UDOO App Inventor: Introducing Novices to the Internet of Things

UDOO App Inventor: Introducing Novices to the Internet of Things

Antonio Rizzo (University of Siena, Siena, Italy), Francesco Montefoschi (University of Siena, Siena, Italy), Sara Ermini (University of Siena, Siena, Italy) and Giovanni Burresi (University of Florence, Florence, Italy)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/IJPOP.2015010103
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Abstract

This paper describes the opportunities provided by the new graphical tool UDOO App Inventor (UAPPI) for enhancing the programming learning experience. With this tool, coding and programming are no longer limited to screen pixels but will incorporate real objects in the physical world. The aim of the authors' research is to develop new tools for coding alphabetization, by focusing on live programming, event programming, physical computing and overcoming syntax obstacles by using blocks programming. They describe two simple Research through Design case studies carried out with different categories of attendees in order to illustrate the potential of the UAPPI platform. In the first case, the authors render a door interactive, while in the second, they build a simple rover.
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App Inventor

App Inventor for Android is a visual programming platform for creating mobile applications (apps) for Android-based smartphones and tablets. It was developed at Google Labs by a team led by Hal Abelson on sabbatical from MIT (Abelson, 2009). Today, App Inventor runs as a web application administered by staff at MIT’s Center for Mobile Learning - a collaboration of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and the MIT Media Lab. The App Inventor source code is available under an open-source license, allowing anyone to deploy App Inventor servers. In 2014, MIT hosted the web IDE, servicing 87,000 users per week, with a total of over 2.2 million registered users who developed 5.5 million apps (Schiller et al, 2014).

App Inventor is similar to Scratch (http://www.alice.org). Developing apps in App Inventor or these other languages does not require writing textual code. The look and behavior of the app is developed visually, using a series of building blocks for each intended component. Like its competitors, App Inventor aims to make programming enjoyable and accessible to novices.

Of all these programming platforms, however, only App Inventor allows for the creation of apps for smartphones and tablets. Given the increasing popularity and ubiquity of these and other mobile devices, App Inventor has enormous potential for attracting newcomers of any age to computing, coding and computational thinking. In a very short time (for example, a few days), beginners can build apps that are not only fun, but have real-world utility. “App Inventor allows creative people to transform their ideas into working, interactive apps that can be taken up by large companies, used by non-profit organizations and turned into startups” (Wolber, 2011).

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