Another term of LEGO Animation at Rata Studios has come to an end and boy was it a blast! This wild term was filled with creative parodies, helpful classmates, and sparkly blood.
Students discovered they can use coloured paper and tape to alter LEGO mini-figures to look like any character they can imagine. This technique opens up the possibilities for creativity and can be applied to LEGO bricks as well.
Because many LEGO sets feature well-known movie characters, we spent two sessions exploring the difference between parody and simply copying another person’s work. The end result was a number of amusing animations that turned classic stories on their head, often with murderous conclusions!
Students imagine: What if the step-sisters dislike Cinderella because she murdered their brother?
Death was a running theme in many of the animations this term. In one of our feedback sessions, “murder’ was cited as the top thing everyone did consistently well. Other top skills included character creation, running up stairs, and camera movements. Whereas many students felt they needed to work on making their animations slower by using smaller movements and taking more pictures.
As the course progressed, many students who were previously shy began coming out of their shells. It was wonderful to see them engaging with one another and sharing their ideas. On multiple occasions, I saw students voluntarily trading characters and animation tips. Sharing ideas is such an important (yet difficult) part of working in a creative environment, it was great to see it happening.
Last term students got drawing with Krita, professional, open-source digital painting software. Over eight sessions they learned best practices for creating digital art and designed their own 2D graphics for a future video game.
A big part of knowing how to design a video game comes from understanding their history and looking at games already on the market. Many discussions were had while viewing art and levels from popular games such as Super Mario Brothers, Portal, and BattleBlock Theatre.
After looking at what has come before them, students came up with concepts for their own original games. Once they had an idea of the storyline and objective they sketched out what the first level could look like. This included deciding all the assets that would be needed for gameplay, such as obstacles, non-playable characters (NPCs), and loot. They then had to decide which objects needed to be individual assets and which could be a part of the background.
All the students agree one of the most difficult parts of learning Krita was remembering to use layers. They saw the value in it, as one student remarked:
It is definitely worth using layers if you want to delete a certain part of your characters without deleting the whole thing.
However, everyone said it was difficult to remember this when they were in the midst of their creative flow. With all things, practice makes perfect though, and half the class did say they used layers for their final assets.
Students left the class with a Dropbox folder full of assets that can be used as graphics in future Scratch or Python games.
[This class] gave you freedom. Sometimes at home you don’t have time to draw, this gave me time to draw, to think about what they were. I was working on another project while doing this and I designed some sprites and backgrounds for that project.
I like how it gave you freedom so it just made your brain think about ideas and just came up with whole new concepts.
We had a small but dedicated group of eager animators in Mixed Media Animation at Rata Studios this term. Over eight sessions they learned to make the impossible possible using various mediums and stop-motion animation.
During each session we looked at the work of animators that helped define the genre, from Will Vinton, Norman McLaren, and Terry Gilliam. We also explored modern artists who have made their mark online, such as PES, BLU, and the comedic duo, Rhett & Link. Anyone familiar with these animators can see how they influenced the work of the kids.
In the final weeks two students finished working on their final animations and were looking for work to do while their classmates finished their final animations. I showed them how to import videos into iMovie and add title cards. This is the first time a final animation video was edited by students! They did an excellent job of it.
Editing the animation show.
Capturing photos for the pixilation.
We ended the class by making a pixilation. Pixilation is a style of animation in which real people are animated, not inanimate objects or drawings. It takes a lot of patience, but the effects you can achieve are pretty cool. Watch our pixilation to discover students who can teleport, disappear, and even fly!
Over the course of eight weeks students discovered how to make the web their own. Some web builders had prior knowledge of HTML (hypertext markup language) and CSS (cascading stylesheets), the languages of the web, but most were complete novices.
This class was different from most as we worked on one project the entire term. In the second session we began planning out what our website would look like and what it would be about. Every website was completely different!
HTML Tag Challenge!
Tags must be placed in the correct order as quickly as possible.
For the first few sessions our sites didn’t look all that interesting, they had pictures and text, but when we were just using HTML all the content ran down the side of the page in a straight line. Then we learned how to add CSS to style our HTML and things really began to take off. With CSS we were able to tell content exactly where we wanted it to appear and we were able to even add colour and different fonts.
