Superhero Remix

The art teacher and I collaborated again this year with our superhero animation project.  3rd-grade students sketched their ideas for a superhero in art class then we used computer lab time to draw their superhero and background in MS Paint.  The next step was importing the files into Scratch and adding the code to animate them.

The students were engaged and worked hard. They could see where the project was going because they had seen last year’s example videos.  Some of them were familiar enough with Scratch to add a bit of flair (or music) to their animations. I saw more color effect changes and even helped implement other effects like this use of the whirl effect to animate Red Jelly Man:

One improvement that I tried to implement this year was the use of additional costumes to create the illusion of animation along with the moving of the Sprite across the screen. This was most easily accomplished by duplicating and then modifying.  Modifications generally included a slight rotation of the whole Sprite or to just an arm or other body parts.  Little changes really enhance the overall effect of the animation.

 

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Boring man has 2 costumes to look like he is walking

 

 

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Only Snakewoman’s rattle changes in the costume changes.

 

 

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Mr. Moo deploys his mini-moo with costumes varying the distance between hero and sidekick.

 

Another student’s Animal Man had 8 different animal costumes, all drawn by the student for his shape-shifting superhero.

Another technique we added this year was some simple backdrop animations.

 

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Thundergirl moves in front of lightning that comes and goes via code on the Stage

 

I’m very pleased with the second round of the Superhero project.  You can find all the movies here on my YouTube playlist.

Note: The students were able to add the project video of the animation to their digital portfolio without having to convert from the .flv format.  The actual Scratch projects are not shared online but completed using Scratch 2.0 offline editor.

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Catch ’em

Week 2 for Code Club happened.

We did an old project game called Felix and Herbert which I’ve done before.  It’s not on the list of current Scratch project at Code Club World, but its simple concept with different movements- follow mouse movements- makes it a good second week project. It is a cat and mouse game and introduces some good game elements such as broadcasting and keeping score.

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I allowed the students to pick any two Sprites – one to chase and one to be chased.  This let to some creative pairings.

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It also became important in debugging to know which Sprite was which. When introducing the project I did point out where it says “Test your project.”  I let them know that this was a big part of programming.  I think I’ll need to emphasize that each time. I notice a lot of creative testing – playing with sounds, looks, speed, scoring, but not much debugging or referring to the project pages when things don’t work.

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At the beginning of Code Club, I decided, we would add a bit of reflection to our meeting. On Wednesday I asked how the first code club went?  What were the successes and failures.  Many noted that they ran out of time or weren’t able to get the sensing of the edge of the maze to work.  I told them that it was a difficult task and if they were able to set up the Sprite to use the arrow keys, that was a success.

With Thursday’s group, I asked them to share one thing they found that they liked about Scratch.  This time I asked for positive responses mostly because they’d only played with Scratch and hadn’t really tackled a whole project yet.

I enjoyed this reflection time.  These are big groups and I don’t always get to connect with each student during our hour of coding.  Afterward Code Club I do take the time to look at the projects they save, highlighting a few here and noting any trending issues. And, of course doing my own reflecting on this blog.

I must say that my volunteers are awesome!  They work very hard fielding questions, debugging code, working with students. Even so, I think the students are asking for help too quickly.  They need to look at the project more closely and begin to do a bit more problem solving themselves.

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Inspired By

Next week is the showcase for both Code Clubs.  That means this week all the individual Scratch projects the students have been working on since November have to be finished. Going into today’s Code Club session I was concerned.  I knew of a few projects that were in need of major help.

I started out letting them know that their projects would need to be uploaded to the Scratch website by the end of the Code Club.   We talked about how the showcase would go next week – how they would be presenting their projects and the parents would get a chance to try them out. I put two sign-up lists on the board – one for help, one for finished. Then we had at it.

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Fruit Collector

I am really lucky to have a great high school volunteer and he has been bringing his girlfriend to help as well.  While Josh handled the help list, I helped with the upload and sent the students to Raven who helped them fill out the project and credits page.

