Chaminade Julienne Summer STEMM Camp

A Chance Encounter

Through a connection at the Southwest Ohio Givecamp we were contacted by Meg Draeger, coordinator for Chaminade Julienne Catholic High School’s STEMM Summer Camp in nearby Dayton, OH. The program targets grades 7-9 and strives to provide campers with a sampling of science, technology, engineering, math and medicine. Meg was interested in adding a session on software development. A couple emails and a phone call later, and we were on the schedule for a 90 minute session entitled simply, “Web Development with Ruby on Rails.”

Perfect Timing

Through previous experience teaching web development at Little Miami and Ludlow high schools we knew that maximizing learning and minimizing distractions would be our greatest challenge. That’s where our friends at Nitrous.IO came to the rescue. With Nitrous we could just login and get to work with a fully functional and completely integrated Rails development environment.

Furthermore, the Nitrous team hooked us up with sufficient invites to allow all the students to pair up and program to their hearts’ content. We literally couldn’t have done it without them. NOTE: They’re just coming out of their private beta. So we encourage you to check them out!

Chaminade-Julienne High School Summer STEMM
Camp Chaminade Julienne Summer STEMM Camp attendees running their Ruby on Rails application live on the Web.

CJ Eagle Pride!

On the day of our session, Chris Nelson and I headed up I-75 excited to share our love of Ruby, Rails and Nitrous. Again drawing on previous experience we had decided to have the students create a simple wish list application using Ruby on Rails’ scaffold generator. After some experimentation with their running apps we refactored them to add some desired functionality, mainly the ability to click on links to wish items which introduced views in Rails and to hide wishes that had already been granted which introduced controllers.

Observations

As previously mentioned, we paired up the campers and gave them the basic rules about switching roles; the navigator can request the keyboard at any time and to avoid swapping roles too frequently which I thought might become a problem but didn’t. One third of the nine pairs swapped without prompting. The remainder had to be encouraged to do so. There were no major logistical issues.

The campers were very engaged and warmed to the material quickly. There was the usual mix of eager and timid campers but no one seemed too lost or aloof. The first a-ha moment came when the campers started their skeleton Rails apps the first time then previewed them running live on the Web. The second a-ha moment came when they removed the default index page and displayed their empty wish list for the first time. Once we demonstrated that they could enter and save data all we had to do was sit back and watch. For us, that’s the most rewarding part.

Thanks to Nitrous it is easy to share our passion for learning, building and sharing. Chris and I would like to thank Meg for inviting us to participate in their program and hope that we inspired the students. Thanks also to the students for sharing their energy and inspiring us!

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