BERLIN — Middle school students tested out video games created by their classmates recently as part of the new STEAM program.
“Once they understand, they have the license to create and experiment,” Jason Rosa, STEAM teacher at McGee Middle School, said Friday.
The Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math program was launched at the middle school this year to replace the traditional technology education classes.
“We wanted to sort of modernize the curriculum,” said Salvatore Urso, principal of McGee Middle School. “It’s a little more personalized.”
Each grade has had a little over three weeks of STEAM projects.
In the sixth grade, students are learning video game design and creating their own computer games using the MIT created computer programming called Scratch. The students also use a digital art program to create “sprites,” animated characters used in their games.
“I thought of what can look different but not be as different as newer games with a lot of code,” said Brandon Garrity, sixth grade student.
His game called “Lazer Dodge 3001” uses a WWII-style animated plane to dodge lasers. Once the plane hits five lasers, the game is over.
“I think a lot of the students are inspired by the apps they play on their phones,” Rosa said.
Caroline Benioit, sixth grade student, created a game involving a dog and flying squirrels in a park setting.
“It’s like pixel art where you can choose different colors and draw whatever you want,” she said.
Rosa said his students can build on the programming next year with robotics.
“With this, students will be able to develop much more complex programs,” he said.
The sixth grade class will be the first to experience all three years of the STEAM curriculum. Next year they will learn how to build and program a robot.
“We’re going to have a competition and games to pick things up and stack things on top of each other,” said Gianmichael DiDomenico, eighth grade student.
He and his classmates worked at putting together a Vex robot from a claw robot kit.
“They’re learning how to follow instructions from the manual and then they’ll be doing some programming,” said Janice Carpenter, a middle school STEAM teacher.
Other seventh and eighth grade classes have been learning 2D and 3D concepts to create computer objects and architectural designs.
The students created blueprint designs of their homes on paper which they will then transfer to 3D models on the computer.
“This is a multistage process they’re involved in where there are some guided practices that we fit in before the actual project begins,” Rosa said.
Omar Mountassir, eighth grade student, practiced designing a spider based on a picture.
“It helps us navigate around different tools we can use so we get comfortable using them,” he said.
Though the high school does not currently have a STEAM program in place, students like Mountassir will be able to take advanced courses like computer science.
“I’m working toward a medical career or technical engineering,” Mountassir said. “You can use different 3D printing programs that will help people out eventually and as technology progresses we’ll have more advanced programs that we can use.”
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