2018 Impact Report

Summary

Holyoke Codes grew significantly in 2018! We expanded existing programs and developed new projects and partnerships.

We continued weekly free public coding and robotics workshops and our Code Week program reached ~ 700 Holyoke Public Schools middle school students. We also worked with South Hadley High School and the R.H. Conwell school.

We collaborated with public libraries, Girls Inc of Holyoke, the Urban League and the Bay Area Makerspace of Springfield.

We expanded our summer offerings. In addition to our Coding & Rowing program, we offered weeklong programs in 3D Game Design with Blender and Unity and Digital Animation with Scratch.

Our robotics program grew with teams competing in the FIRST Lego League and the FIRST Tech Challenge in collaboration with Holyoke High School.

We received grants to develop computer science curriculum from the National Science Foundation as part of a 3 year research-practice partnership with UMass and Elms College and from the Community Foundation.

Free Public Workshops

We offered 58 workshops in a wide range of topics exploring coding and robotics at the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center. A sample of these workshops includes Make a website with HTML, CSS, and Javascript, Exploring Arduino, Code your own App!, Game Design with Scratch, Spooky Halloween Coding with Scratch, a Mars Robotic Rover Mission, Minecraft Command Blocks, Cybersecurity Capture-the-Flag, Quantum Computing, and the always popular Open Lab where you can explore technology in a choose-your-own adventure style.

Since 2015, almost 3,400 people have attended our workshops. These free workshops are possible through donations from families and a lot of volunteer time. We are grateful to the MGHPCC for the room and equipment that makes this possible.

Working with Schools

Holyoke Public Schools

During Code Week, all Holyoke 7th grade students participated in 4 days of workshops at the MGHPCC. They tour the state-of-the-art MGHPCC data center, build robotic catapults, code video games, create mobile apps, and build an autonomous vehicle. 8th grade students build an app to control a Mars rover for a simulated cooperative mission to mars and for a sumobot tournament.

We worked with ~700 middle school students from all 7 Holyoke middle schools in 2018. Through our partnership with the Holyoke Public Schools since 2016, we have reached over 2,000 7th and 8th grade students with our DLCS and Common Core standards-aligned Code Week program. Intentionally including all students, our program is designed to inspire interest and enthusiasm in science and technology.

Students completed pre and post surveys to measure the success of our workshops in engaging students and encouraging them to pursue computer careers. The results from show a promising increase of interest in computers and related careers for all students.

In addition to the quantitative results, teachers reported many students who struggle with lessons in other classes were engaged and excited about our hands-on technology projects. In our work with students at Holyoke High School, we have encountered a number of students who say they felt more confident to pursue technology activities, such as the Robotics Club, because of experiences with Holyoke Codes in middle school. We expect this increased level of interest and self-efficacy to continue to affect choices students make in their high school careers and beyond.

South Hadley High School

We worked with ~ 60 graphic design and photography students to develop interactive graphic novels. This project combines art and literature with coding and computational thinking to create compelling narratives. Students conceive a story, illustrate it, and bring it to life using Ren’Py, an open source visual novel engine. The Ren’Py scripting language is based on Python, a widely used programming language that enables students to create a unique story that allows readers to make choices that affect the story outcome. This project was funded by a grant from the Michael E. Smith Foundation.

R.H. Conwell School

We worked with 24 fourth, fifth, and sixth grade students at the R.H. Conwell school over four weeks. These workshops introducing computational thinking and computer science to younger students, building skills and understanding through a series of scaffolded projects.

Intensive Programs

Coding & Rowing

The 36 students at our Coding & Rowing program created awesome games with code, learned about digital animation, built and programed robots, and made their own web pages and mobile apps! And that was just in the morning. After lunch, they rowed, paddled kayaks, and explored the river with staff from Holyoke Rows. Later, there was time for Virtual Reality, collaborating on Minecraft challenges, ping-pong, and more. We offered two weeks of coding and rowing; one for ages 9-11 and another for ages 12-14.

3D Game Design with Unity and Blender

7 students attended this week-long program at Another Castle, a co-working space in Greenfield for game studios, designers, artists and developers. Students created game characters and environments and learned to model, texture, rig, and animate them in Blender.

