Emu spent a ridiculous amount of time putting together this video highlighting our experiences teaching at Yeomyung School in Seoul. I think it’s absolutely wonderful and surprisingly effective considering that we weren’t allowed to show students’ faces. Please watch the video!
It’s only been five days since our STEM camp ended and already I miss my students, my team, and Seoul. I’m proud of my team for putting together a successful workshop, and I’m proud of my students for working so hard during these past two weeks.
For my final blog post, I thought I would highlight some of the most memorable parts of this trip for me. Obviously, if you want more details, you should just read the rest of the blog 🙂
During the afternoons of Days 7 through 9, we had the students choose and work on their own final project. We wanted to give students the opportunity to explore their favorite workshop activity in greater depth.
There were some concerns with regard to how successful an open-ended project would be with this particular group of students, considering that many of them were accustomed to following step-by-step instructions. However, we were pleasantly surprised by how easy it was for students to come up with their own projects. I was in charge of the students who wanted to code using Scratch or Turtle. They all churned out beautiful projects if I must say so myself.
Other students focused on learning more suturing techniques, adding additional commands to the Google Voice Kit, building models of bridges, revamping the Raspberry Pi robots, and using the Pi Camera to create stop motion animation.
On Day 10, the students made posters for the projects and gave poster presentations in front of the class. They all presented in Korean, so I had no idea what exactly they said, but based on body language, the students seemed proud of their work.
After seeing how diverse the projects were, I felt especially proud of my team for putting together the workshop. So much planning went into the workshop, but it definitely paid off in the end. Never underestimate how much time and effort it takes to acquire supplies for hands-on activities. I probably missed a lot of major attractions in Seoul, but at the very least, I got to spend a lot of time at Daiso, Yongsan Electronics Market, and Emart 😛
Learning about Korea
Teaching an intensive two-week STEM workshop in a foreign country is hard work, but lucky for me, having amazing teammates made it that much easier. Emily and Emu were both Yeomyung School veterans, so they had a good idea of what challenges we would be up against. Before we even started teaching, they knew which questions to ask the science teacher, as well as what sort of curriculum and teaching styles would work best with our students.
Outside of the classroom, I also had the opportunity to learn about the Korean culture and language. I’ve traveled abroad several times in the past, but to be honest, this was the first time I actually felt like I truly learned something about the country’s culture. It had everything to do with having Shine around all the time. Shine was an endless source of information about Korean history and traditions, and she was patient enough to teach me some phrases in Korean even though I “slapped” the pronunciation. (Note: “Slapping” is a step up from “butchering” the pronunciation.)
Needless to say, I’m going to miss my team dearly, but as they say, all good things must come to an end.
Connecting with Students
I mentioned in my first blog post that my biggest concern was overcoming the language barrier with the students. As it turns out, all those years going to Chinese school paid off because I was able to communicate with nearly half of the students with my broken Mandarin! For the students who didn’t speak Chinese, a combination of using Naver Translate and Shine’s brain usually did the trick.
Also, remember the Sonic Pi fiasco? Well, turns out that the students really appreciated the program I wrote to play Yiruma’s River Flows In You. I’m not sure if it actually made them more interested in computer programming, but at least it showed them that I cared about them and that I honestly wanted them to have a good time with the workshop. As corny as it sounds, sometimes we just want to be cared for, and students at Yeomyung are no different.
Teaching at Yeomyung these past two weeks has been an incredible journey of ups and downs. Although I may never see my students again, I am grateful for our shared experiences of laughter and frustration, and I wish them all the best during the upcoming school year and beyond. To my students: if any of you are reading this, remember: “Mistakes are okay. Just try again!”
During the next two mornings, we covered a variety of topics including the internet, virtual reality, and dry ice.
My first internet simulation activity (adapted from Code.org) was based on the game Battleship. However, rather than have multiple ships and only one opponent, this version allowed a single player to place one battleship for each of three opponents. Because this was an internet simulation, students had to communicate their intent to attack a particular board space by passing notes with To/From fields and the board coordinates. The message recipient would then indicate whether the chosen board coordinate was a hit or a miss. Once the students got the hang of the game, some actually got really into it.
