Westview Middle students build carnival games in technology class

Students at Westview Middle School design a Hot Wheels track with a rotating center, a basketball version of the classic skee ball, and a fishing game using recycled robot competition parts.

Westview technology teacher Danny Hernandez said the class is student-centered, with students designing, testing and building the games.

“I don’t have all the answers for her,” he said. “You have to figure out the problems.”

LONGMONT, CO - NOVEMBER 17:Westview Middle School Teacher Danny Hernandez demonstrates wiring for LED lights at a play project completed on Thursday November 17, 2022 from a previous Wired Creativity Class in Longmont.  (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)
Westview Middle School teacher Danny Hernandez demonstrates wiring for LED lights in a play project completed Thursday from a previous Wired Creativity class in Longmont. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

Hernandez, a parent at Longmont’s Central Elementary, spoke to other parents a few years ago about how to improve Central’s annual Mardi Gras fundraiser. He suggested that his middle school students build and run the carnival games so Central could save the money spent hiring an outside company.

He made the games the main project in his nine-week Wired Creativity course. The goal is for students to reinterpret carnival games, many of which involve technology.

In group work, the students start building a prototype out of cardboard, scrap wood and other spare parts. In addition to creating new games, students are encouraged to improve on games created in previous classes. If you have an artistic inclination, you are responsible for the painting.

Most of the materials are either donated – mostly by parents, with a local bike shop contributing boxes made from product boxes – or reused from previous robot competitions. The carnival games share space with the robotics arena in the school’s engineering lab.

After testing the prototypes, the games that work best are built out of wood and rented out to elementary schools or used for Westview events.

“Not every game makes it,” Hernandez said. “You have to use data to prove it works.”

In the current seventh grade, a group of three girls came up with an idea for a Hot Wheels tube track and turned it into a game by using a motor to spin the center section, making it harder to get the car to run bring end.

LONGMONT, CO - NOVEMBER 17:From left: Westview Middle School seventh graders Juliana Monreal, Tara Ebel and Ava Simonson work on a game during teacher Danny Hernandez's Wired Creativity Class on Thursday, November 17, 2022 in Longmont.  (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)
From left, Westview Middle School seventh graders Juliana Monreal, Tara Ebel and Ava Simonson work on a game during teacher Danny Hernandez’s Wired Creativity Class Thursday in Longmont. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

“I’m the first to make it,” Ava Simonson rejoiced as she successfully sent her car through the track. “I am great.”

She said she signed up for the class because “it sounded fun to be able to do things.”

Nicco Kovacic came up with a simple idea of ​​throwing a disc into buckets and then changed it to a disc to hit a ball into the buckets to increase the difficulty. It’s so difficult now that he dubbed it “The Near Impossible Game.”

“You have to hit just right,” he said, adding that he’s considering putting a wooden bumper around the buckets to contain the balls that bounce out. “It’s simple, but it’s complex.”

Seventh grader Jayden Henderson works on the game that combines skeeball with basketball. The aim is to roll a ball up a ramp into one of three baskets of different heights. In testing the game, he only made it to the top basket once to win the biggest prize.

“It’s really hard, but it works,” said Jayden, who is also on the school’s robotics team. “I enjoy working with electronics and programming.”

Grades are not based on the final product, allowing students more room to be creative and try more complex designs that they may not complete by the end of the course.

Hernandez gives a “attendance” grade for showing up and staying on task. Students are also asked to grade themselves every two weeks through written reflections on their work – a practice he started during the pandemic when he couldn’t see their work while they were studying from home.

“If you’re willing to show up, work and study, there’s no reason you can’t get a good grade,” he said.

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