Last week we enjoyed having Max Steele here for a week of work experience. Max is a 6th form student, currently studying for his A-levels and hoping to pursue a career in Computer science. Before his time here Max had never done any coding so we thought we would throw him in at the deep end and set him the task of programming a Blackjack game in F#. It was very interesting to teach someone about functional programming from the ground up without them having written an imperative program before. In fact this lack of knowledge might actually have helped, as he was not tempted to fill the code with for loops etc! Here is what Max has to say about his experience in Cambridge.
This week I have been here in The Applied Games Group on work experience over my summer vacation from school. I have currently just completed an AS-level year in Further Mathematics, Philosophy and Economics and intend to apply to university in the coming months for something along the lines of a Maths and Computer Science course.
When I came into the Group I was put under David Stern’s wing, with no prior experience to any sort of programming whatsoever. I was very keen to learn about programming and gain a better understanding of how computers work on the whole. Unfortunately there was no other option other than to be thrown straight into the deep end with a book called ‘Expert F#’, a book that definitely is not for someone in my position. As I tried to read through sections like the introduction of this book and other articles on functional programming I slowly started to grasp loose concepts, despite sometimes understanding only a few words a sentence. Talking with Phillip about how the platforms of computers are compiled helped greatly and although I went home with an aching head each night I am sure a lot of this information clung on to something to recall on in the future.
Luckily, towards the end of my first day I was found an exercise by David to teach take me through some of the basic functions including arrays and lists as well. Progressing from this we decided to try to create a Blackjack game. The aim was to first create the most basic program where the player can play head on against a dealer with set rules to his gameplay. After more than two days full of work and new functions I finally was able to create the most simple of games allowing you to keep score against the dealer as you play. David is due a lot of credit for this work and I am very grateful for the hours of time he put in over the week to help me understand this completely new way of thinking. What was most exciting was to realise that I had learnt enough of this to think on my own and write new functions by myself. After creating the main structure as well as the user interface controlling the player with David, I was able to go on and create almost all of the dealer actions by myself. All of what seemed like unbearable slow progress in learning this code earlier in the week really came together and gave me a great feeling of accomplishment at this point.
As for the future, I am really glad I have been able to enjoy the experience of this week and will definitely continue on with this work in the future at home to create a complete Blackjack game where all actions like “split” and “double down” will be possible. I would lastly like to thank everyone for their help and friendliness both in and outside of work this week and hope that I may meet some of you again one day if I end up in a similar line of work. Enjoy the game! – Max
I have attached Max’s code to this post – have fun!
– David Stern