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  • Computer Science Unplugged
Artificial Intelligence
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This activity explores what it means for a computer to be intelligent and introduces the topic of what a computer program is and how everything computers do simply involves following instructions written by (creative) computer programmers. Learners interact with a piece of paper that contains rules for playing a perfect game of noughts-and-crosses (tic-tac-toe). The activity contains some thought provoking (and humorous) discussion questions. Explanation, variations, extensions, and resources are included in the PDF.

Subject:
Computing and Information
Engineering
Technology
Education
Life Science
Mathematics
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Game
Lesson Plan
Simulation
Provider:
Computer Science Unplugged
Science and Math Informal Learning Educators (SMILE)
Provider Set:
Computer Science Unplugged
SMILE Pathway: Science and Math Activities in One Search
Author:
Brian Mason Scientific and Technical Trust
Computer Science Unplugged
Google Inc.
Paul Curzon
Battleships
Rating

This activity explores the main algorithms that are used as the basis for searching on computers, using different variations on the game of battleships. This activity demonstrates three search methods for finding information in data: linear searching, binary searching and hashing. It also includes an optional introductory activity as well as a video showing a fun demonstration related to the same content.

Subject:
Computing and Information
Engineering
Technology
Education
Mathematics
Geometry
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Game
Lesson Plan
Simulation
Provider:
Computer Science Unplugged
Science and Math Informal Learning Educators (SMILE)
Provider Set:
Computer Science Unplugged
SMILE Pathway: Science and Math Activities in One Search
Author:
Brian Mason Scientific and Technical Trust
Computer Science Unplugged
Google Inc.
Ian Witten
Jane McKenzie
Mike Fellows
Robyn Adams
Tim Bell
Cryptographic Protocols
Rating

This activity about cryptographic techniques illustrates how to accomplish a simple, but nevertheless seemingly impossible task--making a fair, random choice by flipping a coin between two people who don't necessarily trust each other, and who are connected only by a telephone. Use this activity to introduce learners to cryptographic protocols and internet security/privacy issues. Variations, extensions, background information, and further reading suggestions are included in the PDF.

Subject:
Computing and Information
Engineering
Technology
Education
Mathematics
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Lecture
Lesson Plan
Simulation
Provider:
Computer Science Unplugged
Science and Math Informal Learning Educators (SMILE)
Provider Set:
Computer Science Unplugged
SMILE Pathway: Science and Math Activities in One Search
Author:
Brian Mason Scientific and Technical Trust
Computer Science Unplugged
Google Inc.
Ian Witten
Mike Fellows
Tim Bell
Divide and Conquer
Rating

This activity introduces the idea of "divide and conquer" using a fictitious but serious problem--a pair of dirty socks has accidentally been wrapped in one of the presents that Santa is about to deliver, and he needs to figure out which present, to avoid a child getting a nasty surprise. Learners can watch an animated video, listen to a story, or read a book themselves. This resource includes ideas for follow-up group discussion.

Subject:
Computing and Information
Engineering
Technology
Education
Mathematics
Algebra
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Lecture
Lesson Plan
Provider:
Computer Science Unplugged
Science and Math Informal Learning Educators (SMILE)
Provider Set:
Computer Science Unplugged
SMILE Pathway: Science and Math Activities in One Search
Author:
Brian Mason Scientific and Technical Trust
Computer Science Unplugged
Google Inc.
Ian Witten
Jane McKenzie
Mike Fellows
Robyn Adams
Tim Bell
Ice Roads
Rating

In this outdoor activity, learners use pegs (like tent pegs) and string or elastic to simulate drill sites and roads in Northern Canada. Learners are challenged with figuring out how to connect the roads to all the drill sites while keeping the total road length to a minimum. They'll discover that intersections or "Steiner" points provide efficiency between points within a network. Use this activity to introduce learners to computer science themes including Steiner trees, algorithms, and NP-complete problems. Variations, extensions, background information, and solutions are included in the PDF.

Subject:
Computing and Information
Engineering
Technology
Education
Mathematics
Algebra
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Lesson Plan
Simulation
Provider:
Computer Science Unplugged
Science and Math Informal Learning Educators (SMILE)
Provider Set:
Computer Science Unplugged
SMILE Pathway: Science and Math Activities in One Search
Author:
Brian Mason Scientific and Technical Trust
Computer Science Unplugged
Google Inc.
Ian Witten
Mike Fellows
Tim Bell
Information Hiding
Rating

This activity about cryptographic techniques illustrates a situation where information is shared, and yet none of it is revealed. A group of learners will calculate their average age without anyone revealing their own age. Use this activity to introduce learners to cryptographic protocols and internet security/privacy issues. Variations, extensions, background information, and further reading suggestions are included in the PDF.

