Loyola Stars

Loyola University Stars Leadership Corps Chapter

The Competition

by guscheco November 19, 2012

11/10/2012 Updated 11/30

Northside College Prep Robotics

The competition came really quickly and both teams spent the night together at a friend’s house in order to complete and make any final changes to the robot. Of course, that resulted in many of the students tired and falling asleep at the competition which began registration at 730am. =)

Both teams were able to complete their working robot before the competition. Needed parts finally arrived as many parts of completing the robot were contingent on these parts arriving.

Everyone arrived on time at 730am at Whitney Young High School. The competition was being held in the PE building. Each team had its own table and section in order to get started. Hardware and software inspections of the robot was also done at this time.

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The Learning Process

by guscheco November 19, 2012


Northside College Prep Robotics Team

Everyone was really nice to begin with. They showed me all their designs and implementation that it was really easy to understand and begin to help them on how exactly their robot was going to work. I was able to work with the guys much easier than the girls as their implementation for the claw and lift was different. I needed to see it on completion but there was still work to be done. I went over code of both the girls team and guys team. Each had done a lot of work and was very neat. I was mostly supervising this day as Mr. Solin had a couple of tasks he had to take care of.

When he came back, the guys team needed to drill holes on some steel pipes that would make up the scissor lift they were trying to implement. We left for the Engineer’s work station as that’s were the heavy machinery was. I worked with Alvin, Kerry, and the other mentor Pat in figuring out a plan to drill the holes so they would all match up. We lined up a pipe that would become a base so that once we drilled holes through it we could use it on the remaining ones. Kerry and I spent about an hour drilling holes and at the end all were in good shape. The Boys team was set to make their lift.

Fall @Hamdard Wk8

by krusniak November 19, 2012

The weeks are going by much too fast!  We’ve gotten a lot of work done in the last few weeks however.  The kids have been using Scratch to send messages back and forth from one block of code (sprite) to another, create variables to add simple numbers, and create ‘text sprites’ to use text in a new way - for drawing. 

Here are the project files and programs for message and variable workshops: http://scratched.media.mit.edu/resources/messages-and-variables

The kids had fun sending messages and I think they understand the underlying function of telling different parts of the program to do different things.  The same goes for the work with variables.  They like to follow the directions in the guides and put together a simple working math project.  But in both cases the attention span for this work is quite limited.  They’re very eager to ‘get in done’ so they can explore scratch for their own purposes and do things that are ‘more fun’.  So my challenge is to try to find a fun-factor in these workshop activities and 1) hold their attention for at least 30min (after which they get their desired free-time) and 2) relate these activities to things they are really interested in… like video games.  I’ve also suggested that these activities are the foundations of problem solving that is involved in many adult/professional activities (they are sometimes interested in talking about jobs) and another way of competing with friends (everything is a competition with these bright and mostly male kids). 

In our last workshop we used the program ‘Playing With Text’ posted on ScratchEd by Jane Long in which words are used in a drawing.  I tried to emphasize including words for communication of some information about each of them, which they weren’t really interested in.  But they did add characters or funny words they liked and modified the code so that interested things happened besides just drawing multicolored lines within the project window.  So I would say the activity was still moderately successful. 


Career Fair at West Leyden High School, 11/7

by jnepomuceno November 16, 2012

People ask a question, “What’s computer science?” And I tell ‘em, it’s not about sitting in a basement working on some obscure code. Oh no. There’s a lot more than that, my friend. We all like a bit of the good life: some the money, some the expertise, others the sense of accomplishment, the glamour, or the fame. But a computer scientist - oh, he’s different. Why? Because a real computer scientist wants (and can get) the whole lot.

This is a riff on the intro to a Guy Ritchie film, but if there was one way to tell people about the potential of a computing education anywhere (in college or out), it ought to go something like that. If you had asked me four years ago what my dreams were, you would have gotten a vague pie in the sky estimate about writing a novel to change the world, all that jazz. Such were the green(er) days of high school, and sadly, days when I (and many others, even up to the present) was not exposed enough to things that both were interesting to me and good to concretely plan around (to give a context, my favorite films of the time included Guy Ritchie’s RocknRolla and Public Enemies).

Four years ago, there was no plan. Now, somewhat wiser, I wish somebody had sold me the field like I just did. The world offers no easy solutions, and a desire without a plan does not a solution make. Knowing what I know now, though, would have helped me a lot four years ago.

This was my impetus to help out at the career fair at West Leyden High School in Northlake: my professor Dr. Greenberg was managing a booth there for Loyola/Illinois Computes, and I and three other student volunteers came along to help out. To the best of our abilities, we represented Loyola and the CS field at large. I worked on the other side of the booth on the fair floor, giving a short sell on what CS could mean to students and to the world before giving info handouts and directing them to the booth.

- one can only talk to one group at a time, and still only address directly one person in that group (but one can still hand out the sheet to each person)
- there would be the hard sell: i.e., the person who “barely knows how to turn a computer on,” or the mechanic - what we’re here to do is show computer science’s influence on their chosen fields and the world at large (one can simply mention Twitter or Facebook)
- One can never have too many handouts 

Pam African Association

by i-am-the-beagle November 13, 2012

I am bit a late for these repsones on Tunblr, but the experience Ive had helping underprivileged people has altered the way I see immigrants and people from different backgrounds. Lately, I’ve been teaching basic computer skills to refugees from African and the Middle East. It is pretty challenging to communicate ideas to immigrants who have had very little experience with both computers and English. Explaining different aspects of the internet has been the most challenging part.

While working at the Pan African Society I have also noticed how women are reluctant to take a leading role when it coimes to technology. It seems as though their previous cultural steretotypes continue even after moving to a new country. Not all of the refuggees are like that though. The majority of them are eager to learn about computers and how they can improve there day to day life. The women even acheive more then the men on occasionally, which isn’t very normal for computer related topics. It seemed like the students unerstood me more if I was able to put an assignment’s objectives into some more practical a and tangible. That way the students could seehow computers could improve their day to day lives. It also reinefirced the idea that computers are powerful tools that will allow yourself to achieve more in life. 

Overall my experience has been great and I am looking forward to learning more about immigrant cultures and the way they perceive technology.  Working at the Pan African Association and seeing the students learn about computers and how they can improve their lives has reinforced my confidence in the United States persevering as the the world’s tech hub.

Much Ado About Lego

by zachary-bruno November 10, 2012

So now that I’ve gone a good number of times, I feel ready to unleash a big blog post explaining what I’ve been doing all semester. Every Monday/Thursday from 2:30-5 since the first of October I’ve been going to West Ridge Elementary School to be the assistant coach of their First Lego League robotics club. 

It’s a lot of fun. There are roughly 14 kids who show up regularly, and a few who come every now and again. A good mix of ethnic groups and gender, ranging from Caucasian, African American, Indian, Asian, and Hispanic boys and girls. The major of them are 6th - 8th graders, with a few 3rd and 4th graders sprinkled in.

We use the Lego Mindstorms product to teach the kids some basic programming principles in the NXT environment, and prepare them for the tournament in December. Along with the technical aspect of it, there is also a senior outreach part where they learn how to apply technology to the improvement of the lives of senior citizens. They will have to give a presentation on their ideas to a panel during the robotics tournament.

So far we have covered the basics of what the robot can do, and are now applying more complex strategies to tackle some of the missions for the tournament. The kids are having a blast with it, and one boy in particular has taken to learning Java and emailing me his work to take a look at it. They have a real drive to learn this stuff and it is a ton of fun to work with all of them. Once we get the senior citizen part settled (who wants to do research and presentations when we can play with Lego?), we should be ready to get all finalized for the tournament. 

NSCP Robotics Team

by guscheco November 7, 2012

10/31/2012 Gus Pacheco

I arrived at Northside College Preparatory eager to see my former school and teacher. It was here that I began to see how much Computer Science interested me. It was here that I learned about my future. 

It was Halloween and many students were dressed up. My old teacher Mr. Solin was dressed up as well but if you didn’t know him you probably wouldn’t be able to tell. He was dressed in nice professional looking clothes. A contrast to his personality and the kind of guy he is. He said “Today, I am irony.” 

He took me to a part of Northside that I haven’t been to during my 4 years there. It was the mechanical room where they held their colloquium (a weekly 3 hour class devoted to a special interest). 

I met the 2 teams that were building the robots; a girls team and a boys team. Each was composed of many students from different grade level. The seniors were the experienced bunch as many of them had taken the class before and competed as well.

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In Which I Write A Monster Report

by wakawaka-assbutt November 4, 2012

Midterms smacked me upside the head this year, so to make up for my silence I’ve got a monster report heading your way.

The last few weeks have been nothing short of chaotic at St. Viator’s, but as I’ve been told that’s nothing out of the ordinary. The week of October 19th Mr. C, the computer class teacher as well as my site supervisor, had a seminar to attend, so all the computer classes were cancelled for a day. I only worked with the kindergartners on their iPads to learn writing numbers above 10, as the teacher told me they were having difficulties writing numbers like 16 and 17. Naturally they found that the numbers app they have has a blank editor as an option, so they wanted to draw their own pictures and explain those to me rather than work on their numbers. Keeping them on task was definitely a battle of the wills.

The week of October 26th, Mr. C had to leave last minute as a chaperone on the 6th grader’s field trip. The original plan was to have the 8th graders come in during their morning slot, but Mr. C also had some electricians come in that day to do some rewiring, so since there were exposed conduits that plan was ixnayed. I went to the kindergartners at my usual time to continue working with them on writing their numbers and letters out on the iPads. Fortunately, the electricians were gone by the time the third graders were slotted to use the lab, so their class passed without incident. I wrote a couple puzzles for them to work on to help refresh their memory for Scratch. I took screen-caps of all the pieces they would need and gave them a simple problem to solve. They seemed to enjoy it well enough.

