Back to Blog
STEM Activities

STEM Activity: Purple, Pickle, Square…Coding is Everywhere

Ada Lovelace, a mathematician and writer, is widely recognized as the first computer programmer. Because computers speak a different language than people do, programmers use different systems of codes to write instructions for computers to follow. Ada Lovelace wrote the first algorithm, which is a set of rules or operations performed by a computer. She showed that computers could do more than simply calculate numbers.

In celebration of Ada Lovelace Day, we invite children to explore the fundamentals behind coding and programming with these two fun-filled activities!


Materials Needed

  • Beads (two different colors)
  • Markers
  • Paper
  • Stickers or stamps
  • Toothpicks


At-Home Instructions


Activity 1: Symbol Says

  1. Using stamps, stickers or toothpicks, create a series of different symbols that stand for different actions. For example, a red square could mean jump and a blue swirl might mean spin.
  2. Make a key on a piece of paper that shows what each symbol means and share it with your family and friends.
  3. Invite them to play a game of Symbol Says.
  4. Call out or point to a symbol, and as long as you say “Symbol Says,” they have to perform the action. If you don’t say “Symbol Says” and a person moves, they are out. Play until only one person remains.


Activity 2: Binary Bracelets

  1. Binary is a coding system that uses 0s and 1s to represent a letter, digit or other character. It is used to program electronics and tell devices what to do. Choose one word you’d like to spell out on a bracelet in two colors of beads using binary code.
  2. Assign one color of bead to be the “1” and the second color of bead to be the “0.” Follow the Binary Bracelet Decoder below to slide your different colored beads onto a piece of string in the order shown on the decoder.
  3. Remember to make a knot at one end of the string so the beads do not fall off.

What Are We Discovering?

Exploring patterns and codes is a great way to introduce children to the language of computers and electronic devices. Many National Inventors Hall of Fame® Inductees developed coding systems to allow for secure communication and to make the world safer. For example, Granville Woods developed the railway telegraph. Before its creation, moving trains were unable to communicate with each other or with rail stations, resulting in dangerous situations. Adi Shamir is the co-inventor of RSA Cryptography, which is used in almost all internet-based transactions to safeguard sensitive data such as credit card numbers. Barbara Liskov is a pioneer in the design of computer programming languages, and her work contributed to the development of Ada, a computer programming language named for Ada Lovelace.


Looking for other ways to explore STEM?

For more activities and ideas for STEM fun at home, we invite you to visit our blog.

Related Articles