The “Intro to Programming” class looks a bit different this year. Rather than following a typical ItP format that spends the majority of time solving “problems” that have no meaning to the student, we are focusing on learning the code necessary to solve problems that matter.

Solving Problems That Matter

At the beginning of the semester, I pitched an idea to my students that we try to create applications in Unity that will run on the HTC Vive in our classroom. The plan would be to learn basic programming concepts like variable types, functions, and logic operators including short exercises to practice them in…all within the context of “how will we use this in our VR projects?  The response was a unanimous yes.

JJ modifies settings in their “oil change” VR app while Jec simulates changing the oil under a car.

As I write this during the Intro to Programming class (They keep taking my computer to test their VR app incremental improvements, a GREAT thing! I tell them to just kick me off my teacher PC anytime they want because it’s the only one that runs the Vive) I polled my students on whether they consider it a good thing or a bad thing that we learn the basics paired with applying it to software development as opposed to diving deeper and deeper into programming methods. Their feedback:

“If we kept diving deeper into programming without applying it in new situations, it wouldn’t be as useful. I have to actually use it in a new way to remember it”

“This is more tactile and interactive, which makes it more appealing.”

What are students creating?

Students are creating apps for the HTC Vive using Unity and the VRTK plugin (Virtual Reality Toolkit – a must have for us…and free!)

  • Changing your car oil
  • Changing a car tire
  • Working a gas pump
  • Changing a car stereo
  • Wiring a house outlet
  • Car dashboard (turn signals, wipers, etc) for new drivers

NOTE: As projects become “playable”, this post will link to the download files that you can run!

After learning some C# fundamentals (we followed this Youtube C# Fundamentals playlist) Students created a physical representation of their app idea, or “paper prototypes”:


Progress updates

The week of November 6th showed progress:

Keegans “Change a tire” app. Has Snap Dropzones for the lugnuts that the wrench snaps to.


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