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Workshop Proposal: K-12 Interactive Classroom and Outreach for Computer Science Concepts Without a Computer (RESUBMISSION)

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2021 First-Year Engineering Experience



Publication Date

August 9, 2021

Start Date

August 9, 2021

End Date

August 21, 2021

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Stephany Coffman-Wolph Ohio Northern University

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Dr. Stephany Coffman-Wolph is an Assistant Professor at Ohio Northern University in the Department of Electrical, Computer Engineering, and Computer Science (ECCS). Research interests include: Artificial Intelligence, Fuzzy Logic, Game Theory, Teaching Computer Science, STEM Outreach, Increasing diversity in STEM (women and first generation), and Software Engineering.

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Kimberlyn Gray West Virginia University Institute of Technology

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Dr. Kimberlyn Gray is an Assistant Professor at West Virginia University Institute of Technology in the department of Chemical Engineering. She coordinated STEM outreach for the Leonard C. Nelson College of Engineering and Sciences.

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This is a workshop proposal. This workshop uses a “learn by doing” teaching technique for K-12 teachers and outreach practitioners to demonstrate how to accomplish a successful one-hour computer science (CS) concept course for fourth and fifth graders through low-cost, easily available materials. These activities provide students with beginner knowledge on binary, ASCII, cryptography, message passing, basic networking, and problem solving.

Learning Objectives for Workshop: By the end of this workshop, attendees should be able to: 1. Explain each activity and present them to students 2. Explain to students that letters, numbers, and symbols are stored in the computer in binary 3. Explain the purpose of encryption in modern networking to students 4. Explain the basic concept behind Public-Key Encryption to students

Brief Description:

Children are familiar with a variety of electronic devices and use them daily including computers, tablets, and smartphones. However, they do not understand the computer science (CS) concepts behind their favorite apps, games, and websites. This workshop will train K-12 teachers to incorporate CS concepts into their existing curriculum. Everyone attending the workshop will participate in fun hands-on activities that have been successfully tested in 4th and 5th grade classrooms (along with hints and tips for working with both lower grades and higher grades). These activities allow the students to practice both problem-solving skills and teamwork. The presented sequence can be used in a one (or two) hour class or the activities can be broken into separate 15-20 minute activities. The workshop will demonstrate to all participants how to put together a “teacher kit” with all the materials necessary for the presented activities. Given that K-12 teachers (and outreach practitioners) have minimal budgets, the designers of this workshop purposely made the kits to be low-cost, with easily obtainable supplies, and reusable supplies wherever possible.


There has been significant focus for teachers to include more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) at all pre-college educational levels. This requires elementary and middle school teachers to educate students in unfamiliar concepts, but often these teachers have limited STEM experience to create learning materials for STEM concepts [1, 7, 8 and 9]. This workshop uses a “CS teacher kit” to provide teachers a solid starting point to integrate CS concepts into their already existing curriculum [7].

These activities cover the following Standards for Technology Literacy [11]: • Standard 1: “Students will develop an understanding of the characteristics and scope of technology" [11] • Standard 2: “Students will develop an understanding of the core concepts of technology" [11] • Standard 4: “Students will develop an understanding of the cultural, social, economic, and political effects of technology” [11] • Standard 7: “Students will develop an understanding of the influences of technology on history” [11] • Standard 10: “Students will develop an understanding of the role of troubleshooting, research, and development, invention, and innovation, and experimentation in problem solving” [11]

Activities Outline: 1. Binary, Octal, and Hexadecimal Initial Keychains [2, 5, and 6] 2. Introduction to Encryption: Caesar Cipher (and other substitution cipher) 3. Basic Networking, Message Passing, and Security with Party Hats and Candy (with Public-Key Encryption) [2, 5, and 6] 4. Network Topology and Problem Solving [3, 5, and 6] 5. Preview of Basic Programming Concepts [2, 3, 4] 6. Preview Extension Binary Activities [5 and 6]

The workshop session will be taught entirely in an active learning environment. The workshop presenters will lead attendees through the first four activities in detail. Attendees will participate and perform the activity as if they were students. After the activity is completed, workshop presenters will provide hints, tips, and tricks, answer questions, provide information on additional background material, and preview extension activities on the topic. Activities 5 and 6 will be previewed and demonstrated for participants.

Past Workshops:

This workshop has been conducted with 12 people at an ASEE Annual Conference [10]. Anecdotally, we received positive feedback from conference attendees. People have accessed and downloaded documents from the provided Google Drive.

CS Teacher Kits:

The “teacher kit” contains everything a teacher would need to confidently provide instruction including: background material on the topic at the teacher level, student appropriate background material, instructions to present material within the classroom or a teacher script for the activity, class time hands-on activities, student evaluation materials (i.e., quizzes, tests, homework), frequently asked question (FAQ) sheets, outside resources for additional information, related activities/materials, and learning objectives. The written materials are available via a Google drive:

In addition to the written materials, the kit requires supplies. All items are easily available and cost per kit is $30.00-70.00 for a class of approximately 30 students. Only $14.00-20.00 need to be replenished between uses (there are various lower cost alternatives suggested). A detailed chart with a breakdown of the needed supplies, quantities, cost, reusability, and alternative suggestions is provided with the other materials on the Google Drive.


[1] Prince, M. J. and Felder, R. M., Inductive Teaching and Learning Methods: Definitions, Comparisons, and Research Bases. Journal of Engineering Education, 95: 123–138, 2006. [2] Coffman-Wolph, S., Innovative Activities to Teach Computer Science Concepts Inside the Classroom and at Outreach Events Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25715, June 2016. [3] Coffman-Wolph, S., Fun, Innovative Computer Science Activities for the Classroom and Outreach Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio., June 2017. [4] Coffman-Wolph, S., & Gray, K. Fun and Interactive Activities for an Introductory Computer Science Course of 200 Students Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Gulf-Southwest Section Annual Conference, Austin, Texas., April 4, 2018. [5] T. Bell, et al., “Computer Science Unplugged: School Students Doing Real Computing Without Computers,” Computing and Information Technology Research and Education, New Zealand (CITRENZ), vol. 13, no. 1, pp. 20-29, 2009. [6] T. Bell, et al., CS Unplugged: Computer Science without a Computer., 2015. [7] Ivey, T., Colton, N., Thomas, J., and Utley, J. (2016). Integrated Engineering in Elementary Education: Tackling Challenges to Rural Teacher Training in Proceedings of the ASEE 123rd Annual Conference and Exposition, New Orleans, LA, June 26-29, 2016, Paper ID# 15860. [8] Keeley, P. (2009). Elementary science education in the K-12 system. Science and Children, 46(9), 8-9. [9] Kolbe, T., and Jorgenson, S. Meeting Instructional Standards for Middle-Level Science: Which Teachers Are Most Prepared? The Elementary School Journal, 2018; 118 (4): 549 DOI: 10.1086/697540. [10] Coffman-Wolph, S., & Gray, K., Workshop: K-12 Classroom and Outreach for Computer Science Concepts. ASEE 125th Annual Conference and Exposition, Salt Lake City, UT, June 24-27, 2018. [11] ITEA/ITEEA. (2000/2002/2007). Standards for technological literacy: Content for the study of technology. Reston, VA, Author.

Coffman-Wolph, S., & Gray, K. (2021, August), Workshop Proposal: K-12 Interactive Classroom and Outreach for Computer Science Concepts Without a Computer (RESUBMISSION) Paper presented at 2021 First-Year Engineering Experience, Virtual .

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