Playfully Programmed Critters - WICO Summer 1.1

Today we started our summer exploration of playful programming with a group of enthusiastic campers ready to explore the intersections of art, science, technology and computation. The week of camp will be a mix of tinkering with low tech materials and experimenting with more high tech tools. For the first day of the camp we got started by dissecting wind up toys, constructing journals and designing digital decorations using beetleblocks.


We started out by playing with the wind up toys and adding ink (on q-tips) to the moving critters so that we could trace their patterns as they moved around the table.


Next we used a black marker to draw/write everything that we expected to find inside the toy (using the agency by design parts, purposes and complexities thinking routine). Campers then traded the black marker for a blue marker and screwdriver and started carefully taking apart their toy. While these toys are extremely analog (with only a few parts inside) it’s still a nice connection to point out how the organization of gears, springs, and linkages effectively “program” the movement of the toy!


For the last twenty minutes or so of the morning activity we opened up the possibilities and gave the group time to remix their toy, investigate the motion and turn it into something new. We were really excited to see the variety of creations.


After lunch we had a quick human sized programming introduction when the campers collectively gave computational instructions to Justin so that he could find his soup! We’re still working on this activity, but it seems to be a good introduction to the idea of moving in steps, turning by angles and making sure that everything is literal!


In the afternoon, half the group started by programming another little critter, the beetle from beetle blocks. This scratch-link programming environment allows tinkerers to create geometric patterns and print them out as vinyl stickers or temporary tattoos.

In the meantime the other half of the group worked on creating accordion fold journals that we’ll use to take notes, jot down questions and reflect on the learning throughout the camp. For the last few minutes of the day we opened it up again and let people decorate their journals with either the beetleblock designs or craft materials.

Looking forward to another great day tomorrow! We’ll be thinking about inputs and outputs as we start messing around with micro:bit and build a collaborative chain reaction machine.