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By Ruben Krueger

An intergalactic spaceship that flies through the blackness of space, shooting lasers, and dodging aliens—all while getting a high score. This was the game that 16 middle and high schoolers from Lincoln County coded over the course of three weeks in SeaCode, a free, introductory computer science camp.

SeaCode students and the teaching team met in the Boone Center of Newport High School. In this photo, they are wearing the camp t-shirts. (Photo: Brian Hanna)

Our society has been revolutionized by computer science, yet most of the general population is unaware of what “coding” —writing instructions for a computer—even means. Thus, Newport High School teacher Brian Hanna and I wanted to ameliorate this by creating SeaCode. Undergraduate students Jane Myrick, Gatlin Andrews, Ryan Russell and Alex Rash graciously helped us teach the camp. Interestingly enough, all five of us are former students of Mr. Hanna!

Gatlin, Ryan, and Alex are now computer science students at Oregon State University, and Jane is an English and Education double major, also at Oregon State. Brian is a math, physics, and nascent computer science teacher, and a winner of the 2015 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

Typing away in the Boone Center of Newport High School, the students used a web editor to write Javascript code (with help of the p5.js graphics library). The first day was an introduction to drawing with the p5.js library, and by the end of the two hour class, the students made a ball bounce off the edges of the screen, changing color each time. The next five days were a crash-course into the fundamentals of computer science, and included concepts such as variables, functions, and object-oriented programming.

During the remainder of the camp, the students worked on their games. Each day was focused on a implementing a major game feature (the star background, the spaceship, or aliens, for example), and this was broken down into a number of tasks for them. The tasks described what they had to do, but it was their responsibility to write the solution—they were not “handed” any code. Par for the course for emerging software engineers, this challenged the students and often necessitated extended debugging sessions and concept reviews.

A student coding the game.
Photo: Brian Hanna

Once students were finished with the day’s tasks, they added new features. For example, after finishing the star background, some students made their stars twinkle and others added in a “hyperdrive” feature which made the stars move past the ship at lightspeed. By the end of the camp, all of the games looked very dissimilar as the students added different types of aliens, lasers, spaceships, and even two-player modes!

Although we wanted all of the students to finish their games, creating an enjoyable experience for the students was our main goal. Thus, we abstracted away concepts that would be overly burdensome for a beginner, keeping only what was critical for the game. Moreover, we handed out incentives: all students received a t-shirt which said “I can code” and ice cream on the last day, and we raffled off a miniature drone and Arduino microcontroller.

Our next priority was exposing the students to the esoteric world of computer science. Currently, our educational system is inept at making students aware of this field. According to computer science education group Code.org, only forty percent of all high schools have computer science programs, when more than half of all new STEM jobs will be in software development. When I attended Newport High School, we lacked a computer science course; consequently, I was only introduced to coding when I joined our school’s robotics team. Fortunately, Brian Hanna has been working to change this. He attended SuperQuest workshops*, and this year he created and taught an introductory programming course, the first of its kind at Newport High School. However, with this camp we wanted to reach students across the county, from a wide range of ages, and students who would not be able to enroll in Hanna’s semester-long course.

It is our belief that even if a student left the camp without understanding what a variable is, then at least the student is aware of this field and would be more inclined to enroll in an introductory computer science course in the future. Additionally, we highly encouraged the students to further their study of computer science, and showed them free, online resources to do so.

You Can Code

Although the students, most of whom had no experience with computer science, made prodigious growth in their abilities, we, the teaching team, learned even more. This was my first time teaching computer science and I quickly realized that knowing a subject is necessary but not sufficient to teach that subject. Clearly communicating concepts such as variable scope, functions, and objects, I now appreciate, is much more difficult than actually using them.  As an ancillary benefit, we all became more familiar with Javascript, including some of its atrocious features such as implicit variable creation, type coercion, and automatic semicolon insertion by the interpreter. (These idiosyncrasies caused a majority of the student’s bugs.)

With these reflections, we have started planning next year’s camp, and are eager to accept more volunteers, grants, or any other type of assistance. For SeaCode 2019, we hope to create two camps—one for middle schoolers, one for high schoolers—and recruit more students from demographics underrepresented in software engineering.

SeaCode was sponsored by the Partnership Against Alcohol & Drug Abuse (PAADA), the Lincoln County School District, and Mo’s Restaurants. Additionally, this camp would not have been possible without the help of Brian Hanna, who helped me create and organize the camp.

More Information

*The summer SuperQuest teacher professional development workshops in Newport were offered by the Oregon Computer Science Teachers Association and the Oregon Coast STEM Hub.