This last week of November 2nd for whatever reason did not go quite as smoothly as I would have liked. I had the sixth graders again for the first time in two weeks, so at that point I skipped the refresher Scratch course and had them start working on the project I had in mind for them. In a nutshell, what I want the sixth and third graders to be able to do is write a short story, and then animate it in Scratch, making full use of the sprites and simple commands I have taught them. With the aid of a simple story-starter site, the sixth graders leapt into the project with enthusiasm. I don’t think they’ll have much trouble finishing next week or the week after if necessary. After the sixth grade class I went down to the kindergartners to work on the iPads. They are getting a little better with writing numbers greater than 10, but they still like to test my patience and use the paint editor and not the program itself. I’ll take my victories where I can get them. 

The third grade class worries me some. While most of them exhibited the same enthusiasm for the project, one or two of them I think are being intentionally obstinate, choosing to walk around and bother the other students rather than do their own work. While I encouraged asking their neighbors for help, that wasn’t quite what I had in mind. 

They’re probably going to take a little longer than the sixth graders to do this project, which is fine. I just hope that next week goes a little better for them and that they’ll make more progress then.

As for me, I’m hoping not fall as far behind on posting like I did, so lesson learned.

Ending transmission,

Alexandra Nine

Tech Star Kids at Have Dreams

by rzukowski November 2, 2012

10/9/12 - Today we started to make a gravity game in Scratch so that the sprite would jump up and fall down realistically. Brian showed a demo of the game and the scripts that are associated with it, and everyone was paying attention. As it turns out, most of the kids got this project done before their time in the lab was up. They really seemed to enjoy how simple the scripts were and how much fun they could have with something like this, but they did not have any ideas as to where they could take these scripts and apply them elsewhere. We tried asking if the kids had seen something like this in any games that they played, but it was difficult to get them to make connections between the simple script and something like a platform jumping game. Nonetheless, some of the younger kids had fun making a sprite jump on a trampoline and keeping track of how many jumps were made.

10/16/12 - Today was the start of a project that would take multiple days to complete. The idea was for the kids to create a top-down shooting game, like tank battles, soldiers on a battlefield, or something like asteroids or space invaders. The demonstration piqued most of the kids’ interests, but one of them decided that it was a “stupid game” and it was too simple for him, so he asked to leave the room. As soon as the kids got to the computers, so immediately set out to look for sprites to use on the internet, while others got to creating their own sprites. In the past, this sprite search or creation process has taken up most of the class time, and many kids seem to not get in to programming at all. This time wasn’t too bad as almost everyone got their sprites in and scripted simple commands to move and shoot. There was another incident with one of the kids that caused another “chill out” card to be given, but as soon as his punishment was over, he came back and wanted to catch up to everyone. Hopefully we will get to finish this project next week.

10/23/12 - There was a parent meeting scheduled for today, and I was supposed to watch the last group while Brian went to speak with the parents. He had prepared two different lessons to choose from for today, so that the kids could decide what they wanted to do. During the demonstration for the first group, many of the kids were not paying attention at all, so I knew that today would not be a productive day. There was no demonstration today as is usually the case, so the kids just got handouts of what to do. Some of the kids went on their sprite search again, and in the end got nothing done. Others however wanted to work on the other project, so I handed them the other instructions with screenshots and tried to work through the project with them. Eventually Brian decided that today was just going to be a “catch up” day so that the kids can work on anything they wanted to do. As was agreed, I was to lead the last group during the parents meeting however, I had no idea as to what to demonstrate or do, but I did not want to let the kids just waste time on the internet because most of the kids in this group could accomplish so much more. I tried to get them to work on one of the projects, but word spread that the other groups got a free day, so there was no hope of getting anything done with them today. There was a new student in the group today, and he seemed to be the only one that wanted to learn Scratch. I worked with him and one other student on the shooting game that the rest of the class did a few weeks ago. He grasps the concepts quickly and has an interest in making video games, and even had suggestions on what he wanted to change and ideas as to how to implement those changes.

10/31/12 - Halloween….the kids had been eating candy all day, so they were still on a “sugar rush” and simply could not sit still. To make matters worse, half of the lab was now blocked off by a screen and tables on the other end, and one of the computers did not work at all. Brian decided that there was no hope of getting anything done today, so the kids got another free day. I will try to speak with the program director, as I was told that the computer lab would be moved to a different room, but I had not heard anything since. Hopefully when the lab gets moved, the computers will be more reliable, and there will be less distractions and interruptions.

Rafal Z.

HTML Class Assistance at Steinmetz, Wk2 (10/2-16)

by jnepomuceno October 19, 2012

In the past few weeks work with the classes has largely been checking in with the students’ work and answering questions as they come. Maribeth has also tasked me with critiquing quizzes that the class is to do throughout the year, along with uploading questions/quizzes into a new quiz-taking service online (the old one went out of business), keeping in mind their actual progress compared to the planned progress which the quizzes were made for.

For the most part what critique and suggestions I can make are fairly easy: this question may be a little unclear due to wording, asking when was that answer mentioned in class and which questions ought to be modified/added per the classes’ overall progress, et cetera. What has been difficult is considering the questions’ clarity, as well as whether the quizzes really test and reinforce what the students have learned so far; luckily I have been around the classes to really get a sense of which parts are troublesome and which parts have been easy to grasp.