Project

Catrobat

Goal: Catrobat is a visual programming language for smartphones and tablets inspired by Scratch. Pocket Code is an app with which you can create, download and upload programs created in Catrobat. Catrobat and Pocket Code are available under open source licenses.

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Pocket Code is an integrated development environment (IDE) targeted at smartphones. With this IDE users can create mobile apps for the block-based visual programming language Catrobat. Pocket Code is released in various flavors with custom features for partners and projects (e.g., Pocket Code, Create@School, Phiro, and Standalone). All flavors extend a single common project codebase according to flavor specific requirements. The Standalone variants (debug and release) convert a Catrobat project into an Android application to install it independently and execute it without the need for an installed Pocket Code on an Android smartphone. Furthermore, it can be published on app stores for reputational and also monetary benefits. The app resource files and the configuration are generated on the fly upon a user request via the Pocket Code sharing platform. In this paper, the approach of building a Pocket Code variant and transform a Pocket Code project into an Android application are described. Especially the Standalone build variants have the potential to bring many interesting apps to the market.
Bernadette Spieler
added a research item
Game design activities support young people to acquire Computational Thinking (CT) skills in an entertaining way. While the importance of CT is increasing, we still lack empirical data on how cognitive functions support learning to program. The current study is a step towards bridging this gap. We tested 48 participants aged 10-15 during summer courses to see how programming skills are associated with cognitive processes. Descriptive statistics of gaming and design elements of the participants' final projects were correlated with measures of working memory, creativity, and arithmetic. Results show that different concepts of CT applied in games were associated with separate cognitive measures. The number of design elements (shape and structure of the game, sound, visual design) correlated with both working memory and arithmetic skills; the number of game elements (inter-activity, mechanics, dynamics, aesthetics) correlated with creativity; whereas the complexity of the project was only predicted by age. The overall evaluation of the project was associated with age and arithmetic skills. Since the different concepts of CT were predicted by different cognitive skills, the current study provides empirical evidence that CT is not a single homogenous skill, but a set of subskills, with each part loading on different cognitive functions.
Bernadette Spieler
added a research item
Research points at various factors for the low and even decreasing proportion of women in the IT sector in developed countries, e.g., psychological causes, social factors, or structural conditions. These possible explanations all have one thing in common: they recognize adolescence as the essential confidence-building phase in girls. Girls aged 12 to 15 years old seem to lose interest in computer science (CS). Providing mentors and female role models are two key elements to counteract gender stereotypes in CS. "RemoteMentor", a joint Austrian research project brought these two approaches together and expanded them in the form of "remote tutoring": female students aged 14 to 15 received one-on-one human support through smartphones for their coding project during their regular CS and arts lessons. The aim of the one year investigation was to analyse gender aspects in the tutoring process and the output of the collaborative coding project. This was done with group discussions , the evaluation of the online tutoring units and an analysis of the final games in regard to the applied Computational Thinking concepts. Results showed that the project was a promising approach to support and motivate at least a certain group of female students in coding.
Christian Schindler
added a research item
Most of the 700 million teenagers everywhere in the world already have their own smartphones, but comparatively few of them have access to PCs, laptops, OLPCs, Chromebooks, or tablets. The free open source non-profit project Catrobat allows users to create and publish their own apps using only their smartphones. Initiated in 2010, with first public versions of our free apps since 2014 and 47 releases of the main coding app as of July 2018, Catrobat currently has more than 700,000 users from 180 countries, is available in 50+ languages, and has been developed so far by almost 1,000 volunteers from around the world ("the world"). Catrobat is strongly inspired by Scratch and indeed allows to import most Scratch projects, thus giving access to more than 30 million projects on our users' phones as of July 2018. Our apps are very intuitive ("rock bottom"), have many accessibility settings, e.g., for kids with visual or cognitive impairments, and there are tons of constructionist tutorials and courses in many languages. We also have created a plethora of extensions, e.g., for various educational robots, including Lego Mindstorms and flying Parrot quadcopters ("the sky"), as well as for controlling arbitrary external devices through Arduino or Raspberry Pi boards, going up to the stratosphere and even beyond to interplanetary space ("the sky"). A TurtleStitch extension allowing to code one's own embroidery patterns for clothes is currently being developed. Catrobat among others intensely focuses on including female teenagers. While a dedicated version for schools is being developed, our apps are meant to be primarily used outside of class rooms, anywhere and in particular outdoors ("rock bottom", "the world"). Catrobat is discovered by our users through various app stores such as Google Play and via social media channels such as YouTube as well as via our presence on Code.org.
Bernadette Spieler
added a research item
The number of women in technical fields is far below the average number of males, especially in developed countries. Gender differences in STEM are already present in secondary schools in students aged between 12 to 15 years. It is during this intermediate female adolescence that girls begin to make critical career choices, which therefore makes this a key age to reinforce them and reduce the gender disparities in ICT. Acquiring computational thinking (CT) skills, particularly coding, is important for building a positive economic, developmental, and innovative future. To address the gender bias in schools, one of the goals of the European H2020 project No One Left Behind (NOLB) included integrating Pocket Code, a free open source app developed by the non-profit project Catrobat, into different school lessons. Through game design, Pocket Code allows teenage girls to incorporate diversity and inclusiveness, as well as the ability to reflect their cultural identity, their likes, and their ways of interacting and thinking. To evaluate the impact of the use of the app in these courses, we captured the results on engaging girls in design and coding activities. For this paper, the authors present the data of surveys via a qualitative content analysis during the second cycle of the project. The results let the researchers conclude that the organization and the setting of the coding courses (for example, guidance and supporting material, freedom of choice) had much more influence on female students’ engagement than the coding aspects or the app itself. In contrast, male students more frequently mentioned missing features in the app, and stated that they liked the coding. With a focus on female teenagers, the results allow us to conclude that a suitable classroom setting is significantly more important for them than the coding tool itself.
Dr-Aiman Mamdouh Ayyal Awwad
added a research item
This paper discusses the implementation of Google's Material Design guidelines, internationalization, and localization for mobile applications in the case of Pocket Paint, an Android painting application. The intended goal of this redesign is to broaden the user base by improving overall usability and supporting right-to-left written languages such as Arabic. The main challenges of the redesign are the intricacies to thoroughly support both right-to-left and left-to-right scripts, e.g., the positioning, translation, mirroring of text and graphical elements, the 'when' and 'when not' to mirror. Related to the Material Design guideline compliance we carried out a user experience test with six users (age 13) of our target group. All participants rated the redesigned application being simpler, more appealing and concise in comparison to the previous version.
Dr-Aiman Mamdouh Ayyal Awwad
added a project goal
Catrobat is a visual programming language for smartphones and tablets inspired by Scratch. Pocket Code is an app with which you can create, download and upload programs created in Catrobat. Catrobat and Pocket Code are available under open source licenses.