Fab Lab SD at Spotlight – MacArthur Digital Media and Learning
Hands-On Hacking: Young Programmers at FabLab San Diego Use Math and Science to Dissect Technology and Make it Their Own
This week’s StudentSpeak webisode goes behind the scenes at FabLab San Diego, where teens are learning to experiment with technology in a hands-on programming course.
“We give them the chance to hack,” said FabLab Program Director Katie Rast.
FabLab San Diego is a digital design and fabrication laboratory that invites the public to experiment with high-tech tools. This year, FabLab offered a creative computing course to local middle and high school students through a partnership with University of California San Diego Extension, Media Arts Center San Diego and the San Diego Supercomputer Center.
“We want the students to understand how things that they see in their physical environment can be translated, using code, into a virtual environment,” Rast told Spotlight.
The course teaches the fundamentals of computer programming through an open-source language called Processing. Students create animated shapes that they can control using infrared pens they build themselves.
“The reason we chose Processing is because it has this wonderful visual element, so the students can see what they’re doing very quickly,” Rast said.
For example, after students draw objects on graph paper, plotting coordinates the old fashioned way with pencil and paper, they learn how to convert that information into code and watch as their objects come alive in a computer animation. “Because Processing has this wonderful visual playback, they then see what they’ve made,” Rast says, “and so it becomes a very tangible reality for them.”
Or, as 13-year-old Jacob Daniels, a student at Rancho Del Rey Middle School, explains: “It’s fun because you can change something in the code and then see how it turns out.”
Noah Thoron, 14, a student at San Diego MET High School, had not worked with Processing before the FabLab course but quickly grasped the possibilities.
Out walking his dog one night, Thoron saw a bright moon and thought it would be cool to create an interactive animation that shows a bright moon waxing and waning. With his new programming skills, he was able to do just that.
You can check out more from FabLab in these student videos from a similar summer course. We’ll have more from FabLab San Diego on StudentSpeak in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.
StudentSpeak, a video series produced by Spotlight, goes behind the scenes to show how teens use digital media in their daily lives.