Wireless Blocks for Developing Computational Thinking
SAM Space Education is a programming app for iOS that teaches students how to apply computational thinking to design algorithms and programs. It can be paired with hardware SAM Blocks that feature buttons, DC motors, LED lights, sliders, buzzers, and more. The software controls aspects such as behaviors, sound, timing, color, and logic. SAM Space allows for blocks to be visualized and coded together in a simple and intuitive way. Visual, flow-based drag-and-drop coding allows students to take their physical SAM Blocks, drop them into a virtual canvas, and connect them together to create projects. These can be expanded and iterated upon by the student to infinitely expand the app’s capabilities. The wireless blocks are also compatible with LEGO, 3D printers, and laser cutters. Detailed lesson plans, a teacher guide, and short videos are available on the SAM Labs website. Students can also use SAM Space at home even if they don’t have any physical blocks. By swapping the physical SAM Blocks with virtualblocks, teachers can easily assign coding homework with SAM Labs. Costs: Free app; SAM Blocks range from $17 to $45 each. Also available are SAM Lab Kits, which start at $149.
In smaller rural schools, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education can face troublesome barriers. In our K–12 district of 730 students, we have many of the common obstacles, including limited funds, no extra faculty, and an already overloaded class schedule. These three join arms to block us from using any of the really cool programs we’d like to. Other institutions sing praises of cutting-edge programs and share their successes. Meanwhile, rural schools are trying to figure out how to educate equally deserving kids in STEM.
Google’s Kick Start challenge offers coders around the world the chance to develop and hone their programing skills through online-hosted competition rounds. The three-hour rounds feature a variety of algorithmic challenges, all developed by Google engineers so that students get a sense of the technical skills needed for a career at Google.