Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Limitless Creativity

Buster the dog, a disco room, and a talking, chopping fruit ninja?  What do these all have in common?  They were all made by middle school students using Hummingbird robotics.  It was amazing to witness the journey.  First, seeing them all learn the basics of programming, then seeing teams of students collaborate to sketch out their robot designs.  This was followed by the process and journey of selecting and using a variety of materials to create their team's unique robot.

Throughout the process, they kept an engineering-design journal with entries that focused on what they accomplished, challenges they faced and how they plan to overcome their challenges.  They also used their phones to document their robot-building captured in photos and videos.
Here is a reflection from a team member:

"If you have an imagination, a computer, and a HummingBird robotics set, you can make anything you want to  make. HummingBird Robotics is a series of wires, lights, vibrators, sensors and motors. Throughout all of our  series of making the disco room, we ran into a few problems. For instance, making the motor work with the record player was a challenge, because we needed to have a pencil lead in the disc so it will work. Also, we were going to make a whole series of notes on the Piano, and time it to every second to make the song work. Also, our LED lights were ripped, and my group tried to fix it. "

Collaboration, creativity, problem-solving, and debugging - all right here.

Buster the dog

Meet the Fruit Ninja
Disco Room robotics

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Visionary Girls

This was a tremendous week for girls and computer science.  It kicked off with one of my former students winning a Visionary Girl award for her work with robotics, creating an award-winning app and technology leadership.  Visionary Girls are recognized for innovation in the community, "create new ways of engaging with the world around them, or have a unique vision that will make a difference now and in the future."

It continued with the release of the preview of Codegirl, a documentary about teams of girls who participated in the global Technovation challenge.  I decided to hold screenings of excerpts of it in my middle school classroom during lunchtime.  It was great to be able to show them these stories of teens who are changing the world with their innovative apps.  After the viewing, I arranged a call via telepresence with a college student who had graduated a few years earlier from my district and asked her to share about her journey and how she decided to major in computer science.  It was an incredible conversation about how she got hooked by her experience with Hour of Code.  She had so much fun with those coding puzzles that she decided to study computer science as her major as a senior in high school.

Here is part of the mentoring conversation she had with girls in my classroom this week:

Big takeaways?  If you love coding, just do it!  And all you need to do to code is to have ideas, be creative, think out of the box and have the courage to try things.  And, most importantly - never give up!

Then, to finish off the whole week, we had our first Girls Who Code introductory session where our guest instructor talked about the field of computer science and the opportunities available in this field for careers.  So inspiring to be able to work with this initiative and connect with local industry to bring this content to the community. Code on!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Technovating Girls

This has been a tremendous week.  A preview of CODEGIRL was made available on Youtube Nov. 1-5 before its theatrical debut.  Here is the official trailer:

It is all about teams of girls from around the world who participated in the Technovation Challenge to create apps to solve a problem in their community.  What do they do?  They persevere as they solve problems by creating, building and becoming entrepreneurs.

It was so incredibly inspiring to see these teams of girls who were not only coding, but ideating, creating, iterating, and researching to make their dreams of a better future a reality.  From an app to swap items to one that mobilizes and coordinates volunteerism to one that locates sources of water, these girls have thought of ways to improve life and society with unique perspectives.  The ideals embodied in the Technovation Challenge is what I strive to bring into the classroom everyday.  Starting with ideating where they do a needs analysis by surveying, they are guided through the process of brainstorming solutions, doing competitive analysis, branding, and pitching their idea.  Entrepreneurship is blended seamlessly in with the actual coding of the app and mentorship components. I love how the entrepreneurship brings in the feasibility aspect of the app creation process in terms of meeting the needs of users in a measurable way.  So, putting together the definition of technology: the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry
with innovation: a new method, idea, product
Together, we have the powerful combination of technovation embodied in this challenge new apps are invented to solve very real and present problems in the world today.  

Here's another short video outlining the incredible journey the teams undertake: