Volunteering

Kaput Center for Research and Innovation in STEM Education, UMass Dartmouth

The Kaput Center at UMass Dartmouth hosts an annual day of free, hands-on STEM workshops for girls age 10 through 15. Since 2014, I’ve helped out by running video game development workshops using Scratch, a great tool designed by the MIT Media Lab as an easy way for kids to learn programming and create their own games and animations.

Scratch uses a visual scripting language that consists of drag-and-drop code snippets that visually snap together like building blocks. It also has built-in art creation tools and a large selection of stock artwork and sound effects for students to use. Scratch is built for collaboration – with just a few clicks, you can “remix” another user’s project, which creates a copy for you to modify however you like while maintaining a link back to the original project.  It’s also completely browser-based, so you can use it on any classroom computer with a decent internet connection, and students’ projects will be saved to their accounts so they can keep working on them or show them off when they get home.

Since these workshops tend to be short (often about 30 minutes), I have my students remix a simple project I’ve prepared in advance. I walk them through a quick series of small exercises so they see all the various tools – tweaking gameplay, editing artwork, and so on – and then set them loose and tell them to make something cool. I typically spend the rest of the session wandering the room, answering questions, troubleshooting, and helping them implement their more ambitious ideas.

I’m posting my lesson materials here on the off chance they might be helpful to someone else – please feel free to use them! Here is the starter project, and here are my slides, which I sometimes print and pass out so students can use them as a reference:

 

In addition to running a workshop, I also help out by sitting on the panel session at the end of the day, where the students have the opportunity to ask a bunch of STEM professionals from different fields anything they like.

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