Coding and scientific computing have become crucial tools for understanding the universe. For OSU physics Prof. Chris Orban and the STEMcoding project the goal is to create a curriculum for high school students that reflects this reality. In 2017, Prof. Orban and OSU physics alum Dr. Richelle Teeling-Smith won a total of $65k grant funding from OSU’s highly competitive Connect & Collaborate program, and from the American Institute of Physics Meggers Project Award for their proposal “The STEMcoding Project: Bringing the Hour of Code to the Physical Science Classroom”.
Prof. Chris Orban and OSU physics alum Dr. Richelle Teeling-Smith present to a group of physics teachers at the Science Education Council of Ohio 2018 annual meeting
Their work picks up where national coding initiatives leave off. In November 2017, their “Physics of Video Games” coding activity became the first physics-standards-aligned activity on hourofcode.com, which is the world’s most popular website for computer science education. The coding tutorials feature undergrads from OSU and from the University of Mt. Union where Prof. Teeling-Smith is an assistant professor of physics.
“Only about 40% of Ohio high schools offer computer science, whereas essentially all high schools offer physical science, and many offer physics.” says Prof. Orban. “If we can empower these teachers to integrate coding, it will reach a wider cross-section of students.” In 2017 and 2018, Profs. Orban and Teeling-Smith worked closely with over a dozen teachers and gave single-day workshops with dozens more with this goal in mind. Teachers interested in workshops and their summer mini-course should sign up for the STEMcoding monthly e-mail list.
Originally, the STEMcoding activities began as physics-focused coding exercises for freshman physics classes at the OSU Marion campus where Prof. Orban teaches. Later, the activities became a regular part of the ASPIRE physics camp for girls. Prof. Teeling-Smith also uses the curriculum in her “STEMcoding camp” for girls in Alliance, Ohio.
STEMcoding activities developed by Prof. Orban have become a regular part of the ASPIRE physics camp for high school girls
Supporting diversity initiatives have been a key part of the STEMcoding project since its inception. The STEMcoding youtube channel, which recently celebrated it’s 1-year anniversary, regularly features women and underrepresented groups in STEM. The unique combination of science-focused coding activities with a diverse cast has attracted many subscribers on youtube. The channel recently reached 2000 subscribers with over 200 new subscribers joining every month.
“It’s been a lot of fun to develop these resources and to get e-mails from teachers in different parts of the globe who are interested to learn more about coding and physics.” says Prof. Orban. “Our next big step is to perform a careful study to pinpoint exactly what students learn in completing the exercises and how it reinforces their physics knowledge.” A preliminary study using data from classes at OSU Marion was recently published in the American Journal of Physics. Physics education research postdoc Chris Porter and OSU grad student Joseph Smith are also co-authors.
This 30 second clip highlights some of the fun content on the STEMcoding youtube channel. Image right is OSU astronomy major Demetrius Tuggle