On the first day we explored the basics of circuitry, connecting copper tape to batteries to LED lights
The kids soon realized they couldn’t just stick a bunch of copper tape to the battery and the
LED, they had to make a loop, using the negative and positive ends of the battery and both ends of the LED separately.
They caught on fast, so we decided to get a little creative and draw scenes, cut out cars, and make wands, using our LEDs for suns, headlights, and spells.
On day two we wanted to one up the creative aspect and enter the 3 dimensional world. With a little
bit of cardboard we made various small structures and creatures.
Add in a couple batteries, wire, and LEDs and we had ourselves a bunch of nifty light up robots.
It was difficult to get the wire to stick to the batteries with just electrical tape, but we figured it out eventually. We also made water batteries to power our LED's. This project took a lot of preparation, but it was cool to see their robots powered by batteries they made.
The third day presented them with a new type of challenge, programming. But we didn’t call it that;
we didn’t call it anything at all. We downloaded the program Scratch 2.0 from hummingbirdkit.com for them to play around on.
Scratch is a simple programming language, using tiles that you drag and attach together, allowing you to give commands to on screen objects, or sprites. We only showed them some example projects and basic commands and told them to get working. By the end of the day we had short animations and various shapes of cartoon cat. Through this they learned logic, giving ordered commands to have something do what they wanted it to. They all had a lot of fun playing with it, but I don’t know if they understood how awesome what they were doing really was until we told them.
We combined everything we had learned on day four. We used the same program, Scratch, with
hummingbird kits, which are simple circuit boards that let us program real life objects. We attached
various LEDs to it and programmed them to blink and change color in a coordinated fashion. We also attached motors and used cardboard to make our first moving robots!
Looking back on the week I’d say we all had a lot of fun. It can be frustrating for kids when their
creation doesn’t work right away, but if they’re willing to work past their initial failures and learn from them, they get a genuine sense of accomplishment. Also they get something that they made, which is pretty cool.