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Promoting STEM Education Through Alexa Programming Skills

Challenge

Loudoun Country Day School  (LCDS) is an accredited, independent, preschool through eighth-grade school in Loudoun County, Virginia, that was founded in 1953 and has been awarded “best independent school” multiple times.

Infinitive partnered with LCDS to teach middle school students how to program an Amazon Alexa device. The idea was born from Infinitive’s college internship STEM program that trained interns to create an Alexa skill for a client. During the spring of 2020, 7th graders began virtually programming basic Alexa skills with facts about the school due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year the same class of students, now in 8th grade, were challenged to build an Alexa skill that would help supplement study material for one of their classes. The curriculum promoted real-world situations, such as consulting, problem solving, cloud computing, and programming commands in Alexa. 

Solution

Infinitive created a secure AWS cloud environment for LCDS and gave the students a high-level overview of the technical architecture. In addition, each student was assigned a consulting role to recreate a team environment that encouraged collaboration.

Leveraging AWS Organizations, a secure account was created for this effort. The Alexa developer account was set up with a dedicated staff administrator email so that the teacher could extend team access through the management console. Students were then able to complete dual learning tracks, exploring both project management and Alexa skill development. They were also able to leverage the skill developer console’s ability to flip to pure code view, which allowed them to learn and expand their Python and Node.js coding capabilities by adding custom actions to their skills. The code learning objective was amplified since students were not slowed down with the code environment set-up. This allows them to jump quickly into the custom code components after they completed basic console set-up.

Outcome

The Infinitive team worked with LCDS students and teachers to proofread and edit their code. Each team of students successfully delivered presentations to their classmates to demonstrate their Alexa coding skills. LCDS students can now share their Alexa skills with each other to help them study for important units in their core disciplines.

It has truly been a fulfilling experience to share Infinitive’s AWS knowledge with students in the community while encouraging them to explore roles in technical fields and learn about Alexa skills development.

Published June 3, 2021