Computer networks are based on passing messages from computer to computer. This sounds simple in principle, but in practice all sorts of contention and bottlenecks can occur.
This activity gives some first hand experience of such issues, with a game for a group of students.
The Routing and Deadlock game in action, from a poster at a conference in Japan
The Routing and Deadlock activity can also be set up as a board game
A nice variation of the orange game was developed independently by Gottfried Vossen and Richard Bell. Rather than have labeled o
Prof. Wada uses trains in a variation of the orange game, Informatics Education Symposium 2010, Osaka, Japan
Orange game, Informatics Education Symposium 2010, Osaka, Japan
National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) has a learning package called Unplugged in a Box which has detailed lesson plan of the "Orange Game" activity.
Mordechai (Moti) Ben-Ari from the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel has programmed the Routing and Deadlock Unplugged activity in Scratch which can be downloaded in a zip file of the complete set of activities . Please read the ReadMe.txt for documentation.
Misha Leder, a Software Engineer at Google has an activity called Message Routing which can be a nice extension activity. Internet works this way - computer networks are connected with each other via routers. Have kids sit at several tables, every child being a server. Have representatives for each tables to act as routers. Kids write messages to each other and routers help routing this messages.
Kinesthetic Learning Activities QwikiWiki has an activity called Network Routing on Strings where students simulate the operation of a network (of routers) using notecards to represent packets and string to represent network links.
eGFI-K12 has a complete lesson plans with a maths flavour Traffic Flow . Designed for advanced high-school algebra students, it can be worked out most easily using Microsoft Excel. Explore traffic engineering further with a competition developed at the University of Toronto, an animated diagram, and a game called Gridlock Buster.
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.
The Mathmaniacs web site has a similar activity (lesson 16)
Video: Warriors of the Net? is an engaging short animated film that shows how packets move around the Internet