Sunday 25 January 2015

New water turbine for Durham

My journey to walk each day takes me past the River Wear to Durham train station. It's great to see some of the exciting developments on the riverside, in particular the installation of a new hydro-turbine within the existing weir. There is a decent height difference between the upper and lower sections of the river so utilising the power of the water that comes through seems to make complete sense.

I took a couple of photographs last week (on a typical warm, sunny day in the North East)...
The water drops through the levels of the weir
The 13m, 20 tonne, Archimedean screw
Some of the facts I could find from the internet are as follows...
  • A 100kw generator that will supply 75% of the energy to the new Freeman's Reach development
  • Designed and manufactured by Spaans Babcock it is 13 meters long and 20 tonnes in weight
  • The design also features a fish pass that will allow fish to more easily travel upstream (and will count them) 
...and some further info from the web...

Sunday 18 January 2015

In praise of - Scratch

Both of my children are in Primary School and they are now learning "coding" using the fantastic Scratch website. I remember reading about this in the news a few months ago, but now I am helping them with their homework I cannot speak highly enough about this initiative.

As a youngster myself I remember playing around with a BBC Microcomputer.

10 CLS
30 GOTO 20

At university I remember doing a bit of C, FORTRAN and VBA to help analyse results of lab work. This then took me into my day-job which is creating software and websites for the construction industry.

Anyway, back to Scratch, it allows you to build fun visual computer games using "building blocks" of code. It reduces the typing needed as you can get started by just sticking blocks of code together and seeing what happens.

Once you get used to it - fun games to try and write (especially if you are working with kids) are:
  1. Pub quiz games - Click on the correct answer - import some nice images - keep score - give the result at the end
  2. Platform game - Control the Sprite with the cursors and make fences and clouds and food fly past to produce a "Mario" style platform game
  3. Shooting game - Make targets appear and shoot them to make them disappear, add the points up as you go along.
Some screenshots from a recent piece of homework that came through the Hamil House are below. Really simple, but needed designed (sourcing images, resizing them, working out the flow of logic), developed (sticking the code blocks together) and then tested (does it work?). All great fun learning activities for kids. The homework was to do a fun quiz about a European country...
Images appear and disappear when clicked on
In the background the score is being remembered
Different end-screens are shown depending on your success
Events, sensing, appearance and commenting in the simple to use code
Finally, the whole web community is embraced as you can share projects with your friends and explore other people's code so you can keep getting better. Top stuff!

Further info: