TechCamp_Computer Lab_TechCamp_HD_23.07.17-231

31.07.2017

TechCamp 2017: Encouraging Computational Thinking Among Young People

What do Ivet, Maria, Elena and Núria have in common? All four were winners in the App Education category of the mSchools Student Awards. This year’s contest and awards ceremony was held in Barcelona on the 10th of June, and now the winners are enjoying their reward: the participation in the mSchools TechCamp, a summer camp set up in the natural environment of Pantà de Sau in Catalonia and organized by Mobile World Capital Barcelona.

“TechCamp is divided into two parts: the more technical part in which we learn about electronics and programming, and the more adventurous part in which we participate in activities and play outdoor sports,” says Ivet of the Sant Antoni de Pàdua school in Mataró. Maria of the Vedruna Ripoll school thinks that “it is a great experience in which you meet new people and get really involved in the group. We all help each other.”

Ivet and Maria are part of a group of more than 40 boys and girls attending TechCamp, where they will spend nine days broadening their knowledge of coding, robotics and the Internet of Things. One of the reasons this year’s event stands out so much is the participation of a high percentage of girls, who represent 75% of the total.

As Núria of the Vedruna Ripoll school explains, the students are learning to program solutions that improve the quality of life: “We create home automation solutions such as controls for lights, or for different sensors, that help make things easier for everyone.”

During the first few days, TechCamp participants acquired the tools they needed to then create their own prototypes for solutions based on the Internet of Things and apply them to a smart city environment. Using a streamlined and collaborative methodology, they work on projects in small groups.

“They showed us how the Raspberry Pi works, and we were able to switch on LEDS,” notes Elena of the Institut Castellet. “The teachers assigned us various hands-on activities to give us a better grasp of the world of programming, and now we are using the computer to program a device to measure the temperature and humidity in this room,” adds Maria. The purpose of these practical activities is to simulate an actual professional working environment in which students may find themselves later.

The experience has been very positive for all of these students, and they understand the impact that this knowledge will have on their future. “You have many more tools to use if you decide to work in the world of technology,” says Maria. “I would encourage everyone who still does not know what they want to do, and who does not know a lot about programming, to take advantage of these opportunities offered by mSchools.”

This year, senior primary students who won the Scratch Challenge of the mSchools Student Awards also had the opportunity to participate in the TechCamp. Accompanied by their families, they spent a whole day participating in a workshop on programming and robotics.

The workshop instructor was impressed by the spirit and attitude of all of these young students. “They really believe they can do anything. They stand out for their desire to excel and eagerness to learn new things. They want to go as far as they can, with no limits. They are capable of taking on all of the challenges they face, and overcome new ones.”

The activity they were assigned combined Scratch programming language with elements from robotics and electronics. The assignment was to build a small electronic circuit and control it with Scratch, creating an interactive whiteboard on which different elements could be drawn or generated by pushing buttons.

Both the students and their parents gave the initiative high marks, noting how important it is to learn new technology as a tool for improving future skills. “I really like this experience because I can see how excited the children are as they are immersed in the reality of the technological world,” one mother remarked. “The theory is fine, but the practical activities help them see the reality of things, the purpose of the technologies and how they are used.”

The mSchools TechCamp 2017 also included a workshop on cybersecurity given by industry experts.