Blockly & Scratch for Robotics

Ucodemy spent two days at Valley View Middle School, for two periods each day, for a total of four periods.

Blockly & Scratch for Robotics

We worked closely with Tim Lagerway, Career & Technical Education Teacher. We collaborated to provide curriculum suitable for the robotics classes to introduce the kids to computer coding. At the end of the sessions the students filled in a short survey:

  • 96% of students wanted more classes
  • 60% of students wanted to work on building games
  • Other things they wanted to learn: (35% iphone, 30% python or minecraft, 50% javascript)

I may have swayed the Javascript number a little in their responses though since we talked about how it is used to build almost every website out there. In future it’d be good to have a survey like this at the start of the class.

The lab had several nice features, such as an interactive whiteboard, that helps a lot with demonstrating the blocks you need and connecting them at the front of the class. There was one issue though: the smartboard doesn’t deal well with click and drag… It kept thinking it was a scroll gesture instead which was hard to work around. The other feature I loved was netfront – Tim was able to blank and lock all screens at once to get the students attention¬†as we progressed through the lessons. This proved invaluable to keeping students on task and progressing.

The first day we spent going through google’s blockly pond apps. This was a fun activity learning how to do visual programming while also giving you the code that is created afterwards. The kids enjoyed this and it was directly relatable to robotics with the characters having their own behavior that you program them to follow. Several students moved ahead on the material at their own pace very quickly. They did, however, get stuck on some higher levels so it would be nice to have time to do a breakout session with some students to dive into this further. I plan to put up a more complete walkthrough of some of my solutions in my course for this for teachers as well.

Our second day the kids voted to switch activities and work on game building. We moved to scratch and worked on bouncing balls game development. The kids loved the results and enjoyed showing off their work.

Tim was great, keeping the students engaged and we are planning to work more on this after Spring Break, where we’ll be moving to more remote support and have added focus for him to deliver more of the lesson.


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