The Coding Force is with YOU

By: Margo Long, OSU Extension Education, 4-H Youth Development, Marion County

may the force be with you

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in a galaxy far, far away with your own trusty droid like BB-8, C-3PO or R2-D2? Well, here’s your chance!

Thanks to, the Star Wars: Building a Galaxy with Code program allows learners of all ages get an introductory experience with coding and computer science in a safe, supportive environment.

With the opportunity learning two computer languages, youth will work with Rey and Princess Leia to guide BB-8 through simple missions, and build a game featuring C-3PO and R2-D2.


What is block-based coding?

Block coding screenshotUtilizing a drag-and-drop learning environment, youth use blocks which are described as “chunks” or “pieces” of instructions a user puts together to tell their creation what to do.

This is definitely an entry-level form of computing to allow youth to gain a foundation in computational thinking through visuals, rather than text.

The first option uses drag-drop blocks. This version works best for:

  • Students on mobile devices without keyboards
  • Younger students (6+ because the tutorial requires reading)
  • International students

Click here to build your own Star Wars game using block coding.


What is JavaScript?

JavaScript coding screenshotAs one of the most popular forms of programming languages and known as the “programming language of the web,” it is used by computer programmers in combination with HTML and CSS to make up core components of web technology; however, it can always be used for app and game development.

This option teaches the same basic concepts, but because it uses both drag-drop blocks and JavaScript, the students need to be able to type on a keyboard. For older students on computers, learning JavaScript can be fun and provide an additional challenge. This version of the tutorial is also great if you have some students in your class who have already learned some coding. It is recommended for ages 11+.

Ready for another challenge? Click here to build your own Star Wars game using JavaScript.

Looking for more computer science opportunities? Contact your local OSU Extension Office to learn about programs offered in your area!


Star Wars: Building a Galaxy with Code. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Peer-reviewed by Danielle Combs, OSU Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development, Highland County



Eco April’s: Code for Good, Life on Land Coding Challenge

By: Meghan Thoreau, OSU Extension Educator, Community Development & STEM, Pickaway County

Kids today will inherit the Earth of tomorrow, so it’s important to start their “eco-education” early. Interactive games and programming projects are great ways to educate and empower kids to take greener actions in life. Coding is also a great way to provide technical skills that enhance their critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. In this lesson, we hope to inspire students by reminding them that games and coding can teach and promote positive change in the world.

Life on Land coding challenge explores the importance of forests to the world’s ecosystem. Students can play with working projects and advanced programmers can create their own original projects.

Students will use their coding skills to create a project in Tynker that shows the importance of the world’s forest with code. When they’re done with this tutorial, encourage them to get creative.


  • Students will explore why trees are important to us as they complete the activities in this coding challenge.
  • Apply coding concepts and code blocks to create a Life on Land project.

Photo source:


This activity is designed for self-directed learning. The parent/teacher’s role will be to help kid(s) individually complete the coding activities on their own. How to prep:

  • Get familiar with Tynker and how to set up free online accounts read, Quick Guide for Tynker Teachers.
  • Get familiar with material: read through this lesson guide and complete the activity before assigning it to kids. This helps with troubleshooting and answering questions.
  • Get kid(s) excited about coding before starting the lesson by playing an inspiring video.
  • OPTIONAL, sign up for a free teachers/parent account. This allows access to teacher guides, answer keys, and additional resources such as monitor kids’ progress and seeing their projects and allows printing certificates to hand out to kids.


Part 1:

  • Play short video, All Aboard for Global Goals, Thomas & Friends (1:14)
  • Play short video, Goal #15, All Aboard for Global Goals, Thomas & Friends (1:31)
  • Lead a discussion:
    • What is a forest? (Answer: a large area of land that has a lot of trees.)
    • True or false: Forests cover ⅓ of Earth’s land (Answer: True.)
    • What do you think lives in a forest? (Answer: plants, animals, )
    • Can you name animals that live in the trees or the forest? (Examples: monkeys, ants, butterflies, koalas.)
  • Tell kids that they are going to use Tynker in an upcoming activity to program a Life on Land project. Before students start coding, ask them to complete the “Goal 15: Life on Land” assignment (located on the next page) as an in-class activity.
  • Have students use the Goal 15 activity sheet to create an outline for their coding

Part 2:

  • Once kid(s) have an understanding of sustainable development goals they can start the second part which is the DIY coding module.
  • Go to “Page 3” of the Tynker tutorial and show students the provided examples to play, refer to the image below. How to play: Click the stage to plant seeds that will grow into trees!
  • OPTIONAL: read the Life on Land tutorial out loud to your students.

