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
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
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,
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. firstname.lastname@example.org