A simple game in Scratch

Scratch is a great tool for helping teach programming concepts in an easily understandable way. I’ve cause to give a small taster of Scratch to a group of children, and put together the following as a simple example of something to get started.

I’m working on the assumption that folks can sign up and reach the editor — our starting point is a new Project.

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Scenario — a race!

The scenario is a running race between two characters, with the winner of the race getting bragging rights at the end. Two players make their character move each by pressing a different pair of keys for back and forward. The idea is to demonstrate that very quickly and easily a game with a competitive element can be made, and then built upon later.

Setting the scene

First thing we need is a fitting backdrop. Handily Scratch comes with a bunch of them already uploaded, including an athletics track. First, click the picture icon (the leftmost) under the New backdrop: caption.

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You’ll see a dialog box appear with a wide variety of different backdrops to choose from. Drill down to the Sports category, select track and then OK.

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You should now see the track as the background for the Project.

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The track background comes with a start line but no finish line. Create one by clicking the paintbrush icon.

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A blank canvas appears on the right.

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Select the Line tool.

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By default the line will be black, so select white from the colour picker at the bottom.

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You’ll notice you can adjust the width of the line as well. Create a vertical line by holding down the shift key (to lock to vertical) dragging vertically on the canvas:

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You may notice that the line has appeared on the Stage on the left hand side — you can drag it into roughly the right place for a finish line.

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Setting up the contestants

We’ve already got our friendly cat as one contestant, so let’s find them an opponent. Click  the face icon to open up a palette of predefined sprites to choose from.

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Now of course it’s a free choice what you wish to choose to race the cat. For tradition’s sake, I’ve selected the dog. Click OK once again to accept your choice.

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You’ll now see the second sprite has been added to the Stage:

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Position the contestants on the start line by simply using drag and drop.

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Making the contestants run

I’ll show how we can make one of the sprites “run” in response to a keyboard control, the same logic applies to both, albeit with different keys. In Scratch, each sprite has an associated set of scripts that do things in particular circumstances. The scripts are formed of interlocking pieces which are dragged into place from a palette. The palette organises the script fragments into logical groupings depending on their type.

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I’ve selected the dog to set up scripts for the dog sprite:

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I’ve set up a utility script to restore the dog to its starting position — in Scratch, when a sprite has been moved, it stays in its new location until you move it back, or write some code to do so. My script puts together an Event (the green flag being clicked) with a Motion script to move to particular x and y coordinates. Handily, the x and y coordinates of the Motion script default to the current x and y coordinates, so assuming we haven’t moved the sprites around since we put them on the start line, we don’t need to change anything.

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You can repeat this exact process for the cat as well, so that when the green flag is clicked, they both move back to their starting position.

To make the dog move to the right (i.e. towards the finish line), we create another Event and Motion script — this time a directional movement in response to a key press. I’m going to select w to move it right.

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Now we need to create the rightward motion. We can do this easily by simply moving the sprite 10 pixels to the right. We do this using a Motion script.

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Note that a positive value for the change in x is a movement to the right. We can now set up the leftward motion by simply selecting a leftward key (I’m using q) and a negative change, giving:

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The dog now moves left and right! You can apply the same logic to the other sprite by selecting it from the Sprites panel and repeating the above with different keys.

Knowing who’s won

There’s a simple way of knowing who has reached the finish line first, and that’s to add some control logic to the rightward motion of each sprite to sense when it is in contact with the finishing line sprite we created earlier. For this we use a combination of a Control script and a Sensing script:

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The if script provides a mechanism to test if the sprite has reached the line after a rightward move. The condition is provided by a touching Sensing script — we simply specify the name of the sprite we’re interested in touching. In this case, the white line is imaginatively titled “Sprite2”! Having detected the condition, we now need to make the sprite actually do something. We can accomplish this using a Looks script to simply make the sprite “say” something:

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Which has the following effect:

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So for the game in its simplest form, by creating matching logic for each sprite, we now have ourselves a workable competition. Try it and see who shouts first!

Making the loser answer back

In Scratch, we can make sprites communicate by broadcasting messages. On Events, we have broadcast scripts that emit a named message that can be received by other sprites. In this case, I’m going to broadcast a message when each contestant wins. To do so, I can create a new broadcast script, and specify a new message type (which is literally just a name), for example:

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That then gives us a message we can broadcast. In the following case, the dogwin message will be broadcast as well as the dog celebrating:

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Now having broadcast the message, it’s not much fun unless we have someone do something with it. We can use an Event script to respond to the message when broadcast. The following script when added to the cat’s scripts makes it express its disappointment when it realises the dog has won:

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This means when the dog wins, the following now happens:

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Again, by making sure both contestants emit a “winning” event, both can respond in kind if they lose!

Lots more can be done

Now of course the above is very basic and there are many gaps in the logic we could plug — for example stopping the competitors running once there’s a winner, having different pacing for sprites, obstacles etc. But as a guide to how quickly we can create a two player game in Scratch, with practice this little exercise can be accomplished in less than five minutes.

I hope this is useful, I’ve shared my basic version on Scratch for you to look at.

IoT reference architecture for the edge domain

During my talk at Thingmonk last week, I showed the snippet of an IoT reference architecture that I developed covering the edge gateway domain.

Since I’ve yet to find amongst the many published IoT reference architectures any that decompose the edge and because several people asked for a copy, I thought I’d share it here for people to reuse. It’s simple but hopefully useful, and provides a starting point for proper design of solutions that exploit the edge.

Architecture overview diagram


Explanation of capabilities

The reference architecture shown above describes the key set of technology and organisational capabilities required in the deployment of edge applications.


