This Master’s report captures the creation and initial pilot feedback on a new computing unit BJC Sparks to introduce middle school students to hardware and physical computing through hands-on, tinkering projects. The goal of this curriculum was to design an open entry point for students to see themselves in computing through meaningful, engaging projects. The unit consists of eight labs and is one part of the new BJC Sparks curriculum, and was designed around one piece of technology: the micro:bit, a low-cost microcontroller created for educational use. Using the micro:bit, students can control an on-board LED array, servo motors, external LED lights, and more using input sensors such as tilt, light, and pin connections. In addition to the micro:bit, projects include use of craft materials and toys to encourage creative material use with technology. Five middle school CS teachers tested this unit in their middle school classrooms in Spring 2022. In feedback surveys, they shared that they appreciated that their students were able to be creative while also learning about hardware. Some also commented that they would have liked more structure through example projects and suggesting timings. This feedback will be incorporated into future iterations of this unit to best meet the needs of students from a variety of computing backgrounds.




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