October 14, 2018

Toothbrush timer

Some time ago we were thinking about coding something again and I asked if we should think about coding something that's actually useful, instead of just games. Kaisla got intrigued by the idea and we discussed few ideas until finally deciding to make a toothbrush timer for Kaisla's little sister Sohvi, who had lately had some trouble concentrating on brushing her teeth for the full two minutes.

This app needed to be portable to be able to take it with you to the bathroom, so we decided to write it on Pocket Code. It was our first app written on it from the beginning (previously we had just converted a few of our previous Scratch games).

Some of the hourglass code
We discussed the design first and decided that there should be some cute animals and an hourglass (since it's a timer). We selected some animal characters from the library in Pocket Code and I found some good hourglass images from internet. The timer needed to be interesting to keep focus for two minutes, so we thought to show two animal characters at a time and randomly change them every 10 seconds or so.

The app turned out quite good and it has been used a lot. It really captured Sohvi's interest and served it's purpose at helping her concentrate on brushing her teeth. In fact it was so successful that we later made an improved version. Kaisla wanted to use Pet Shop characters instead of the ones from Pocket Code, so we scanned some images from her coloring book. We also wanted to make it a bit more interactive, so we added a point system so that when ever two of the same characters are shown at the same time, you get a point if you tap them (you get green thumbs up for each point). This idea came from using the first version, since both Kaisla and Sohvi were always looking out for pairs. We also added some sound effects and made the hourglass go quicker and turn around after a minute to indicate that you need to change from upper teeth to bottom (or vice versa).

It has really been the most successful game/app we have made so far in terms of usage and usefulness. Even though it has been almost six months since we made the initial version, it's still used consistently (not every day anymore, but at least few times a week on average).

Smiley face is shown when time is up

September 10, 2018

Mobile apps with Pocket Code

I haven't written that much about Pocket Code yet (except for mentioning it in the Resources page), but we have been using it for quite a while now so I thought it's time to write about our experiences with it.

What is Pocket Code?

Pocket Code is another graphical programming environment, similar to Scratch, but instead of using it on a computer, it runs on your mobile phone (or tablet). It's currently Android only, so if you have an iPhone you'll have to look for other alternatives.

In Pocket Code you can publish programs and download and remix other people's programs and even convert them to standalone Android apps. It also has (an experimental) feature to import Scratch projects into it, so it's an easy way to convert your existing Scratch programs to mobile apps!

Programming in Pocket Code is very similar to Scratch, you have different color blocks can be used to define logic, actions and react to inputs etc. So if you are familiar with Scratch, you should feel pretty familiar with Pocket Code and be productive very quickly.

Converting Scratch programs to Android 

We have tried the conversion feature on some of our Scratch games and it works pretty well. You will have to change the input methods, since there is no keyboard. Depending on the program, that might be easier or harder. For example our Owl game turned out pretty good and was easy to convert since it only had one button for input, that we converted to touch (anywhere on the screen). If you want to try it out, install Pocket Code and see if you can find it. More complicated programs might not be that easy to convert, but you can try it out easily anyway.

I think I will write a separate post about our first app that we made with Pocket, called Toothbrush Timer.