Subject:
Computing and Information
Engineering
Technology
Education
Life Science
Mathematics
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Lesson Plan
Provider:
Computer Science Unplugged
Science and Math Informal Learning Educators (SMILE)
Provider Set:
Computer Science Unplugged
SMILE Pathway: Science and Math Activities in One Search
Author:
Brian Mason Scientific and Technical Trust
Computer Science Unplugged
Google Inc.
Ian Witten
Mike Fellows
Tim Bell
The Muddy City
Rating

In this puzzle, learners investigate the decisions involved in linking a network between houses in a muddy city. It can lead on to a discussion of minimal spanning tree algorithms for optimizing networks. Additional activities, background information, and solutions are included, beginning on page 4 of the PDF.

Subject:
Computing and Information
Engineering
Technology
Education
Mathematics
Geometry
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Lesson Plan
Simulation
Provider:
Computer Science Unplugged
Science and Math Informal Learning Educators (SMILE)
Provider Set:
Computer Science Unplugged
SMILE Pathway: Science and Math Activities in One Search
Author:
Brian Mason Scientific and Technical Trust
Computer Science Unplugged
Google Inc.
Ian Witten
Jane McKenzie
Mike Fellows
Robyn Adams
Tim Bell
Phylogenetics
Rating

This activity lets learners participate in the process of reconstructing a phylogenetic tree and introduces them to several core bioinformatics concepts, particularly in relation to evolution. Groups of learners (at least 10) repeat a secret message (five to seven similar-sounding words) like the game "Telephone". In this version of the game, however, learners write and then code what they hear, creating a model of a phylogenetic tree and using a species distance matrix. This resource includes background information about phylogenetic trees, maximum parsimony, and matrix theory (see page 6-7 of PDF).

Subject:
Computing and Information
Engineering
Technology
Education
Life Science
Mathematics
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Game
Lesson Plan
Provider:
Computer Science Unplugged
Science and Math Informal Learning Educators (SMILE)
Provider Set:
Computer Science Unplugged
SMILE Pathway: Science and Math Activities in One Search
Author:
Brian Mason Scientific and Technical Trust
Computer Science Unplugged
Google Inc.
Jim Becker
Katrin Becker
Truman State University
The Poor Cartographer
Rating

In this activity, learners help a poor cartographer color in the countries on a map, making sure each country is colored a different color than any of its neighbors. Through this exercise, learners discover the "has-to-be" rule and the value of place-holders. This activity reveals the complexity of graph coloring algorithms in computer science. Variations, extensions, background information, and solutions are included in the PDF.

Subject:
Computing and Information
Engineering
Technology
Education
Mathematics
Geoscience
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Lesson Plan
Simulation
Provider:
Computer Science Unplugged
Science and Math Informal Learning Educators (SMILE)
Provider Set:
Computer Science Unplugged
SMILE Pathway: Science and Math Activities in One Search
Author:
Brian Mason Scientific and Technical Trust
Computer Science Unplugged
Google Inc.
Ian Witten
Mike Fellows
Tim Bell
Programming Languages
Rating

In this activity related to computer programming, learners give directions to a "robot" (either an adult or another learner) and find out which instructions the robot is able to follow, and how their instructions are taken literally. This activity will simulate how computers follow instructions very precisely, which can be frustrating at times. This activity also helps learners understand instruction set size (large complex vs. small efficient).

Subject:
Computing and Information
Engineering
Technology
Education
Life Science
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Lesson Plan
Simulation
Provider:
Computer Science Unplugged
Science and Math Informal Learning Educators (SMILE)
Provider Set:
Computer Science Unplugged
SMILE Pathway: Science and Math Activities in One Search
Author:
Brian Mason Scientific and Technical Trust
Computer Science Unplugged
Google Inc.
Jason Clutterbuck
Richard Nelson
Sebastian Hšhna
Sebastian Hí_hna
Stefan Marks
Wilson Siringoringo
Sound Representation
Rating

In this activity, learners listen to songs and decode hidden messages based on the same principle as a modem. As a final challenge, learners decode the binary messages in a music video. This is an excellent follow-up activity to an introduction to binary numbers. Additional activities and background information about modems are included on page 3 of the PDF.

