Project principal investigator Fred Martin was an invited presenter at Autodesk Design Computing Symposium, a full-day event held on November 16, 2016 in Las Vegas, NV as part of Autodesk’s annual conference. The Design Computing Symposium focused on ways that computing is changing how we conceive, design, and create in our world.
Martin presented CS Pathways’ vision of democratizing computing by empowering middle school students to create mobile apps. His presentation situated the CS Pathways project in a 50-year history of educational computing research.
Martin highlighted how students’ apps, while simple, build community in the classroom. He demonstrated two apps from students’ school-year work: The Motivational App, which speaks positive affirmations to the user, and Languages4u, in which students recorded themselves saying “hello” in their home languages.
Both apps were developed by students of Denise Salemi, who was the technology teacher at the Keverian School in Everett during the project’s first year.
Project principals Akira Kamiya and Molly Laden delivered a presentation Integrating Project-Based Computing at the MassCUE conference at Gillette Stadium (Foxboro, MA) on October 19, 2016.
The session traced the project’s trajectory from professional development to implementation as CS Pathways enters its third year.
About a dozen teachers attended, all of whom were planning computer science instruction using MIT App Inventor.
The team presented the curriculum developed by CS Pathways teachers and gave an introduction to App Inventor programming. Teachers interacted with apps developed by project students, including the Cheese Around the World app, the Motivational App, and the Everett Landmarks app.
Materials from the presentation, including the slide show and sample curricula for 6th and 8th grades, may be downloaded from bit.ly/cspathways-masscue2016.
Thirteen middle school students completed the CS Pathways app design camp held at Everett High School from July 11 through July 15. The camp was based on the use of MIT App Inventor, a blocks-based programming system for creating apps for Android tablets and phones.
The students were joined by two community partners:
Gina Matarazzo from Energize Everett, which works to “increase opportunities for Everett residents to eat healthy and be active in the places they live, learn, work, and play”
The community partners met with the students at the beginning of the week to share with the students their own personal stories and the missions of their organizations.
Ms. Matarazzo spoke about how she works with kids and adults to set goals and help them keep track of their progress in becoming more health conscious.
Ms. Schuler described her work helping a local wild species called the Blanding Turtle, once widely seen in Eastern Massachusetts, make a recovery. This turtle recently has seen its numbers decline as local wetlands are taken away by development.
The students then worked in pairs to brainstorm ideas and develop apps to assist with these missions. This year, campers used AppVis, a new technology developed by UMass Lowell which allows App Inventor users to publish data to the web-based iSENSE database.
By the end of the week, the students had developed eight apps, which are now published in the Google Play app store. The students developed six healthy-eating apps and two turtle conservation apps, including:
GrassRoots: The Wild Side, by Kiara Cordero and Aroshi Rahnuma. This app teaches you how to recognize turtles, take photographs of them, and publish turtle sightings.
Health, by Lulya Tesfamicael. This app provides information about healthy eating and exercise, lets you set goals for personal weight loss, and shows you a graph of your progress over time.
At the end of the week, the community partners returned to see the students’ work. Ms. Matarazzo remarked, “I was so fascinated by how innovative the kids were in creating the apps that met our specific needs. Their excitement and enthusiasm for not only building their app but also their interest in thinking about health and fitness was so inspiring.”
The camp lead teachers were Damian DeMarco and Lori Blank. UMass Lowell graduate students Farzeen Harunani and Mark Sherman and undergraduates Ashley Hale and Michael Kusmirek assisted throughout the week. Project staff member Akira Kamiya led camp logistics and also worked with students throughout the week.
Healthy Eating, developed by Butaina D. and Joelle B., which includes advice on healthy foods, an original game involving an image of a stomach and a set of food icons to be moved into it, and the Team Medford web site.
Wind Turbine and Solar Panel, developed by George B., which is an educational app that teaches you about Medford’s wind turbine and solar energy, and includes a quiz where you can test what you learned.
The camp lead teachers were Damian DeMarco, Jessica Hamerly, Amy Lieberman, and Fred Martin. UMass Lowell graduate students Farzeen Harunani and Mark Sherman and undergraduates Ashley Hale and Michael Kusmirek assisted throughout the week. Project staff member Akira Kamiya led camp logistics and also worked with students throughout the week.
Project research assistant Farzeen Harunani visited Courtney Bell’s classroom on March 11, and led a discussion about her career trajectory, from computer science student to industry professional to researcher.
As described by Akira Kamiya, project teacher learning center directory, Farzeen discussed “her experience as a woman of color, and the students were completely engaged, asking questions for almost 20 minutes after her presentation was over! I especially liked the fact that it was mostly the girls of color in the class that were doing most of the talking.”
Ms. Bell added, “Farzeen was amazing! The kids were so engaged the whole class and they were making connections between their interests and potential futures in computer science.”