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Stewart's Blog

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Upgraded Networking Challenge for Computing fair

I have written previously about a school computing fair that I helped support. I went along again this year as a way to promote STEM and in particular computing. As I work for a telecommunications company then I wanted to promote computer networking as a career option. I didn’t want to just talk about computer networking as I much prefer something that is more hands-on. I therefore created the networking challenge quiz, which involves a multiple choice quiz which is answered by wiring up the appropriate ports between two patch-panels. If they got the answer correct then it lights up green, get it wrong and it lights up red.

Without having lots of network switches I simulated the networking using an Arduino. I then connected a Raspberry Pi which could tell check the status of the Arduino pins and tell it to update the colour of the LEDs. The old post about this is available: Networking challenge quiz (CLI version)

This worked well, but this year I wanted to improve on it. In the past the pupils had to read the answers from printed paper, so this time I instead provided this through a graphical user interface (GUI) running on a Raspberry Pi, which also allowed me to add pictures associated with each question. Also in addition to lighting up the results on the patch-panel, the GUI showed a speedometer like image showing them how well they did.

Screenshot of networking quiz running on Raspberry Pi / Arduino

This was written using Python and guizero (but I’ll talk about those in more details in a future post).

The quiz worked really well, backed up by one pupil that said it was “great!” and clearly enjoyed taking part.

Most of the questions were ones that I had aimed at the appropriate age group (as an overview of computer networking is included in the school curriculum) and I also included subtle hints in the images. I thought that the scores were a little low (as I wanted the pupils to walk away thinking they had done well) and perhaps they were a little too subtle for some, so during the day I decided to make it a little easier and tweaked a couple of the questions. This is something that I wasn’t able to do last year when the questions were pre-printed, but with the new version it was just a couple of quick changes to the json quiz files. There was one question that was intentionally difficult to challenge those that know lots about computers, which relates to the change from IPV4 to IPV6, I’m pleased to say 4 pupils knew the answer to that question and a few more guessed the correct answer.

At the end I explained that whilst the quiz involved a lot of acronyms and that to the outsider computer networking sounds like a foreign language, that when working in the industry these acronyms do become second nature and so not to be scared off by them.

Networking challenge - with guizero GUI

I’ve made all the code available via GitHub, although it’s really just for this project it may be of use to others.
Penguintutor Github – networking quiz

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UK days out, children and holiday information is also available on the Days Out Diary web site
Linux, LPI and the Quiz / Test Program posts are also available on the Penguin Tutor website
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