Working together to find a bug in the code
Peer reviewing each other’s websites
Apart from learning how to code for the web, we also learned how to use the web responsibly. During a lesson on how to tell if information found online is true, the students were most interested in knowing how they could be good sources of factual information. Through all of our sessions we endeavored to use only Creative Commons licensed content.
Creative Commons licensed works allow anyone to use the work without asking permission. When you see the Creative Commons logo, you know permission has already been given. We discussed the difference between photos that are Creative Commons licensed and photos that show up when you do a Google image search, which despite common perceptions are usually not free for anyone to use.
It was an amazing term and I am very excited to see what this creative bunch comes up with next. Their websites can be remixed over to their individual Mozilla Thimble accounts or downloaded as .zip files.
Six Word Holiday Remix
The end of the year brought another round of Recycled Robots to Rata Studios. We kicked things off with an introduction to electricity as the students made their own wiggle bots to take home. Wiggle bots are robots made using a battery, hobby motor, and cup. Some students turned their wiggle bots into mobile monsters, other drawing robots, and still others made fans and face massagers!
In the very next class two enterprising young lads brought their wiggle bots back, but with upgrades their dad helped them undertake over the weekend! These new-and-improved bots featured fancy on-off switches and shiny aluminium foil bodies. Throughout the term other students brought in electronic items to share, many of which had been taken apart to see what was inside (with parent’s permission, of course).
As the term went on students created more advanced robots using the Hummingbird Robot Kit. Unlike the wiggle bots, which can only be turned on or off, these new robots could be programmed to carry out a sequence of tasks!
Through multiple projects students discovered how to use sensors, motors, servos, and LEDs to bring craft and recycled materials to life.
Planning robots with help from Adam
Working together to programme
Once everyone had the basics down we moved on to creating final robots for our Robot Petting Zoo. These robots had one special requirement, they had to be activated either by “petting” or “feeding” the robot. There was quite a lot of discussion about which sensors would work best for this task, but eventually all groups settled on either distance sensors or light sensors.
The day of the robot show was quite exciting! There was a lot to get done before our guests began arriving. All the robots still needed to be tested to make sure they were in good working order. Everyone knew just what to do and began working as soon as they arrived. Many people came to pet and feed our robots and best of all, the Petting Zoo closed out with a delicious robot cake made by Charlie’s Mum! (For consumption by humans, not robots)
Kids honed their engineering skills at Steampunk Science this spring holiday. Class kicked off with an exploratory trip to the Cable Car and Museum. We observed the inner mechanics of the Cable Car which uses many different simple machines to work. This makes it a compound machine. It was really interesting to see all the moving parts and how they fit together. We were even able to hold a piece of cable similar to the cable used to pull the cable car.
We then headed back to the Space Place to build our own simple machines! Before students could begin collecting supplies they sketched out their plan. We ended up with a wide variety of machines, but they all fell into two categories: pulleys and levers.
Mistakes were made throughout the building process, but that’s all a part of learning. By asking questions and being persistent everyone was able to work through the sticky bits.
Questions to Keep the Learning Going:
- What are the different parts of a pulley?
- What is a fulcrum and why is it important in a lever?
- Where should you place the fulcrum in order to make it easier to lift a load?
Where might you find pulleys, levers, and ramps in your daily life?
In Girl Powered Programming girls and boys alike honed their programming skills as they learned about female programmers throughout the ages.
A big part of learning to code is using creative problem solving to figure out what’s gone wrong or what you need to do next. Over eight weeks the students learned how to problem solve and even began helping their classmates with difficult coding challenges.
For their final game students put their creativity to the test by digitally drawing unique sprites and backgrounds. For inspiration we looked at 8-bit art from classic games like Sonic the Hedgehog and Mario Brothers. Art doesn’t have to be complex in order to be powerful!
Students were encouraged to make a list of tasks they wanted to complete by the end of each session. Some weeks we focused on art, others on coding. By session 7 there was still quite a lot to be done on our final games, no one felt like they were completely finished. We still pushed forward with our play-testing, play-testing is when you let others play your game and provide constructive feedback on how it can be made better. After the play-testing session everyone had a clear picture of what still needed to be done and how to achieve it. By the end of the next class all the games were complete and ready to be shared with the world!
You can play all of the games created in Girl Powered Programming online at our classroom’s Scratch Studio.
Next term we are offering our popular Recycled Robots course at Rata Studios. In Recycled Robots students will use engineering, art, and programming to turn yesterday’s trash into the robots of tomorrow.