By the end of Code Club we had eleven projects uploaded, although not shared yet.  Two more need a little more tweaking.  Three students were absent.  Luckily, I can give them some recess time in the lab tomorrow or Friday.

Tomorrow’s Code Club projects will all have to be done.  No exceptions because I don’t see those students during the week. My daughter is coming with me tomorrow to help with the project instructions and credit page.

That’s the nuts and bolts of Code Club for today and tomorrow.  What has me sitting here writing up this blog right now is my excitement for these projects. The creativity and hard work displayed in these projects is quite impressive.

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Save Wizard Boy

Save Wizard Boy is a favorite Code Club maze game with green dots for points and a continual hip-hop beat as background music.  The creators had the most difficulty working as a team and agreeing on what they wanted in the game. This is written in their notes: “Making this game was fun. I made it in Code Club with my friend. Making games on computers is fun and if you like to play games on computers you can go to Scratch.”

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Mipio1

Mipio1 is another favorite platform 2-d world with gravity.  Quite challenging for most of the students who attempted this type of game.  I love the creativity and hand drawn city-scape. The 4th grader writes in her notes “What inspired me to introduce Mipio1 is the game called Mario and I love the game Mario. The game is sort of similar to that game.”

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Patriots

There were a number of sport type games – one called Wizard Soccer and two about football. In the Patriots each standard Scratch football player Sprite was customized.

Each project seems to be the best that student or team could produce.  I truly didn’t think they’d be this impressive.

Random Coordinates with Ghostbusters

I must say I appreciate the wide variety of Code Club World’s Scratch projects that are out there. Last week both of my 4th grader Code Club students worked on Ghostbusters (and just before Halloween, too). The Ghostbusters project allowed me to talk about the Stage’s coordinate grid and introduce the Pick random block.  Two important concepts in Scratch programming and making interesting games.grid

It is also a fun game to code.  This version is an improvement over last year’s Ghostbusters project that we did. I compared the two and they are different.  The algorithm for appearing in random spots on the grid was simple to understand and easy to code, so the students saw results sooner.  That left more time to customize. Customizing is what these coders do best.

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This ghoul is very hard to catch but does it actually go back in time?

The game also implements scoring and timers. Students were able to customize these as well, adding additional Sprites and varying the amount of time they show on the screen and the number of points you get when you click on them.

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Want big scores? Try this game.

One student wanted to increase the speed of the timer when certain sprites were clicked.  That required a different way implementing the timer.  I knew it could be done that way but I couldn’t think of how on the spot.  Now I easily come up with the algorithm- set up a speed variable, change the speed when Sprites were clicked, decrease the time by speed amount.Screen Shot 2015-11-05 at 8.14.31 PM

Sometimes the choice of background can change the difficulty of the game.  The project gives other ideas to change the difficulty as well.

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The background makes the black bat very tricky to click on.

The speed at which these students pick up the ideas from these projects and incorporate their own ideas and creativity amazes me.  In going over their projects for this blog, I realize I didn’t see all the coding that was going on at the time.  I’m impressed.

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The only sour note was some behavior issues that came up.  That’s disappointing.  It’s okay to have fun but not at the expense of other people’s learning.  Those kind of disruptions are not okay.

There’s no Code Club this week or next due to school schedules and holidays. I heard a lot of “I wish we had Code Club today” and even a “I wish Code Club was everyday!”

Pong with Flair

This week in Code Club we worked on a Scratch game project that was simple in design but could be creatively enhanced quite easily.  We used Simon Haughton’s Pong game directions.  That’s right, the old Pong game.  Of course, these 10 year olds had never heard of Pong.

When considering what project to try this week I took a look at the new Code Club Scratch projects that have just become available.  I have no doubt my students would love them all, especially Dodgeball.  I’m considering that for next time.

