Computational Thinking Project:
Small Screen Application for Space Transfer Module
These classroom lessons include activities that teach students about things such as binary numbers; developing graphics, web-pages, animation software, and projects; and implementing team work. It also enhances students’ critical thinking skills and better prepares them to be college ready, career ready, and life ready.
Texas Tech University’s Department of Computer Science and the T-STEM Center received an NSF CPATH grant to explore how middle school, high school, and college students could work together on a project that teaches students to use computational thinking. In this project, students have the chance to explore ethics and computational thinking by designing an automated environmental control system inspired by the Earth-to-Mars Orion Crew Transfer Module. Although we used this project with students in several grade levels, it is also appropriate for students in one class or in one grade.
Activity 1: Understanding the Environmental Control System
This activity focuses on helping the students understand the system to be developed.
Activity 2: Requirement Analysis
This activity focuses on helping the students determine the requirements of the environmental control system they will develop.
Activity 3: Binary Numbers – Count the Dots
Every character that students input into the computer is converted into binary numbers and stored in the computer’s memory. Use this activity to help students understand the significance and representation of binary numbers as 0’s and 1’s.
Activity 4: Recording Weather Data
With this activity, students will identify different weather parameters, the changes that occur with the values over a period of time, the change in pattern, the effects of such data on our day to day life, and ethical considerations in collecting and reporting data.
Activity 5: User Interface Design
Students in this activity are considered designers. They will design the user interface for the environmental control system iPhone application.
Activity 6: Malfunction Scenario
This activity simulates a malfunction in the environmental control system for the crew module. Students must take on a character's role, discuss solutions and communicate with mission control to make a decision for correction of the malfunction.
Activity 7 & 8: Technical Analysis and Design
TThis activity focuses on the students’ understanding of the basic concepts in computer science. It will also teach them to perform technical analysis and design of the system to be developed.
Activity 9: Designing and Programming using Scratch/Alice
Students use Scratch or Alice software installed on their computers to design the actors of the environmental control system and to implement the system.