Fascinating games

Westview Middle students build carnival games in a tech class

November 17—Students at Westview Middle School design a hot wheel track with a rotating center section, a basketball version of the classic skee ball, and a fishing game using recycled robotics competition parts.

Westview technology professor Danny Hernandez said the class was student-centric, with the students designing, testing and building the games.

“I don’t have all the answers for them,” he said. “They have to understand the issues.”

Hernandez, a parent at Central Elementary in Longmont, was talking with other parents several years ago about how to improve Central’s annual carnival fundraiser. He suggested that his middle school students build and run the carnival games, saving Central the money spent hiring an outside company.

He made games the main project of his nine-week “wireframe creativity” course. The goal is for students to design a new take on carnival games, many of which incorporate technology.

Working in groups, students begin by building a prototype using cardboard, scrap wood and other loose parts. In addition to creating new games, students are encouraged to improve games created by previous classes. Those with an artistic bent are in charge of painting.

Most of the materials are either donated – mostly by parents, with a local bike shop supplying cardboard from product boxes – or repurposed from previous robotics competitions. The carnival games share space with the school’s tech lab robotic arena.

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 is successful,” Hernandez said. “They need to use data to prove it’s going to work.”

In today’s seventh grade class, a group of three girls came up with the idea of ​​a hot wheel track using pipes, making a game using a motor to spin the middle section, making it harder to ride. bring the car to the end.

“I’m the first to do it,” cheered Ava Simonson as she successfully sent her car onto the track. “I’m genius.”

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

Nicco Kovacic came up with a simple idea of ​​throwing a disc into buckets, then changed it to using a disc to be used to hit a ball into the buckets to increase the level of difficulty. It’s so hard now that he named it “The Near Impossible Game”.

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

Seventh grader Jayden Henderson works on the game that combines skee ball with basketball. The objective is to roll a ball down a ramp into one of three baskets, placed at different heights. In testing the game, he only made the top basket once, so this one will win the biggest prize.

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

Grades are not based on the final product, which gives students more room for creativity and to try more complex designs that they cannot complete by the end of the class.

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

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