Last fall my daughter’s elementary school hosted an Hour of Code event that was organized by Code.org. I volunteered to help and had a blast helping the kids work through the tutorials. I wanted to encourage the students to learn about computer science in general, not code specifically, so I came up with the idea of an Hour of Hardware.
Purpose: To encourage students to learn about computer science and to familiarize them with the structure and components of a computer.
Solution: I came up with the idea of spending one hour with students to allow them to take apart a computer, describe the basic components, then put the computer back together. On April 1, 2014 I hosted 40 students from first through sixth grade after school with the help of school librarian, Mrs. Sileo and 5th grade teacher, Mr. McGuire.
2 weeks before the event, I took apart one of the computers in the computer lab to create instructions for myself, my volunteers and the students. Mrs. Sileo promoted the event through the school newsletter. We used 8 similar desktop computers from the school’s computer lab and grouped the students into groups of 5 with the 5th and 6th graders tasked with being leaders of their groups. They were told to make sure that everyone in their group was allowed to participate. The volunteers and I were there to help to instruct the students as well as help with any issues.
Challenges: I had never done anything like this before. The idea of directing 40 children and 2 volunteers made me more than a little nervous. I had only expected 12-15 kids to sign up, so when 40 kids signed up I had to change some plans. We moved the event from the computer lab to the library for more room.
Outcome: It went great! The students enjoyed it, the volunteers had fun explaining, and to make it even better, all 8 computers were put together correctly and working when we left the school. I had one other parent show up unannounced and he jumped in to help the kids.
The students were all very careful when taking apart the computers and waited for my instructions. I had planned on stepping them through reassembly, but when I told them that we were going to reassemble the computers they took off! They were excited to be able to use what they had just learned. By using the school’s computers I trusted the students to be careful and I was excited to see that I was right in trusting them.
When I do another event like this (and I will, there are already requests from students) I will limit the amount of students. 40 students is a lot to manage. I’ll probably do at least 2 separate events so I can pay more attention to each student.