Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Line Game at Design Tomorrow's World

I just got back from Design Tomorrow's World. The event is very engineering focused, so being a computer scientist, I wanted to give them a bit of an idea of what CS is all about. I was invited to do an ice-breaker activity for ten minutes.

Normally, in these situations, I would use CS Unplugged activities. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough time to plan how to do these in only ten minutes, so I thought back to what I learned at an excellent outreach session at Grace Hopper 2008.

I ended up doing an easy little ice breaker called "the line game" some of you might be able to use one day. Basically, you have the group arrange themselves in a line based on how well they agree with a particular statement. This forces them to move around, and to talk to the others so they find the right spot (you can probably even bring in some sorting theory into it). I used three statements that lead into a bit about what computer science is all about:
  1. "I like playing video games." For those who really loved them, I talked about my school's computer science games stream. For the others, I explained that not everyone in CS is into games (basically trying to show that it's not a bunch of male, nerdy hard-core gamers).
  2. "I like math." I explained how algorithms are like mathematical thinking, but that you can focus more on design of interfaces and people etc if you want to.
  3. "I have programmed or would like to try it." Everyone has to learn to program in computer science, I said that it's worth giving a try since they might like it (then I plugged my upcoming mini-course they could sign up for - Computer Science and Games: Just For Girls!).
The activity seemed to hit the spot, as I had some educators get my contact info afterwards so I could come tell their gifted students more about computer science. I think the girls also appreciated getting up and moving. ;)