They brought characters and other assets into Unity, set-up a character controller to move the character,  animate, and code enemy behavior. Students learned scripting with C#, lighting, sound design, how to create blend trees for animation, generate game maps, create menus for their game, and more.

Digital Animation with Scratch

This program at Northampton Montessori School introduced students to 2D digital animation techniques. In a series of projects, students gained experience with raster and vector drawing tools and created characters that move and interact in games and animated stories.

Programming with Python

We offered a new course in 2018, teaching students to program with Python. During this series students made games with Python and learned basic programming concepts.

Python is one of the most widely used programming languages. Python libraries make it easy to write code for everything from making games and automating tasks, to creating websites and machine learning. Python has a nice syntax that makes it a good language for new programmers.

Homeschool Coding Series

In 2018, we began offering a program for homeschool students, introducing computational thinking and computer science concepts. The fall series focused on coding with Scratch with a focus on learning through game design.

FIRST Robotics

FIRST LEGO League

Teams ages 9-14 research a real-world engineering challenge, develop a solution, and compete with LEGO-based robots of their own design on the Launch 2019 challenge.

FIRST Tech Challenge

Working to help establish the new robotics club at Holyoke High School, we launched a new FTC robotics team in 2018. In mid-season, the team is currently preparing for their first competition in mid-January!

Collaborations

Girls Inc of Holyoke

Encouraging girls to be interested and involved in computer science and robotics is an important goal. In 2018, we continued our collaboration with Girls Inc of Holyoke to enable us to reach more middle and high school girls, offering a Hacking & Cybersecurity course to their Eureka program which supports girls’ interest in science.

Girl Scouts

We also worked with local girl scout troops to design several workshops that meet criteria for the Girl Scout digital badges including Spirograph Robots and Girls: Code your own App.

Bay Area Makerspace

We offered two month long coding and robotics programs meeting twice weekly and a summer intensive youth leadership training at the Bay Area Makerspace, a community resource center that is part of the E. Henry Twiggs Estates community in Springfield.

Urban League of Springfield

We collaborated with Paul Whitford, professor of physics at Northeastern University, and the Urban League of Springfield to offer Exploring Molecular Biophysics through Computing. In this series of three workshops, students were exposed to the interface between chemistry, biology, physics, and computing. They discussed biomolecular structure (e.g. proteins and DNA) and how simulations may be used to study cellular dynamics with high-performance computing.

Public Libraries

We worked with local public libraries to offer workshops at the Holyoke Public Library, Suffield Public Library, and Westfield Athenaeum in 2018. Coding and robotics workshops at libraries offer library patrons a unique way to learn about technology at their home library.

Raspberry Jam

At our second annual Raspberry Jam, we offered a number of workshops and talks. The Raspberry Jam is an opportunity for the community to share knowledge, learn new things, and meet other people interested hardware and microcontrollers.

NERD Summit

The NERD Summit is an annual conference which invites local folks to learn with our local tech community at a free conference of talks, workshops, coding challenges, food, and fun. We offered a number of workshops in 2018 including Intro to HTML, CSS, and JavaScriptGraphic Novels with Ren’Py, Intro to Scratch, and Make your own Snapchat lens!

Wearable Electronics

We also collaborated with Rui Wang, a computer science professor at UMass Amherst, to offer a workshop based on his open-source hardware project: Wearable Electronics: Arduino Programming with SquareWear.

Curriculum Development

Innovating Science Education with Code

In 2018 we received a grant from the Community Foundation for a project to develop curriculum materials for project-based learning for 4 science topics from the grade 4 curriculum, teach the workshops to students at Homework House and Girls Inc of Holyoke, offer professional development training to local teachers, and disseminate the project materials.

NSF Immersive Robotics

We are excited to be participating in a research grant from the National Science Foundation as part of a 3 year research-practice partnership with UMass and Elms College. The project proposes to broaden participation middle-school Latina girls in computer science and robotics with an immersive narrative of helping people affected by a natural disaster. The primary research question is “Do immersive experiences improve girls’ learning and interest in computer science and robotics?”

Conclusion

It’s been a great year and we’re looking forward to 2019!

Questions for Rosie?