Coding And Programming – A Beginner’s Guide: A STEM Workshop For Primary Schools

Overview: In this workshop, the students will learn about coding, and how it can be used to create computer programs. This will be done by learning about how coding can be used to program a robot to do a specific task. After a brief introduction, they will take part in two practical exercises. In the first, they will using coding to program a robotic piano player to play a specific tune. In the second, they will work out how to design and write a code to make a robotic arm pick up and move an object to a new location. Duration: One to one and a half hours.

Intended Learning Outcome: This workshop will introduce children to the concepts of coding and programming, and provide them with a practical demonstration of how coding can be used to create functional programs to undertake specific tasks. In addition, it demonstrate that they are capable of coding and programming, so opening this up as a potential future career path.

STEM Areas Covered: This workshop will cover coding and programming, including how to design a program to do a specific task, and how to use coding to turn it into reality.

What Does This Workshop Involve? This workshop is based around the Arduino open source engineering project. This project allows low-cost entry into areas such as robotics, automation, programming and coding. While the activities in this workshop seem complicated, the Arduino framework provides a very simple user interface and library of commands for creating programs to do relatively simple tasks. Further, for this workshop, these commands have been turned into very simple blocks of code than can be ‘cut and pasted’ to create the required programs by those with little or no previous knowledge or experience with coding or programming. Effectively, all the children need to decide is in which order to paste the blocks of code together, making the required programs as simple to create as a jigsaw puzzle, although there is the opportunity for more advanced individuals to delve more deeply into the code and alter specific variables to fine-tune the programs.

During the workshop, the students will first be provided with a brief introduction to what coding is, and how it can be used to create programs to make robots do a specific task. They will then be divided into groups of four, where they will use the Arduino IDE interface to learn how to combine existing code blocks to create a program that will make a robotic piano player play a specific tune. Once completed, this program will be loaded into the robotic piano player and tested so that they can see how well their program works.

After this first task has been completed, each group will be challenged to design a program to that would make a robotic arm reach out, pick up an object, move it to a new location and then drop it. This will be done by working out what series of commands they would need to give a blindfolded person to complete this task. Once they have all the steps worked out, they will then demonstrate their program design to the other groups. This will be done by blindfolding one member of the group while getting another to provide instructions to complete the task outlined above. They will then combine existing code blocks to create a program based on their design and upload it to a mini robotic arm. Through this, they will learn how to design a computer program to do a specific task.

What Type Of Space Is Required For This Workshop? This workshop can be conducted in any standard classroom space.

How Long Will This Workshop Last? This workshop will last between one and one and a half hours, and can be adapted to fit available time slots. Our preferred time to run this workshop is between mid-morning and lunchtime as this gives children time to settle into the school day, but they are still alert enough to listen to instructions and make the most of the experience.

Is This Workshop Safe? This workshop is as safe as any practical workshop can be. All demonstration robots that will be used in the workshop are powered either by a small nine volt battery (of the type commonly used in smoke alarms), or by a computer USB port.

What Equipment Is Required? Other than providing a suitable space to carry out this workshop, there is no need to provide any additional equipment, and all materials can be supplied by us.

What Age Of Children Can Participate In This Workshop? This workshop is designed for children in P6 to P7.

How Many Children Can Be Accommodated? This workshop is designed to be carried out with a maximum of thirty two children (divided into eight groups of four) at any one time. However, this upper limit is flexible and the workshop can be repeated to accommodate a greater number of children from the same school.

How Much Will This Workshop Cost? This workshop costs £200 for up to thirty-two children (which would equate to a cost of £6.25 per child). If the workshop is repeated on the same day to accommodate more children, each additional repeat would cost an additional £50.

Who Will Run The Workshop? The workshop will be run by Dr Colin D. MacLeod. He has worked as a research scientist for over twenty years, as well as working as an educationalist, lecturer and street entertainer. He is a strong advocate of introducing children to the scientific method, critical thinking, ‘trial and error’ learning and STEM subjects as early as possible in their education. He is also the founder of How To Raise A Happy Genius, and an author of books for both adults and children (under the pseudonym Colin M. Drysdale). He is also PVG-registered and has an up-to-date PVG certificate.

How Can I Book This Workshop? This workshop can be booked by emailing colin@howtoraiseahappygenius.com. This email address can also be used to request further information, ask questions or discuss any special requirements. Please use the subject line Coding And Programming Workshop Enquiry in any such emails to help us identify them and respond as quickly as possible.