework), I want the approach to be engaging and hands-on. Rather than try to introduce a lot of programming concepts, I want students to have a portfolio of cool designs they have made by the time the class ends.

Here's the current list of projects I have slated for our four weeks:

  • Use three ellipses to make a Mickey Mouse silhouette (simple, but will require much iteration to perfect coordinate placement)

  • Create a basic sketch of a house (imagine those elementary school simple triangle-topped rectangles with square windows and a chimney...something like that)

  • Design a Lego family (based on this UW assignment)

  • Explore logo design through both redesigning an existing logo and creating an original logo (based on this UW assignment)

These four will probably culminate in some sort of original creative project as a synthesis of all the concepts we will study.

As I'm wrapping up my design of this course, I'd like to get input on these and any other simple, engaging assignments in Processing. What other beginner-level assignments in Processing would interest a student new to programming?

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I did a 4 half day "camp" for two high school girls a couple summers ago. We spent the first two days doing Processing programs. Etch-A-Sketch and Tron are a couple good assignments for beginners. The Etch-A-Sketch simulation leads nicely into making a game based on the light cycle scene in the movie Tron.

Here is some information about what we did in the camp

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I've been doing quite a bit of searching on my own the past week or so on this and just discovered a new great resource to share. It came from this GitHub blog post about Art Simon's work at Lowell High School. There are links to each of his course's curricula for AP CS Principles and AP CS A, both of which use Processing. (Brief tangent: including Processing in AP CS A seems like a brilliant idea. You get the benefit of Java syntax and OOP with the payoff of Processing's visuals.)

Here are two great introductory-level assignments I found there:

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One project I like is to have students draw a shape with a specified number of sides. They can enter the number of sides and have the turtle draw it. Middle school students might have to be taught to divide 360 by the number of sides to get the turn angle but after that they should be all set. It lets you introduce simple variables and how they can be used to control loops.

If you add a small turn after the shape is drawn and put another loop around the first one you can get some interesting designs as well. And they learn nest loops is a way that makes sense to them.

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