Computing: Chocolate-Flavoured Algorithms
Computing and baking might seem an unusual combination, but my Year 7 computing group recently set out to show how even baking can be linked to computer science.
Out topic at the moment is Algorithms, which can resemble recipes. Recipes tell us how to accomplish a task by performing a number of steps - to make chocolate rice crispy cakes, the steps might be:
- Fill a pan half way with water and heat the water
- Chop chocolate into small pieces and place the pieces into a mixing bowl
- Put the mixing bowl on top of pan of water and watch the chocolate melt, stirring regularly
- Add puffed rice to the melted chocolate and mix in until evenly dispersed
- Divide the mixture evenly into paper cases using spoons
…and so forth!
The children in my Year 7 class were required to carry out the predetermined series of instructions precisely and without guidance, other than safety aspects, in order to accomplish the final product; very much like a computer would do to carry out even the simplest tasks.
Variation from the 'steps' would result in our rice crispy cakes turning into something other than the intended - there were a few examples that would certainly have Mary Berry flustered - much like how a computer would be unable to successfully complete the steps of a program if something was wrong with its code.
Algorithms can be described in 3 steps - Input, Process and Output. In terms of our own recipe, the Input was the ingredients, the Process is combining and cooking said ingredients and the Output, if they got it right, was the kind of riches that all children dream of - chocolate rice crispy cakes!
Obviously an 'algorithm' is a more specific term than 'recipe' and would have properties such as unambiguous descriptions to ensure clarity and accuracy, with no margin for error when implementing tasks. So in terms of our own recipe, "heat the water" is ambiguous because it fails to clarify that the water needs to "heated until boiling" or until it reaches a specific temperature.
After our session in the Food and Nutrition Room, the children went on to write their own algorithms, in the form of flow charts, for carrying out everyday tasks. This included activities such as making toast or brushing teeth.
This process informed the pupils' understanding of computer programming concepts and will result in efficient and effective "scripts".
Providing a different slant to the conventional teaching methods, as you can imagine and see from the photos, proved very popular with the children.
All in all, the series of lessons proved to be a mouth-watering success!