March 21, 2019

Week 10: Workshop Robert Eagle Staff Middle School


Written by: Arpita Bhattacharya

Amidst dead week at UW, the Middle School team led amazing pilot workshops for Day 1 and Day 2 with two classes of 6th graders in the Art class at Robert Eagle Staff Middle School with help from their teachers. There were two sessions on each day 9:56 am to 11 am and 1:50 pm to 3 pm.

Day 1, March 14:  Jon and Valerie led the introduction to physical computing, CPE, and MakeCode. The students first learned to code on MakeCode to make their CPE — which they assigned the metaphor of a critter — respond to different inputs through a story. Responses included a critter-CPE that changes colors depending on light or dark, a critter that responds with different light patterns when fed, i.e., on the press of a button, and gets angry when shaken and makes different sounds depending on the input. Some of the Middle School students were having a blast with the sound function, adding different sound patters to forever loop to sometimes make melody and few other times make annoying music (on purpose).

The Middle School team then taught the students to connect the CPE with their laptops, download and upload the code and then test the code on the hardware. Students frequently struggled with downloading but the team helped them out. Students enjoyed creating different light and sound patterns on the CPE. We decided not to do the second part of Day 1 as we ran short of time and collected anonymous feedback from the students.

During lunch, the team iterated on the lesson plan with Andy and decided to make changes so they could get to the second part of the lesson plan to teach them important concepts they need for day 2 such as variables. The MS team also created a GIF to explain the downloading part better to the Middle School children. These changes helped in the second session and the MS team taught the entire lesson plan for day 1 to the second class of 6th graders.

Figure 1: Beautiful paintings at Robert Eagle Staff Middle School, Seattle

Day 2, March 15: We got there early on day 2 to put together the hardware and kits that students could use for each team. In the first period, the MS team started with a quick introduction and reminded the students what they learned the day before and what they can expect to learn on today by dividing into smaller groups. They also went over the GIF to recap how to download and upload the code on to the CPE. Next, each team introduced and pitched their project to the students encouraging the students to decide which project they want to work on. The inchworm team showed a video demo of what they were going to build, the adventure badge team used example of Russel, a character from the Disney Pixar movie — “UP”, and the sports wearable team showed the Fitbit product to explain that they will be building a prototype step counter.

The Middle School students then were asked to pick up their laptops and move to the each side of the room depending on the project they chose. Melissa and Rachel led 12 students who were working in groups of 2-3. They staggered the handouts to first let the students assemble the hardware for the inchworm and then gave out the handouts for programming. This worked really well. Laura and Jordan worked closely with 5 students in the adventure badge team, teaching them different input functions. The sports wearable team had 7 students led by Jon. Some students in sports wearable team decided to shake the CPE step counter in place instead of walking, others walked around the room shaking their hand with the CPE band and rejoiced when the CPE lit up with after they reached their goal. All students were engaged throughout the studio time and it was great to see the Middle School students make changes to the code depending on their preferences. Students then filled out their feedback forms.

In the second period, the MS team decided to do two projects — the inchworm and the adventure badge. They led it in a similar format as session 1. This was a smaller class. Some of the students in the inchworm team already had prior coding knowledge. These students customized their code to change the CPE display/sound and played around with the servo motor’s angle and pause time to tweak the movement. This session also went very well with students in both teams.

A key takeaway for us to iterate on was to include more challenges for students when they finish early and to include a starting and concluding activity for each day. We are very proud of all the students in the Middle School team for their hard work in preparing and leading this pilot workshop. We are very thankful to the teachers and students at Robert Eagle Staff Middle School for this opportunity.

Figure 2: Inchworm made by a Middle School student-team