After their struggles with Paint Box, though,  I wanted to introduce a simpler project and Pong fit the bill.  My high school volunteers were excited about it, too.  One said he had written a Pong game before.

I started our code club meeting by talking about the independent project that is coming up. I want them to start thinking about what game or animation they want to design.  My goal, I explained, was to introduce a variety of projects to them so they could get an idea of what was possible to make using Scratch. They could even take a project they have already started and enhance it to make it their own.

With that in mind we started Pong.

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a new coders’ Pong game

I also put the original 2-person Pong game on screen and a break-out style game to give them ideas of where this kind of game could go.  It didn’t take them long to code their game so there was plenty of time for their creativity to come out.

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A code club girl’s take on Pong

Some students added extra objects on the screen to interact with and get or lose points.  Others spent extra time with the background and sounds.

There was even time at the end to look at or work on previous projects and think about their independent project that is coming up.  I saw one student adding more to his ChatBot project, another looking online at last sessions’ Showcase #1 projects.

A couple of students have asked if they could work in groups of three for the individual project.  I have my reservations about this.  Pair programming is hard enough. Some groups worked well together last time, others…. I have to come to a decision about this soon.

Paint It!

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 6.42.12 AMLast week Code Club was challenging. I gave my coders a difficult project. They did it, but it was probably not the best fit for the group because it has to be precisely followed with a long set up.  I used Paint Box, a project from Code Club World (We are a registered Code Club World club).  It introduces some key Scratch blocks and new ideas of how to use Scratch.  Hopefully some of those ideas will be useful.

Pen tools

Some pen tools

One of these objectives was to introduce the Pen blocks.  It’s one set of tools that I didn’t even talk about in the first round of Code Club.  I’m not sure why exactly. Perhaps because they remind me of Turtle Logo programming and for that reason, I couldn’t see how students would use them in a game of their own making. Still, the Paint Box project is pretty cool – you make your own paint program.

While Code Club hasn’t used the Pen blocks, I have introduced Simon Haughton’s Etch-a-Sketch project to some 3rd & 4th graders in a half-hour class/group setting.  So for Code Club, I went for the more challenging Paint Box project.

The second learning objective I found in this project was to see “broadcast” used in another way. I like Paint Box project’s use of the broadcast/receive code blocks.  This can be a powerful tool in coding with Scratch. It this case, it is used for simple button handling.  We have used broadcast-receive blocks before, but to see it used in a variety of ways will help them see how useful this command can be.

handling button clicks

handling button clicks

There were some unexpected behaviors in the code that the students kept calling glitches. I hadn’t noticed them when I worked through the project.  Again, we are still using Scratch 1.4 in the lab, for now, but it turns out what was making the pen “glitchy” was the placement of the Sprite center.  This was another learning objective – learn about “set costume center”.

set costume center is key

set costume center is key

The directions specify to set the costume center at the point of the pencil Sprite. If the costume center was over the drawing of the pen itself, the pen down action wouldn’t always work and drawing on the screen became “glitchy”.  It seems when costume center on the pencil Sprite combined with the mouse commands causing the Sprite to be under the mouse when “mouse down” is received, Scratch isn’t sure if you are interacting with the Stage or playing the game. If you run the program in projector mode, the glitches are alleviated and the pen works in any costume center placement. I found this out later when working through the buggy behavior with my spouse, the software engineer.

Student Paint Box project

one student’s Paint Box project

So this project was heavy on the learning objectives. By the end of the hour most of them had a couple of buttons. Only one was thinking about adding more – a rainbow pencil or “stamps”. They did it, but their creativity wasn’t tapped. I need to give them time for more creativity. Next two weeks we’ll be back to game projects then they’ll start their independent project.

Here are two coders during indoor recess working on an independent project. Yeah, they really can’t wait for the independent project to start.

Pair-programming -4th grade style - sharing the same chair.

Pair-programming -4th grade style – sharing the same chair.

One of them has asked repeatedly if this can be their project for this session and I’ve told him “Yes” each time.