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Scratch Conference 2018: Inspiring Creativity & Celebrating Diversity

EPAM was honored to attend and support the Scratch Conference on July 25-28, which was held right in the heart of MIT’s campus. The conference was filled with ignite talks, workshops, networking and presentations from the founder of Scratch, Mitch Resnick, and his team.

At the beginning of the conference, participants were reminded of what Scratch is all about. Projects created by kids from around the world showed how Scratch helps boost creativity, teamwork and collaboration. Mitch showcased a project developed by a young boy with autism that had a powerful message about how differences make the world diverse and how important it is to learn from your strengths and accept yourself and others. The project was entitled ‘You Be You’. It was truly inspiring to see how Scratch can be used to bring children together.

Another exciting part of the Scratch Conference was hearing about the upcoming release of Scratch 3.0 in January 2019. We were able to try the new features in a test environment. The new version has new sounds, an updated layout, expanded library of Sprites and several fun extensions. I attended a workshop about how to use one of the new extensions Microbit to increase engagement in class. Microbit attaches to physical objects and connects to Scratch to reflect the movement of physical objects on the screen. We made a musical instrument from foil, connected it to Scratch via Microbit and saw how it made sounds and moved on the screen. Another fun activity was creating a surfing video game with a piece of wood, where movements of the person on the board were imitated by a Sprite in Scratch.

The Scratch project management workshop provided me with new ideas on how to help students from EPAM eKids build more sophisticated projects. Usually we try to complete a project in one to three lessons, but the project management workshop provided a guideline to plan out an entire semester for a more complex project. The workshop taught me how to help the students form their ideas into a clear project with Sprites and commands, determine which questions to ask each student so that he or she can estimate the time required to complete the whole project, how to break down this final idea of the project into manageable pieces of work, and how to build a project with increasing complexity while keeping the code clean.

EPAM’s Head of Corporate Social Responsibility Shamilka Samarasinha attended the conference for the third time and said, “I’ve seen the conference evolve into a space that has become significant and meaningful to educators and academics from all over the world. It was extremely exciting to see EPAM as a partner of the conference alongside Google, Intel and many other tech leaders.”

Danielle Ruess-Saltz, EPAM’s Senior Director of Global Corporate Communications and Marketing, shared, “Scratch is so much more than an educational platform to teach children how to code – it’s more of an ecosystem that encompasses an online community of children from around the world who not only learn how to program, but also build relationships by sharing and discussing their interactive stories and games.”

Scratch isn’t just about one coding activity during a technology class. Many of the teachers during the conference shared that they were successful in combining Scratch and other classes together. For example, one technology teacher and history teacher gave their students a project to complete based on a game built in Scratch that demonstrates certain concepts that were covered in the history class.

This is an example of how Scratch can help encourage creativity, analytical skills, coding and learning history all in one project. We loved hearing all of the different aspects of Scratch and how it is used in the community, and are looking forward to coming back to the classroom with fresh ideas and new tools to help educate the future generation of technologists and thinkers!