Last year, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead signed a proclamation and he declared a Computer Science Education Week (December 5-11). Wyoming schools were all encouraged to celebrate this inaugural event by participating in Hour of Code, an introduction to computer science.
Personally, I was really excited when they asked our lab at University of Wyoming to join the event and we spent a day working with students, aging between 7 and 17 yo. Enhanced computer science education and coding in schools is a major step, we as scientists have all the legacy to help teachers and students learning the basics of applied technologies.
Nowadays, growing the technology sector to diversify the economy is a priority of many States, including Wyoming: computing jobs have three times more demand than the state average. This event was a simple and fun way to help students learn the basics of what is really going on inside some devices they use every day.
During the CS day, we set up two stations where students used Arduino’s technology to monitor the environmental factors influencing growing rapa plants. Arduino is an open-source electronic prototyping platform enabling users to create interactive electronic objects. In this case, we connected the Arduino platforms to light (1) or soil moisture (2) sensors:
The platforms were connected to laptops which allow the students to check their readings and enter them into the R program. A pre-loaded R script walked the students through how they can code and create a boxplot obtaining a p-value too.
Working with plants gave us also the opportunity to show students one of the possibilities they have for their future that they may not have considered. Absolutely, this experience was really fulfilling for me as a scientist, giving me the chance to convey my work to both teachers and students of different ages. Some of the teens really loved working with plants. At the end, we named them and I gift some of them with some of our green friends!