Lab Setup

We will be using two main tools for this course:

  • Scratch - Graphical Programming Environment
  • C++ Compiler
    • CLion (not needed yet)


This is a fun tool developed at MIT to introduce beginners to the world of programming. Much of the first part of this course is designed to get you thinking about solving problems in a logical way. The text wants you to draw old-fashioned “flow charts” to do your thinking. That is fine for some, but terrible for others. I have decided to use a different tool to explore the thinking process. Scratch is a programming tool available on all platforms that can be a lot of fun, and has been used successfully by kids to get started in this programming process. We will not explore all of what Scratch has to offer, but instead use it to introduce concepts in a fun way. I may let you go crazy with this thing later in the course. (I have had students build some cool games with it for extra credit!)


In those assignments where the book wants you to draw a “flow chart”, we will use something called “pseudo code” instead. This looks more like a real program, but it uses English sentences to write down your thoughts on how the program should run. That means you can use a simple text editor to document your thinking, and do not need to draw anything. More on that later.

We will use Scratch version 1.4 which is available as a program you can run on your personal machine. The newer version of Scratch is designed to run from a web browser, and all files are stored on an MIT server. We will not be using that version.

Here is a link to the MIT website where you can download the program for your system:

I will provide notes on how to use this system soon. For now, explore the MIT website and see what folks are doing with this program.

Here is a reference guide on using Scratch:


We will install this tool later in the course.

Text Editor

For some of the work you will do for this class, you can use a “programmer’s editor” which produces simple text files. A very good one is Vim, or gVim on the PC, and MacVim on Macs. Here are some notes on installing and getting started with this tool: