[Techtalk] Ideas for tech subjects for teens?

Akkana Peck akkana at shallowsky.com
Fri Feb 11 05:36:53 EST 2005

April writes:
> HTML seems like a great place to start, especially for grades 6 - 9 or 

I'll second that.  If they learn enough html that they aren't
afraid to edit it, that has several advantages:

- They'll have a better understanding of what they're doing when
  working in wysisyg html editors.

- They can look at "view source" on web pages they visit, if they're
  curious how something works, or why a page isn't working right.

- Most important, it could lead into JavaScript as a painless and
  fun introduction to programming, which lets them get immediate,
  visual results that they can share with their friends and the
  whole world.

Of course, I'd also advocate teaching a bit of image editing (e.g.
gimp) since that's another thing where students can get instant
visual gratification and share their projects with their friends.

> Other ideas...
> Introduction to how search engines really work.  A lot of people use 
> google yet don't really understand how the sponsored links are different 
> from the other results, or how those sites get there, or why some great 
> resources don't even seem to come up in the results.  An introduction to 

Great idea!  I'm in a club which is in the process of setting up a
new web page, and at a meeting last week, I was surprised to find
that the club president had no idea how google worked.  He thought
that to "get listed on google" you pay money to a search engine
booster company which then registers your url with google through
some formal process.  When I tried to explain "We should try to
design a good web page, and then more people will link to it, and
then google will rank us higher" I just got a blank look.

> Remote control car kits...
> My high school education left a gap somewhere between "How does 
> electricity work" and "How to program" that I've always regretted.  I 
> would have liked to have seen someone actually working with a circuit 
> board in high school, even if it was something the teacher had to do in 
> front of class.

I wish I'd learned more electronics (hardware) in school.  I did
have one of those 500-projects kits where I learned to wire up
simple circuits and follow a schematic, so I could build circuits
that I found in books.  You could do simple projects like making
an LED flasher circuit, or little music makers like a theremin.

With regard to R/C cars: how about working with solar cells to
make solar-powered cars or robots?  Or simple computer control --
like running a cable from a computer's parallel port (or serial
or USB) to make the car start or stop?  Or lower level hardware:
I'm in the process of winding my own brushless motor for an R/C
airplane (it's basically the same as the motor out of a CDROM drive,
and you can control the power and torque by changing the number of
windings).  That would be a fun project for students, learning how
motors work and making their own motors which can power a model car.


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