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Since 2016, IC 21 Bologna lower secondary school has participated in a national project named “Girls Code it Better”. This project is aimed to encourage young girls to approach science and technology in a more confident way, in order to decrease the gender imbalance in STEM careers.
Every year, a group of 15-20 students, all girls, has the opportunity to apply for the school’s “Girls Code it Better” club. The club girls meet once a week after curricular classes and experience a Project Based Learning activity guided by a teacher and a maker. The final outcomes of their project are then presented in public events as maker fairs or student conventions.
In the present school year, the club’s girls (all 11-12 years old) have explored some devices they have never used before: the micro:bit and the 3D printer.
The first step has been testing some micro:bit sensors guided by the examples in the MakeCode website.
After learning how to code with blocks, how to choose the correct values range for each sensor, and how to represent the output on the micro:bit displays, students made up the idea for their project: preparing a series of devices useful to control some environmental conditions in their classroom.
The functions they decided to use are:
- a light sensor to check if the lamps need to be put on or off in the classroom
- a temperature and humidity sensor to check the classroom climate
- a magnetic field sensor to check if doors or windows are closed
- an accelerometer to check if some objects are in correct positions
Most of the coding instructions for these devices can be found in the MakeCode website that girls followed to learn, but for the temperature and humidity measurements an additional DHT11 sensor was connected to the micro:bit device.
They also wanted to give a personal feature to each device, by creating their own symbols to represent the display output.
In order to set up the devices in the classroom, the girls decided to design some plastic cases, and make them with the 3D printer at school. The cases are designed with Tinkercad and can contain the micro:bit and its supply battery case; the covers let the display and the buttons visible. They have been printed at school with a Sharebot NG 3D printer.
The whole Project Based Learning cycle, from idea to product, took 6 months, where the girls met once a week, and also prepared documentation with videos, pictures, instruction and models for the final exhibit and for the school’s website.
The project has been presented in two public events:
Both events give students the opportunity to meet other schools and exchange their experiences, and are open to families and other visitors.
About the author
Daniela Leone studied physics at Bologna University and since 2001 has worked as Math and Science teacher in the lower secondary school. Her present school is Istituto Comprensivo 21 Bologna. Her main interests are ICT in education, digital learning environments, coding and educational robots. She has participated in the EUN Go-Lab project from 2015 to 2019 and in the Girls Code it Better project since 2016 to present. Linkedin page.