DIY MODULE (30-min.)

Help kid(s) complete the Life on Land module on their own:

  • Kid(s) will create an open-ended project that demonstrates the importance of trees and determine which code blocks to use.
  • Point to “Page 3” of the tutorial and have a kid(s) become inspired by clicking on the example projects and remind kid(s) of their sustainability goal.
  • Ask kid(s) to add a background and actor(s) to their project. They can also draw their own artwork or select images from the media library.
  • If a kid(s) are having difficulty drawing their own actors, play this Tynker support video.
  • Are kid(s) on the code block tab and want to return to the tutorial, ask them to click on this icon:


Encourage kid(s) to connect with nature by taking them on a short trip outside or to a park or school yard. As a kid(s) start exploring, point out different plants and animals and tell them to sketch them in a notebook.

Photo source:


All kids can make their mark, and any effort, large or small, makes a big difference. Creative kids will grow up to be the inventors of tomorrow who create games and computer programs to change the world for the better.

TAKE ACTION TODAY: Become an Earth-minded eater (try eating more meat-free meals, buy local and organic, do not waste food, and buy reusable, non-plastic products, e.g., peanut butter in a glass contain not plastic.)


Life on Land Coding Challenge Lesson  





Peer-reviewed by Tracy Winters, OSU Extension Education, 4-H Youth Development, Gallia County, and Travis West, Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development, Vinton County.

Pi Day Coding activities

Pi day is here!

Ohio State University has a few different activities for Pi day. All of them involve calculating the digits of Pi with different codes:

The most basic:
Pi day hour of code activity

Pi Day Activity

Precalculus level
Pi day part 2

Part 2

Just for fun:
Turn your Chromebook into a supercomputer and calculate the digits of pi with parallel computing

Pi Calculator

2. Highschool I/O hackathon

Please encourage high school students in Ohio to participate in OSU’s high school hackathon on March 20. The event will be virtual. Registration is filling up fast so register soon at this link:

Hackathon registration

3. New coding activities

We developed two new activities for algebra 2 level math / discrete math

Completely connected networks Part 1
Part 1

Completely connected networks Part 2
Part 2

For more STEM Coding, check outOSU STEM CODING

The UnThunkable: Teaching Middle School and High School Girls Programming During a Pandemic

By: Margo Long, OSU Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development, Marion County

During COVID-19 and the time of ultimate screen time fatigue, why would anyone want to add another virtual experience to the calendar? Because the mission to close the gender gap in technology and change the image of what a programmer looks like and does daily, doesn’t stop.

I recognized the need after receiving much positive feedback from a five-week series designed to introduce youth to both the 4-H program and coding. By creating a connection with women who incorporated technology into their everyday work and including unplugged activities, I realized I could contribute to “cracking the gender code.”

According to Girls Who Code, in 1995 only 37% of computer scientists were women. The percentage will continue to decline to 22% by 2022, if not addressed. It has been recognized girls lose interest in computer science between the ages of 13 and 17.

Program Overview

Incorporating the Girls Who Code educator guide, activities, and researching other online resources and video, 4-H World Changers was a five-week series featuring live instruction customized with hands-on, interactive learning opportunities for participants. Each session included custom presentations that walked participants through visual design, variables, conditionals, and functions –all components necessary to create a user-friendly mobile application.

Selecting the Technology

With hundreds of different coding languages in the world, each can be used to create something powerful. A simple Google search leads to an overwhelming number of computer science curricula. So, how do you choose? The goal was to keep in mind my own personal experience level (more HTML and CSS), as well as that of program participants. It’s easier to start with the basics before diving into text-based languages.

This series utilized a web-based program that allows apps to be created for both Android and iOS devices, which eliminates the compatibility barrier. Thunkable allows novice users the ability to build apps by utilizing the “drag and drop” method of components to connect them together with block coding.

A wireframe created by a participant to plan their mobile application.

Creating the Connection

One of the most important components of the series is to ensure youth realize women exist in the technology industry. Many times, women not highlighted in the media or mentioned in textbooks. Each week showcased women from diverse backgrounds: some who grew up coding and are now successful leaders in their field and others who have found success in business, in teaching, or as entrepreneurs learning to code as adults. The goal was to empower and inspire girls to understand how their passions for something can be transformed into a career within technology. Each woman introduced the relationship between their career exploration to the correlation between one of the program’s values and the coding lesson.

