7 reasons why your school should teach robotics and game design

5. Get girls invested
I don’t have many girls in my classes, but the ones I do have I’m seeing them really open up. They’re thinking in ways that unfortunately girls often aren’t encouraged to think. It’s a bizarre phenomenon but it never occurs to some of them that they can program a computer or build a robot. They may think it’s a masculine thing. It’s the same with video games. This isn’t something girls tend to continue investing themselves in past age six because there aren’t many video games that appeal to girls in a general way. So I’m trying to get a real computer science experience for my girls.

6. Students are thinking long-term about STEM
In my game design class we’re making Android apps through MIT’s App Inventor. Basically, we’re using an emulator and making mobile apps. I’m always showing my students news clips about the video game industry and they’re so amazed by the thought of being able to sell an app on the Google Play store and keep the money. Many of my kids play a lot of video games and now they see inside this world and they absolutely love it.

7. Students will let their creativity run wild
This is only my first year of this class but already I’ve been impressed by what the students have produced. Mostly they’re things I never would have thought of! Recently we learned about the broadcast function in Scratch, which is basically a bunch of “if, then” statements (e.g. when the left mouse button is clicked, it triggers a response of some type). I figured that this was an excellent format for dialog, or more specifically, jokes. I gave them an assignment to write a program that where two sprites told a knock-knock joke, and encouraged them to write their own material. They came up with some doozies but their projects were so creative. It’s amazing the way students can infuse their own creativity and make a project their own.

Lynn Paul is a former school librarian who now teaches game design, robotics, and engineering at Plaquemine High School in Louisiana.         

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