The Binary Scarf – let’s play a game…

Never let it be said that my lessons are boring. In an attempt to keep busy and retain my sanity while the bugs are away at camp, I am going to prepare all my lessons for the coming term (and a but further). The prep that I need to be doing is for the Computing courses for GCSE and A Level (that’s High School & college diploma equivalent if you’re from the US).

I’ll accept that computer science has nerdy overtones to it, so I’m working with it and setting them a term long mystery challenge which will roughly cover every topic in the first half of the course. In a similar way to the random puzzle that GCHQ stuck on Facebook a while back to enhance their recruitment process, I’m trying to give the students some augmented reality games to improve their independent learning ability. Just without them knowing.

The first clue in the puzzle is to learn to decode binary into denary, then translate this into its ASCII equivalent. Simple enough. Only, the first clue is currently being knitted into my school scarf.

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I’m using an excellent online pattern from Knitty for a binary scarf, which I have adjusted so that it holds my message. The trick here is for them to realise that the message is here. They’ll be told to look out for a secret message somewhere at school…

This will lead them onto another clue which will require them to create some programming. The result of this will lead them to a specially built web page which takes them further through the mystery. But I’m not going to give the game away just yet. As they solve it, I’ll write up the game and the clues I’ve left for them.

What’s the point? Well, if they’re up for a challenge, that singles them out as potentially good coders (you need to like beating a problem into submission), and it sets a bit of competition through the ranks. Especially if the kids aged 14-16 are up against the ones aged 16-18.

I’m enjoying the scarf creation too. It’s blindingly simple but relies on me changing the colour pattern constantly so I’m not bored. I’ve already added tassels to the first end which makes it look much more like a scarf, and because it’s knitted in the round, the double layer means it’s going to be really toasty!

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There’s a lot to knit here, so I think I should be able to keep myself amused for a good week!

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