Jumping Drone & Tickle App – the joy & the disappointment

I bought Max, a Parrot Jumping Race Drone, a little over a month ago. We used it a few times in the first week; we were impressed with it’s jumping ability (high jumps, long jumps, jumping up a flight of stairs) and also the streaming video feedback from the drone’s wide-angle camera on our iPad. The accuracy of the drone via iPad (using FreeFlight 3, the official Parrot drones app) is quite precise, especially if you compare it to the frustration of trying to control the Sphero!

Today, while I’m on holidays and procrastinating about all of the teaching prep that I should be doing, I decided to play around with Max (the joy!) using the Tickle app (the disappointment!). First I’ll show you my testing video & related ‘code’ & then I’ll discuss the disappointing aspects of using the Tickle app.

Here is Tickle's block-type code. It's easy to drag & drop the 'code' bits and you basically have to sequence it in the order that you want things to occur. I created 2 functions which Tickle calls Events.

Here is Tickle’s block-type code. It’s easy to drag & drop the ‘code’ bits and you basically have to sequence it in the order that you want things to occur. I created 2 functions which Tickle calls Events. I was able to call a function from within a function.

Tickle has a button on the bottom-left that shows you the Swift code (Apple). I was NOT able to maximize the screen & I was not able to save it easily into a separate file = annoying!

Tickle has a button on the bottom-left that shows you the Swift code (Apple). I was NOT able to maximize the screen & I was not able to save it easily into a separate file = annoying!

I had to copy the swift code by slowly (not automatic) selecting all of it in the static-sized window. I pasted it into a Note on my iPad.

I had to copy the swift code by slowly (not automatic) selecting all of it in the static-sized window. I pasted it into a Note on my iPad.

In approximately 10-15 minutes I was able to program Max to drive in a square shape twice, added a couple of functions, called the functions and do a couple of trick jumps/moves. I have noted that there are a lot more complex things that you could program in Tickle, especially if you simply use their basic 2D character options (you don’t need to have a drone, Sphero or any other physical device to use Tickle).

What was disappointing? 

  • I was using my iPad Air2 and I found the small screen size to be somewhat restrictive when dragging & dropping.
  • The thing that really turned me off was how the Swift code was available to view BUT you couldn’t view the whole thing on a full screen!  Why?
  • Also, why was it so difficult to get a copy of the swift code?  
  • If you’re going to show us the swift code, why not also let us type the swift code instead of limiting us to only drag & drop?  At least this is something Microsoft’s TouchDevelop allows you to do!
  • The Events could be “broadcast” (which I assume means “to call” the function), what is up with this terminology?  However, you had to use the “broadcast…wait” to make it call & run the function in sequence, or else the drone would mess up while the code got stuck trying to follow the main & the function code at the same time. Maybe there is a good reason for this but I haven’t figured it out yet; it’s not intuitive!
  • My iPad would NOT let me run the program while also using my camera to record Max. I had to use my phone to do the recording.
  • BIGGEST problem (& yet really not surprising!) -> Tickle does NOT run on Android!  So, if you’re planning on using the Tickle app in the classroom (which I see lots of teachers promote on Twitter) then you will need iPads!  This is a problem if you’re encouraging BYOD and kids are bringing in different devices.
  • Another issue I see for teachers here is figuring out how to extend past the basic drag-drop options. It appears that there are many resources available online and it is pretty cool to see that Tickle connects with many other physical devices such as Arduino. Check out the Arduino-Tickle workshop document from ISTE 2015 link below.  But while you’re looking at it consider the complexity involved and ask yourself 1) are many Primary teachers equipped to teach at this level and 2) given the complexity, wouldn’t it be better just to forgo the Tickle app and just teach the Arduino code?  I think there is a lot to be excited about when kids can program anything in an open-source environment! https://www.isteconference.org/uploads/ISTE2015/HANDOUTS/KEY_94241124/ISTEArduinoWorkshop1.pdf 

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