This Week At STEAM: Week 5 – Coding Week

This week was coding week!  The students were introduced to the concept of computation thinking.  Computational thinking at its simplest is coming up with a problem and developing solutions that computers ( or humans!) can carry out.
The students first had to make toast!  Using a flow chart, the students had to write a procedure on how to make toast.  They were introduced to terms such as Procedures/Functions, Loops, Conditional Statements, and Parameters/Attributes/Properties which all tied together to form a coding language’s Syntax.
Following this activity, they had to program Mr. Paintin to cross the room, pick up an object, bring it back to the start, and put it down in the fewest possible commands.  To do so, they were shown a Cartesian Plane, specifically the first quadrant.  Here they learned how to read the X and Y coordinates.  The room was then set as a plane, with one square on the floor designated as coordinate (0,0).  They were allowed to use the commands Move(either X or Y, + or -) Turn (90, 180, 270, or 360 degrees left or right), PickUp(), PutDown(), and a sneaky one…MoveTo().  Most groups counted the tiles and gave commands such as Move (X+13) or (Y-17).  This took between 8-12 commands to retrieve the object.  Some groups figured out to issue the command MoveTo( X19, Y22), PickUp(), MoveTo(0,0), PutDown().  Efficient!
The students were then led through a partner activity creating a “Turkey Feather” in the app Hopscotch on the iPads.  This activity used the terms Loops, Parameters and movement commands they had previously learned.
After lunch, the students broke out into different stations.  They could explore an Arduino (www.arduino.cc)  where they had to program it to turn on and off lights using a keystroke.  They had to use apps on their Ipads to program either a BB8 (that little ball-like droid from the Star Wars: The Force Awakens) or Lego Robots.  The robots had to be programmed to follow a geometric shape (square, triangle).  The students had to figure out the length of the sides and the angles needed to turn.   Using Swift Playgrounds, they had a chance to individually explore coding.  The Hopscotch station allowed them to take their prior knowledge of the app and see what else they could produce.  Finally, at the Makey Makey (http://makeymakey.com/) station, they had to figure out how to wire the device to be able to play a piano.
Finally, they had to complete their daily reflections, but were instructed to talk about how they felt about coding before arriving at STEAM, during the activities, and where they think they could go with coding.

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