Alex Eller teaching the peanut butter and jelly algorithm.

Our first “Adventures in Scratch” class at the Ocean Springs library was a great success! About 12 kids, along with their parents, were a part of the fun. The first class included an introduction to the Scratch program, which was designed by the MIT Media Lab. We helped everyone register with a free Scratch account and then made sure everybody became familiar with the Scratch environment. We learned about the sprites and how to make them move on the stage. Learning about the grid pattern on the stage was also very helpful. We played with the scripting blocks, and learned how to drag them out and “snap” them together to make a program. During our mini hackathon, we saw some interesting programs taking shape. We also talked about costumes and used the “next costume” block to make Scratchy the cat look like he was walking.

For an offline exercise, we created a peanut butter and jelly sandwich algorithm. The kids divided into two teams and wrote instructions (algorithms) for the robot (played by Alex Eller) to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It was fun and hilarious, and really helped the kids think critically about the instructions they gave the robot.

The computer concepts we covered in class 1 were:

1.Loops – We learned about loops when we used the “repeat” block to make Scratchy walk on the screen.

2. Conditionals – A conditional is a set of rules used if a certain condition is met. We programmed Scratchy to turn around if he touched the edge of the screen. We accomplished this by putting our code in an ‘If, Then” block.

3. Algorithms – We learned about algorithms with the PB&J sandwich exercise. An algorithm is a set of instructions and programmers must learn how to write very specific instructions for computers.

4. Debugging – There were a few times that we had to change our code  to make Scratchy work correctly. We learned that debugging is simply finding an error in our code and fixing it.

We were happy to see the kids and their parents having a good time and learning new things. Above all, we hope to show how fun and exciting computer programming can be! We’re looking forward to creating a video game during the next “Adventures in Scratch” class on Wednesday, February 24,  from 5:30 – 7:30pm at the Ocean Springs Library. The topics we plan to cover are: game design, variables, threading and user input.