High end coding / game design activity for 8th graders?
October 28, 2021 5:09 PM   Subscribe

Looking for a 2-4 hour course or activity that can be brought into school for a special event for 8th graders who are already interested in engineering / coding careers but may not have had much hands-on activity. We're trying to find something special that would not be easily achievable by the students on their own.

We're planning an event for a new high school with a vocational / career track in coding. The idea is to have an open house event to draw prospective students with a taste of what working in the field might be like. Many of the other high schools have done Lego Mindstorms activities as part of their open houses, so we're hoping to find something a little more intensive than that. Ideally this would be an already-existing experience or team who could come to our school facility with equipment, but we could also go to a location if it's reasonably nearby (the school is in Bergen County, NJ). We're not looking for virtual events.

The ideal goal is bragging rights - that after the activity, the kids will be able to have learned something tangible that they can show off. So even if they don't choose to attend our school, they still learned something that could potentially be useful down the road if they choose a STEM career in that field - and cool enough that if they tell their friends about it who didn't attend, those friends might also consider applying to the school.

Assume it will be roughly 20-30 kids, and we don't have an unlimited budget.
posted by Mchelly to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (2 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Hrm, 2-4 hours is not a lot of time to teach 20-30 kids something tangible related to coding, especially if you don't know what their existing experience is. Is there any chance you could ask some of the kids what they might be interested in learning about related to games/coding? The last time I looked into this a few years ago they all wanted to learn how to make Minecraft mods, but I think that may be out of date now. My suspicion is there will be a pretty wide range in experience levels for 8th graders, I was already writing games on my own by that point. I don't have a solid answer for you, but here are some ideas that could possibly work:
  • Some sort of Roblox tutorial. Roblox is very popular with kids that age right now and the programming is fairly easy to get into. I have ethical concerns with the company (many of the games available in the system have exploitive microtransactions), but they do have a pretty big list of Education resources that might point you towards a company
  • Udemy has a variety of courses aimed at kids who want to program, you could probably adapt something from this list into a shorter workshop if there was someone on your staff with enough expertise
  • Reach out to companies that run coding academies in your local area and see if they have a short version they could run in an open house setting. This list of local workshops looks pretty up to date

posted by JZig at 11:50 PM on October 28, 2021 [1 favorite]

Swift Playgrounds is a good introduction to coding that makes each challenge slightly more complicated than the last.

There are a ton of toys that can be controlled by simple scripts, if you have a bit of a budget you might want to check out some of those.
posted by bendy at 12:09 AM on October 29, 2021 [1 favorite]

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