Three students were absent, so Emily kindly stepped in and played as all three of them.
For the second internet simulation, I put together a mini network complete with clients, servers, and routers. The activity went something like this:
- Each of three servers served a different type of candy, and the students acting as clients needed to consult a Domain Name Server table to look up the IP address of the desired candy server.
- Student clients wrote the candy server IP address on a Ziploc packet and passed the packet to the nearest router.
- Each router had their own routing table, which told them the next destination of the packet (e.g. another router, client, or server) based on the destination IP address.
- Candy servers placed candy into each packet they received and revealed the client (source) IP address.
- The packet would make its way back through the network and arrive back at the original client.
I’m actually not sure how much the students understood from the activity, but based on the number of candies students were accumulating, I think it’s safe to assume they at least understood how my internet abstraction worked.
The next day, we introduced the students to virtual reality using Google Cardboard. My original plan was to use Google Expeditions to lead virtual class field trips to places in America and Europe and to explore human anatomy from the inside. Unfortunately, the school’s poor wifi connection forced us to ditch this plan. Instead, the students chose their own virtual reality apps from the Play Store/App Store and explored their own interests individually.
Afterward, Emu led dry ice experiments using dry ice that Baskin Robbins gave us with our ice cream cake purchase. Dry ice was a hit, as was the ice cream cake 🙂
The final Raspberry Pi activity was actually a leftover activity from the first week. Students were supposed to make an ultrasonic theremin by building a simple circuit and connecting it to the Raspberry Pi. By connecting an ultrasonic distance sensor to the Raspberry Pi, Sonic Pi can play different sounds based on how close or far your hand (or any object) is to the sensor. For reasons still unknown to us, we couldn’t get the Raspberry Pis to output meaningful values from the ultrasonic distance sensors. We even stayed in during lunch time to debug but to no avail.
Although the theremins ended up not working, we were very proud of the progress the students had made since day one when they were first introduced to Raspberry Pi. By week 2, students knew how to connect all the computer peripherals as well as navigate Terminal and Python IDLE windows with relative ease. Even though some students might not be huge fans of using the Raspberry Pis, at least they are better equipped to work with computers in the future if they ever need to do so.
Week 2 started off with a morning dedicated to biology activities. Emily whipped out her signature microscope lab, which has been a hit for three consecutive years. The students had a blast competing against each other to locate specific objects on various bills and coins.
For the next activity, students learned about viruses and built their own models of the HIV and Zika viruses.
The students also tried their hand at performing surgery…on bananas. Practicing interrupted and continuous stitches on bananas was definitely a crowd-favorite. Some students loved the activity so much that they wanted to know exactly when they could suture bananas again.
We were fortunate enough to eat lunch with the Principal of Yeomyung School. Over lunch, we learned more about his professional background in education and more about Yeomyung. After lunch, he had a meeting with someone from Germany, which made a lot more sense after Shine explained to us Korea’s relationship with Germany after the Korean War.
In the afternoon, Emily taught the students how to use the Raspberry Pi camera. With just a few lines of code, the students were able to create their very own photo booth complete with assorted filters.
Biology day was a huge success, and I know for a fact that our students who were less technology-inclined really enjoyed the break from computer-related activities.
After class, the team enjoyed fried chicken at BHC (Better & Happier Choice) for dinner. Emu underwent some harsh criticism for ordering orange juice, though I heard it tasted delicious.
To end the day, Shine introduced us to coin karaoke. It’s just like normal karaoke/norebang, except you pay by song rather than by the hour. It’s perfect for smaller groups and youth.
Oh, how I wish coin karaoke existed in the US… Anyway, that’s a wrap for week 2 day 1!
On Sunday of Week 2, Emu and I originally planned on visiting Gyeongbokgung Palace for an hour or two before returning back to the apartment to work. Instead, we ended up staying out for more than five hours because we kept finding new attractions to explore in the area.
