Technology camp during autumn break – Kids coding phone applications

The phone themed technology camp for 5.-7. graders organized by LUMA centre Aalto inspired kids to create their own phone applications.

Children learned programming through MIT App Inventor, a visual programming environment that allowed them to build any app they wanted. During the camp, the students also looked at the different sensors in a phone and how they could be used in applications.

The week started with the kids using App Inventor to code a simple pedometer app. This allowed them to get comfortable with the programming environment and the different sensors in a smartphone. After this, they started brainstorming for their own applications.  The youngsters’ hobbies and interests inspired most of the applications. Arttur, a guitarist himself, developed a virtual guitar that could also play itself by the push of a button. Olavi, on the other hand, knew right away that he wanted to program a drawing application. The ideas kept developing throughout the week and some students were able to build multiple apps and games.

At the beginning of the week, Sanjana began creating a maze game where the user tried to escape from a castle by doing various tasks. Later, she decided to set the game in Hogwarts from Harry Potter, where you could for example gain a wand by answering a riddle. Sanjana admitted to being a “potterhead” and explained that the following weekend she was hosting a Harry Potter –themed birthday party.

Sanjana hoped to give her app to the guests of her birthday party, which motivated her to finish the game during the camp.

The children’s motivation rose especially from the chance to build an app based on personal interests. A week of programming and the small size of the group made this personalization possible. The kids developed their problem solving and programming skills almost without realizing it as they tried to make their own app work. They used programming as a tool to help them make their own ideas a reality.

The children also had a chance to tour around Otaniemi campus through an orienteering exercise. Among other places, they visited the electronics workshop and lecture halls. At the end of the camp everyone got the chance to showcase their own application to others. Some decided to share the applications so that everyone could download the app on their phones.

- After this you can’t really tell them not to use their phones, chuckled one parent as the kids presented their apps.

The most important thing for the children was definitely the chance to create an app of their own and some said they were happy to be able to continue their projects at home.

Text and photo: Sanni Lääperi

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