On April 13th I worked with several sophomore business students led by Aleah Hyvonen to organize and run an event for elementary and middle-school girls. The event was mainly centered around encouraging the girls to get excited about code and provide them with resources to improve their coding skills. The day was split into three parts; the first of which was team-building and get-to-know you games, where we were able to introduce ourselves and areas of study as well as introduce the girls to one another and pair them up for later activities. The second part was a coding session where the girls got to learn how to use and play around with BlockyTalky and Microbits. The third part of the event was guest speakers, during which Orit Peleg delivered a notable presentation on the connections between insect behavior and robotics programming and what integrating the two can achieve.
In her presentation, Peleg covered several types of insect behavior, including swarms, and related these concepts to that of robotics, in particular swarms of tiny robots that have similar benefits to naturally-occurring swarms.
The coding session was the heart of the event, so a lot of effort went into making it run smoothly. I worked with Aleah and several members of Society of Women Engineers's (SWE) Boulder chapter to plan several engaging yet not too difficult "coding challenges" using BlockyTalky. Using the submissions from SWE, as well as the help from several wonderful SWE volunteers we managed to set up 10 Microbit stations, each manned by two girls, and run the session fairly smoothly.
There was wildly varying code experience among the participants, so the original design for a very straightforward session was soon altered. Certain girls had taken code in school, and were attempting to write scripts for their bits in Java rather than the default block module, others had never coded in their lives and found the blocks easy to use. One of the more fun demonstrations from the coding session was a simple video game prototype I had made in BlockyTalky and tasked the girls with replicating the code I had written and then adding to it to improve and expand the function.
Overall, it was excellent to see the girls get into coding and work with materials and programs many of them were unfamiliar with. The positivity and resilience I observed in both the participating girls and the SWE volunteers captured the real spirit of the event, and the spirit of the Lab as well.