Code To Learn: Game Mechanics

My 3rd graders are digging deeper into programming and game design with Scratch, and this time we’re exploring game mechanics through mazes. I’ve included a 6-part Scratch activity of my own remixed from an original maze activity from the Scratch Creative Computing Curriculum Guide. The guide is great for many reasons, but one important one is that the ScratchEd team encourages remixing and sharing of the guide, under it’s Creative Commons Share-Alike license.

For the students this will be a multi-week exploration where they can learn some new programming skills, make customizations to the code and graphics, and share their work with their peers. Here’s a sample of what a final project might look like, and a downloadable copy of the Scratch activity guide handouts that I made.

//scratch.mit.edu/projects/embed/115221815/?autostart=false

Project Astroleo: Progress

Our student-designed HAB rig is coming together! Just a few more tests and tweaks. We’ve been building and gluing the PVC rig together, fitting the 3D printed parts, modifying the sensor and GPS tracking programs for our Raspberry Pi, and testing the results… we take a walk around the park with all the components turned on, and then we read the data after we return. Onward and upward.

Learning TinkerCAD with Autodesk Project Ignite

The next step in our 5th grade 3D design journey is to graduate from 2D & 3D hand drawing into 3D computer modeling. I prefer to introduce students to this skill with TinkerCAD, a free, browser-based CAD software for solid modeling, that let’s users render complex shapes from generic 3D primitives (cubes, spheres, cylinders, wedges, etc.). Software giant, Autodesk, acquired TinkerCAD in 2013. In the past I have used the standard TinkerCAD tutorials on the site to teach an introduction to CAD before we move on to producing 3D printable parts. Students explore and follow the step-by-step guides and learn to navigate the 3D environment and build sample 3D objects like coat
buttons and chess pawns. It was OK. The self-paced nature certainly made it better for attention spans – better than an instructor droning on and on at the front of the classroom 😉 

This year I learned about Autodesk’s new initiative for design education named Project Ignite. Basically it’s a new software tutorial and training platform for learning TinkerCAD and 123D Circuits, that’s based around different design projects. It’s also has some features of an LMS (learning management system) like work assignments, and basic student progress tracking.

The short version of this tale is that I think that these new TinkerCAD tutorials from Project Ignite are a huge leap forward from the original TinkerCAD tutorials. In the short time that we’ve tested them here, I see a huge improvement in skills and comfort-level with my students. The lessons are more organized, better sequenced and more thorough. They also build in room for “free-design”, which is great for keeping students engaged. Of course, as before I also love the they are self-paced so students can move along at their own speed and I can answer their questions individually or, if I notice a trend, I can pause the whole group and facilitate a quick mini-lesson on a particular concept that many of them are struggling with at the moment.

Before I move on to giving students our open-ended design challenges, I will task them with working on the following tutorial sets on the site: Let’s Learn TinkerCAD!, Making Everyday Objects Pt. 1, Making Everyday Objects Pt. 2. Each one contains 5 sub-lessons, so it’s quite a bit of content, but it will give everyone the room to run to their own course at the speed that works for them.

 

Code to Learn: X/Y Coordinates

My 3rd graders began programming with Scratch a few weeks ago with the help of some introductory activities from the Scratch Creative Computing Curriculum Guide. Namely the activity titled “10 Blocks”.

Next we’ll dig into a bit of game design, specifically for learning the XY coordinate grid. We’ve often played an online game called Billy The Bug to practice coordinate grid skills, and this time I’ve created a Scratch activity where students will make their own game modeled after Billy The Bug. You can see a final version of the project and download the Scratch activity worksheet here:

//scratch.mit.edu/projects/embed/94777063/?autostart=false

Scratch Foundation 2nd Annual Benefit Gala

I had the privilege to attend a Scratch Foundation fundraising event here in NYC a few nights ago. A great night of sharing and building support for Scratch, ScratchJr., and ScratchEd. It was especially exciting for me because three of my own students were invited to share their work at the event. Two shared projects and gave demonstrations during the opening mixer, and another was one of many students that spoke on a panel discussion during dinner. I was so proud of them and excited to learn about new advancements in the development of Scratch.

You can read about the whole event here on the Scratch Foundation blog.

Student panel with Mitch Resnick & Natalie Rusk at the event.

Student panel with Mitch Resnick & Natalie Rusk at the event.

Code-able Fashion Pt. 4

We’re all the way through our week of Code-able Fashion! Today was the day for final mends and stitches before our afternoon showcase. We’re so proud of the students. Lots of work done and redone to get to the finish line. Enjoy this slideshow that the students made of their work this week:

Code-able Fashion Pt. 3

As designers it’s important to make time to reflect and share your progress and your challenges. Sharing with your peers will boost your confidence, when you receive some kind words and compliments on your progress. Sharing with your peers will remind you that you’re not struggling alone, when you hear empathetic “me-toos” as you express your frustration over challenges. Sharing with your peers will also help you think more deeply as it requires you to pause and reflect on your decisions, and because the group always has questions and feedback about your process and your decisions.  

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