Have you tried programming a computer recently? What devices do you own that require programming?
Cars now have computers. New refrigerators have the capability to connect to the Internet and be controlled. Even some of the new garage door openers can be controlled through the Internet.
Are your children interested in computers and programming? Are they interested in figuring out how things work and how they can make them work better?
During the week of Dec. 9, fifth- and sixth-grade students at Pine River-Backus Elementary School took part in a new national program called Hour of Coding. Using simple programs the students were introduced to the concepts of programming. The students programmed a simple game based on Angry Birds in 20 different steps.
Some of the concepts that they learned were:
• When programming, the computer or device does exactly what it is told to do even if it does not work.
• The computers follow instructions step by step.
• Programming is problem solving.
• To program can be fun.
The basic tutorial for programming that the students were introduced to is very visual. You can try it out yourself at http://learn.code.org/hoc/1. The tutorial has a video that goes with it (lower left corner).
Students also have the opportunity to explore other computer programming languages by using some of the other tutorials that are available at the site http://csedweek.org/learn.
The site also includes a link to more tutorials at the Khan Academy, https://www.khanacademy.org/cs. If you know someone interested in programming, these are good sites to get started with.
Students interested in computer coding might also be interested in the PR-B Robotics team. The robotics team learns about the challenge for the year in January. The team then gets six weeks to build a robot that can accomplish the challenge.
After six weeks, the robot is boxed up for transportation to a regional competition. Pine River-Backus has gone to the competition in Duluth for the past couple of years.
Besides designing and building the physical robot, students must program the robot so that when the student “driver” is driving the robot, he or she can make it move in any direction, and make the robot accomplish the task that it is designed for.
One year the robot had to shoot a ball at a target; another year it was throwing a disc. The team is made up of students with many different jobs. Jobs include designing the robot, building the robot, programming the robot, public relations and website design, to list a few.
This year’s competition will kick off Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014. Teams from across the country will attend regional sites where the broadcast of the challenge will take place at the same time. Along with learning what the challenge is, teams get a kit of parts to use to build their robot.
PR-B students interested in participating should talk to Mr. D. Anderson or Mr. Larson. Visit the PR-B Robotics website to see information from past years at http://prbrobotics.org.
Pine River-Backus has started streaming some events that you might be interested in viewing. The latest event streamed was the afternoon elementary holiday concert Dec. 9. If you missed the live streaming, you can view the recording at http://stream.prbschools.org/.