Computational Thinking with Scratch

Developing a new idea

I have been posting quite a bit on Minecraft lately, but I have also been exploring Scratch as well. I have used Scratch in the past, but am trying to work through it from a Computational Thinking perspective.

I am working on a new idea that I would like to learn how to do myself. I am an avid fan of makerspaces and bringing the intangible to the tangible. One thing I have noticed through my engineering program, robotics camps and teams, and projects in our curriculum is that students have a hard time bringing their ideas to life. Many can brainstorm and sketch an idea, but cannot actually implement the idea. Others can do great things on the computer, but when pressed to create a working model they struggle. There is a disconnect between all the simulations, apps, and games they play and actually designing and creating on their own.

One idea that I want to add to my skill set so it can implemented into various projects is to take programming on a computer and have it affect the real world. I am inspired by a video I watch a while back where in Scratch people programmed a bouncing ball move from the left side of the screen to the right side of the screen where it would then trigger LEGO WeDo to actually move and physical build of a bouncing ball to roll to the next screen where this process would continue i.e. virtual bouncing ball → physical bouncing ball → virtual → physical. In essence I want to create a Rube Goldberg machine.

As I explored the contents of the Scratch and the many projects created I placed a focus on LEGO builds. I want to see what others have done to gain inspiration for my project to take things to the next level.

The first one that struck my interest was this one where a balance was built. I was thinking this would be an interesting piece to add to this collaborative project where someone would create a similar model that would trigger something to move from one side of the balance to the other.

Another option is this simple build for a moving car that could also trigger movement from one computer to the next. I have many years of LEGO Education experience so we could create something a little nicer, but it works and displays that you don’t need anything fancy to make ends meet. We believe in the KISS method(Keep It Simple Stupid) which is good when working with students because they often try to overcomplicate their ideas.

Finally, the other option I was looking at was the actual Scratch platform. For screen display it could be simple of an object simply moving across, but I want something better than that. This project showcases one idea where a modified Rube Goldberg machine could be created within one program ending with the trigger of a physical object.

These three ideas have helped me to develop a plan of action for my project. This project is aimed at middle schoolers, but I would love implement this idea into PD training for educators as well. Looking at the standards of Iowa Common Core my focus will be on 21st Century Skills. We could easily add some content standards, but these would only be added after working with teachers to make it connect to their classroom needs. In general this idea will seek to capture these standards


Technology Literacy


Essential Concept and/or Skill: Demonstrate creative thinking in the design and development of innovative technology products and problem solving.



Essential Concept and/or Skill: Collaborate with peers, experts, and others using interactive technology.



Essential Concept and/or Skill: Plan strategies utilizing digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information



Essential Concept and/or Skill: Use critical thinking skills to conduct research, solve problems, and make informed decisions using appropriate technological tools and resources.

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Computational Thinking: My Summer Learning Reflection

I have been learning a great deal this summer on my own initiative like most educators do! Summer is a time to relax, but it is also a crucial time for educators to learn and develop new skills, ideas, and modes of operation because the reality is that we just don’t always have time while in the classrooom.

I have been glued to Minecraft and Computational Thinking. I recently wrapped up a new project around computational thinking using Scratch and Arduino.

I want to compile my reflections of learning so far and decided to use Sway to organize it all. Check it out and let me know what you you think. What else should I learn about computational thinking? What is missing?

I plan to develop projects and create more with Scratch and Arduino. I also plan to get back on the Minecraft path and finish development of some projects I am working on.

| “Computational Thinking: Summer Learning Reflection” |

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Scratch for Arduino: LED “Sprites” in Action

Computational Thinking Example

I have been giving some great thought to the topic of computational thinking(insert paper link here). I really believe that this is something that can be easily integrated into any classroom with a bit of prep work and cleaning up some rough edges of current lesson plans.

