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November Engineering Activity: Creating an Algorithm – All Together – Society of Women Engineers

Home » K-12 Outreach » November Engineering Activity: Creating an Algorithm
Computer engineers research, design, develop and test computer systems and their components. One important aspect of computer engineering is software development, making apps and programs that we use every day.
Coding, or creating this software, is a precise set of instructions a computer can understand. The instructions or steps are called an algorithm. This month we’re going create an algorithm for stacking cups in the same way a Computer Engineer might create one to tell a program what to do.
november engineering activity: creating an algorithm -
· 25 Plastic Party Cups
· Pencil
· Paper or Printed copy of this activity
First, you need to decide what your cup tower is going to look like. How many cups at the base, how many high, which way up are the cups? You will be using eight different symbols in your algorithm that will show where and how to place each cup. Those symbols are:
november engineering activity: creating an algorithm -
Try it with 12 cups to start. Build it so you can use it as reference while creating your algorithm. And then draw it in the space below. 
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Using the symbols, create the series of steps needed to recreate your cup tower.
As an example a simple tower that looks like this:
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Your algorithm would look like this: 
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A good way to check your work is that the number of steps SHOULD equal the number of cups you used. 
Try it with a bunch of different tower designs and numbers of cups to make a more challenging design then try out your algorithm. Can you rebuild it by following the steps? 
If you had two different color cups how might the methodology change? Can you think of ways to make the algorithm simpler? 
 Congratulations, you just ‘coded’ a cup tower! 
 
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SWE Blog provides up-to-date information and news about the Society and how our members are making a difference every day. You’ll find stories about SWE members, engineering, technology, and other STEM-related topics.
All Together is the blog of the Society of Women Engineers. Find stories about SWE members, engineering, technology, and other STEM related topics. It’s up-to-date information and news about the Society and how our members are making a difference everyday.
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