After leaving the palace, we crossed the street to visit the statue of King Sejong the Great, the creator of Hangul. We noticed there was an entrance to something called King Sejong Story at the base of the statue, so we decided to check it out. We expected to see a single room showcase highlighting his life accomplishments, but instead, we discovered an entire exhibition with 9 different sections covering 3,200 square meters.
The exhibition also linked to the KT building and the Sejong Center for Performing Arts. I’m not sure exactly where we were at the time, but Emu and I found an activity where we wrote our names in Hangul using the fancy calligraphy brushes.
We also enjoyed some bulgogi hot pot at one of the restaurants nearby. I’m proud to say that we got by even though Shine wasn’t there to translate for us.
In the morning, when we were back at Gyeongbokgung Palace, Emu and I noticed a really pretty-looking pagoda but realized it was disconnected from the palace grounds. It turned out to be part of the National Folk Museum of Korea, which we finally visited after lunch. I don’t think we actually visited the permanent exhibition halls, but we really enjoyed exploring the street from the past.
On our way back to the subway station, Emu and I stopped by the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. We didn’t have time to enter the museum, which was unfortunate because Emu is actually really into art. However, we did stop by the nearby Osulloc Tea House, where Emu enjoyed a lovely green tea latte.
In the evening, we split up and did our own thing. I had dinner with my cousin-in-law in Gangnam followed by green tea ice cream from Baskin Robbins.
All in all, I’d say it was a pretty productive Sunday. Stay tuned for updates from week 2!
On Friday, Shine started off the day with mousetrap cars. The students seemed to enjoy putting all the pieces together, and we just so happened to have duct tape that matched the colors of each time (i.e. pink, yellow, green, and blue). Emily sacrificed a pen to show the students what would happen if someone’s finger got caught in the mousetrap. I think that demonstration sufficiently scared the students and made them work more cautiously.
Once everyone had a working mousetrap car, we raced them. I even drew a makeshift checkered flag, green flag, and a diagonally divided black-and-white flag. In case anyone is interested, a diagonally divided black-and-white flag is used to indicate a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct, at least according to Wikipedia. I felt super cool waving around my flag, but I think Emu and Emily carried their flags just to appease me.
The next activity was nail art. We passed out cork boards, nails, and thread to all the students and let them make whatever they wanted. It was a nice laid back activity for a Friday, and most of the students seemed to enjoy it. Some people even drew their design on a white piece of paper, cut out the design, and used it as a template for their nail art.
After lunch, we revisited the robot activity from the day before, except instead of running a hard-coded robot dance, we had the students write a program that allowed them to remote control their robots using their phones. The library is called BlueDot, and it’s actually super easy to use. I definitely encourage you to check it out if you ever want to control your Raspberry Pi using Bluetooth. The biggest struggle we faced with this project was making sure that all the students connected to the correct phone because many of them had the same name (e.g. Nexus 5). Emu got around this by renaming people’s phones.
Fun fact: Emily’s phone is now called “Sophia,” and my phone is now called “Billy and Daniel.”
After this activity, Emu asked one of our students who originally wasn’t a fan of our programming projects if he liked computers now, and he said “yes,” although begrudgingly. I still consider that a success.
To celebrate completing our first week of teaching, Emu, Emily, and I went out and ate a lot of delicious food. Shine is Miss Popular and has plans with other friends this weekend, so, unfortunately, she didn’t join us.
We also did a quick Daiso and Artbox run, and I made some purchases to add to my growing collection of Boss the Shark items. No shame.
That’s all for now folks. I’m about to leave for a pottery excursion with Emu and Emily, so stay tuned for updates.
Even the most controlling one realizes that the others can be employed as labor.
—Emily Damato (January 11, 2018 at Yeomyung School)
In the morning, Emu taught a module on circuits, which included an activity where students deconstructed a flashlight, made their own flashlights, played a game to learn how to read resistors, and built simple circuits using a breadboard. The flashlight activity was a big hit with all the students, though, for some reason, none of them actually wanted to keep their flashlights after they made them.
