How My Daughter Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Programming
“I could program that!”
And with this statement, I knew that my daughter was on her way.
Having completed a summer camp program where she was challenged to learn code and build her own functioning item resulting from her programming, she succeeded – and then some – but not without the help of the amazing teachers at STEAMLabs.
Founded by a dad who was inspired by Gever Tulley’s Ted Talk, Andy Forrest, along with Marianne Mader started a “Tinkering Club” summer camp in their garage in 2010. Andy had a background as a web developer and a passion for “tinkering,” and was inspired to start a club that supported kids who had the same interest.
With the starting point of helping the kids learn and discover what interested them, the club launched with a group of “mini-makers” who were supported with their passion to create by Andy and Marianne.
In the spring of 2012, they opened a permanent makerspace location and formed a non-profit organization. Since then, it’s been “full steam ahead” as they provide children with the ability to see their ideas come to life, often in 3D.
When my daughter Miranda was offered the opportunity to check out one of STEAMLab’s summer maker camps, she jumped at the chance.
The program, which focuses on teaching kids Arduino programming language, also teaches eager learners the basis of HTML and CSS code. In addition, the young “Makers” were able to experience 3D printing first-hand, in the creation of their project.
Other areas that the course covers includes:
- Learning the basics of digital design and fabrication to 3D print robot parts
- Learning to send messages from Minecraft to the robot created in class
- The creation of a remote-controlled creature that is activated by programming learned in class
- Individual and group projects that facilitate learning, creating and collaboration
While my daughter was excited to start the class, she had some trepidation and nervousness about her ability to learn what she thought would be a difficult set of skills. After all, she hadn’t ever done any programming and knew very little about robotic technology, 3D printing and related topics. It was a relief, then, to see her excitement and abilities grow as she mastered new skills, learned and was supported in the positive environment that STEAMLabs provided.
My daughter testing her LED display before completion.
As part of the Web-Controlled Arduino Robotics Summer Camp, my daughter gained not only the skills to allow her to program at a level that surprised even herself, but also provided her with the confidence to continue her interest in programming, robotics and 3D creation.
Maker culture has seen a rise in eager participants who, with the help of the latest technology (can we say 3D printing, anyone?), are able to see their imagined items come to life. With a lot of forethought, preparation, planning and coding, the young and inspired can realize their most creative inspirations come to life.
My daughter’s project was a remote-controlled, LED display (her idea) that provided various LED lighting options for the user, via a remote control.
*NOTE* – My daughter calls it a “flashlight” but the name does not do justice to the advanced abilities that the item provides. These include colour waves, programmed flashing and colour patterns and more.
As part of the creation project, the elements involved:
- Writing the software/programming on a website
- Wiring and sautering the various pieces of the item (with assistance)
- Installation of the hardware, connecting the lights, etc.
- Assisted with 3D printing of frame
The final product was a success!
Check out these videos that show just a couple of the many light displays that were programmed.
How it works: The device is controlled wirelessly, through both a wireless and Arduino chip that controls the LED grid. The program that was written also controls the colours and the brightness of the LED displays to enable them to do a number of things, including making a colour wave across the grid, sequential flashing, changing flashing colours and patterns, etc. The housing of the device frame was completely 3D printed in class – a very cool feature for the eager young students. We all know that having a child complete a project successfully gives them not only a sense of satisfaction, but the confidence to move forward with their next creative idea. This was definitely the case with my daughter’s experience with creating a fully-functioning device from scratch – programming and all.
Girls and Boys
One of the unexpected positive aspects of my daughter’s success in this course was the fact that while the class included more boys than girls, she represented the XX chromosome and then some, not letting the preconceptions of girls’ supposed inabilities to master this stuff get to her.
While the stereotypes about females not excelling in science, math, programming and related topics still persist, they’re diminishing, in large part due to classes such as the ones offered by STEAMLabs. Providing a forum where both girls and boys are supported to achieve their goals, regardless of gender is something that we as parents should support whenever we can. We’ve come a long way in terms of stereotypes and perceptions about the sexes, and while we’ve still got a long way to go, courses such as the one taken by my daughter are making a difference in providing the forum for kids of both genders to excel.
STEAMLabs is continuing to build its curriculum, with a number of new courses underway. Following are just a few that are now available for kids who are eager to see their creative ideas come to life:
If it’s not already clear, I’m a huge fan of STEAMLabs and their support and encouragement of young minds. Check them out at www.steamlabs.ca
Want more of my parenting advice and tips? Click on the image below to get your copy of my eBook today!