  • Physical security mitigates the risk of tampering when devices are deployed in the field.
  • Device platform security protects the software platform, application code and data from unauthorised access.
  • The Device provides the hardware platform for application code and logic deployed at the edge.
  • Analytics models describe deployed analytics logic consumed by analytics runtimes in the edge software platform.
  • A Local Area Network provides the mechanism for the device to communicate with locally deployed applications, sensors and actuators, e.g. Bluetooth Low Energy, Zigbee etc.
  • Local Monitoring and Management tools enable administration and break/fix by local technicians servicing the installed hardware and software.
  • A Remote Monitoring and Management agent on the device enables diagnostics, monitoring and control of edge devices from the centre. This would be the preferred mode of operation since it does not require physical access to the deployed system.
  • Sensors and Actuators provide the link between the assets themselves and the device.
  • Assets monitored and controlled by the edge installation — i.e. the “things”.
  • Local applications support business operations conducted in the field.
  • An Application Runtime provides the programming environment for application logic deployed at the edge, e.g. NodeRED.
  • Control code is application logic deployed in the Application Runtime to orchestrate interactions with sensors and centre.
  • Sensor SDKs (Software Development Kit) facilitate development of sensor-driven applications to run at the edge by providing developer-friendly programmatic access to the sensor hardware.
  • Back-end SDKs facilitate communication with the centre by providing developer-friendly programmatic access to services at the centre and/or provided by third-parties.
  • A Wide Area Network connects the device to the data centre, for example via a cellular network or via wifi to the corporate network.


  • Device and asset management is the central service management capability that deals with the ongoing monitoring and support for the hardware and software installation in the field.
  • Device installation and maintenance is the field-based service that installs and maintains the physical device, sensors and assets deployed in the field.

Brownfield IoT in manufacturing – new blog post

Following on from Thingmonk last week, I’ve just published a blog post on the IBM Watson IoT blog about one of the growing focus areas within the manufacturing industry.

Let me know what you think.

Thingmonk 2016

I had great fun at Thingmonk 2016 yesterday over in Shoreditch. Even better, I had the chance to present a talk, so if you’re interested, I’ve put it up on Slideshare.



Been a little while…but then not!

I realised the other day that it’s been a little while since I wrote here on this, my personal blog. Regular readers will remember my  last post was a personal one, about the sad demise of my running mojo. That story is long overdue an update, and I will write one (in case anyone’s interested how that ended up).

I haven’t, however, stopped putting my thoughts out there and whilst this blog has been relatively quiet recently, I’ve been quoted and writing elsewhere. It felt a bit grandiose creating a Press page, but I thought it’d be a good way of not losing what I’d been doing, and sharing for anyone who is interested.

Wanted: safe return of running mojo

In a departure from my usual technology topics, I’m going back to my other passion today and writing a post about running. It’s a personal one, so if it’s a bit “problem page” for you then I’ll understand if you skip over it.

Last year was a pretty extraordinary one for me in that I found myself doing the one thing I said I’d never do which was run a marathon. Three times. So bitten was I by the marathon bug in fact that this year I’ve signed up for the North Dorset Village Marathon, the Bournemouth Marathon, Endure24 (as a duo) and will probably run a third marathon towards the end of the year. My focus therefore has been primarily on getting the right preparation for North Dorset which takes place in just over four weeks time.

What seems like an eternity ago (but was actually a matter of a couple of months ago) I ran a great twenty mile training run, followed by a hard and enjoyable speed work session with my running club, Hedge End. I was feeling great – fit, strong and confident. Then, I immediately got a cold. No biggie, but it disrupted my training. Just as I was coming back, I then developed a pain in my right knee, later diagnosed as anterior knee inflammation. This meant that I ran a total of about ten miles in four weeks as February turned to March. With the help of some exercises from a physio, I’ve got myself back and building my miles back up. I have a plan that will take me through to North Dorset that is achievable, the knee feels fine and so I should be on track again.

Except I’m still not feeling right.

This is my first real injury in nearly five years of running and I’m discovering that the one thing that physio can’t fix is the damage being injured does to your mind. Compared to what others have been through I’ve barely suffered at all so please excuse the whinge, but it has totally knocked the confidence out of me. I find myself chasing that good feeling of a few weeks ago, and just can’t seem to get there. My training distances and times are respectable, yet the real endurance I’m having to rediscover is between my ears. I ran a ten kilometre training run tonight, time respectable but could easily have stopped after three miles even though my legs were fine. That I managed to power through, mainly down to giving myself milestone landmarks to reach and focus, hopefully means this could be a turning point but I’m still worried that my elusive mojo might not materialise in time. The voice in my head is still posing questions like “have I trained enough?”, “have I lost all my endurance?”, “will I even finish the race?” and even knocking my physical appearance.

I’ve tried mixed training (the one good thing about the injury is it has caused me to start triathlon training), music (uplifting, memory-jogging, even amusing) and diet but just can’t yet get that good feeling back again. I’m sure this is a matter of time thing, and others have recovered from far worse than I have but I’m interested to know how people do cope with this aspect of the comeback trail or indeed hear advice that people might have.

So, for those who have experienced this phenomenon, I’m interested to know – how did you get your mojo back?

Wearable Technology Show 2015

I was pleased to be asked to attend the Wearable Technology Show 2015 in London last week as both a panellist and as a speaker.

I used the occasion to share a point of view on the importance of design and human factors in the adoption of wearable applications. If you’re interested, I’ve posted the slides on Slideshare, and you can read a longhand version of the paper on the Crunchwear blog.