Yesterday, we took the brand-new release of Corona Game Edition up the road to Stanford, for a lab session at the iD Tech Camp. iD runs a nationwide series of these camps at major universities like MIT, Princeton and Harvard, and their “Programming Academy” is a pretty intense two-week course for 13- to 18-year-olds. These kids had to know C++ or Java before arriving, and in the iPhone track they’d already spent days wrestling with Objective-C and OpenGL.
I’ve always thought that Game Edition could be a good product for education, but we’d never tried it in a classroom setting — or any setting, really. And the bits were barely dry on Alpha 2, which had been wrapped up over the weekend. This was a younger audience than we’re used to addressing; what would they think of our software?
It immediately turned into the most well-received tech demo I’ve ever given, in any context. I was caught off guard: the parts I planned to get through to reach the good stuff turned out to be the good stuff. Most people like the “Bridge” and “Chains” demos, but even “HelloPhysics” — the single-crate example — was demoing well.
In retrospect, they were probably our ideal audience. They were very highly motivated to make games (several had flown in from other countries to attend this camp), but also fresh from confronting some of the most torturous areas of iPhone programming: OpenGL graphics and animation. They understood immediately what we were doing, they were excited by the small amount of code required, and they asked great questions about Lua syntax. Based on this trial, we’re going back in two weeks for the next session, this time with more example games. And I’m now convinced that we have a huge potential market in education, once we can get this stuff metaphorically shrinkwrapped.
Special thanks to Cameron Cohen, who you may remember from news stories earlier this year; he’s the 11-year-old iPhone developer from Southern California. Having apparently learned most of our APIs in his spare time since Friday, he provided impromptu tech support for our lab session, and also helped with a couple of things I forgot during my presentation. I gather from the above story that he’s 12 now, but that still makes him the youngest Corona developer I’ve met so far, by a factor of two.