Some students were more interested in circuits than others, and some students also came in with much more experience building circuits than others. The group that I worked with got pretty frustrated with all the wires, but when we finally got the button to turn on the LED light, I could see how surprised (but happy) they were that it actually worked. Also, it was neat for them to see the Raspberry Pi being used as a power source.
In the afternoon, my original plan was to have the students make their own speakers and then use that for audio output for the ultrasonic theremin and music box Raspberry Pi projects. Unfortunately, that plan didn’t work out. Here’s why.
The speaker activity involves cutting up the audio jack portion of a set of earphones and connecting the phone plug wires to the two ends of a copper wire coil.
The electric current going through the copper wire loop creates a magnetic field, and based on the direction of the electric current, the magnet will either attract or repel the copper wire loop. The copper wire coil is taped to the styrofoam cup, so when the coil moves, the cup also moves, which creates vibrations in the air and makes a sound.
The speaker activity wasn’t as successful as we would have liked. Whether it was the result of buying super cheap earphones with flimsy phone plug wires (10 for $20, whoop whoop) or the result of having imperfectly shaped copper wire loops, we aren’t quite sure. On the bright side, one of our students seemed super intrigued by the debugging process and was determined to make his speaker work even though the supplies were not ideal. Not everyone got their speakers to work, but enough of them worked that the students hopefully didn’t think I was crazy.
Remember how I said that I had planned to use the speakers for the next two Raspberry Pi activities? Well, now we ran into the issue of the speakers not working, but the only earphones we had were cut up to make the speakers. You might be thinking to yourself, “Wow, Kelsey sure can’t plan ahead.” Those were my thoughts exactly.
Fortunately for us, we had access to the computer lab downstairs, so we ditched the Raspberry Pi projects and showed the students how to program using Scratch. We only had about 40 minutes of class left, so we were pretty lenient with what the students actually did. Some students started going through the Scratch tutorials in Korean, and the others played games that other Scratchers had made. We figured that as long as the students were doing something related to Scratch, we would allow it because, at the very least, the people playing games would realize that it was possible to make fun games using the Scratch platform.
On the way home, we stopped for dinner at a place that served pig’s feet.
We still had to do a lot of preparation for day 4, so the moment we got home, we opened up shop. We had to solder 8 Motor HATs for the robots, so we set up some sketchy soldering stations in our apartment.
It was fortunate that we had bought two extra Motor HATs because someone—I’m not naming any names—accidentally soldered the header onto the wrong side of a Motor HAT board, and another Motor HAT was missing the header part. Afterward, I stayed up until 1 AM again flashing SD cards and downloading all the libraries necessary to make the robot move. As it turns out, all the preparation was totally worth it.
Shine led the morning activities, which included a marshmallow tower challenge, a straw bridge challenge, an egg drop challenge, and finally a word search challenge. I think out of all the activities we’ve done so far, these were the ones with the highest participation rate. Usually, we would have a few students who were super tired and who would just put their heads down and sleep. Because these activities were all team-based, however, team members would pressure each other to work instead of sleep. As Emily so eloquently explained, “Even the most controlling one realizes that the others can be employed as labor.” Students would actually wake up their teammates and tell them what to do, which I found entertaining. Emu took some awesome photos, so hopefully, she’ll post some more in the near future. In the meantime, enjoy some photos I took on my phone.
In the afternoon, Shine and I had the students assemble robots. I gave them a handout with all the instructions, but some students still ran into difficulties. Emu and I ended up setting up a debugging station in the back of the room. We spent thirty minutes swapping out different parts for one problem robot before realizing that the students had just put the batteries in backward. We were so relieved when we finally got it working, but we were also slightly embarrassed that it took us so long to discover the problem.
We ate dak-galbi in Myeongdong for dinner. It was delicious but spicy.
To be honest, I fell asleep pretty soon after getting home, so that’s that for my day 4 update.