Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Alumni from computer science research group wrote two For Dummies books

Bill Griswold during a talk.
The research group of William Griswold now boasts two alumni who have written For Dummies books. We're ready to bet that's a pretty unique occurrence.

The most recent tome, "Minecraft Modding for Kids" was co-authored by two Ph.D.s in Griswold's group, Sarah Guthals and Stephen Foster, as well as biochemistry Ph.D. Lindsey Handley. The book was released July 13, 2015.  In 2013, the trio co-founded ThoughtSTEM, a company dedicated to teaching students in elementary, middle and high schools how to program. Last year, they launched LearnToMod, a software package that teaches users how to program while playing Minecraft.

After an introductory chapter about creating modifications, or “mods,” within Minecraft, the majority of their book focuses on learning programming concepts by building games inside of Minecraft, including:
  • Spleef: build an arena paved with blocks, which disappear every time every time players step on them. The goal is not to fall. Players can add other challenges to the game, such as creatures blocking their way.
  • Monster Arena: build an arena full of monsters. Players need to avoid the monsters to get through to the other side of the arena, where they break a block. They are then sent back to the starting point of the game, which gets even harder.
  • Capture the flag: create magic wands that can emit exploding projectiles. Players then need to use the wands to destroy their adversaries’ flags, while protecting their own.
While they create the mini-games, players learn computer science concepts such as functions, variables, lists, parameters and libraries. The book also includes information about game design and game mechanics.

More info here

 Meanwhile, "Android App Development" is in its third edition. The book's author, Michael Burton, earned a bachelor's in electrical engineering and a master's in computer science at UC San Diego--also in Griswold's research group. He is now director of mobile engineering at Groupon. His book includes easy-to-follow access to the latest programming techniques that take advantage of the new features of the Android operating system. Plus, two programs are provided: a simple program to get you started and an intermediate program that uses more advanced aspects of the Android platform.

Learn more about Burton in this Q&A. 

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