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"...Pale and Wonder Eyed..."

Squeak comes to Champaign, IL

By: Kathleen Harness, Dr. Barbara Hug, Kathleen Smith, Dr. George Reese
This summer twenty-five Champaign area students participated in the first annual CompCamp. This camp was designed to teach Squeak basics and show ways to model ideas in math and science using Squeak as a tool. Each day a new Squeak tool was introduced and related to an in-class science or math activity. Their Squeak projects reflected the varying measures of logic, knowledge, and creativity to be found in any group of children age 8 through 15.

Monday the topic was astronomy. By the end of two hours, solar systems had planets spinning around the sun. By Friday, students were using Squeak to model Shoemaker-Levy Comet breaking up on Jupiter and a black hole pulling planets into its maw. The students were empowered when they set the planets in orbit and made them move.

One of the points we emphasized every day of CompCamp was the importance of having some value in their work. There is a poem by Max Eastman that begins, “Serene the silver fishes glide, stern-lipped and pale and wonder-eyed” which we read aloud together. Students then used Squeak to create a virtual aquarium. The students’ Squeak aquariums are an animated echo of Paul Klee’s aquarium paintings. The Squeak topics were tests, show, and hide.

Thursday the students rolled toy cars on ramps and tried different materials to affect the speed of the car on the ramp. They used stop watches, rulers, and took notes so they could include actual data in their Squeak projects.

The last day of CompCamp began with the idea of camouflage and animal adaptation but ended with techniques of steganography. David Kahn’s book “The Code-Breakers: The Comprehensive History of Secret Communication from Ancient Times to the Internet” (pg 523) shows a great example: a pen and ink drawing of a town along a riverbank. There is a concealed message in the drawing and students were challenged to find it. How many concealed messages have they seen but not even suspected were there? This question was especially interesting to the older students who saw that they could use this idea to mark their work in Squeak.

The CompCamp project is an immediate outcome of the “WE CAN CU” team that attended the 2003 SuperComputing Conference in Phoenix. We received grants from NCSA, IEEE, NCSI, and others to attend this conference and to see if we could bring computer modeling and visualization into our schools. We are:

Kathleen Harness, Enrichment Teacher, Dr. Howard Elementary School Champaign, Illinois

Dr. Barbara Hug, Assistant Professor, Curriculum and Instruction in the College of Education, University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana

Kathleen Smith, Math Teacher, Central High School, Champaign, Illinois

Dr. George Reese, Associate Director of the Office of Math, Science, Technology Education at the University of Illinois

CompCamp was a success but, because the students came from six area schools, we think they need to be part of an active local Squeak community. So, we will bring them together again starting in early September and use that CompCamp session to introduce Squeak to the larger Champaign-Urbana area as well. We organized a SqueakFestCMI. All are welcome. squeakcmi@uiuc.edu