Rewriting the script
ScriptCraft: Hacking Minecraft for kids
How do you encourage kids to code?
Some might point to the example of Black Eyed Peas popstar
Will.i.am promoting the joys of
STEM on mainstream TV, or Google
offering cash prizes at summer camps.
Coded entirely in Java, Minecraft has also spawned a large and vibrant modding community, whose efforts have introduced the ability to travel back in time to the Jurassic age, pilotable biplanes and of course cats - as well as more boring tasks like administering external application servers.
The result, ScriptCraft, taps into the unofficial Bukkit API wrapper for Minecraft, allowing programmatic construction of Minecraft structures from the chat box (though Higgins has also demonstrated ScriptCraft’s ability to tap into events using explosive and teleportation arrows).
A simple demo: printing the current date and time.
But why not just use Java, rather than attempt to reinvent the
compile and build cycle. Accessing and setting properties is more
succinct. Its duck-typing means programmers don't have to
explicitly cast to different types. Kids at CoderDojo sessions are
Spurred on by “a lot of interest” in ScriptCraft at CoderDojo, Higgins has begun writing a Young Person's Guide to Programming in Minecraft and plans to run workshops covering ScriptCraft's Drone API. The source code for ScriptCraft is also available on Github, for those wanting to get their hands dirty.
Ultimately, says Higgins, the trick to getting kids interested in coding is to make it easier. “Java doesn't have a REPL (Read Eval Print Loop) so it's not conducive to exploratory programming. Combine exploratory programming with something kids are already keen on and that lowers a lot of the barriers to coding.”