Year One – Digital Media, African-American Future Month, Video Game development
In the first year classes, we’ve just wrapped up a long module on digital media. We started with the physical storage of “bits” (binary digits – zeros and ones) on a hard drive, CD/DVD, or Flash drive. Students learned how we use those bits, grouped in sets of 8 as “bytes”, to represent decimal numbers, how sets of decimal numbers are used to represent pixel colors, how sets of pixels are grouped as images, and how sets of images are combined to give us digital video. Activities and projects have included binary message encoding and decoding, programmatic manipulation and short video production. The video production project also provided students with practice in team production, planning and scheduling.
As part of our African-American History Month project, we’re doing some “African future” research, examining the spread of technology in Africa and the factors that are contributing the varying rates of technology adoption. Then, we’ll be moving on to a deeper exploration of game development and programming as students design and develop video games using Scratch as part of the National STEM Video Game Challenge (http://stemchallenge.org/ .)
Year Two – Robotics
In the second year class, we’re in the middle of a long module on Robotics. Using the Lego Mindstorms robotics kits and software, students have been learning how to physically construct the robots and how to implement programming concepts they’ve previously learned in the Mindstorms programming interface.
In the next phase, students will work in pairs to build and program robots to solve a variety of problems and challenges, the first being the successful navigation of an obstacle course. The robots will have to be able to follow a line on the floor, go around obstacles, remove obstacles and perform operations upon reaching the finish line. Because this is not about remote-controlled devices, students must anticipate the challenges and create programs to let their robots successfully overcome problems without human intervention.