Middle school students are enthusiastic consumers of technology, whether it be on their laptops or cell phones, accessing the Internet, sending emails, or using electronic toys. Their interest in using technology leads to natural enthusiasm for creating and designing with technology.
All Ursuline 8th graders now take a robotics course. In the first few weeks of this school year, these middle schoolers have already completed several projects. First, they used block-based coding developed by the MIT Media Lab from the Blockly code base developed by Google. Students programmed their Edison app-enabled robots to follow a line. The tracking sensors can distinguish light and dark surfaces.
Next, students designed shapes and mazes, taking into consideration where the tracking sensors are located on their robots and how tightly the robots can make a turn. Through trial and error, the 8th graders succeeded in navigating robots through a maze.
Recently, students programmed their robots to do a ten-step dance. Students coded turns, different amounts of time to go straight, and activating the moves with a sound sensor (a hand clap). It was hands-on practice in problem solving!
As high school students, these young women will have the opportunity to more fully explore computational thinking concepts in elective courses or take a full suite of computer science classes that use an object-oriented/event-driven language as the programming environment.