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  • The new face of professional development: teaching kids to program robots

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    March 06, 2018
    The new face of professional development: teaching kids to program robots
    Great Bay Community College offers middle and high school STEM educators advanced training in teaching coding skills in response to workforce need
    Portsmouth, NH – Great Bay Community College (GBCC) and robotics company Parallax will co-host a professional development training course for middle and high school educators to learn and implement BlocklyProp into their classrooms. BlocklyProp is a new way of using the Google Blockly visual programming language to teach coding skills by programming a robot. The training on March 1 and 2 is the latest example of public and private organizations finding creative solutions to address career training and enhance workforce development. Additionally, this early exposure can spark an interest in robotics and coding to middle and high school students that may carry into their post-secondary education possibilities and career options.
    “Research and interest from the teaching community prompted us to develop training in this specific technology. We have more than 45 teachers enrolled, 75 percent of those individuals are from New Hampshire and the rest are joining us from Maine and Massachusetts,” said Mike Harrison, faculty member in the Information Systems Technology Department at GBCC. “This collaborative approach allows Great Bay Community College and the entire Community College System of New Hampshire to quickly respond to the changing face of education. It is our mission and privilege to help ensure New Hampshire is poised for continued growth and economic success.”
    During the two-day course, science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) teachers from across the region will build and program an educational ActivityBot and microcontroller, all while learning the best way to incorporate these new tools in their own classrooms. Through this new approach to teaching coding, student-teachers will write programs that display messages, remember values, make computations with math operators, and interact with external circuits. The training also addresses principles of electronics, including voltage, resistance, current, signal generation, and signal monitoring.
    “In addition to the academic and technical resources available through Great Bay Community College, we also have the flexibility to include highly specialized expertise into the curriculum,” said Harrison.
    The training is being provided at no cost by California-based Parallax, an education technology and robotics company that created BlocklyProp to add flexibility to teaching coding. This speeds skill acquisition, reduces frustration, and provides a STEM/STEAM learning experience where students can achieve success in a short class period but also develop bigger semester-long projects and designs.
    BlocklyProp is an open-source visual programming language (VPL). Unlike the traditional text-based approach to code, these graphical interfaces allow for an easier understanding of programming basics. BlocklyProp translates code into interlocking blocks with readable text to introduce programming concepts in a visual, logical way. BlocklyProp works with the Propeller eight-core microcontroller, and lets students peek at the generated code under the hood as a natural progression towards text-based programming.
    To learn more about the upcoming BlocklyProp training, visit the event website. For more information about Information Systems Technology at GBCC, visit greatbay.edu or contact Mike Harrison at mharrison@ccsnh.edu. For more information about Parallax, visit parallax.com or contact Matt Matz at mmatz@parallax.com.
    About Great Bay Community College
    Great Bay Community College is a comprehensive postsecondary institution offering quality academic and professional and technical education in support of workforce development and lifelong learning. Great Bay Community College is part of the Community College System of New Hampshire, a public system of higher education consisting of seven colleges in Berlin, Claremont, Laconia, Concord, Manchester, Nashua, and Portsmouth.  The colleges offer Associate degrees and career training in technical, professional and general fields, including transfer pathways to baccalaureate degrees. The college’s second campus, the Advanced Technology & Academic Center is now open in Rochester offering academic courses and a degree program in Advanced Composites Manufacturing. For more information on Great Bay Community College, visit www.greatbay.edu.
    Michael Fischer, Associate VP of Student Affairs
    (603) 427-7644