Building their own version of virtual keyboard, thirty-four sixth graders who under the tutelage of a very enthusiastic teacher, Mrs. Kay Power, acquired the necessary knowledge to extend that experience into a bonafide game design effort earlier today at the Cathedral School in Bismarck, ND.
The Makey Makey is a device that connects to a computer as simply as a mouse or a keyboard does via a USB port, and in this case were Google Chromebooks, laptop systems that require WIFI-only access to the World-Wide-Web.
Up arrow, down, left and right alongside shift and click are the default six key presses to musical creativity by these young Catholics.
Their version of the Makey Makey piano was somewhat sophisticated, using the Scratch 2 scripting system, each of the students having Scratch user accounts, and therefore a public license to build and host software creations.
Sprites as characters on a theatrical stage and in costume, are scripted for motion and song, as a metaphor for what is essentially an introduction to computer science and software engineering.
Class, class, please welcome Dr. David DeMuth announced Mrs. Power, who then followed that invitation with what seemed to be a familiar conversation on the atom, its nucleus of particles, and orbiting electrons, topics addressed recently in their classroom.
But what was not familiar were the neutrinos he spoke about emanating from the Sun with an overwhelming presence, and of the phenomena that was only (relatively) recently disclosed, and via mechanisms that have yet to be fully understood.
Physicists rely frequently on computers and customized software to support their arguments of discovery, this explanation setting a context for Dr. DeMuth’s innate ability to be teaching computer-based game design.
He explained then on how static charge passes from your charged body to that shocking door knob on those dry winter days using the John Travoltage simulation for illustration.
It’s those numerous charge carriers (blue colored spheroids – if you get the chance to try out the PHET app) when allowed will follow a path of least resistance along a wired course that demonstrated to these students electricity; together they wired a bulb and a battery to illuminate a bulb, and with two batteries, an even more illuminated bulb.
The Makey Makey’s fundamental context is conduction. holding hands, conducting students laughed as the Makey Makey’s bongos and piano were played through themselves.
Up arrow, down, left and right alongside shift and click triggering sounds on their web machines. Even more interesting was when Play-doh controllers were sculpted and used as the triggering medium.
With game design the central goal, and with previous effort using Scratch 2, Mrs. Powers instructed all students to disconnect their Makey Makey USB cables to focus instead on the making of a Pong Game, DeMuth prodding for any who might not know of such a game – it seemed unanimous, all knew, some admitting they had even toyed with making their own.
After thirty minutes of direction, Pong v1.0 were had by all, scripted bats and bouncing balls complete with sounds and scoring – most thrilling for a 6th grade class!
With their Scratch pianos they made previously, what remained was the challenge to arrange and embed their musical compositions into their own Pong game, and ideally in advance of a return performance to develop a Mario Brothers-like platform game.
The project was funded by the kind assistance of the North Dakota Council on the Arts as part of their Artist in Residence program and their insistence to demonstrate STEAM as inate to STEM, something Arts in Education Director Rebecca Engelman sustains with vigor.
The Makey Makey project extends from earlier work at Valley City State University which was also funded by the Council on the Arts, and if the impact on these young Catholics and participating teachers is indication, an activity that will continue to drive more interest in STEM.
See also subsequent May 11, 2015 article: http://bismarcktribune.com/news/local/bismarck/art-tech-gain-steam-at-cathedral/article_f3e8afd5-3792-54be-a283-8a983bb42a6a.html