Unity 3D for Middle School Students

Every teacher is different and goals vary widely when it comes to computer science education. By high school, the focus is on the AP Computer Science exam, which makes perfect sense. But what about middle school? What about lighter fare for after school clubs, summer programs? I’m also interested in bringing in a larger pool of interested students – so my goal isn’t so much a computer science club, as much a video game design group.

My own experience falls squarely more in the “maker” scene than the programming scene, so it’s appropriate for me to teach to my own strengths, which touch on arts and culture and collaborative projects  — and more important, the personality type of someone who first wants to make something, and then becomes willing to learn the skills in order to build in. (On a tangent – I started to study PHP because I wanted to build a piece of software and just couldn’t direct the developers anymore without understanding what PHP and databases could really do.

So for Unity 3D – we sketch out environments, create a story, and then become motivated to make it happen. And the only way to make it happen is to get a working knowledge of Javascript. I know it’s different than Unityscript, but – stepping back and looking at things from a very rudimentary level – I’m really looking for a way to teach programming fundamentals, while having a pulse on how fast a student between 9-14 can learn something in a brief after school program. Just crossing the gap between Scratch’s drag-and-drop and into the world of semicolons and brackets is a pretty brutal awakening.

Below is a screenshot from an absolutely awful game I made in Unity in about 15 minutes without writing code.  It doesn’t even have a terrain, just 3 cubes in a skybox.  You can play it here  (use your arrow keys to move around). To me, even the most awful game in Unity is breathtaking compared to Scratch. The first time I fell off a world I’d made in Unity, and watched the world float away as I fell into nothingness — I was just hooked.




So that’s the final “why” on Unity 3D. Now let’s look at what the 5-day pilot camp this summer will look like.