Published: Dec. 3, 2019

Celeste Moreno helps a young visitor to her booth during 2018 Computer Science Education Week make music by painting on a piece of paper.

Celeste Moreno shows a young visitor how to make music by painting on a piece of paper during the 2018 Computer Science Education Week.

A group of Boulder-area educators will learn to program a micro:bit on Saturday. The inexpensive, pocket-sized, easy-to-code microcontroller can be put used is a wide variety of contexts, from robots to musical instruments to fitness step-counters, to Morse code machines. Teachers will also experiment with micro:bit add-ons, including soil moisture sensors and color-changing lights. 

The teachers, who do not need programming or hardware experience to participate, will then strategize on how micro:bits can be incorporated into their lesson plans and taught to middle- and high-school students. 

“Micro:bits are becoming an increasingly important part of coding for kindergarten through 12th-grade classrooms,” says Celeste Moreno, a graduate student at CU Boulder’s ATLAS Institute who designed and will lead the "Making and Learning with Micro:bit" workshop. “It's an affordable and flexible tool that allows students to make changes in the physical world using code. Participants will learn how it can be utilized in different disciplines from environmental science to art to literacy.”

The workshop is part of Boulder’s Computer Science Education Week (CSEW), an annual event, locally sponsored by the Boulder Public Library, which seeks to connect members of the community with the best resources to learn computer science, regardless of age, background, or previous experience. The workshop, which takes place at the Museum of Boulder (2205 Broadway, Boulder) Dec. 7 from 10 a.m. - 1:30 p.m., is almost full, and reservations are required.

Moreno said she wanted to create an event where educators could share best practices of teaching computer science and technology. The results of the workshop will be included in Moreno’s master's thesis, likely to focus on how teachers learn to code and use technology in the classroom.

The idea for the workshop took hold while taking the class “Community Based Design” taught by Ricarose Roque, assistant professor of information science, Moreno said. During the class students formed partnerships and developed proposals with community members. Moreno and her partner, Cody Candler, a Creative Technologies and Design master's student, formed a partnership with the Boulder Public Library, and the two wrote a proposal to increase educator engagement during CSEW.  Moreno subsequently applied for and received a micro-grant from CU Boulder’s Office of Outreach and Engagement to offer the CSEW educator workshop.

Thanks to the grant, participating teachers will also receive lunch and two micro:bit Go Bundles, that include a micro:bit, USB cable and battery pack. The Museum of Boulder is also offering free admission that day to workshop participants.

Last year Moreno volunteered for Boulder’s CSEW as a “robot wrangler,” tinkering with robots and electronics with children and families. While there, she also presented several activities she developed as part of another class taught by Ricarose; an activity where participants made digital art on a computer by playing musical instruments and another activity where participants made music by painting on a piece of paper. 

She found the experience fun and rewarding, she said.

“More than anything, I hope event participants will gain a sense of community and feel supported and inspired,” she says. “I hope educators walk away with new connections, new ideas for their classroom and feel that the Boulder Public Library is a place that they, and their students, can come to for support.”