1. Chris Orban
  2. http://go.osu.edu/STEMtube
  3. Assistant Professor
  5. STEMcoding Project, Ohio State University
  1. Richelle Teeling-Smith
  2. Assistant Professor
  4. University of Mount Union, STEMcoding Project

STEMcoding project

Meggers Award 2017

2018 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12

We present a curriculum for high school physics that integrates coding into the course through simple video games. Unlike video game development activities designed only to teach computer science, our emphasis here is on the physics of the game and accurately representing the real world. In this way the activities are closely coupled to the typical sequence of physics topics in a typical high school physics class. This is done in the spirit of treating computer science as a core subject. We are also working to assess how much conceptual knowledge that students gain from completing these activities. Importantly, our coding tutorial videos include a high percentage of underrepresented groups in STEM in order to reflect the reality that all different kinds of people pursue STEM careers. These videos are also an important resource for teachers who may be unfamiliar with coding. Our STEM for all video submission highlights our hour of code activity, which code.org estimates may be suitable for students as young as 6th grade. The activity was designed to fit well with a physical science class.

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Discussion from the 2018 STEM for All Video Showcase (10 posts)
  • Icon for: Scot Osterweil

    Scot Osterweil

    Research Scientist
    May 14, 2018 | 04:30 p.m.

    The video has a friendly, accessible feel. I'd love to get more detailed examples of what you do in the curriculum. There were some tantalizing graphics about connecting science concepts to games, but less clarity about exactly what that looks like in practice. I'm also interested in knowing what you hypothesize as being evidence of success, and where you are in the process of evaluating it's effectiveness.

  • Icon for: Chris Orban

    Chris Orban

    Lead Presenter
    Assistant Professor
    May 14, 2018 | 10:21 p.m.

    Thanks for your interest! We have a few assessment goals but the one we think most about is seeing if students can more easily identify animations where the physics is incorrect after completing a coding activity. There is an animated version of the Force Concept Inventory that we use, for example, and we also have animated questions that we’ve created ourselves. We do have preliminary results but we don’t yet have IRB permission to show them yet. The main thing that is sharable is this pre-print which has some assessment data in it: https://arxiv.org/abs/1701.01867

  • Icon for: Chris Orban

    Chris Orban

    Lead Presenter
    Assistant Professor
    May 15, 2018 | 10:24 a.m.

    Hey everyone, let us know if you'd like more info about our project, access to lesson guides, etc. You can subscribe to our youtube channel at http://go.osu.edu/STEMtube or follow us on twitter at http://twitter.com/STEMcoding

    We are looking for more collaborators so please don't be shy to reach out!

  • Icon for: Jessica Hammer

    Jessica Hammer

    Assistant Professor
    May 15, 2018 | 02:34 p.m.

    I'd like to hear about how you designed your instructional videos. For example, what was the rationale behind having a student and teacher make the video together? (I have some hypotheses but I'd love to hear about it from you!) How did you decide how much time to allocate to interacting with the simulation, working physics equations, verbal explanation, and/or revisiting the simulation? How much programming are students doing, or are they primarily adjusting and playing with computational models? Looking forward to hearing more!

  • Icon for: Chris Orban

    Chris Orban

    Lead Presenter
    Assistant Professor
    May 16, 2018 | 10:04 a.m.

    Ideally, the instructor (which is typically myself) wouldn't appear in the video and we would just have two undergrads explaining everything the student needs to know. This is true for the "move the blob" section of our hour of code activity (http://go.osu.edu/movetheblob) and it is also true for our soon-to-be-submitted hour of code activity (http://go.osu.edu/hourofcode2) and our Lunar Descent series on the youtube channel (http://go.osu.edu/STEMtube). Our goal in doing this is to use natural tendency for middle and high school students to be drawn to listen to people only a few years older than themselves (in other words their peers). Maybe this is self-evident enough that I don't need to justify it, but if you look at the most popular youtube channels that kids watch, or music that they listen to, it is typically college-aged people and young adults that are looked to as being "cool".

    Having two undergrads on screen is a design goal, but often it is difficult to find a block of time when two students (at least one of them being from an underrepresented group in STEM) can meet with me for 2-3 hours to record videos, and this only gets harder towards the middle or end of the semester. So there are plenty of videos that involve myself and an undergrad on screen.

