Students at Westview Middle School are designing a Hot Wheels truck with a spinning centerpiece, a basketball version of the classic ski ball, and a fishing game using recycled robotics parts.
Danny Hernandez, a technology teacher at Westview, says the class is student-centered, with students designing, testing, and building the game.
“I don’t have all the answers for them,” he said. “They have to understand the problem.”
A few years ago, Hernandez, a parent at Central Elementary School in Longmont, was discussing with other parents how to improve Central’s annual carnival fundraiser. He suggested having middle school students create and run carnival games. This saved Central the expense of bringing in an outside company.
He made the game the main project for his 9-week Wired Creativity class. The goal is for students to design new twists on carnival games, many of which incorporate technology.
Working in groups, students begin by building prototypes using cardboard, scrap materials, and other spare parts. Students are encouraged not only to create new games, but also to improve the games created in previous classes. Art-oriented people are in charge of painting.
Most of the materials are mostly donated by parents, local bike shops donating cardboard from product boxes, or repurposed from previous robotics competitions. Carnival games share space with the robotics arena in the school’s technology lab.
After testing prototypes, the most effective games are built out of wood and rented to elementary schools or used for Westview events.
“Not all games are successful,” Hernandez said. “We need to use data to prove that it works.”
In our current 7th grade class, a group of 3 girls came up with the idea of a Hot Wheels truck with pipes and a game that uses a motor to spin the middle section. end.
“I’m the first one to do it,” Eva Simonson cheers after successfully driving the truck. “I am awesome.”
She said she signed up for the class because “it looks fun to build things with.”
Nikko Kovacic came up with the simple idea of throwing a disc into a bucket, then modified it to use the disc to drive the ball into the bucket to increase the difficulty. It’s so hard now that he named it the “Near Impossible Game”.
“You have to hit it right,” he said, adding that he’s thinking about adding a wooden bumper around the bucket to trap the bouncing ball.
Eighth grader Jaden Henderson is working on a game that combines ski ball and basketball. The objective is to roll the ball into one of his three baskets set at different heights. In the game test, he made his one-time-top his basket, so the one wins the biggest prize.
“It’s really hard, but it works,” says Jayden, who is also on the school’s robotics team. “I like electronics and programming.”
Grades are not based on the final product, allowing students to be more creative and experiment with more complex designs that they may not be able to finish by the end of class.
Hernandez gives a “participation” rating for showing up and continuing the work. Students are also asked to score written reflections on their work every other week. This is a practice he started during the pandemic when he couldn’t see his work while studying at his home.
“If you’re willing to show up, be willing to work, and be willing to learn, there’s no reason not to get good grades,” he said.