University Relations and Communications

Education students aim to give classrooms leg up in coding

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A Noyce Scholarship Program exhibition combining art and Arduino programming will be on display Saturday and Monday. 



January 22, 2016



Dr. David Snow, Mathematics Education, 657-2329
Katey Plymesser, Pre-engineering, 657-2022
Carmen Price, University Relations & Communications, 657-2266


Noyce STEAM project on display Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m., beginning with an Artists’ Talk, and on Monday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., in the Northcutt Steele Gallery on the first floor of the Liberal Arts building, 1500 University Drive.


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — Coding in the classroom has leapt to the forefront of global discussions of 21st century curriculum and instruction, and Noyce scholars at MSU Billings are honing their skills to teach tech fundamentals to the next generation.


On Saturday, 10 students from the College of Education will present their programming prowess during an exhibit and artists’ talk at Northcutt Steele Gallery from 2 to 4 p.m. The exhibition will be on display through Monday.


The exhibition combines computer coding with art, an outcome that will display as a synchronized light show created from hundreds of LED light bulbs on strips, controlled by an Arduino microcontroller.


The project—led by mathematics education professor David Snow, engineering professor Kathryn Plymesser and art professor Jodi Lightner— is made possible by the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program, a division of the National Science Foundation, that responds to the critical need for K-12 teachers of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, particularly in underserved areas.


"All teachers, particularly those in the STEM fields, need to help students see how accessible computing careers are and how even a smaller interest in coding skills can enhance careers in so many other fields,” Snow said.


The coding is complex enough to produce the light displays seen in the exhibit, yet simple enough that high school students can understand it and eventually produce something similar, Snow said.


"Coding of this sort is the heart of almost every electronic device and computer application we use, so leaving computer programming out of the K-12 curriculum would be unreasonable,” he said.


Graduate student Caitlin Kimmet said she appreciates the chance to diversify her education by delving into areas, such as computer coding, she was otherwise unfamiliar with.


“In no way am I computer savvy,” Kimmet said. “The whole group, we all were basically starting at square one when we began the project about one month ago.”


Kimmet said computer technology in the classroom is the way of the future, so it’s important she and other educators are ahead of the curve.


“I think we need to think about the changing of tide, not just within education, but the workforce as well,” Kimmet said.


She said the trend will be the biologist, the artist, the physicist who will be using programming in the course of their career.


“Students will need to know how to use coding in their classrooms, then in their professions and in their every day life.”


Plymesser, MSUB’s pre-engineering professor, said the interdisciplinary project has challenged the students in a fun, visual approach to education.

“They’ve had to think creatively about how to go about integrating science, technology, engineering, art and math,” Plymesser said. “A lot of great learning has come from their frustration. And a lot of inspiration.”


Snow said the interdisciplinary nature of the project has demonstrated to the Noyce Scholars the great potential to be found in answering larger questions.


"The hope is that these future teachers will challenge their students to understand the many unexpected ways that STEM concepts interact with the world around them,” Snow said.


Students will meet Friday at 5:30 to install the light show for Saturday’s exhibit and artists’ talk, from 2 to 4 p.m. The light show will also be on display Monday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.


»» Download event poster