Eight students between the ages of 11 and 15 wanted to get to the bottom of these and other questions during the Future Day at Arineo, as our trainee Tim Engels reports in his article.
Just join in
This special day was planned and carried out by Arineo’s first-year apprentices, supported by Eileen Zimbal, our training officer. Everyone agreed in advance that their own enthusiasm for the profession should be conveyed in the best possible way. The idea was to start right away with practical examples and approach the topic of “programming” in a playful manner. The trainees wanted to use as little theory and as much practice as possible. Because, although on a different level, this is one of Arineo’s approaches to training. Additionally, we wanted to provide exemplary insights into everyday office life.
Previous knowledge? Not necessary.
To get to know each other, there was an initial traditional round of introductions and everyone got talking. Some had no prior experience whatsoever with programming, or IT in general. A few were already capable of analyzing complex concepts and implementing them into code. What was particularly wonderful was that all participants, regardless of their previous experience, demonstrated a certain enthusiasm for IT.
Let’s go: pens out and write instructions
To start the day, the large group started with the so-called “bread game”. To give you a heads-up: the goal of the game was to playfully convey one of the most important requirements for application developers – i.e. programmers: analytical skills combined with precise work methods.
Therefore, the participants were tasked with creating instructions on how the trainees, armed with bread, plates, jam, and a knife, should make regular bread with jam. The handwritten notes were collected and our trainee, Joy, got to work.
Does it not run? It all comes down to getting the coding right
Many instructions contained good, precise points – but only one produced a fully spread slice of bread.
Sometimes jam landed on the bread packaging, sometimes the bread landed next to the plate, but with a blob of jam, and occasionally, after the end of an instruction, the knife was left stuck in the jam jar. This caused some laughter and many of the students slowly realized what the trainees wanted to make clear to them: the statement couldn’t simply be: “Spread the jam on the bread,” but rather: “Open jam jar, open bread package, take out one slice of bread and put it on plate, put knife in jam jar, use knife to take out jam, use knife to spread jam evenly on bread.” Because in IT, the “machine” that receives the written code and only executes what is written in the code is equivalent to Joy in real life, who simply followed the instructions. So, when it said “Take the bread out of the package,” it wasn’t clear how the bread could come out without opening the package, and it wasn’t specified how much bread should be taken.
Program. Test. Marvel at the results.
Now that everyone had a sense of what it was all about, it was time to dive into actual programming using proper hardware and software. So-called Calliopes were used for this. These are small mini-computers that have LED lights, buttons, and sensors and run with software through a special application interface on any standard PC. The key here was to assemble functions and conditions in a way that they formed a logical structure and met the given requirements. Everyone was having fun – they were pounding away on the keyboards as if a new customer order had just arrived. Initially, all students were given the opportunity to explore and test the capabilities of the computers.
Following the planned lunch break and a tour of the office, there were still various tasks for the participants to tackle. The rest of the time was spent by everyone programming. It was a thoroughly successful day!
Because at the end of the day, the Arineo trainees had visibly achieved their objective and the students were also satisfied. If there wasn’t already a certain enthusiasm before, it was definitely there now.