Testing in Earnest: Kids Day and the Wonderland Week of Code

Now that we have switched gears from building features to testing and debugging, I’d like to share with you a few things that are happening.

Kids Day

On Friday, we had a group of 6 kids (mostly our own) between the ages of 7 and 11 come to Sun Labs in Menlo Park, CA for the day. In the morning, they learned some basics of Alice programming from one of our colleagues, Dan Green, who spends much of his free time teaching educational programming environments to kids. My daughter, for example, created a fish tank with four animated characters.

But the main purpose of the day was to get the kids to import their animations into the virtual world. They did this by saving the Alice project and then dragging and dropping the file into the world. Below is a little clip of Jonathan demonstrating how to click on the Alice model to reveal a control panel for playing the animation.  It was quite exciting when all of us were walking around together inside the fish tank watching the virtual fish swim around us.

The ability to import Alice content comes to us from Stanford student Kevin Montag. At the end of the summer, Kevin will write a detailed blog post about the project and how he created the Alice module. Although this is still a work in progress with limited functionality, it was a great way to get the kids motivated to help test our software. We uncovered a number of bugs, including a pretty bad one on Windows in which the client does not die completely when shut down, causing it not to start up again without manually deleting the process.

As a reminder, if you find bugs like this, please report them in the Issue Tracker. You can refer to the Testing 101 tutorial for instructions on how to enter bug reports.

Wonderland Week of Code

This coming week will be the adults turn for some intensive Wonderland testing. The entire Sun Labs Wonderland team will be gathering in Menlo Park for a “Wonderland Week of Code.” The idea for the week is to live the Wonderland module developer experience. Before we finalize the 0.5 release, we want to test our APIs (application programming interfaces). We plan to do this by all sitting in the same room together and working intensely to develop two new modules that are very different from one another. One is a physics learning activity and the other is an interactive 3D timeline. The links will take you to the preliminary design proposals for each project so you can see what we have in mind.

Our aim is to develop these modules without touching any core code or making any API changes. The other goals are to find as many bugs and usability problems as we can, and to take notes on which parts of the system require more documentation. And if we’re lucky, we should have two new 0.5 demos by the end of the week that others can use as example code for doing things like connecting to external data sources, manipulating the camera, and creating interactive animations.

You’ll be hearing a lot more about these projects in the coming week. We have a number of people attending the event who have committed to blogging about it, so stay tuned.

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