Fran Kalal was featured in the second session of 4-H World Changers to help emphasize the importance of visual design for mobile applications.

Value of Virtual Programs
In this time of uncertainty, there was no better opportunity to continue the 4-H program mission. By providing experiences to bring out youth’s potential, their passions and drive helped empower them to exhibit bravery, activism, and resilience by establishing connections with similar youth, all from behind a computer. At the conclusion of the program, the aim was for participants to gain a better understanding of the following:

  • Bravery – In an unprecedented situation, youth and adults are adapting to a new way of living almost daily, so it is important to stay brave in the face of uncertainty.
  • Connection – Keeping with a set routine can be impactful and meeting with others helps combat the challenge of social isolation.
  • Activism – Sharing the world of technology with girls has a powerful and potential positive impact within their communities. This program empowered girls to learn something new and use code to create tools that provide support and build connections during a challenge.
  • Resilience – Learning virtually requires flexibility and perseverance. Becoming frustrated or not understanding something is acceptable, but teaching problem-solving skills is vital.

For more information contact Margo Long,

Peer-Reviewed: Sally McClaskey, OSU Extension Program Manager, Education & Marketing. She develops and directs educational programs at the Nationwide & Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center.


littleBits: Hands-on Prototyping and Learning with Modular Electronics

By: Meghan Thoreau, OSU Extension Educator in Community Development programmatic focus on STEM Education and Career Exploration.

Program photos showing youth grouped into workstations listening to Educator’s lesson overview. Photographed by Trent Roberts.

Teaming up with K-12 educators is essential to keeping Extension programs dynamic and relevant to what students are currently learning and accessing in their school districts. Partnering with local schools also gives my programs the advantage of utilizing new school-owned technologies.

For example, this past year I partnered with Trent Roberts, Media Specialist in the Circleville City Schools District. I utilized the district’s Little Bits classroom kit to teach in their Extra Mile program to a group of  6th graders and a group of 7th-8th graders. The four-day electronics series spanned over a month and engaged the students in the engineering design process and prototyping.

Program Video Highlight

Circleville Middle School’s Extra Mile Program: littleBits series program highlight video, produced by Meghan Thoreau in iMovies.

Four Day Lesson Plan

LittleBits has easily accessible lesson plans, educator guides, activities, troubleshooting tips, and customizable handouts for different grades, subjects, and learning pathways. I developed my program by researching and filtering their online resources and videos, then customizing the materials to fit my programming needs. Three of the four days included custom presentations that walked students through the basics of electronics, differentiating modular Bits, connecting the challenges to real-world applications, building terminology, and highlighting each day’s challenges.

Day 1: Little Bits overview (60+ minutes)

Focused on the following topics: What are Little Bits? How do they work? How Little Bits connect to real-world applications? What is the design thinking/engineering design process? Students into small groups offering them two-challenge options: 1) Invent an Art Machine and 2) Invent Electric Car. Allowed students time to remix their prototypes.

Teaching Presentation of littleBits Day 1, created by Meghan Thoreau in Prezi.

STEM education is supposed to mirror the problem-solving mindset required in the real world. Real problems are solved with a multidisciplinary approach, rather than applying one subject at a time. LittleBit electronics provide the perfect overlay tools to teach simultaneous subjects such as biology, math, physics, electronics, music, art, and more through prototyping solutions. For example, day-two lessons used electronics to prototype and simulate biology and environmental concepts. (Several add-on components were customized ahead of time for the students due to time constraints, such as already cut and laminated animals’ parts for easy assembly, dismantle, and reuse for back-to-back programming.)

Day 2: Little Bits Reactive Organisms Challenge (60+ minutes)

Focused on the following topics: creature connections, animal senses, and animal food web. All of the design challenges incorporate the design thinking process. Students again divided into small groups, offering three-challenge options: reactive organisms’ challenges. Students had time to remixing prototype designs.

Middle school students work through a reactive organism design challenge. Photographed by Meghan Thoreau.

Teaching Presentation of littleBits Day 2, created by Meghan Thoreau in Prezi.

Day 3: Security Device Challenge (60+ minutes)

Focused on alarm system designs using the design thinking process. Students divided into small groups, offering three-challenge options: invent a security device with time allowed for students to remix their prototypes.

The student is working through an alarm system design challenge using littleBits electronics. Photographed by Meghan Thoreau.

Teaching Presentation of littleBits Day 3, created by Meghan Thoreau in Prezi.

