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Sun Courts Academia with New Student Portal

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Aaron Houston recently pointed out that there is a new Student Portal on the Sun Developer Network, and could be a helpful resource for both high school and college students:

Aaron also pointed out that Sun has also been kind enough to provode Sun SPOT kits for 1/2 off (bringing the price down to $300/kit) for students and teachers/professors. You can ask about the discount on the Sun SPOT Forums. On top of that, they're having a competition -- submit a proposal for a Sun SPOT idea and you could receive a FREE SPOT to implement it. You can see a SPOT at the bottom of the screenshot above.

If you're curious about Sun SPOTs, the description from the SPOT faq is:

The Sun SPOT Device is a small, wireless, battery powered experimental platform. It is programmed almost entirely in Java to allow regular programmers to create projects that used to require specialized embedded system development skills. The hardware platform includes a range of built-in sensors as well as the ability to easily interface to external devices.

Thanks Aaron!

Published at DZone with permission of its author, Jim Bethancourt.

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)


Rick Ross replied on Mon, 2008/01/28 - 3:18pm

I think this is territory where Sun and other Java leaders can do a LOT of good. Investing in resources for students is the best way to ensure another generation of well-equipped young developers and extend the lifetime of a platform like Java. Very nice move, and I hope it is just one off many!

Fred Swartz replied on Tue, 2008/01/29 - 5:55am

Sun just doesn't seem to get it.   If they want to encourage students, the first priority should be to make writing simple programs simple.   Perhaps NetBeans and the Application Framework will eventually allow that, but writing a simple, attractive, GUI by hand remains difficult.

And Sun SPOTS????   It looks like an interesting gadget without any purpose.   Let's hope this is only the beginning and that it will be extended so that students will want to do something fun with it.   Where is the vehicle/robot you can place it in?  

Sun really, really doesn't have a clue on how to motivate students and instructors and how to make beginning programming easier and more fun.   Very sad.

Konstantin Chikarev replied on Wed, 2008/01/30 - 5:25am in response to: Fred Swartz

[quote=fred swartz]Sun just doesn't seem to get it. If they want to encourage students, the first priority should be to make writing simple programs simple. Perhaps NetBeans and the Application Framework will eventually allow that, but writing a simple, attractive, GUI by hand remains difficult.[/quote]

Many students doing harder tasks than write GUI by hand. They born in the era of computers and it's their natural environment already.

Fred Swartz replied on Wed, 2008/01/30 - 5:34pm in response to: Konstantin Chikarev

@kreiser: Of course you're right, but I was thinking of the new-to-programming students that I'm teaching.   The single most effective learning factor is motivation.   One motivator is being able to produce programs they can show to their family and friends, or even use in their work.   Most introductory Java textbooks use text IO, or perhaps JOptionPane for much of their content.   And even when textbooks do teach GUI programming it is often wrong-minded and offered as "optional" material.

Eg, a student struggles with the normal programming issues, then proudly shows it to his wife, who says, "That's a program?"  She's never seen a console-based program, and is really unimpressed.   And so she should be -- none of these students have produced what they or anyone they know would consider to be a program.   Well, they know they've learned a lot, but why can they produce a simple GUI program?

I also occasionally teach Visual Basic, and the contrast is amazing.   These students are enthusiastic from the beginning and most produce great looking programs.   Of course some can't manage when they have to do some serious thinking about the model, but the net effect is a lot more motivation.    I'm not a big fan of VB, but making it easy to produce a GUI from the beginning is brilliant.

Java is killing many of our intro students, and there's no reason for this, except that Sun has never placed any priority on making simple programs easy.   What a waste of brain power I see every term.

Jeroen Wenting replied on Tue, 2008/02/05 - 5:01am

No, the reason is NOT that you can't make simple programs easily.

The reason is twofold:

1) many kids are under the mistaken impression that things are simple that aren't (just see the number of them who want to write massive multiplayer games a-la World of Warcraft when they've never programmed before and think to do it in a few hours on their own for example)

2) a lot of (other?) kids are lazy and uninterested in doing any real work and study of their own and just want to get their homework done for them, or failing that given the fastest path to do it themselves without having to study and in the least time possible.

Motivated, reasonably bright, students with a sense of direction typically have no problems with Java, and will pick up things quickly enough. Sadly those seem to be a vanishingly small minority given the posts from beginners on programming related forums. One can only hope that this image we get of the average student is heavily skewed by the majority of students never posting on those forums because they don't ask for help but rather figure things out for themselves (like those of us old enough to learn the trade in a time before those forums existed used to do).

Lily Marlene replied on Thu, 2013/01/17 - 9:04am

My son showed me this portal and he told me that all his colleagues use the Student Portal on the Sun Developer Network to deepen their knowledge about programming, he knows Visual Basic very good and recently made a program for a hospital, now it is much easier for the hospital administration to identify and help the patients that fight disease. I also made an account on this Portal and learned a lot of things so far, I like that the material is explained in a very simplistic way.

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