By David Han for TCL
An Introduction To Complex Puzzles
Hot Wheels was a fun series of puzzles that many will be able to enjoy. However, it isn’t for those who give up easily. Like a lot of other code block puzzles, this goes through the same motions of learning the basics commands, but also does more by introducing more complicated concepts in bite sized bits.
A new concept would be that rather than a grid style map that a lot of other games provide, this one just shows a road that you have to follow. This might make some of the planning difficult, but is definitely possible if they take it one step at a time. This puzzle also introduces a change speed command, something that could only come in useful with cars. This specific command really helps so that students can have a better understanding of multiple variables that they might have to take into account, which is something that will prepare their minds for future projects.
Hot Wheels wasn’t just a reminder of the basic commands, but also an introduction to more complex ones. With repeat blocks and if/else blocks, the number of things once can do suddenly increases. There is now the opening of multiple answers to the same question, with the student deciding how long or short their command has to be. It doesn’t just teach the students how to use these blocks, but also teaches them new concepts like nesting without actually explaining what it is.
If I had one gripe with the whole project, it would be the map scale. Because the map isn’t shown as a grid, the project had to make an alternative to measure the distance. In this case, they decided to add a scale. The issue with having a scale like this is that sometimes, the distance is difficult to guess regardless of the scale. At times, having trial and error mixed into the learning process is good, but it can create a lot of frustration for many students, including myself. Sometimes, this issue isn’t brought up as some lessons only had one speed which you could use, but that just left the other puzzles feeling as though they were difficult for no reason. This doesn’t become an issue in the later puzzles as a drive block replaces the need to drive a certain distance. However, this is just one small issue that I found that can be easily finished through some trial and error.
Overall, I felt as though this project is one that many kids will enjoy and find challenging. It brings about a lot of new concepts that are great to introduce to young kids while also bringing the foundations they’ve learned from previous ones. The very last puzzle seems almost like a test, pushing the students to use all the previous knowledge that they’ve learned while utilizing the most important lessons that will help them in the future.