Various members of the APCS listsrv dwell on this problem every year, and suggestions abound. Last year I tried running Terrarium, a sort of MBCS Fish on steroids. This year, however, I tried something different. Following in the footsteps of a friend of mine (Pat Phillips), I assigned them a programming project, with the requirement that the program they write has to end up on a PocketPC.
Bishop Guertin High School received a couple of ViewSonic PocketPCs last year in a grant, and I’ve been waiting for this opportunity to put them to use. (Actually, I’ve been using one myself for quite some time, since my own Palm Pilot died a premature death! 8^) Anyway, while I’ve toyed with writing programs for it for a while, and even spent ten minutes creating a Rock Paper Scissor app, this apparently was the kick that I needed (as well as the students!)
So while they’re digging into cribbage games, and text encoders, and iPod replacements, etc., I went into my archives and found an Othello (a.k.a. Reversi) game that I wrote years ago while learning VB.NET, and set out to convert it to PocketPC. To say it was easier than expected would be an understatement!
Visual Studio with VB.NET (or C#) is an amazing platform for program development, and this little project points this out in an undeniable way. In less than a day I had the game running on the emulator, which let me hunt down a few gotchas; by the second day I was playing my Othello game while standing at a traffic light. (Just try that with a laptop … oh, never mind, you probably do!) Yes, the .NET Compact Framework has limitations … but you can learn to live with these so quickly it’s almost not worth mentioning. (FYI, If anyone wants the CAB file, drop me a line!)
Next challenge: Replace the brain-dead calculator that comes with the PDA!