My 11-year old and I attended an event held by CoderDojo LA at the Google LA offices this morning. The CoderDojo movement is a free, non-profit aimed at turning young kids on to programming. Their target age group is 8-16, and they use the Scratch drag-and-drop programming language (available at scratch.mit.edu) to introduce the kids to general programming concepts. Most of the kids who attended were in the 8-12 year age range. This morning’s session featured some activities that got the kids to create brief snippets of Scratch code to perform tasks like animate an object as it moves across the screen or make an object change color when a user presses a key. The kids were then introduced to an existing program that displayed a picture of a drum set, which animated the various drums and played drum sounds when each drum was clicked. The kids were invited to make their own modifications to the existing sketch or create their own musical instrument in Scratch instead.
Jr. FLL (Junior FIRST LEGO League) is a terrific organization designed to introduce kids ages 6 to 9 to the concepts of basic engineering, scientific research and teamwork, among other valuable skills. This is my second year in a row coaching my youngest child’s Jr. FLL team, (actually, a friend and I are co-coaching two teams together) and we’re working hard, learning a lot, and truly enjoying the process.
Each year, the Jr. FLL organization promotes a different scientific theme. This year’s is “Super Seniors”. Our two teams, each consisting of six third graders, named themselves “Super Sonic Seniors” and “Ultimate Elderlies”. This year’s Jr. FLL project requires each team to find and interview a “senior partner” over the age of 60 about changes the senior has experienced in his lifetime. The team then chooses one of the topics they discussed, researches it, and prepares a poster board on what they have learned and builds a motorized LEGO model related to their research topic.
The “Super Sonic Seniors” chose to research changes in television. We learned a lot about television technology and content in the years since its inception. Did you know that the first working television system was mechanical and developed in the late 1800’s? In addition to their research, the team members created a LEGO model of a television that “changes channels” by rotating a platform with two different scenes when you press a button on the “remote”.