Day 4: Final Challenge (60+ minutes)

Focused on the following topics: break into small groups, three-challenge option: 1) Create something useful for your classroom, 2) Invent something for good, or 3) Create a moving piece of art. Students had to try to remix their prototype designs.

The student shows off his bike design solution with turn signal and horn solutions, joined by Trent Roberts, Media Specialist of Circleville City Schools. Photographed by Meghan Thoreau.

The Benefits

The benefits of incorporating littleBits technology into your programs and classrooms are substantial and multiskilled, honing and strengthening collaboration, creativity, and the application of higher-order thinking skills. Students become problem-solvers, designers, engineers, editors, and team players in working on a design project. The adaptability and instruction of this technology can be modified to accommodate a variety of age groups and skill levels. LittleBits can easily challenge older students as well. Students gain self-management skills as they break down tasks to accomplish a larger task, solving a larger problem. LittleBits allows students to cultivate skills that will serve them well in today’s workforce. Merging the learning with littleBits with the core curriculum is another value-added benefit.

“I Broke Science, Foil on Foil!”

Please enjoy the short snippet of a young STEMist that just broke science! For more information contact Meghan Thoreau,

A student explains how he broke science in a short clip from littleBit program. Recorded by Trent Roberts.


Brown, Stacy. (2018). Chapter 6. Big Impact with littleBits, Vol. 54, No. 4. Retrieved from

Dochshanov, Alden and Tramonti, M. (Janurary 2017). A Multidisciplinary Approach in STEM Education. Retrieved from

LittleBits. (n.d.). littleBits Classroom. LittleBits Classroom. Retrieved July 10, 2020, from

LittleBits. (n.d.). LittleBits: Select Your Kit. Https://Www.Littlebits.Cc/Getting-Started. Retrieved July 10, 2020, from

Spencer, John and Juliani, A. J. (2017)Empower: What Happens When Students Own Their Learning, IMPress, 84.

Peer-Reviewed: Sally McClaskey, OSU Extension Program Manager, Education & Marketing. She develops and directs educational programs at the Nationwide & Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center.

4-H Camp Tech

4-H Camp Tech is a three-day, two-night camp, located on the campus of The Ohio State University, that introduces youth in grades six-eight to a variety of activities that include: coding, robotics, engineering design, electricity and more. Camp Tech is based at the Ohio 4-H Center with overnight accommodations in an OSU dorm.

4-H Camp Tech is set for June 2021. Registration will open in March.

4-H World Changers

Girl with tech apps in the background

WORLD CHANGERS for Middle & High School Girls

Inspired by Girls Who Code

In 4-H, we believe in the power of young people. Through self-chosen projects, kids are paired with mentors and given opportunities to lead. These projects and experiences bring out their potential, their passions, and their drive to help others as we empower them to become true leaders. So what better way to help close the gender gap in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics than to join the movement to change the image of what a programmer or scientist looks like and does.

Every Wednesday | July 1 through August 5 | 2 – 3 P.M. EST

Location: VIRTUALLY from your own home! Event link will be given upon completion of registration.
Cost: FREE!
Details: Designed for middle & high school girls. We will welcome EVERYONE who has an interest in STEM, coding, and making a positive impact in their community! You don’t have to be a 4-H member to participate.
Contact information: Margo Long, 4-H Extension Educator,

Register here!

Registration will be accepted until Friday before the first session (June 26).

The Physics of Video Games

By: Dr. Chris Orban, Assistant Professor at OSU Marion Campus

Everyone loves video games and they can be a great way to help students think about how computers simulate the world. Increasingly, computer simulations are becoming part of the day-to-day work of scientists and engineers.

Some of the similarities between video games and engineering simulations are discussed in this video from the STEMcoding youtube channel where students try to spot as many inaccuracies in the game of Mario Kart as they can. Later they discuss simulations of car crashes.

You and your students can learn more about what computers do when they perform these simulations through a few simple “physics of video games” activities from the STEMcoding project.

Part I is called “Move the Blob”

Part 2 is called “Accelerate the blob”

These activities have been completed by kids as young as 12, and they work on pretty much any device with a keyboard that you have available (Windows, Mac, Chromebooks, iPads). Internet access is required, but it does not need to be very high speed. For a version without videos use

OSU Prof. Chris Orban created these activities as part of the STEMcoding project. You can reach out to him at if you have any questions.

Peer reviewed by: Mark Light, OSU Extension Associate Professor, Educator, and Area Leader