Use in the curriculum

Discussion of uses of multidimensional arrays and “how technology is making our lives better”

In 2012, there was an intense heat wave across much of the United States. Amazon has huge warehouses setup as staging areas for most of the products they sell. These warehouses were not often climate-controlled at the time of the 2012 summer heat wave. Runners (Amazon employees whose job it is to look up an order and speedily go find each of the products on their appropriate shelves and bring them back to be packaged up for shipping) were collapsing from heat and exhaustion during the unusually hot weather that summer.

Amazon responded by using technology to build smart warehouses where the products are delivered to the person doing the packaging, removing the need for runners in these warehouses.

This video shows the journey of a teddy bear arriving at the smart warehouse, being put into its storage bin, and later retrieved when it is his time to be shipped to a customer.

Discussion prompts when using as a lesson on multidimensional arrays:

Pretend you had to write the computer program to control an Amazon smart warehouse.
What type of a data structure (array) would you use to represent the floor of the warehouse?
A 2-dimensional array, because each location on the floor has a row and column index to identify it.
What type of a data structure (array) would you use to represent the shelving in the warehouse?
A 3-dimensional array, because each location on the shelving has a row, column and level index to identify its location.
What type of a data structure (array) would you use to represent the robots in the warehouse?
A one dimensional array of robots. Each robot could be referenced by its index. (Robot 7, for example, go get product 58274).
Are smart warehouses like this good for a society or bad for a society. How?
Students should appreciate the nuance in this discussion. Some things are good: faster, less need for runners to collect items. Some things are bad: fewer jobs, more energy used, etc.