Why I Like The Field of Computer Science 

John Irving once wrote, “If you presume to love something, you must love the process of it much more than you love the finished product.

In a way, my whole life has been spent solving puzzles and processing things. At a young age, I found I had a love for math. When I applied to the University of Washington, I knew I wanted to do some sort of science or engineering- a major built upon solving puzzles with math. However, I was unsure what type of engineering I wanted to do. Civil engineering was the type I knew most about, so I applied for Direct Freshman Admissions. While I enjoyed my freshman year classes, especially math and chemistry, I did not know what being passionate was until I signed up for my first intro coding class, CSE 142.

I never intended to like computer science. Growing up, my dad was a software engineer; his work seemed too hard and complicated for me to understand, and I wanted to be different. Throughout my life, various people have suggested I learn to code, or take a computer science course. Yet convinced that it was not something I would like, I turned it down every time. Up until the first day of CSE 142, computer science was still on the outskirts of my mind. However, after two weeks of class, I was hooked. I had finally found a passion. Computer science made so much sense to me; breaking down one large problem into smaller components was something I had been doing my whole life. Coding is the first language that has come naturally to me.

With each lecture, my excitement for computer science grew. I’d start each assignment as soon as possible; it was the highlight of my day. I loved learning about new approaches –lists, trees, hash tables, maps – and CSE 390 opened up so many possibilities as to how advanced computer science can be applied to everything from picking movies to curing cancer. I found myself wanting to learn more with each new concept introduced to me. Really, coding is fun. Creating something and being able to share what you made with so many people, and have them be able to work along with you on the same project, is so unique.  

I love computer science because it is a creative puzzle. If my program isn’t working, I get to dive right back into it to figure out what went wrong. It isn’t some great unknown, it is something I made, it’s logical, and I know if I work hard enough I’ll figure it out eventually.  Part of what is exciting about the process is that there is always something that can be improved upon and there is always more to learn. Maybe the code I wrote works in almost all cases, but some one else may propose a special case where it doesn’t work – that’s exciting because it opens up a whole new puzzle. There is always something to work towards solving, and I love that.

While I am thankful civil engineering brought me to computer science, there is nothing else I would rather devote my time and energy to than the process of creating something in computer science. While I may not get things on the first try, that’s the beauty of it. True passion is true love, if you are passionate about something, you love to fail at it as much as you love to succeed. You love creating and debugging as much as you love when your code works. With computer science, I love every step of the way to reach the final product - I love the process and I fully believe everyone else should give themselves a chance to love it as well.

 

Posted by Miri Hyman Thursday, July 14, 2016 4:10:00 PM Categories: computer programming computer science

The Story about a Box: Programming the Perfect Square? 

On June 1, 2016, Wild Noodle introduced its summer competition. This competition consisted of 25 levels, with increasing complexity, using Herbert and the “H” language.   Herbert’s “H” language has three statements: l (left) r (right) and s (straight) and they are arranged using procedures and parameters to achieve the desired goal of solving the puzzle in the most efficient manner; otherwise known as optimization .
Though the goal of the competition seemed pretty straightforward, I was left thinking about the objectives of the game. I pondered about various options for developing a square. For example, to create a simple box, I could program Herbert, using the following order of statements:

SQUARE 1
ssrssrssrss

This program would take approximately 11 Bytes to complete and if I wanted a bigger square that this would add to the number of Bytes required.  Thus, if my desired goal was to make a square as efficient as possible, well this was not the answer, but in contrast, it was a fairly easy to program.  But if my goal was to create square with the least amount of Bytes then I would possibly use the following program to achieve my goal:

SQUARE 2
a:ssra
a

In the program above, I am using a technique called recursion .  I am asking Herbert to do the side of the square along with a turn to call itself indefinitely.  This program took only 6 bytes.  Yet again, if I wanted to make my square 5 or 10 times larger, well this would take additional bytes, again challenging the goal of efficiency.

SQUARE 3
a(A):sa(A-1)
b(A):a(A)rb(A)
b(2)

Though this program took 15 Bytes, it would eventually be more efficient than the previous program if I wanted a box larger than 11 s (statements).  This program allows me to program the number of steps forward Herbert should go for each side of the square.
Yet Herbert has so many options to solve the puzzle of the square.  Here are just a few ways to draw a square of size 10:

SQUARE 4
a(A):sa(A-1)
a(10)ra(10)ra(10)ra(10)

SQUARE 5
a(A):sa(A-1)
b:a(10)r
bbbb

SQUARE 6
a(A):sa(A-1)
b:a(10)rb
b

SQUARE 7
a(A):sa(A-1)
b(B):a(10)rb(B-1)
b(4)

SQUARE 8
a(A):sa(A-1)
b(B,C):a(C)rb(B-1,C)
b(4,10)

As I explored the myriad square creating options, I realized the beauty of Herbert.  Though the Herbert competition primary objective was to solve the given problems in the most efficient manner, the Herbert program had the ability to teach me how to think about variability of options to solve one problem and that learning the different options, allowed me to understand the complexities of problem solving.  It also allowed me to expand my ability to think outside the box.  What if I wanted to take my box and give it fancy corners or make many boxes? The more options, I created, the wider my scope to find solutions.  Look at my designs below:

Box with Fancy Corners
a(A):sa(A-1)
d(D):sld(D-1)
b(B,C,E):a(C)rd(E)srb(B-1,C,E)
b(4,10,3)

Many Boxes with Fancy Corners
a(A):sa(A-1)
d(D):sld(D-1)
b(B,C,E):a(C)rd(E)srb(B-1,C,E)
f:b(4,5,3)rsssf
f

Ultimately, Herbert and its “H” language, not only allowed me to think about the complexities of problem solving, but it also allowed me to explore the art of computer programming, the art to develop and design…Hello World!

