by Mike Carmon
Our two-day coding camp was a WMSI first this summer, as we dove more into the different sorts of programming languages and platforms available for our young STEM Explorers. For Coding Camp this year, we focused on three in particular: Scratch, Python, and LEGO EV3 MINDSTORMS. From coding stories and games in Scratch to building massive structures in Minecraft with only a few lines of code, we demonstrated the exciting true power and efficiency of computer programming!
WMSI utilizes Scratch for many of it’s programs, including our Mobile STEM Lab as well as most of our summer camps. Block-based coding is a wonderful way to get one’s feet wet in the world of coding, particularly those with a more visual mind that can find text-based coding a bit more daunting (I speak from experience here!). During Coding Camp, our campers used Scratch to code their very own stories. There were princesses that turned into dragons, wizards casting spells on other objects, and dueling knights too! We’d use different challenges to teach all sorts of different commands in Scratch. Loops, if/then statements, switches, etc. truly come alive and reveal their power for STEM Explorers when these commands provide the means to make magic happen on the screen before their very eyes! It was wonderful to see our campers’ creativity with the Scratch activities as well, as a diverse spectrum of story ideas blossomed from the same blank slate with which they all began!
We also explored EV3 LEGO MINDSTORMS block-based coding, which allowed our campers to program EV3 LEGO robots to make decisions. Using touch sensors, our EV3’s played different sounds. Using color sensors, our EV3’s made sounds after detecting the programmed color. Using ultrasonic (motion) sensors, we made a fun maze of sensors through which our campers had to traverse without setting off the sensors! The true diversity of tasks one can accomplish with coding was surely demonstrated!
We also used a block (no pun intended) of Coding Camp to tap into a little bit of text-based coding in Python. Though the programs were largely written by our awesome team of WMSI instructors beforehand, we empowered our STEM Explorers to tinker with the text-based code, and observe what would happen to their Minecraft structures when small changes were made to the program. From floating castles in the sky to mazes made of mirrors, we witnessed how just a few key strokes can result in a massive and intricate structure that would normally take hours to build manually!
We had a lot of fun working with our STEM Explorers in Coding Camp this summer, and we’re looking forward to the possibilities for future camps!