Jewelbots Workshop Best Practices
How to run a great coding workshop for girls with Jewelbots, the programmable bluetooth bracelets.
July 07, 2018
Coding & Cupcakes has run several Jewelbots workshops now, and we’ve compiled a list of best practices and tips & tricks. Everything we do at Kansas City Women in Technology events is based on research, attendee feedback, retrospectives, and survey results.
The number one thing to know before any coding workshop is your attendees will have preconceived notions of what coding is; they won’t expect things like setup time and error debugging to be such a large part of the process. The more explicitly you can outline expectations for them, the less frustrated they will be!
- Make sure your registration page is very clear and understandable for potential attendees. We make sure to include laptop requirements - laptops that are wifi enabled, have Admin permissions to install the Arduino IDE, and have a USB port or the adaptor necessary.
- Place your Jewelbot order at least a week before your event, and order a few extra units just in case of emergency.
- Charge the Jewelbots the day before your event and check for any faulty batteries.
- Save the latest Jewelbots boards and firmware updates to a USB drive - if you encounter wifi issues beyond your control this is a life-saver! 💖 The boards can take a while to download even on fast wifi - don’t frustrate your attendees with too much setup time!
- Create a workshop outline with step-by-step instructions for the attendees - they’ll feel more safe and less mentor-dependent with a printed guide to follow.
- Prep mentors and volunteers on Jewelbots pairing + messaging functionality, as well as basic debugging steps.
Introduce mentors & volunteers - we have ours share how they got interested in technology. 💖 It’s important for girls to hear different stories to understand there’s more than one pathway into success in tech.
Communicate the goals of the workshop and be sure to explain the “why” of everything you do. Why are we downloading the Arduino IDE? Why are we putting our code in the loop function?
We like to start by asking two girls to come up and be ours friends and help demonstrate pairing. We then encourage everyone around the room to pair and make new friends.
We like to keep a “troubleshooting” slide up for girls with hints about common issues they may run into:
During The Workshop
- Allow attendees to work at a self-guided pace, and encourage them to not compare themselves to others.
- Have mentors check in with attendees frequently to offer help, sometimes attendees won’t want to admit they’re stuck!
- DO encourage pair programming - have girls work through problems together, or have one coach another through a solution.
- Allow girls to make mistakes and let broken code compile - then walk them through steps to debug.
- Encourage the girls to explore Jewelbots documentation once they’ve gotten their first code example working, so they can see all the possibilities and begin exploring for themselves.
After The workshop
Make sure you have more coding resources ready to go! This includes joining the Jewelbots Community Forums, listing other coding programs and opportunities in your area, etc.
Gather feedback from attendees - find out what they liked and what they didn’t!
Run a retrospective. Ask your team what went well, what didn’t, and what you should do for next time! Create action items for each thing that needs to happen before next time.
To manually add boards, go to Atom -> Preferences and paste the additional board URLs as instructed. Click the “more preferences” link provided and in packages file save the Jewelbots boards.
It might be helpful to increase the font size for readability - we don’t have 1000s of lines of code to read, so make it easy on their eyes!
Kids all seem to have touchscreens these days - beware if you’re someone who points at code on the screen a lot like me!