As we bid farewell to another Computer Science Education week, I want to recount my experiences with three different classes at BLDG 61 and the Boulder Public Library.
I was graciously invited by the Boulder Public Library and BLDG 61 to participate in their activities for this year's Computer Science Education week. I've worked with the library in the past and I'm super impressed by the BLDG 61 facility, so this was a welcome chance to work side-by-side with Boulder Public Library and the amazing staff at BLDG 61.
I chose three varied topics for my classes: virtual and augmented reality, Raspberry Pi, and the Processing language.
I’ve talked about these topics before on this blog, but I wanted to revisit what it was like working not just with educators, which is my standard audience, but also with parents, kids and other adults all in one room.
Virtual and Augmented Reality
I chose the A-frame platform for the virtual and augmented reality class. This class was standing room only and it was a blast to work with our attendees.
For this class, I was joined by my former SparkFun colleague Brian Huang and we covered the basics of a simple virtual reality program that runs in a web browser. We explored creating an object and building an environment around it and finally adding some automation. Kids were exceptionally engaged and parents seemed delighted to explore this emerging technology.
Because so much code relies on a working knowledge of mathematics, it was very interesting for me just see how different learners encountered and worked with the mathematics in the A-frame platform.
I can report it was a hit. If you want to give it a try yourself, check out this post I wrote a few months ago.
Our Saturday afternoon flew by and everyone got a great working example out of the class. I'm very curious to see how people go further with this and I'll be dropping by the youth maker hangout at Boulder Public Library to see if anyone is going further with their virtual reality platforms.
Physical Computing with Python and the Raspberry Pi
My next class was an evening class in physical computing with Python using the Raspberry Pi. I had a great time setting up in the BLDG 61 space and I was thrilled to be joined by my rockstar engineer friend Mary!
The class was filled to capacity and it was a great age range from young men and women all the way through to retirees. We set up the Raspberry Pis and got Python running. We then used the GPIO Zero Library to experiment with LEDs and buttons.
As I stated before, I'm used to working in rooms full of educators and this was a great way for me to see how the general public encountered the material I'm so comfortable delivering in classrooms. In a blazing hour-and-a-half, we covered breadboarding and digital output as well as digital input. Everyone had a great time and I'm really looking forward to seeing how I can make this a regular event with a link via Facebook live or some other streaming social media.
My final class was on Processing. As many of you may know, I am a convert to the Processing language and a member of The Cult of Processing. Processing is one of the simplest languages to teach and gives wonderful and rapid results with graphics that are highly satisfying to people learning to code. In our hour-and-a-half session, we built a simple Pong game.
As I had come to expect at the library, we had a wide age range and ability level. Everyone jumped in and we all got working projects.
All in all it was a fantastic week at the Boulder Public Library. Many thanks to Kathy, Zack, Adam and Janet, as well as the amazing volunteers who showed up to help teach these classes. I look forward to future collaborations!