It has almost been eight months since we founded the ACM Student Chapter at FEUP. And, from the start, we decided that participating in the “Universidade Júnior” was a priority!
The “Universidade Júnior” is a program part of a bigger network called the “European Children’s Universities Network”, known as eucu.net, whose goal is to bring universities closer to secondary school students and children, fostering their curiosity and encouraging them to continue their studies at a higher education institution.
In this spirit, our chapter decided to organize an activity about computer science to promote the course “Engenharia Informática e de Computação” and the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Porto.
The team that was invested on this project was composed by Adriana Almeida, Carolina Cunha Gonçalves and me, with the huge help from the rest of the direction of the chapter. The monitors of the week 3-7 July were I and Adriana and of the week 10-14 July were I and Carolina!
But, what were the weeks all about?
The week plan
Our plan for the “Semana do Futuro Engenheiro Informático” [Week of the Future Software Engineer] was to introduce students to the experience of studying at FEUP, from the most serious parts to the most entertaining ones.
For this, on the first day, we introduced them to FEUP. We visited the different buildings of the Faculty of Engineering, explaining their usefulness.
During that day, we also organized many ice-breakers, from obvious ones, such as the “two truths, one lie” and others, to more subtle ones, including funnier questions that facilitated the conversation such as a debate about their favorite superhero.
Tuesday, we travelled through Porto, going through the areas and places that most students visit and use during their stay at University.
Additionally, during these first two days we started giving them some ideas of the computational thinking, demonstrating the high-level logic we can use when programming, namely the use of conditionals and loops. We also introduced them to the concept of variables, data assignment, data types and indexation in lists.
During the rest of the week, we also discussed how data is stored in memory, how can images, numbers and text be represented in binary, how machine learning models are trained (using the Teachable Machine app) and how math and physics are extremely important to a software engineer. We also played around with Arduino and explained the potential of the Raspberry Pi boards!
To inspire the students, the professor Pedro C. Diniz also gave a small presentation, where he reinforced the importance of attending university, the adaptation required for the transition from the high school and the challenges and opportunities that future software engineers can face, while answering the doubts of the more curious ones.
The projects of the week
The projects we selected were based on the participant’s age and our idea about their level of knowledge in this area.
Even thought the projects for our week were relatively simple, we believed they transmitted the basic blocks of a real project they may face at University or during their job as Software Engineers. For this, we only defined the final goal for the challenges, explained how the software worked and gave a brief description of the complications they could find.
These were the projects they faced:
- Using the “Gamefroot” app, create a 2D game. In this project, due to the high complexity to create a game from the scratch, we suggested them to start from a template and then add some new functionality to their game.
- With a “Micro:bit” board and the Makecode software, develop a small program that used some functionalities of these boards (sensors, speakers, LEDs display).
- Finally, using the “MiT App Inventor”, improve an app that uses AI to detect and classify images by adding some new functionalities.
They worked on each of the projects during one day, starting on wednesday.
To enrich their soft-skills, some of these projects were done in groups and at the end of each day, they were asked to present their work to their colleagues.
On the first week, due to the curiosity of the participants, we also presented some Python challenges to more advanced students!
The feedback we received for these weeks was extremely motivating!
Even before starting, (we only had planned to prepare the week of 3-7 July, but) we were asked to repeat our program on the following week!
After each week, we also asked our participants for feedback! And, these were the stats about the participants’ satisfaction:
Additionally, 90% of the participants felt that this experience improved their perspective about the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Porto and about the course we were promoting. They all described their view of the faculty and the course as positive or very positive.
Some of their original comments were as follows:
Foi uma semana diferente e divertida, no entanto, a única coisa que mudaria seria, talvez, a visita pelo Porto, uma vez que maioria já conhecia.
Gostei da diversidade das atividades, muitas das quais mudaram a minha perspetiva sobre este curso. Não acho que se possa sugerir mais nada. Gostei imenso!! <3 [edited*]
Translated to english:
It was a different and fun week, however, the only thing that I would change would be, perhaps, the visit to Porto, since most of us already knew it.
I enjoyed the diversity of activities, many of which changed my perspective on this course. I don’t think anything more can be suggested. I really enjoyed it!! <3
*The content remained as it was written. However, some sentences were removed for clarification.