Monday, April 18, 2016

CSFair CS50xCedarville - Final Projects

The conclusion to week 30 of a course diving into a deep introduction of computer science was marked with a Computer Science Fair. Coding and Apps aka CS50xCedarville students enjoyed sharing what they learned with the world. 

Students presented projects based upon individual interests coupled with skills learned throughout the course. Students brought to the Fair projects from an array of computer languages and computational thinking.
Courtesy: Chad Mason, Superintendent Cedar Cliff Local Schools
Most importantly the Fair gave students the opportunity to share what they learned throughout the course and through the experiences of completing projects. As a parent and instructor to digital-native teenagers I notice teens are frequently consuming technology, and media. This project really required students to CREATE. These creations as listed below were great opportunities for students to see what goes into creating the simple and complex computer programs we use every day.

Final Projects as listed on Welcome Program
Not only did the course students get to showcase their projects, guests to the Fair got to see what is happening in our computer science courses. Being a district that houses K - 12 all teachers were welcome to bring their students to the fair to see projects. Students were overheard saying things like "this is really cool" and "I cannot wait to get to do this."

The guests did not stop at K - 12 in-house participants. We invited POTUS aka President Obama via both Twitter and a paper invite. Students stated "if The President wants to see us coding, let's show him we are coding." Although he wasn't able to attend we welcomed families, the community, and the world into our Fair. Guests included parents, and siblings of the presenting students as well as school board members. Guests from the community included Ohio State Senator Bob Hackett and students and faculty from Cedarville University and a lot of people I didn't personally see. Beyond our community a representative from the University of Cincinnati joined us, as well as Harvard University, and Microsoft Corporation. If that was not enough Mr. Siwek's multi-media students live-streamed the event so the WORLD could see what students were doing.
Guests of the fair could participate in some hands-on activities including various puzzles and code cracking activities. 8th grade students explained activities completed by high school students that led to the final projects. This was a neat experience because students were put in the position to explain somebody else's work.  

8th grade student explains Caesar, one of the course activities, to other students.  Then she tells them who created this version and where to see the high school student's final project.
In addition to the high school presentations a small group of 8th grade students shared robots they worked with. Students set up ramps and had to setup a program that when run would send the robot through the obstacles with the push of a button. These robots were also unboxed and reviewed by our 8th grade students, see video below.

Courtesy: Shelley Westover
via Twitter
Snacks were available as selected by students. We had PB & J sandwiches, Caesar salad, and Skittles. All snacks tied to different demos/projects from the course. 

The souvenir highlight was the CS50xCedarville photo booth. 

In true CS50 fashion you could pose for the camera for a series of snapshots to be printed immediately just like the mall photo booth.  
We will work on adding props for the next time.

What did it take to put on the Fair?
Planning for the Fair started early. A date was secured in October for the following April giving the school, parents and students plenty of notice of the event.

Students submitted a pre-proposal form in December. This form didn't lock them into any ideas but it did encourage students to start thinking. The pre-proposal essentially asked students to think about what they were passionate about.
In January we had invitations printed and started collecting ideas for our t-shirt design. By the beginning of February we were sending invites via Twitter and postal mail to Universities in our county and surrounding areas. There are 4 universities in our county alone that we sent invites to professors in Computer Science and Information Technology.
One month prior to the event we hosted a Hackathon. This experience gave 5 hours of dedicated time with food and fellowship specifically for working on final projects. Students stated that this was valuable time spent. When asked after the Fair if the Hackathon should continue they said I should continue for next year.
I purchased a retractable banner from HalfPriceBanners. They were on sale at the time so with shipping it cost $106. I will be able to reuse the banner because we left a space to put the year.  

Courtesy: Chad Mason, Cris Sidell
T-shirts cost $11.50 each from a local print shop. Here is the back.

We used the Puzzle balls sent to us courtesy CS50 and purchased more from Amazon. We got Sphero Sprk and Ollie via Amazon also. We also used these fold-able pub-style tables that were awesome for displaying projects especially on tablets. We purchased the ramps from Sphero through an accessory pack.The one we got was similar to this pack.


I setup round tables as well as rectangle tables and bought plastic table clothes to cover tables and add color. We placed 2 helium balloons at each exhibit and made table numbers in the graphic program  The numbers were laminated and added to our welcome message that was made on This design should not be editable but you can copy it to make your own 5x7 card. Students also made table displays with a brief overview of their project on 8 1/2 x 11 sheets of paper.  The required them to decide what to highlight and allowed guests to gather details about their project without having to talk to students individually, although many guests talked to each student.

Students prepared 90-second speeches that addressed:
Name, grade, topic, why they chose it, what was most challenging and what to expect at their table. 

The food was prepared by student volunteers from the group.  Sandwiches were made the night before and morning of the event and the salad (Romaine lettuce, dressing, Parmesan cheese and croutons) was prepared an hour before the presentations were made.  

This was definitely a worth-while experience.

Personal note: Preparing a new class and learning along the way with curriculum being posted literally weeks before I teach it takes a lot of time.  I teach 6 courses during each 9-week term.  Only one of them is based on the CS50AP curriculum. For the web material lessons I probably prepped 4 - 8 hours a week.  Not grading or assessing student work but doing the lessons myself and preparing how to present it to students for this one course.  When it got to the month before the Fair I spent approximately 3 - 4 hours a day researching student projects to help them be successful.  Students had questions about JavaScript and syntax which I haven't learned myself before this course.  I had students using RaspberryPi and Arduino.  I was more comfortable with Arduino as I was more comfortable with C than Python but I personally did not have experience with physical computing as such soldering wires and connecting motors.  These were huge learning curves for all of us!