Minecraft Modding Course at Elementary School – Teach Java to Kids

Cross posted from weblogs.java.net/blog/arungupta/archive/2015/03/22/minecraft-modding-course-elementary-school-teach-java-kids

minecraft-logo

Exactly two years ago, I wrote a blog on Introducing Kids to Java Programming using Minecraft. Since then, Devoxx4Kids has delivered numerous Minecraft Modding workshops all around the world. The workshop material is all publicly accessible at bit.ly/d4k-minecraft. In these workshops, we teach attendees, typically 8 – 16 years of age, how to create Minecraft Mods. Given the excitement around Minecraft in this age range, these workshops are typically sold out very quickly.

One of the parents from our workshops in the San Francisco Bay Area asked us to deliver a 8-week course on Minecraft modding at their local public school. As an athlete, I’m always looking for new challenges and break the rhythm. This felt like a good option, and so the game was on!

My son has been playing the game, and modding, for quite some time and helped me create the mods easily. We’ve also finished authoring our upcoming O’Reilly book on Minecraft Modding using Forge so had a decent idea on what needs to be done for these workshops.

Minecraft Modding Workshop Material

All the workshop material is available at bit.ly/d4k-minecraft.

Getting Started with Minecraft Modding using Forge shows the basic installation steps.

These classes were taught from 7:30am – 7:45am, before start of the school. Given the nature of workshop, the enthusiasm and concentration in the kids was just amazing.

Minecraft Modding Course Outline

The 8 week course was delivered using the following lessons:

Week LESSON Java concepts
1 Watch through the video and understand the software required for modding Familiarity with JDK, Forge, Eclipse
2 Work through the installation and get the bundled sample mod running. This bundled mod, without any typing, allows to explain the basic concepts of Java such as class, packages, methods, running Minecraft from Eclipse, seeing the output in Eclipse panel.
3 Chat Items mod shows how to create a stack of 64 potatoes if the word “potato” is typed in the chat window.
  • Create a new class in Eclipse
  • Annotations and event-driven programming to listen for events when a player types a message in the chat window is introduced.
  • String variable types and how they are enclosed within a quotes is introduced.
4 Continue with Chat Items mod and a couple of variations. Change the number of items to be generated. Generate different items on different words, or multiple items on same word.
  • Integer variables for changing the number of items.
  • How  use Eclipse allows code completion and scroll through the list of items that can be generated.
  • Multiple if/else blocks and scope of a block.
5 Eclipse Tutorial for Beginners Some familiarity with Eclipse
6 Ender Dragon Spawner mod spawns an Ender Dragon every time a dragon egg is placed.
  •  == to compare objects
  • Accessing properties using . notation
  • Creating a new class
  • Calling methods on a class
7 Creeper Spawn Alert mod alerts a player when creeper is spawned
  •  instanceof operator
  • for loop
  • java.util.List
  • Enums
  • && and || operators
  • Parent/child class
8 Sharp Snowballs mod turns all snowballs into arrows
  • 15-20 LOC of methods
  • ! operator
  • Basic Math in Minecraft

Most of the kids in this 8-week course had no prior programming experience. And it was amazing to see them be able to read the Java code by week 7. Some kids who had prior experience finished the workshop in first 3-4 weeks, and were helping other kids.

Check out some of pictures from the 8-week workshops:

 Minecraft Modding at Public Elementary School
 

Many thanks to attendees, parents, volunteers, Parent Teacher Association, and school authorities for giving us a chance. The real benchmark was when all the kids raised their hands to continue workshop for another 8 weeks … that was awesome!

Is Java difficult as kids first programming language?

One of the common questions asked during these workshops is “Java is too difficult a language to start with”. Most of the times these questions are not based on any personal experience but more on the lines my-friend-told-me-so or i-read-an-article-explaining-so. My typical answer consists of the following parts:

  1. Yes, Java is a bit verbose, but was designed to be readable by humans and computer. Ask somebody to read Scala or Clojure code at this age and they’ll probably never come back to programming again. These languages serve a niche purpose, and their concepts are now anyway getting integrated into the mainstream language already.
  2. Ruby, Groovy, and Python are alternative decent languages to start with. But do you really want to start teaching them fundamental programming using Hello World.
  3. Kids are already “addicted” to Minecraft. Game is written using Java and modding can be done using Java. Lets leverage that addiction and convert that into their passion for programming. Minecraft provides a perfect platform for gamification of programming experience at this early age.
  4. There are 9 million Java developers. It is a very well adopted and understood language, with lots of help in terms of books, articles, blogs, videos, tools, etc. And the language has been around for almost 20 years now. Other languages come and go, but this is the one to stay!

As Alan Kay said

The best way to predict the future is to create it

Lets create some young Java developers by teaching them Minecraft modding. This will give them bragging rights in their friends, parents a satisfaction that their kids are learning a top notch programming language, and budding Java developers to the industry.

I dare you to pick up this workshop and run in your local school :)

Minecraft Modding Course References

Sign up for an existing Devoxx4Kids chapter in your city, or open a new one.

If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, then register for one of our upcoming workshops at meetup.com/Devoxx4Kids-BayArea/. There are several chapters in the USA (Denver, Atlanta, Seattle, Chicago, and others).

Would your school be interested in hosting a similar workshop? Devoxx4Kids can provide train-the-trainer workshop. Let us know by sending an email to info@devoxx4kids.org.

As a registered NPO and 501(c)(3) organization in the US, it allows us to deliver these workshops quite selflessly, fueled by our passion to teach kids. But donations are always welcome :)

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8 thoughts on “Minecraft Modding Course at Elementary School – Teach Java to Kids

  1. Getting kids working on Minecraft modding like this will give them a good reason to push themselves to learn coding and get there heads round the initial hard stages of understanding the core programming principles

  2. Hello, Is this course available online for homeschooling families? If not, are there other websites or online courses you would recommend? Many thanks.

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