Subject:
Computing and Information
Engineering
Technology
Education
Mathematics
Chemistry
Physics
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Lesson Plan
Simulation
Provider:
Computer Science Unplugged
Science and Math Informal Learning Educators (SMILE)
Provider Set:
Computer Science Unplugged
SMILE Pathway: Science and Math Activities in One Search
Author:
Brian Mason Scientific and Technical Trust
Computer Science Unplugged
Google Inc.
Ian Witten
Jane McKenzie
Mike Fellows
Robyn Adams
Tim Bell
Tourist Town
Rating

In this activity, learners use a fictitious map of "Tourist Town" and counters to problem solve how to place ice-cream vans on street intersections so that every other intersection is connected to one that has a van on it. Use this activity to introduce learners to computer science themes including nodes, dominating sets, exponential-time algorithms, polynomial-time algorithms, and NP-complete problems. Variations, extensions, background information, and solutions are included in the PDF.

Subject:
Computing and Information
Engineering
Technology
Education
Mathematics
Algebra
Geoscience
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Lesson Plan
Simulation
Provider:
Computer Science Unplugged
Science and Math Informal Learning Educators (SMILE)
Provider Set:
Computer Science Unplugged
SMILE Pathway: Science and Math Activities in One Search
Author:
Brian Mason Scientific and Technical Trust
Computer Science Unplugged
Google Inc.
Ian Witten
Mike Fellows
Tim Bell
The Turing Test
Rating

This activity aims to stimulate discussion on the question of whether computers can exhibit Ňintelligence" or are ever likely to do so in the future. Learners play a game and try to distinguish between a human and a computer by asking questions and analyzing the answers. This game is similar to the Turing Test, founded by British mathematician Alan Turing. Variations, extensions, background information and further reading suggestions are included in the PDF.

Subject:
Computing and Information
Engineering
Technology
Education
History, Law, Politics
Life Science
Mathematics
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Lesson Plan
Simulation
Provider:
Computer Science Unplugged
Science and Math Informal Learning Educators (SMILE)
Provider Set:
Computer Science Unplugged
SMILE Pathway: Science and Math Activities in One Search
Author:
Brian Mason Scientific and Technical Trust
Computer Science Unplugged
Google Inc.
Ian Witten
Mike Fellows
Tim Bell
Twenty Guesses
Rating

This activity introduces the idea that computer scientists measure information by how "surprising" a message is. Learners play the game "20 Questions" and use the number of questions asked as a measure of the value of "information" in the answer. While this is not an intuitive idea, an image of a "decision tree" for guessing a number between 0 and 7 illustrates the relationship between the answers to the questions (yes=1 and no=0), and the answer (so if the answer is 3, then three questions whose answers are no, yes, yes yields 011, which is 3 in binary.

Subject:
Computing and Information
Engineering
Technology
Mathematics
Physics
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Game
Lesson Plan
Provider:
Computer Science Unplugged
Science and Math Informal Learning Educators (SMILE)
Provider Set:
Computer Science Unplugged
SMILE Pathway: Science and Math Activities in One Search
Author:
Brian Mason Scientific and Technical Trust
Google Inc.
Ian Witten
Jane McKenzie
Mike Fellows
Robyn Adams
Tim Bell
You Can Say That Again!
Rating

This activity helps students learn how computers "compress" text by identifying repeating patterns of letters, words, and phrases. Students use poems or nursery rhymes as their source text, draw boxes around repeating parts, and use arrows to point to earlier parts of the text that can be used to "uncompress" the text. The boxes and arrows are then related to the numbers that computers use in compression. An extension has students try compressing a much longer story, "The Three Little Pigs."

Subject:
Computing and Information
Engineering
Technology
Mathematics
Physics
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Lesson Plan
Provider:
Computer Science Unplugged
Science and Math Informal Learning Educators (SMILE)
Provider Set:
Computer Science Unplugged
SMILE Pathway: Science and Math Activities in One Search
Author:
Brian Mason Scientific and Technical Trust
Computer Science Unplugged
Google Inc.
Ian Witten
Jane McKenzie
Mike Fellows
Robyn Adams
Tim Bell