Keva Plank Programming (unplugged)

Prep: Allow two class periods for this project.

  1. The teacher will use KEVA Planks (wooden blocks) to build a structure. The teacher demonstrates to ALL the students what it looks like when a plank is flat versus when it’s on its side.
  2. The class will come up with math words to use so the programmers can give verbal instructions (an algorithm) to guide the computers in replicating their structure. The CS teacher should collaborate with the math teacher to guide students in the right direction as far as vocabulary. Write the words on notecards and tape them to the board as a class “code library.”
  3. One student is the Programmer (or coder) and faces the front of the room, the other student is the Computer and has her back to the board.
  4. Both students have 3-5 KEVA planks. Use 11×17 folded cardboard as a screen. Start with 2 or 3 planks. 
  5. The teacher uses masking tape to stick Keva planks to the whiteboard in an arrangement. The Programmer student builds the same thing the teacher made, then gives the Computer student verbal directions to build it on the other side of the screen. 
  6. “Programmer” should check to see if they gave good directions to the computer. If something is not built correctly, the programmer needs to “de-bug” their directions so the computer can understand and build the structure accurately. In the beginning it’s okay for the Programmer to use hand motions.
  7. Discussion questions:
    • What was difficult? Easy? Did the programmer give directions that were particularly helpful or accurate?
    • What will you do different next time?
  8. Students trade places and roles. Teacher builds another simple design for students to build.
  9. This time students should not use their hands to help give directions. Only use their voice. Are there words you could use that would be helpful? Add those to the initial list. (Number of blocks used, skinny or wide sides, “looks like”, (letter, geometric shape, etc) Left and right are reversed.  Are there mathematical words you could use to help give directions?
  10. Repeat the process, allowing students to come up with their own designs.
  • Keva planks
  • Masking tape
  • 11x17 folded cardboard for each pair
  • Notecards
  • CS notebooks