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Backseat code driver

Pancakes with a side of Chemistry
August 29, 2017
Clean your room computationally
October 29, 2017

Let Your Kid Command Your Driving

Are you ready for another Computational Adventure? This week, it's the Backseat Code Driver.

What You'll Need

  • You and your kid
  • Car
  • A familiar-enough route that you're driving
  • Enough free time that you can make some wrong turns

How to Play

The next time you're on a familiar route with your child, drive it computationally.

Tell your child: You must be the guide to get use to the destination.

But they have only have 5 commands to use: Straight, left, right, stop, go. Try (while following traffic laws) to drive exactly as they command.

Step 1: The Great Power Shift

Before starting your car engine, tell your child -- You are now the driver (though only from the backseat)! You have the power to command this car. I will drive only based on what you say.

Lay down the basic rules. Your kid has only five things they can say. STRAIGHT. LEFT. RIGHT. STOP. GO.

And, remind them -- if you tell me to do anything unsafe or illegal, I will override your commands. So be careful!

Step 2: We're In Motion

Start the engine.Tell your child where you are trying to go. The destination is set!

Now the challenge is theirs. How can they use their five commands to get you there?

Help them talk it through -- so they can try out what will happen depending on their commands. You follow the instructions, and say back out loud what you are doing based on what they told you.

Step 3: Getting the Route Right

As they get in the rhythm of the commands, keep following along. If they take you an incorrect route, follow it -- but also ask them: Is this the right way? What did you tell me to do? Are you sure that is the right command to give?

Try not to override their commands unless it's dangerous or illegal.

If they take you the wrong route, encourage them to rethink their plan. Ask them, how can we go back? What is another thing you could tell me to do, to get to the right direction?

Step 4: What Just Happened?

When you arrive your destination, ask your child about their Backseat Driving. Was it easy? Was it hard? Were the 5 commands enough?

Also, challenge them to think through what they could do to improve their sequence of commands. Was it the shortest route to arrive the destination? Is there another way to arrive the destination?

They will start thinking in a sequence of tasks. And if they've made mistakes they've had to correct, even better! They can learn to experiment and to iterate. Even if you get the command sequence wrong the first time, how do you rethink the process to make a better set of commands -- to have the automated driver (AKA the parent) do exactly what you're intending them to do?