Bring Your Child To Work Day 2014

We had an awesome Bring Your Child To Work Day this year. I headed up three different programming activities in the same room with the help of friends from the HP Arduino and Python Groups. We had well over 200 children attend.

Program Your Parent was a paper and pencil exercise for younger children to get a faulty robot (the parent) to retrieve a sample of "candium" from a bucket. The robot could only move forward or turn right, and had to maneuver around a shield.  The activity teaches how literal computers are at following instructions, and how complex tasks can be achieved with sequences of simple commands.

I also had programmable Arduino microcontrollers and my FunShield. The first activity is to get an LED to blink. Then you see how fast you can get it to blink and still see it. This leads to interesting discussion about how the eye works and how fast computers actually are. Participants still interest at that point could continue and learn how to blink a series of LEDs using For loops or play sounds, detect light, or measure temperature. Arduinos are a great way to interface a computer with the physical world.

Finally, we had Raspberry Pi computers running MineCraft. Instead of just playing the game, kids used Python programming to interact with the world. There was a hide and seek game and a maze. They could create a code to place their name or initials using blocks. The idea was to introduce how algorithms can be used to perform repetitive task such as designing a building and then being able to place multiple copies anywhere in world.

Kids got to take home their worksheets which had links to online programming activities like where they could continue to learn JavaScript and Python. I also pitched the library's Teen Makers program, which unfortunately is on hiatus for the summer. The activities were not too much different from last year. The big improvement was recruiting volunteers to help at teach of the stations. I've already got some ideas for improvements next year, but first I need to get a paper rocket activity setup for the site picnic in August!

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