Thursday, 6 October 2016

Breakout #4 - uLearn 2016

This afternoon I am going to a session run by OMGTech.
Originally, I was supposed to go to another session, but I have been getting very into Coding and seeing how I can use science and STEM subjects in schools more and more, so I was naughty and skipped my session and joined in on this one.. no regrets!

One of the first things I heard when walking in the room was...

"Coding is hard and you should fail"

What a great start! Immediately setting up an atmosphere, not that it is okay to fail, but that in fact, you should fail. You should fail. It's good for you. That immediately takes the fear out of not knowing what to do, and the embarrassement out of other people judging you (or you thinking that they are...)

The session was then split into 20 minutes chunks, where the partipants were split into four groups, and spent 20 mintues at each 'station' before rotating around to spend the next 20 minutes at the next 'station'. The four 'stations' were Robotics, 3D printing, coding, and unmaking. For each of these you 'made' or 'did' something - it was very active learning. 


For Robotics, we were seated at a laptop which had a programme open which allows you to add code that controls a robot. We were given the challenge of programming said robot (we had one each) to drive from point A, over a wooden bridge of pretend ruble to point B to save the injured person, then drive them to point C. All of this had to be done using code such as
The numbers e.g. (200) are used to indicate the amount of time spent doing that action, not the distance to be covered. That made it a little harder.

I did pretty well, I must admit.. Watch the video to see how my robot went!

3D Printing

 The next station was 3D printing - we logged onto computer which had this open..

Then we just played around with all the functions that allowed you to create a 3D shape. There were generic shapes, letters and numbers from which to choose. You could change the size, location, height away from the ground, colour, distance away from other objects etc. It was hard! 
I found an ear type shape and decided to make a bunny. It didn't turn out that bad... I found it quite hard to get the eyes/nose/ears/whiskers actually attached to the head. As I was looking at in in a 2D mindset, from my point of view the pieces were almost 'layered' on top of each other and hence looked like a bunny. However, when I changed my view, it was a different story. Both eyes were different distances away from the face, one ear wasn't attached and I don't know what I did but somehow the nose fell off onto the ground? Well, that made me have to really think about the way my object would have been printed. If I had printed it using the 3D printer that they had there, it would have been all seperate pieces, instead of one bunny head with pieces attached. 

It was fun to play around with the model maker, but interesting to note that the guy running this 'station' kept saying how 3D printers aren't actually that great for schools, as they take hours and hours to print something tiny and somebody needs to watch it the whole time. If nobody is watching, and something goes wrong, it can wreck the entire printer which costs a LOT of money...


Un-making is exactly what is sounds like. What is the opposite to making? Taking apart. 
This was not done for fun - it is for trying to understanding how something works and see for yourself the parts involved and how those are connected to each other. 
We started off with these...

Yeap, old CD/DVD players.

The guy taking this 'station' talked about all technology has evolved. His example, was the record player. An old technology, seen by modern peoples as ridiculous and pre-historic. Yet, when you compare the record player to the floppy disc, and the floppy disc to the CD/DVD player, they are essentially, at a nuts and bolts level, the same thing. Admittedly, they do get a lot smaller, a lot more powerful and able to handle much more data - but the way the data is held and pulled off is the same way. People just don't realise it.

These were the four things we were asked to 'find' in our CD players once we had un-made them. On the left, the unicorn, which holds and moves the CD; in the middle, the laser and its mirrors, which are used to get the data off the cd and transit the data to the data reader; and the squishy things (yes, really). These are used to hold the laser steady.. I think? Not really sure what they do really, but they were fun to play with.. 


 The last station was game coding using Scratch.  Matthew talked us through the main 3 steps of game design 
1. have a character
2. have a problem
3. have a goal

Each of us then designed a game using these three steps. I made my own game way to hard, and kept dying when I tried to play it and film it. 

From this photo of making my game, you can see the actual game screen on the left hand size (the maze looking thing) and the gamers code on the right. What you do in scratch is you drag and drop different commands for the various characters or the game map itself, into a particular order so that the game follows a particular sequence. 
There are endless possibilities. 

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