Coding Camp in the Frozen North

Rebecca Webb March 4, 2016, 1 comment

Thanks to the YALSA Teen Tech Week grant, our students and members of our community will have the opportunity to learn coding skills and how to drive robots! I used our grant funds to purchase two Sphero robots, two Finch robots, and four Ollie robots that students can use to learn computer programming skills. This kit also includes instructions to access free coding websites and "unplugged" coding activities. I have created a kit with resources that can travel to schools and public libraries throughout our District. This grant also allowed us to reach out to the under served Alaskan Native population by allowing us to purchase the game: Never Alone which is a computer game that was designed in collaboration with Inupiaq tribal elders. The game features cultural "tidbits" that talk about the culture of the Inupiaq tribe and our students can hear the language as the game is narrated by a tribal elder. 

This kit will be housed at the District office where anyone may check it out and use it with their students.

Type: Active
Age: Middle school
Optimal size: 11-20
Estimated cost: $100+
Planning time: <1 hour
Frequency: One-time

Learning outcomes

We have a fifty percent graduation rate for our Alaska Native students and we hope that this kit will provide all of our students with inspiration to not only graduate but to pursue a career in computer sciences. This kit provides our students with a hands-on connection to computer programming and learning coding language. They learn about how robots and basic programs function and how they can change an outcome by adjusting one line of code. Our students also learn the importance of persistence as they have to troubleshoot different lines of code and determine how to achieve their goal from the challenge chart.

The standards supported are the Alaska content standards for Science: Understanding scientific concepts and principles and Understanding scientific inquiry skills and Technology: Ability to operate technology-based tools, Use technology to locate, select, and manage information, Use technology to explore ideas, solve problems, and derive meaning, Use technology responsibly and understand its impact on individuals and society


To create your own kit: Purchase Sphero, Ollie and Finch robots and a license to the game Never Alone. Sphero and Ollie may be purchased from Amazon while Finch robots may be purchased from their website Never Alone may be purchased through their website: Next, you should create a "Chart of Challenge" for each robot so that students have a purpose for using each robot. Our charts start with having them code their robot so that it creates a basic shape then we increase the difficulty by adding variables like length of time and heading. I created table signs with basic instructions for each station and ensured that the SPRK Lightning Lab app was downloaded to each of the devices that would be used for the Ollie and Sphero robots. I also made sure that the two computers used to program the Finch robots had the Birdbrain server downloaded from the Finch website. 

When you have students utilize the kit, impress upon them the importance of safety and using these devices correctly. While the SPRK lab app has a toggle that students can use to drive the Sphero and Ollie around, encourage them to use the coding screen to move their robot and complete the challenges. 


Evaluating the lesson can be done through informal observation and student surveys. After each presentation, I met with each group of students and talked to them about the activity. I asked them which station they enjoyed most and had them share their favorite challenge that they completed. I also asked them to reflect on why it is important to learn coding skills and computer programming languages. They shared different ideas of how the world would be different without coding. (Cars wouldn't work, phones and computers wouldn't work, etc.) The main focus of this camp is to introduce students to the concept of computer programming and encourage them to make mistakes and troubleshoot to solve their problems. 

Other resources

These are the websites that I make available to our students in the coding camp as another activity besides the robots.

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