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Empowering New Programmers Through Introductory Arduino Workshops

This talk was presented at SeaGL 2019

"Do you remember the first time you fell in love with programming? The joy that you felt the first time you wrote some code and saw your very first “Hello World”? For some of us it was a BASIC program, for others it was a GeoCities page. Those experiences inspire us to want to learn more and explore the limits of technology. This is the kind of experience that I try to cultivate when organizing introductory programming workshops. Many beginners find learning programming intimidating and it’s our role as teachers to show them that they’re capable and help create an experience that lets them fall in love with programming.

In this talk I'll discuss some key lessons I've learned through my own experiences organizing introductory programming workshops, and give some tips on how to organize your own. I'll also discuss two introductory workshops I've organized, including a particularly successful introductory Arduino workshop that I gave to a group that had no prior programming experience. This workshop was relatively low effort but had a big impact on those that attended. It’s my hope that everyone can walk away from this talk with the tools and inspiration they need to put on a similar workshop in their own community."

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Empowering New Programmers Through Introductory Arduino Workshops

  1. 1. Empowering New Programmers Through Introductory Arduino Workshops Hailee Kenney | @HAIL_9000 SeaGL November 15, 2019
  2. 2. Hi I’m Hailee! My pronouns are she/her I’m a “Full Stack” Software Developer at I’m a co-organizer of Django Girls PDX My degree is in Electrical Engineering You can find me at @HAIL_9000 and 2
  3. 3. What to Expect From This Talk ⋆ My lessons learned from organizing introductory workshops ⋆ What I believe makes a workshop successful ⋆ Hopefully a little inspiration for running your own ⋆ NOT a technical deep dive on Arduino (or much technical diving at all) 3
  4. 4. First a big Thank you! ⋆ Terian Koscik ⋆ @spine_cone ⋆ 4 Me Lilah Terian Nate Elsa Anna
  5. 5. Why Am I Giving This Talk? ⋆ I think programming is neat ⋆ Getting started with programming can be tough and discouraging ⋆ I want to help folks get started with their own workshops ⋆ I don’t want other organizers to suffer as I suffered 5
  6. 6. Django Girls ⋆ 1.5 days, 40 attendees, 15 coaches ⋆ Workshop for women ⋆ Building a blog with Django (includes git, databases, “deployment”, etc.) ⋆ Attendees work through self-directed tutorial in small groups with coach 6
  7. 7. Project Object Workshop ⋆ 4 hours, 15 attendees, 2 coaches ⋆ Series of workshops for women ⋆ Programming small vibrators which interface with an Arduino shield ⋆ Attendees work individually on a self directed tutorial, two coaches float ⋆ Introductory presentation with some basic info 7
  8. 8. Key Ideas 1. Positive experience > extensive toolbelt 2. Make it fun and relatable 3. Doing more with less 8
  9. 9. 1. Positive experience > extensive toolbelt
  10. 10. When did I know I loved programming? 10
  11. 11. Programming has ups and downs 11
  12. 12. Programming Has Ups and Downs We can tolerate the lows when we know how the highs feel! 12
  13. 13. Think About When Programming Feels Bad ⋆ You’re stuck and you’re not making any progress ⋆ You’re bogged down learning something that’s boring or confusing ⋆ You feel incapable and unintelligent ⋆ You’re not seeing the results of your hard work 13
  14. 14. Think About When Programming Feels Good ⋆ You’re seeing the results you want, the computers do what you say! ⋆ You’re learning things that excite you ⋆ You’ve built something cool that you’re proud of ⋆ You feel smart, accomplished, like you can do anything!! 14
  15. 15. We Want to Cultivate Mostly the Positive Parts! ⋆ We’re not going to make someone an ace programmer in one workshop ⋆ Attendees will forget most of the specifics of what they learn ⋆ A positive experience motivates continued learning ⋆ Focus on filtering out the bad parts and lifting up the good parts 15
