Coding Is A Hoot: Owls are Alive with Code at Coxheath Elementary, Coxheath, NS
Owls have a long association with wisdom and learning. Often you'll find them represented as classroom decorations and all-knowing characters in classic children stories like Winnie The Pooh. Many schools use the 'wise old owl' as a mascot or emblem, but few share the ability to bring these inanimate symbols of learning to life. Especially those in the fourth grade. That is until, master Scratcher, Nora Shaheen decided it was time to stretch her wings and hack a stuffie.
Nora Shaheen, grade 5 student at
Coxheath Elementary, was intrigued
with the idea of adding some
hardware to her coding projects after
having the chance to create a Makey
Makey Piano in her school’s
Makerspace last season. So, this
year when Principal Trevor Leblanc
encouraged Nora to create a project
in the Makerspace she knew right
away what she wanted to do: an
interactive Scratch Makey Makey
Then, it was just a matter of
deciding on the topic and where to
begin. Nora has a great
understanding and love of coding in
Scratch – so, as co-program Director
of Brilliant Labs, we talked about
what else she would like to
incorporate into the project – and
the answer was ‘stuffies’ (stuffed
animals) and in particular, she had
two tawny owl stuffies and was
willing to donate one to her school
Nora wanted to be able to teach others about the tawny owl – and decided to make the owl itself interactive by connecting it to the Makey Makey. The project was off and running. Nora started by researching facts
about the tawny owl and then recorded each fact as a separate sound clip using Scratch. Then she created an owl sprite in Scratch it was a great way to incorporate her art skills. After, Nora began writing the code (see below).
Now she was ready to start transforming her stuffie. Nora carefully opened the body of the owl to insert the wires. After, she sewed the Velostat conductive fabric conductive fabric on for buttons. The wires were then connected to the Makey Makey to complete the circuit.
We asked Nora about her project:
Why did you choose this project?
I already knew how to use Scratch. I have an account and have made many games and projects. So, I wanted to do something with the Makey Makey and I thought it would be cool if I could make something people could touch too. I really wanted to use the Makey Makey again – the last time we only got to make something with gummies. To incorporate the ground wire into the project, Nora fed
the wire through a pen attachment. To make the buttons interactive now you simply touch them with the tip of the pen.
What did you learn?
I learned a lot about the Tawny Owl. I also learned how to sew and add buttons
to make it react when the buttons were
What was the hardest part of the project?
Sewing the buttons was the
hardest part. The coding was
easy, the sewing was trickier.
We had to use a curved needle
so the thread could be sewn
through the stuffie.
What was the best part?
It was really fun testing the owl. I
was running wires inside the owl
(after I removed a lot of stuffing)
and so I had to keep testing that
it worked every time I moved the
owl. I played the sound clips a
Would you do it again?
Yes, I would do it again. It was
lots of fun and I really liked it.
Nora will be demonstrating and
sharing her project with other
students in her school.
I am very confident that because of this clever & interactive project every student at Coxheath Elementary will know several facts about the tawny owl. This was Nora’s first self directed project in the Makerspace but I’m sure it won’t be her last.