 

View User Profile for Soraya Cardenas Dr. Soraya Cardenas holds a doctorate in Sociology and is the President of Wild Noodle.
Posted by Soraya Cardenas Monday, June 6, 2016 5:28:00 PM Categories: computer programming tips and tricks

Herbert is Back! 

I am very pleased to announce that Herbert, the challenge previously in Microsoft’s Imagine Cup online software programming competition, is back! We are kicking off a new Herbert competition for summer 2016.

Herbert challenges your ability to see patterns and create algorithms to produce these patterns. It can be used both as a teaching tool for programming as well as a challenge for seasoned programmers. I think you’ll enjoy challenging yourself with Herbert, whether you are new to programming, new to Herbert, or a seasoned Herbert competitor from the past.

Ready to take on your peers? The Summer 2016 Contest will run June 1 through August 31, 2016, and will consist of 25 levels, ranging from very easy to extremely challenging. How far can you get?

Registration is already open – click here to sign up today!

View User Profile for Brian Conte Brian Conte is the Chief Technology Officer at Wild Noodle, and the original creator of Herbert.
Posted by Brian Conte Friday, May 27, 2016 7:57:00 PM Categories: computer programming game contests

Hello World! Welcome Herbert: A Computing Programming Language Tool for Educators, Technical Recruiters and Gamers 

Hello World,

I am Dr. Soraya Cardenas, President of Wild Noodle. Today is my first blog.

In 1985, Mr. Brian Conte, President of Fast Track Team, created a program, which he named Herbert, to help teach algorithmic problem-solving and design. Herbert is a game-based programming teaching tool and challenge which was used from 2004 to 2008 in Microsoft’s Imagine Cup Algorithm Competition. The Algorithm Competition had the highest satisfaction rating among all Imagine Cup competitions and Herbert has been used by over 20,000 students, and continues to be used daily. In 2009, Mr. Conte founded Wild Noodle to develop educational tools in computer programming.   

In 2016, Mr. Conte approached me to help run Wild Noodle.  What do I bring to Wild Noodle?  Over 20 years of academic experience.  I have won numerous teaching and research awards and grants.  My area of expertise is in high-impact, experiential learning.  I also am a Sociological Researcher. I am trained to conduct research on social trends, change and movements.  I understand the importance of interpreting demographics and its impact on society.  These are all skills that are an emerging need in the tech industry.  Today, the United States is going through a technological revolution.  We have reached a point when industry needs are not being met because of a shortage of skilled laborers.  

Economies are divided into three types: primary, secondary and tertiary.  A primary economy refers to an economy dependent on the extraction or production of raw resources such as mining, farming, fishing, and logging.  The secondary economy refers to the production of a product such as using ore to manufacture cars.  The tertiary economy is the delivery of services.  Our economy in the United States is largely a tertiary economy. Most manufacturing jobs were shipped overseas in the 1970’s and 1980’s.  Today, we see a blend of the secondary and tertiary economy.  We are in need of skilled laborers to help with using the technological tools to provide services, but we also see a resurgence in the secondary economy as we need skilled laborers to help build those systems that society depends.  National Science Foundation, and many tech companies such as Microsoft and non-profits like Code.org have noticed the gap and are investing in remediating the gap.  

Mr. Conte recognized that tech industry gap, but also realized that there needs to be more than the development of software, but that there needed to be a merge between high skilled teachers and researchers into the tech field.  For example, his computer programming learning tool Herbert has the capacity to teach children as young as 5 to students in graduate school. Its ability to move up in a level of complexity marks a very much needed tool in the primary and secondary schools, and is a much needed program to help link block coding tools like Scratch to more advanced tools like Java. So here I am.  I am participating in this venture to help support this need and demand. My future blogs will be filled with information about teaching and research in computer programming.  In addition, I will begin learning how to code to demonstrate that almost anyone can code given access to the right tools and resources.  I look forward to taking this new path in my life, which I hope will help others partake and join the need to learn computer programming.

Hello World,

Soraya Cardenas, Ph.D.

“My fancy box, using Herbert (AKA “h” language)!”

View User Profile for Soraya Cardenas Dr. Soraya Cardenas holds a doctorate in Sociology and is the President of Wild Noodle.
Posted by Soraya Cardenas Friday, May 20, 2016 9:59:00 AM Categories: computer programming educational programming
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