Introduction to Coding and App inventor

Block Coding Tool Comparison

Programming, often called coding, is like learning a foreign language. Programming is the tool we use to tell the computers what we want them to do. Every time we use a piece of technology, someone has written lines of code to make that program work.

Like a foreign language, we need to learn the language of coding, and there are many languages of coding out there. You may have heard of some: Python, or C or Java, these are different program languages that we use to write in computer code.

In the Search for the Next Tech Girl Superhero, we use what we call block coding. Block coding is not about writing lines of code, but instead, using building blocks that represent lines of code in a visual way to put together our ideas for a solution. Like lego. This is a useful way to get an introduction to programming, and to think about the logic needed to structure what a computer program looks like. We use pseudocode which is the logic of the program we want to write written in something close to natural language that humans understand. Programming, or coding, is a very important skill in our digital age, because we rely so much on technology and programming is what makes our technology work.

If you have read the Tech Girls are Superheroes series, you might know that the first programmer in the world was in fact a woman. Ada Lovelace back in the 1840s, is seen as the very first computer programmer. She worked with Charles Babbage on the analytical engine which was essentially the very first calculator. Not only did she refine his work, she also enhanced in a way that lead to the technology being developed.

App inventor

App inventor, is a piece of online software that was developed by MIT - the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States. It is a freely available program for us to do our block coding for our prototype of our App. By using AppInventor, we learn the language of block coding and how we combined different features to get our App to do what we what it to do.

We use AppInventor, firstly because it’s the technology defined by Technovation, but also because we have had lots of feedback that it’s a great tool to use. We also use it because it is a step up from using Scratch, which many of our participants have used in to learn how to code. We find in most cases this is a great solution however we are aware some schools have challenges using it so please let us know how we can help. There’s also lots of free help available on line for App inventor, so we don’t prescribe very specific ways of using App inventor, instead we leave that for you to investigate further by finding the resources online.

We do allow you to use other tools to develop your App, we don’t mind what tool you use, as long as you are able to meet the requirements of the judging rubric at the end of the competition.  Some teams have asked about using Swift for Apple, and the advice we are given is that it really is only suitable for someone quite experience in programming.

Using AppInventor, you only need to have a PC or a MAC to develop it with a web browser and an internet connection. If you have an android device then you can then emulate the prototype than you develop on the device, but this is not essential as you can do the emulation on the PC.

Good luck and we are here to help you.