New age of technology dawns at Monterey

Oak Bay students tackle coding and programming in the classroom

Andrei Bielay

Monterey Institute of Technology



A passion for technology and access to a laptop are all the tools needed to apply for MIT in Oak Bay.

Monterey Institute of Technology launched this year under teacher Josh Elsdon. “I noticed the kids learn best when they’re curious about things,” he said.

MIT is made up of 28 students who work and learn together all year with a focus on using technology in different areas of the curriculum. Students applied last April, a process that included each teen and pre-teen explaining why he or she is passionate about technology.

Andrei Bielay, 13, already has a three-dimensional chess board ready to print.

With a little coding experience under his belt when he applied for the tech class, Bielay wanted to learn more, particularly about javascript and Alice.

The chess board is a springboard project, one he designed himself following an online tutorial to create the blueprint for a pawn.

About two of the four hours he spent developing it was done in class, despite the teacher not actually assigning homework.

“It’s not homework if it’s something you’re passionate about,” Elsdon says.

Each student brings a laptop to school and works on a self-paced program to advance through a set of sequential lessons on computer coding and programming. Weekly challenges encourage problem solving, critical thinking and innovation.

Students utilize gaming and online platforms throughout the curriculum, for example one science project features Minecraft as a form of creating ecological succession maps.

“It’s really unique, it’s mostly high schools that have these programs,” said Jessica Zhang, 12, while working on a three-dimensional Minecraft character mid-creation on TinkerCAD.

Her dad’s career is based on programming in the cellphone industry, she said, which sparked her interest.

“I just wanted to give it a shot,” she said. “It’s not as easy as I thought.”

Zhang is perfecting her character in anticipation of June, when the school’s 3D printer is slated to arrive. The equipment is paid for using a Collaboration Grant, applied for with both the tech class and next fall’s Grade 6 entrepreneurial class in mind.

The Collaboration Grant provide opportunities for a team of teachers to work together on in-depth projects in skills; trades and careers; numeracy and technology.

At Monterey, the young entrepreneurs would conceptualize something that the tech class plan to develop into a tangible object. This year’s class hope to work out the bugs early for the students accepted into next fall’s MIT. “We’ll start to get a sense of what it’s capable off,” Elsdon says.

Elsdon introduced a plethora of programs and tutorials to set students off. Some students dabble in many  areas while others delve into one or two specifics.

“A lot of them develop skills in different things and started to collaborate,” Elsdon said. “We’ve done contact with real-world game houses and that’s how [real-world] projects happen … and the students did it on their own.”

Liam McDonald-Horak, Owen Crewe and Leo Galbraith are a prime example of that collaboration as they use Unity to create a two-dimensional role play game.

“So far we’ve been able to make our people walk around and the key controls work,” said Galbraith.

Today they’re on the forums chatting and learning and picking online minds to break beyond whatever hurdle is hanging them up. It’s where they often turn when official tutorials don’t do the trick.

“We go back on the forums and find someone who knows how to do it,” Galbraith said.

The game is the computer incarnation of a pen-and-paper game he’s already created. Explained in one breath and greater detail, as – demons are re-released in your village and you’re trying to be a hero and find your people and you fight a lot of crazies through icy tundra and volcanos and face a dragon, that isn’t the actual bad guy, the bad guy’s a surprise.

“I’d like to at least get the first part of the game done [by June],” Galbraith said.

Maggie Dennis, 13, finds the forum of the classroom helpful with its varied levels and areas of knowledge among her peers.

“It’s a really good opportunity,” she said, using a Khan Academy tutorial to create a circle using javascript. “I didn’t know any of this when I started.”

 

cvanreeuwyk@oakbaynews.com

 

 

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