Finite State Automata

Finite state automata (FSAs) sound complicated, but the basic idea is as simple as drawing a map.

This fun activity is based around a fictitious pirate story which leads to the unlikely topic of reasoning about patterns in sequences of characters


Activity description (PDF)

Translations and other versions:



  • Teachers in Japan, preparing to be islands

Related Resources

  • An older version of this activity can be downloaded in PDF format here. The content is similar to the current version, but there’s some extra technical information.

Curriculum Links

Great Principles of Computer Science [info]
  • Computation
ACM K12 Curriculum [info]
  • Level I (Grades 6-8) Topic 11: Understand the graph as a tool for representing problem states and solutions to complex problems
New Zealand CurriculumĀ [info]
    • Mathematics Level 2: Position and orientation
      • Describe different views and pathways from locations on a map
    • Mathematics Level 3: Probability
      • Investigate simple situations that involve elements of chance by comparing experimental results with expectations from models
    • Technology Level 2: Planning for Practice
      • Develop a plan that identifies the key stages and the resources required to complete an outcome
  • Technology Level 2: Technological Systems
    • Understand that there are relationships between the inputs, controlled transformations, and outputs occurring within simple technological systems.