children, coding, education, Flask, learning, Music, OrangeCD Catalog, programming, python, STEM
My eldest son is studying computer science at school. As part of that course, like most educational settings they’re using Python to teach programming skills. Having sat with my son to help him get to grips with the coding the different ways of looping, implementing conditions, variable scopes and so on it has been interesting to see that school student level programming books take developers through very very simple steps with the rewards of success immediate but of limited value.
The challenge and concern, with this, is the step from this to delivering something meaningful, that continues to provide a sense of reward, while also something that is closer to real-world work.
This is where a small project I had comes into play. I have for many years been using an app called Orange CD catalog to record all the details of my music collection. The only problem is that it is a thick desktop app and the web solution called Racks and Tags hasn’t seen much development from what I can see for a long time and by current user experience looks archaic. As you may have guessed our pet project is to provide a web interface for the exported data from the Orange CD catalog. You can see the code in my GitHub repo here). I’ve carefully structured the code so the logic of processing the data (i.e. loops and conditions using data structures – using Python’s XMLTree library, which behaves a lot like lists – helping with basic learning). The web serving tier is implemented with Flask using simple annotations. This provides a nice opportunity to talk about the use of HTTP. The Jinja templates are also kept separate, so we don’t get bogged down with HTML, which can be a bit messy (IMHO).
We’ll deploy the solution to our little Raspberry Pi, so it can be used anywhere in our network. Ultimately we could use it to stream the albums I’ve ripped to MP3. If my son wants/needs to learn a little bit about databases – then migrating the data into something like SQLLite becomes a simple development opportunity.
This does mean some prep work and including part of the solution, so something works very quickly. For me that’s fine, my Python web skills could benefit from some work and Jinja2 is new to me. But I could take the project embed suitable security and deploy it to my free Oracle cloud instance as a container into K8s. Those bits I won’t be sharing (minimize the risk of someone wanting to test how well I patch code etc).
Feel free to take the code and use it for yourself, extend, etc. But you don’t have to use my idea. The important thing is the idea is going to interest your child. But keep it simple. for example, if your child is a gamer, then perhaps you generate a simple data extract from the gaming servers to capture player performance, then your app does simple things like searching the content, sorting it, and providing a vanilla UI. The secret I think is each bit of the project is simple steps and not over well with heaps of code. Provide results quickly for example just search for an album by its title, and get the results into a webpage quickly.
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