    The rationale behind each video is informed to some degree by my experiences using many of these activities in introductory physics classes at OSU, which I have been doing since fall 2014. So I already have an idea of some of the subtleties that need to be communicated for each exercise. Regarding equations, sometimes it requires 15 minutes or more of explanation to justify one line of code. Our wave interference activity (http://go.osu.edu/STEMtube) requires almost 40 minutes of algebra to explain one line of code. In other activities we use much less time for pure math. The Lunar Descent video has less than 4 minutes of math. It really just depends on the video.

    The youtube videos are intended to supplement the way these activities are used in a typical physics or physical science classroom. In a classroom there is a detailed step-by-step sequence of tasks, some of which involve coding while others simply involve playing around with the code (for example, change the mass of the ship in asteroids to find the value that allows you to survive in the asteroid field for the longest). You can find most of our activities at this link: http://go.osu.edu/physics_coding To answer your question, there is significant coding that is involved (not just changing parameters). In a few of the exercises, for example, students will modify a 1D code until it becomes a 2D code. There are also "verification" tests where students compare the output of the code to what one would expect from using a formula. Typically these match within a few percent.

  • Icon for: Robert Zisk

    Robert Zisk

    Graduate Student
    May 15, 2018 | 10:44 p.m.

    I am interested in learning more about the actual coding the students are doing. Are the developing the codes themselves, or are they making changes to existing code based on how they believe the object in the simulation might act?

    I also wonder about the interaction between learning the physics and learning coding. Do you feel the students are learning physics through the program or are they taking something that they have already learned in the physics class and then making sure the object in the sim behaves the way they are expecting it to?

  • Icon for: Chris Orban

    Chris Orban

    Lead Presenter
    Assistant Professor
    May 16, 2018 | 10:31 a.m.

    You can find most of our activities at this link:  http://go.osu.edu/physics_coding

    To answer your question, we always give students a code that has some limited functionality and they need to modify it to produce new behavior. For example, we give them a 1D code that they need to modify until the object can move in 2D.

    We do try to take advantage of student's prior intuition as they modify the code. For example, the student may have a intuition for how the asteroids game should behave which is useful for completing the exercise, but we also provide links that allow the student to interact with the program at an intermediate stage (without seeing the source code) in order to check that they are on the right track. This frees up the teacher from having to micromanage each student.

    The interaction between learning the physics and learning coding does not primarily go in one direction or the other in my opinion. There are some cases (for example projectile motion) where the student should be drawing from their physics knowledge to get the code to do something familiar. But other cases (like "Planetoids with Torque" or the "Particle Accelerator") the program is illustrating something dynamic that might otherwise be hard to visualize. Coding in the way that I do it is a kind of method for showing what happens instead of saying what happens. For example, adding a spring force in the "Planetoids with a spring" activity, naturally produces oscillations. The oscillations aren't something that we have to add to the code with an already fairly complete idea of how it should look in the end.

  • Icon for: Kinnari Atit

    Kinnari Atit

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 16, 2018 | 12:35 p.m.

    Hi! Great video! Do you see any transfer of what they learn by doing STEM coding in other classes? Do you see gender differences between the students in excitement or their engagement in the project? How do you make the program accessible to novices who have never coded before? I am curious because many of these questions are ones that have come up in our project (http://videohall.com/p/1124). 





  • Icon for: Chris Orban

    Chris Orban

    Lead Presenter
    Assistant Professor
    May 16, 2018 | 07:04 p.m.

    Good questions. We use STEMcoding activities in both formal settings, like high school physics, and informal settings like the ASPIRE physics camp for girls at OSU. We do have survey questions which probe attitudes about STEM that we can analyze to see if there are gender differences, we just haven't had time to dig into those data yet.

    To answer your question about absolute beginner programmers, we carefully designed our hour of code activity (http://go.osu.edu/movetheblob) to be particularly straightforward, even intuitive. Code.org reviewed it as being appropriate for students as young as 6th grade. The emphasis on the physics of video games also helps novice programmers to stay engaged because they know we are going to produce something fun and interactive in the end. Finally, we have a learning management system (http://stemcoding.osu.edu) that has good bug finding and allows teachers to quickly run and give feedback on student codes. This is especially helpful for students who have never programmed before.

    I'm not sure what you're asking in terms of "Do you see any transfer of what they learn by doing STEM coding in other classes?" We are working to probe gains in student conceptual knowledge of physics from completing our coding activities. We've designed everything with the classroom in mind, but the activities are also enjoyable enough that you could use them in informal education too.

  • Icon for: Chris Orban

    Chris Orban

    Lead Presenter
    Assistant Professor
    May 16, 2018 | 09:34 p.m.

    Some of our preliminary findings are posted here: https://arxiv.org/abs/1701.01867

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