I have also had some prior experience working with Scratch and wanted to dive into Scratch but in a different way. I did not want to create something that just moved on the screen. My past experience has exposed me to the fact that middle school students are just not that impressed by Scratch and their focus usually last one to three days before it just does not mean anything to them anymore. This is a general statement as I know there are students who will spend countless hours programming and creating, but the majority just don’t fall in love with the program.

However, I found in my experience that if you can get things in the real world to move, light up, make noise, and be open enough to be tinkered with students will stay engaged much longer. So, with that being said I wanted to create something that bridges both worlds together. The world of Scratch because students can easily learn how the programming works while creating change in the real world and not just images on a screen.

I went through a design phase that allowed my computational thinking to be challenged.

THINK/BRAINSTORM: Through my trial and error I came across Scratch for Arduino. I am a huge Arduino fan and recently started teaching students Arduino. They struggle with the coding. When I saw this modified program I knew I had something that could enhance learning and really help students use all the tools in a mix that works.

LEARN: I had to learn how to install the software to make it work. I had some issues with my Mac, but after a few hours of frustration and way too much coffee I was able to get things up and running on my Surface 3. We were in business. The beauty of it all is that it programs just like Scratch and connect right with Arduino. Easy Peasy!

CREATE: What in the world was I going to create? I used three LED lights to serve as my “sprites”. I developed sounds files to go along with the LED lights blinking. Each light was a different color(costume). I had various programming blocks in use to make things work. To really challenge my learning I tried to develop a flipped learning lesson plan using PowerPoint and the Office Mix In add on. The goal was to show how to create something using all these tools and then give an assignment for the user to take their learning to application mode.

TEST: The problem was to see if I could teach others how to program using Scratch and Arduino to solve a challenge/problem. In this case it was to turn on three LED lights while beeping three times. Through this challenge I wanted to expose the user to how circuits work and how to program. I have built in checkpoints to gain feedback along the way. I am going on the assumption that the user understands Scratch and Arduino. As people use the lesson I will take the feedback and continue to improve the lesson so it works for anyone. This will take time as I troubleshoot my teaching and missing components.

COMMUNICATE: I learned a great deal. For me, I learned more about compatibility between computers and software. I had a difficult time with ports acting up to install the firmware and getting things up and running. Once I did that the programming and building was easy. This was also my first time using Mix for a flipped lesson so I tried to communicate the learning and instructions the best I could, but I realize it is probably not very good and will need some revisions.

REFINE: I have already discussed this above, but I plan on using the feedback from users to make the experience better. I know I need to spend more time on how to use Scratch and Arduino, but I also feel like there are a million resources already. Additionally, I want to build new projects and take the learning to the next level so I hope to build upon this and create cooler projects in the future.


Basic Lesson Plan

Please use the following link to answer questions in the flipped learning Office Mix: Link to Office Mix of this Flipped Learning Lesson

If you want just the video here is a YouTube version of same material

The user should be able to gather everything from within the Mix. I did not include a slide with objectives(I should have), but the goals of this flipped learning lesson is to help students learn about engineering design, circuits, computers, software coding, and problem solving.

As students go through the lesson they are given step by step instructions to making everything work. The goal is to lead by example and give them something that works. As they work through the steps they are learning about circuits and coding.

At the end they are given an assignment to take their learning to the next level with their own student voice and agency. They are expected to explain their thinking and process along with hitting one of the NGSS. I used NGSS instead of Core because our school has switched over the NGSS. This lesson is aimed at middle school students, but could easily be used by upper elementary, high school, or educators who are just starting out. Everything can be seen in the mix or will be added as I continue to improve.

I encourage you to go through the lesson and leave feedback so I know where to make improvements. If there are any questions please let me know. I hope you find this interesting and useful as I learned a great deal putting it all together.


Link to Office Mix of this Flipped Learning Lesson


Scratch for Arduino

123D Circuits

Learn Arduino – great site I used to reference standards of all types

Try Engineering

Scratch Resources-

Scratch Educator Portal 


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