About the author
Ruben is a graduate of Newport High School and is currently a sophomore computer science major at Stanford University. His first experience with coding was during his senior year of high school through his afterschool robotics team which competed in the MATE ROV Competition. When not being productive, you may find Ruben running, watching Family Guy, or reading. He is currently working at QuickCarl (www.quickcarl.com), a tech startup based in San Diego. You can contact Ruben at ruben1@stanford.edu or www.rubenkrueger.com

 

 

 

under: Article, Computer Science, Student Experiences
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Trash Talk Project

Posted by: | November 21, 2017 | 1 Comment |

From the Haystack Rock Awareness Program:

Photo: Lisa Habecker

Photo: Lisa Habecker

The Haystack Rock Awareness Program has created a wearable art jewelry line crafted from marine debris named “Trash Talk,” intended to support our program and spark conversations that lead to more environmental stewardship.

Frequently, people ask how they can assist our program’s stewardship efforts beyond volunteering or donating financially. This new project is a great way anybody can help support us on their own time. Nearly every beach in the world has micro-plastic landfall. Participants in this project are invited to collect micro-plastics (small plastic trash that washes up on our beaches), and donate it to our program to be repurposed into wearable art jewelry.

Not into collecting beach debris? Not a problem! We are also accepting donations of old or broken jewelry that will be reused in these new pieces.

Micro-plastic collections and old, broken jewelry should be placed in a bag or container and left in the garbage bin labeled “Haystack Rock Awareness Program Marine Debris,” located at the back entrance of Cannon Beach City Hall next to the dumpster. In your bag, please include your contact information so we can send you a thank you and a small wearable bottle filled with some of the Marine Debris. One gallon of beach Debris is sufficient material to host 2-5 workshops, make over 30 pieces of jewelry or one 12×12 art piece.

Photo: Lisa Habecker

The funding received through this project supports HRAP’s ongoing efforts to provide high quality STEM, STEAM, and Citizen Science programs, and to spread awareness to a diverse multitude of visitors- positively impacting our community.

 

 

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The Haystack Rock Awareness Program (HRAP) is a stewardship and environmental education program in Cannon Beach, OR. For more information, visit http://www.ci.cannon-beach.or.us/hrap. For questions or comments about the Trash Talk project, contact Pooka Rice, Haystack Rock Awareness Program Outreach Coordinator at 503-436-8079 or lrice@ci.cannon-beach.or.us.

 

 

 

under: Article

By Emily Townsend

Warrenton

Warrenton

Bringing families together, the Oregon Coast STEM Hub hosted a Family STEM Night at Warrenton Elementary on November 15. The Hub is one of 11 regional organizations that promotes Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). The event was recreated down the coast that week in Toledo on November 16, and Coos Bay on November 17, reaching as many families and educators as possible. These events were a unique effort by the STEM Hub to bring professional development and family engagement into one fun-filled evening.  Educators arrived early to learn the rationale and method of hosting a STEM night in their home school, and then were able to observe and interact firsthand during the subsequent family event. Teachers from kindergarten through high school attended, all with a common goal in mind; student and family engagement in underserved subjects. “As a teacher, we are focused on reading, writing, and math,” explains Astoria teacher Kendal Long. “It leaves so little time for science, so nights like this introduce what there isn’t always enough time to expose students to in the classroom.”

Coos Bay

Coos Bay

The Oregon Coast STEM Hub serves schools from Astoria to Brookings in a partnership with Oregon State University, local community colleges, businesses, and nonprofits. It provides experiences for students and families to get excited and motivated about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.“We focus on educators so they can provide integrated, exciting, and contextual experiences for students,’ said Ruth McDonald of the STEM Hub. “We reach more students by being a resource for pre-K to college level classrooms.”

Warrenton

Warrenton

The speaker and host David Heil, author of Family Engineering, led the Family Engineering events. The goals of his program are to introduce engineering and science at an early age and to increase parents’ interest and ability to be involved in the learning, explaining that “we want to hit the sweet spot and start them early.”

McDonald agrees. “We all know interest starts in elementary; we need to lay a foundation.”

As for parents, David explains to teachers that they might see moms and dads shying away at first, but once they get comfortable, they dive right in. “It’s families together from start to finish” Heil explains. He has a goal for educators too, “…to walk out of here and say, ‘I can do that in my school’.”

Coos Bay

Coos Bay

Application of the pedagogy began once families began to arrive to the Family Engineering Night event. Everyone started with warm-up activities that encouraged 21st century skills like problem solving, collaboration, and critical thinking.  Next, families were given larger STEM tasks to solve together.  “The hallmark of family engineering is teamwork,” said Heil.

The first task was to build the tallest tower out of chenille sticks. Heil explained, “We want everyone talking and designing, doing things they don’t always give themselves permission to do on their own time.”  This task’s difficulty was compounded with interruptions by Heil, with prompts such as “Now there were cutbacks and you lost resources, how does that affect your plan for the tallest tower?” Next came outsourcing which led to a ban on verbal communication, and last the families were told they were “short-handed” and had to finish the task with one hand behind their back.  After the success or failure of the towers, Heil led a discussion breaking down the challenge.

Toledo

Toledo

“Does (the loss of materials) ever happen in real life?” Heil asked the group.

“No!” yell the students to the delight of their parents, who know the reality of setbacks in the workplace.

