Academic News, Student Activities

Information Science Department Update: Spheros Have Arrived!

SpheroStudentCoursebyAmeliaEsserWho knew coding could be so much fun? Enter the Spheros!

To continue developing the computer science program at SMA, the Information Science Department added introductory coding activities to the Digital Literacy classes this semester. In support of those activities, the department purchased a class set of twelve Spheros–small round robots that students can program using block coding on iPad apps. Spheros are an excellent option for not only teaching students about basic coding principles, but also for helping students to develop teamwork and problem-solving skills.

During short introductory units in the Digital Literacy classes, students first engaged in coding tutorials on Code.org. As one of the sponsors of the Hour of Code experience every fall, Code.org provides dozens of free, self-driven tutorials, puzzles, and lessons about coding for all levels. This means that Digital Literacy students were able to choose tutorials based on their own experience and interest.

After gaining at least a basic understanding of block coding, students paired up to work with a Sphero, using the Tickle coding app on their iPads. They worked in those partnerships to program their Sphero to complete a series of mazes taped out on the floor in the computer lab and hallway outside.

As part of a pilot unit one of the Digital Literacy classes also explored building and solving student-created challenges by sophomore Amelia Esser and freshman Hannah Wilker, and then ended the unit by developing their own Hour of Code-style tutorials for students next fall who have never used a Sphero before.

Given the students’ rising enthusiasm about the Spheros, the Information Science Department hosted a Sphero Playground in the library on Thursday May 12 for students, staff, and faculty to learn more about the robots and test their coding skills. The Information Science Department also hopes to purchase more Spheros for next year’s classes.

Want to know more about coding? Try some of the tutorials on Code.org for yourself—perhaps even challenge your daughter to try them with you!