For the 5th Coder Dojo in Limerick we made it a family occasion. Because I knew that we would be doing Scratch I decided to bring my 12 year old son, my 8 year old daughter and my 7 year old niece. They had all seen a little Scratch but not as much as they should have (shame on me!!). We arrived just at half 11 by which time there were more than 15 kids and about 10 adults getting themselves set up to learn Scratch. Scratch is a programming language that makes it easy to create your own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art — and share your creations on the web. (ref: http://info.scratch.mit.edu/About_Scratch).
Clare McInerney from Lero was on hand to get everyone started so we began by downloading Scratch (http://scratch.mit.edu/download). Once everyone had Scratch downloaded Clare showed us one of the projects that won the National Scratch competition last year. This was a game which connected a dance mat to Scratch and was ably demonstrated by a couple of the teenagers at the Dojo. We also had a look at a project which used a picoboard (this allows interactions with sensors such as light, sound, button and slider). Once we had a taste of what was possible with Scratch we made a start with creating our own projects. Over the course of the next few hours we worked on three different projects as follows:
The first project involved drawing a pentagon – Clare outlined the code involved and then got us all to put in the code and check to see that it did produce a pentagon. Code for the pentagon is as follows
Next we had to try to figure out how to draw a circle beside the pentagon. Once everyone managed to draw the pentagon and circle we were encouraged to have a play with changing colours, pen size etc. For this project we used the Scratch workbooks which have been produced by Lero (details can be found at http://www.scratch.ie/).
The second project involved getting 2 sprites (characters) and a background. We then programmed one of the characters to move when the up, down, left and right arrow keys were pressed. The second character was programmed to just continually move over and back across the screen. The next task was to detect when the characters collided and to do something when they did.
By this stage it was time for lunch and it was great to see that a lot of the kids went back early after lunch to continue playing with Scratch. Our final project was entirely our choice as to what we did. People were put in teams of 2 – 4 to work on a project idea. Clare asked us all to put details in Project Notes which was to describe what our project was about. It was great to see this emphasis on thinking about what you wanted to do before you started. Over the next hour the groups worked on their projects with Clare, Mark and Eugene moving though the groups making sure that everyone was OK and giving a helping hand when needed.
The finale for the day involved a member from each team presenting their project and explaining what they did and how they did it. The variety of projects presented, and the very obvious team work that went into getting working games and animations within an hour was refreshing to see. It was also lovely to see how children as young as 7 were proud to present their projects to the group. You can check out the games and animations that were created at http://scratch.mit.edu/galleries/view/139405.
I’m looking forward to the next few weeks of Coder Dojo, where it’s hoped that we can connect Picoboards and the xBox Kinect to Scratch. The possibilities are endless!!