We’ve teamed up with Salesforce in the past, at Dreamforce and during Computer Science Education Week, but this time it was to celebrate a 5-year philanthropic relationship between them and the San Francisco and Oakland Unified School Districts. We were one of three local companies to join the event at Visitacion Valley Middle School in S.F. and shared with students the fun of PocketC.H.I.P. + PICO-8.
This was not just any event, but one in which some big-money grants were given. All totalled, this year Salesforce announced a $12.2 million donation to Bay Area STEM education programs: $7.2 million to San Francisco and $5 million to Oakland.
As you’d expect with a big grant presentation, there were many local celebrities in attendance, and when I say celebrities, I mean superintendents, principles, teachers, and politicians. The speeches were kicked off by Joe Truss, the principle of Visitacion Valley Middle School and Salesforce co-founder Parker Harris followed by the mayors of San Francisco and Oakland, Ed Lee and Libby Schaaf respectively. The speeches were closed by Salesforce CEO Mark Benioff where he announced the grants.
My favorite speeches were the ones from Oakland Unified School District Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammel and San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews, who both really connected with the crowd of students while talking about the importance of STEM in middle school.
PocketC.H.I.P. + PICO-8 = STEM Fun!
For our part of the event, we created three student activities, all using PICO-8, the 8-bit fantasy console for creating, playing, and sharing tiny video games. Two of them involved editing Celeste, our favorite game that comes with PICO-8.
One exercise had students dive into Celeste‘s source code and change the gravity to make Celeste jump higher to advance to level two. The second introduced students to PICO-8’s sprite editor by having them edit the look of Celeste. The third exercise was one that included the physical world. Students used PICO-8’s code editor to turn on and off LEDs while learning how to prototype a simple LED circuit.
I have uploaded all the materials into a Github repo and linked to them on the PocketC.H.I.P. documentation page. They are all free to use under the Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Creative Commons license.