Nataly & Animal Tlatoque
This summer has been one of the most exciting summers because I had the honor of working with the Animal Tlatoque Summer Program which is directed by Diana Franklin, Phillip Conrad, and Gerardo Aldana. The Animal Tlatoque Summer Program is a two week outreach camp designed for underrepresented middle school students to teach them about Computer Science, Mayan Culture, and endangered animals. The program was created as a result of lack of females pursuing a major in Computer Science. Therefore the program addresses this issue by generating interest in middle school aged students, females and underrepresented groups in particular. The program was held for the first time in mid July was very successful in inspiring students. At the beginning of the program only two students were interested in Computer Science, but by the end the whole class, about forty students, said they were considering Computer Science as their future major or that they felt more comfortable using computers. Some students were so excited about what they accomplished over the summer that they downloaded Scratch onto their computers so they could program in their free time and many students expressed their interest to come back again next summer to learn even more.
I enjoyed mentoring the students during the two weeks, especially the second week when I got the opportunity to teach the students how to create a virtual pet. I taught them how to design their pet by making a finite state diagram about the pets’ emotions and available actions to help them in the programming portion. I also taught the students how and when to use if statements, variables (also known as counters) which keep track of how many times something has been done, and how to make the pet’s expression change (known as costume changes on Scratch). The students were so excited about making a pet and came up with really amazing projects. I really enjoyed teaching them and am hoping to work in the program again next year. Now that the summer camp is over I’m working with Professor Franklin and a team of four to create a more complex and detailed virtual pet for next year.
Animal Tlatoque is a great program for middle school students to learn how to program in a fun and friendly environment with many mentors who walk around the classroom helping them out in case they get stuck. There is one on one attention so no one is left behind and students not only learn how to program on Scratch, but also how to do research, use a library, and various other things such CS unplugged activities and learning the Mayan counting system. Some of the Scratch projects the students did this summer were a name poem about their endangered animal, a codex about a Mayan myth, and creating a virtual pet or Mayan ball game.
Here’s the website for some of the things the students did. It is still being updated so more things will be added in the weeks to come.
Animal Tlatoque Program Overview
Class of 2012
University of California, Santa Barbara
Los Ingenieros (L.I.)
The official SHPE/MAES Student Chapter at the University of California Santa Barbara