Overall, the students learned more with the support of their parents and everyone left with a better understanding of engineering and science and how it applies to them.  When asked what they learned about engineering, the families responded, “It happens every day!”

 

 


Emily Townsend is an English Language Development teacher at Astor Elementary School in Astoria, OR. She participated in the November 15, 2016 “Family Engineering” professional development training and family event held at Warrenton Elementary. The Family Engineering series was held in Warrenton, Toledo and Coos Bay, and was made possible by the Oregon Coast STEM Hub.

under: Article, Professional Development, Student Experiences
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Tribal Grant Supports STEM Camp

Posted by: | November 30, 2015 | No Comment |

Congratulations to another Oregon Coast STEM Hub partner who has received funds to provide STEM education experiences for students living on the Oregon Coast. From the Oregon Coast Daily News:

Siletz Tribal Grant will Help Students Go To Earthquake Camp:

The Central Oregon Coast NOW Foundation is excited to announce that it was awarded a grant from the Siletz Tribal Charitable Fund of $1661.00 to be used by the Central Oregon Coast Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) Committee for its planned summer 2016 Earthquake Camp for girls.

Central Oregon Coast Chapter of NOW has an active STEM Committee, and its members are involved in a variety of activities throughout the year:

In addition to the Engineering Camp, the STEM committee also hopes to conduct a “Starry Night” astronomy camp for girls during the summer of 2016. Central Oregon Coast NOW has helped sponsor two girls robotics teams, and also the 2015 GEMS (Girls in Engineering and Marine Science) Camp. Some of the STEM committee members have served as mentors for the Newport Science Fair students, and as judges for the MATE ROV robotics competitions.

Read full article

As details about STEM summer camps and events becomes available they will be shared on the Oregon Coast STEM Hub website.

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Central Oregon Coast National Organization for Women is a partner in the Oregon Coast STEM Hub.

under: Article, Award

Skill Set

Posted by: | June 16, 2015 | No Comment |

Hatfield Marine Science Center’s Dr. Su Sponaugle shares how “girly” skills she learned years ago have played a part in shaping her science practices today.

 

st_blank_0

Today I applied what I learned in elementary school. The blanket stitch. I have a Ph.D., but the skill I used today came from something I learned at age 8.

 

 

Read more at http://hmsc.oregonstate.edu/feature-story/blankets-and-nets

under: Article, Careers

AfterschoolSTEM

 

 

Samantha Stainburn published an article in Education Week today describing an Afterschool Alliance report which examined the impact of STEM-focused after-school programs on students who participate in them.

 

 

“The report’s authors find that engaging in activities like hands-on science experiments, computer modeling, and citizen science projects outside the school day increases students’ interest and engagement in science, knowledge of STEM careers, and for some, test scores in math and science.”

Read the full report

under: Article

Media release from the Education Commission of the States:

Report:  Want to improve your third-grade literacy rate?  Teach science

DENVER, June 17, 2014 – Recent research suggests early math, science and social studies knowledge may boost achievement for the nation’s youngest students and provides a better chance at future reading success – more so even than early reading skills.

 

The Progress of Education Reform: Science in the Early Years, published today by the Education Commission of the States, looks at the benefits associated with science education in early learning and includes recommendations for state policymakers. One key finding: Teachers report being uncomfortable teaching science.

 

The report outlines the case for including strong science curriculum and instructional supports in the early years by outlining the basic skills and knowledge that young children possess, describing ways that science supports learning in other subject areas and presenting evidence that supporting science instruction in the early years leads to future success in the classroom.

 

“Math, literacy, social studies and art can all be linked to science,” said Bruce Atchison, director of the Early Learning Institute at ECS and a former preschool teacher and administrator. “It is time to make the paradigm shift so that teachers are given the instructional opportunities to be comfortable with teaching science and how children learn science.”

 

Among the findings:

  • Children entering kindergarten are ready to engage in science exploration, but most early learning programs do not do enough to build on those abilities.
  • Science learning experiences provide rich contexts for language and literacy development.
  • While all children benefit from science lessons, the most at-risk students need science the most.

 

The report’s author is Kimberly Brenneman, an assistant research professor at the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University, where she directs the Early Childhood STEM Lab. Among her recommendations are improved teacher preparation and professional development, since she notes teacher preparation programs do not typically emphasize science content.

 

Recommendations for research, policy and practice:

  • Research-based curriculum and instruction. Policymakers should support rich, connected, evidence-based science learning experiences.
  • Stronger professional preparation. Requirements in teacher preparation programs should be changed to include strong coursework that strengthens knowledge of science content.
  • Better professional development. Engaging teachers with strategies for creating specific science curriculum has the potential to support more effective education in the preschool classroom.

 

This is the second report ECS has released on research describing the impact math and science instruction can have on young children. The report Math in the Early Years was issued in October.

 

The Education Commission of the States  was created by states, for states, in 1965. We track policy, translate research, provide unbiased advice and create opportunities for state policymakers to learn from one another.

under: Article

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