  16. 16. A Few Tips ⋆ Don’t be afraid to give the answers away ⋆ Strive to show results early ⋆ Create a safe, fun, and welcoming environment ⋆ Read about being a good mentor & teacher (and make sure your other mentors do too) ⋆ Accommodate for different paces and skill levels ⋆ Don’t make it too long, grueling, and overwhelming ⋆ Communicate expectations 16
  17. 17. We Can’t Take Away All the Negative Parts Normalize the things that are difficult and universal ⋆ We all search for answers online ⋆ We all get stuck and frustrated ⋆ Programming is collaborative - we need help from others! 17
  18. 18. The impression stays It’s most important that attendees leave feeling encouraged and motivated to continue learning 18
  19. 19. 2. Make it Fun and Relatable
  20. 20. It’s Easy to Love Programming When it Connects us to Something We Already Love 20
  21. 21. Technology Pairs Well With Most Things There are so many intersections to explore, think about which one might resonate with your target audience ⋆ Technology and visual art ⋆ Technology and social good ⋆ Technology and music ⋆ Technology and science 21
  22. 22. Good News - There’s a lot of Exciting Hardware to Program 22
  23. 23. Why Arduino? ⋆ Programming hardware is neato ⋆ Arduino is: ⋆ Cheap(ish) ⋆ Open source ⋆ Has community and resources ⋆ Lots of options 23
  24. 24. Need Inspiration? 24
  25. 25. Make a Connection Get people interested by looping in something that interests them. Microcontrollers provide lots of avenues. 25
  26. 26. 3. Doing More with Less
  27. 27. Let’s Talk about Organizing Django Girls ⋆ Coordinating 40 attendees, 15 coaches ⋆ Planning meals, childcare, swag, loaner computers, conference tickets etc. etc. ⋆ Finding a large enough venue for 2 days ⋆ Fundraising $3000+ ⋆ High organizer investment (Did you know some people organize events as their only job??) 27
  28. 28. What About the Django Girls Workshop? ⋆ Two days (12 hours total) ⋆ Many tedious details ⋆ Hours to see real results ⋆ Most attendees don’t finish the tutorial 28
  29. 29. What is the Cost? ⋆ Organizer exhaustion and burnout ⋆ Barrier to organizing is very high, difficult to onboard new organizers ⋆ Discouraged attendees ⋆ Running out of resources (and attendees) for subsequent workshops 29
  30. 30. Project Object Workshop ⋆ 15 attendees, 2 coaches ⋆ Just one afternoon ⋆ Pairing with Project Object (local artist community) = new resources ⋆ Organizer investment - just the fun stuff 30
  31. 31. Results? Big success! ⋆ Attendees finished workshop, felt accomplished ⋆ Organizers were still alive ⋆ Energy felt much more universally positive 31
  32. 32. Revisiting our Goals For These Workshops ⋆ Create a positive experience for attendees, help them leave encouraged and motivated ⋆ Help them see results early and often ⋆ Make sure things aren’t too long and grueling ⋆ Make sure things aren’t overwhelming ⋆ Create a fun and safe environment 32
  33. 33. Think Smaller Focus less on planning logistics, more on the workshop. It will be a more positive experience for you and attendees 33
  34. 34. Ready to get Started?
  35. 35. Have an Idea? Think about what you want to build and ask yourself a few questions: 1. Cost (will you seek sponsorship? charge admission?) 2. Time (how long will this take? can I abstract parts away to make it shorter?) 3. Audience (who is my audience? skill level?) 35
  36. 36. Ready to Write? 1. Buy your hardware and mess around! 2. Write a step by step tutorial a. Create an outline with clear stages/successes b. Include relevant and important info, but be careful not to overdo it c. Always keep your audience in mind 3. Find some proofreaders 4. Do a trial run (or several) 36
  37. 37. Put it On! When/where will you give your workshop? 1. Conferences 2. With other tech community orgs 3. With another group in your community 4. All by yourself! 37
  38. 38. You Can Do It! Learn from what those before you have done, make it your own, and improve on it 38
  39. 39. 39 Thank You!! ANY QUESTIONS? @HAIL_9000 | |
  40. 40. Special Thanks! 1. Django Girls PDX community 2. Project Object ( 3. SeaGL Organizers 4. Lilah for supporting me and all my projects! 40
  41. 41. Resources 1. (workshops by Terian) 2. (cool hardware! arduino and more) 3. (tips for being a good mentor) 41