Teaching the next generation with Povray?

Reach for the Stars

On Saturday I went along to Hack to the Future, the idea of Alan O’Donohoe, Teknoteacher on Twitter. A very ITC teacher in Preston who wants to make a difference for the next generation. Alan’s one hell of a guy, after pulling off one of the most daring stunts at BarCampMediaCity with his fake BBC Codelab idea, he decided to take the idea of the unconference to young people in the form of a day of informal learning – Hack to the Future or #h2df.

It is an un-conference that aims to provide young digital creators aged 11 – 18 with positive experiences of computing science and other closely related fields, ensuring that the digital creators of today engage with the digital creators of tomorrow.

We plan to offer a day that will inspire, engage and encourage young digital creator

The event was all about the young people and it was amazing to see over 200 young people surrounding the make shift board where the talks and tutorials were put. H2df wasn’t a talking shop, all that was put a side for the day and the teaching started. (If you are interested in hearing about the whole problem space, you can hear Alan and the rest of the #techgrumps waxing lyrical about this whole issue here…)

So inspired by everything, I decided to do a 30min class on learning Persistence of Vision Raytracer.

The way I see it, is PoVRay as its called on the street, helped me to learn how to script all those years ago, and I think theres plenty of mathematical & raytracing techniques to be learned while having fun. And now its very quick to raytrace on the modern machines we have. So advanced, PovRay doesn’t even really support multi-core processors (its over 20 years old!) In actual fact people do ask, what licence is it? And I have to say Free before Freedom (aka before the GPL!)

The lesson didn’t go well for many reasons including trying to get the online version of PoVray working on IE7 was a no go. Switching to my laptop wasn’t much better due to the cable length and my dodgy thinkpad. Anyhow I did get a chance to raytrace some stuff and do some povray hacking with the class, so I guess it worked. Although if I was to do it again, I would make a ton of changes including a having a free whiteboard and focus on the hacking of Pov.

I’m sure PoVray could be used to teach scripting and I was amazed to find out Mark Shuttleworth was also a PovRay geek. Such a perfect picture for Hack to the Future, don’t you think?

It was an amazing day and really well done to Alan and the team of Our Ladies High School. Unforgivable we also had to listen to his #h2df rap which I can help but cover my head and cringe when I hear.

Great work Alan, less rap more chat?


Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser. Can be found at cubicgarden@mas.to, cubicgarden@twit.social and cubicgarden@blacktwitter.io