When you have to study for a test or an exam, do you always wait until the last days to start studying? And when the last days come, do you get stressed because you haven't studied the last topics enough?  When you leave home in the morning to go to school are you always in a hurry? Or do you always wait until the very last minute to prepare your school bag? And when you are about to cross the doorstep do you realize that you have forgotten half of the books you need?

If it happens to you to be in one of these situations, maybe planning is not your best, but don't worry!  If you want to present your project at the International STEM Awards on time, here you can find some tips to keep everything under control.

We’ll start from the assumption that you already have clear ideas about what project you want to make, and you only need someone to help you get the activities under control and manage your time: in short, you've already analyzed the problem you want to solve quite deeply and you've already found a solution.

To make a comparison with what we wrote in our guide on making a video game you have outlined the different aspects involved in the creation of a video game to raise awareness about energy consumption and now you have to start writing the code.

Scrum

Here we offer a simplified version of a method to organize the activities called SCRUM.  If you already know this tool or you are a Scrum purist please don’t hold against us if we omit some information or we overturn it a little: we just want to introduce the kids with a valid tool.

Scrum was designed for team work, but if you work alone we are sure you will find very useful tips.

List your actions

If you followed us until now, it’s because for your project it’s time to identify all the actions necessary to implement the solution: referring to the video game problem, what do you need to get started?  For example, you need to get the background and sprites: do you draw them yourself?  Then you have to digitize them and make them usable with Scratch: do you download them from the Internet?  And if you download them, are they ready to use or do you have to edit them?

And then you have to start programming: how do you make a person appear in the room and make sure that the light turns on in that room and in that room only?

And so on, until you’ll find all the actions necessary to complete your video game. Don't forget that the International STEM Awards ask you to provide documentation on your project to make it easy for the community to understand what you have done and how. You have to spend some time to document what you are doing: we suggest to you to write down your considerations while you are doing the activities, so as not to run the risk at the end of a working session that you have forgotten how you did a certain operation.

Take a sheet (possibly electronic) and write down all the actions you've identified. At this level, it is not necessary to go into too much detail.  Put them in order, from the most urgent (high priority) to the least urgent (low priority).  In Scrum, this sheet is called Product Backlog.

Divide et impera

The next suggestion is based on the assumption that it is better to manage a few problems at a time and consolidate what has been done, before facing new problems: split the time that separates you from the delivery of the project in many modules of the same duration, preferably of one or two weeks  (as you progress in the project you will realize by yourself the duration that fit better for you).  Take the Product Backlog produced in the previous step and try to define a duration for each of the activities you have listed, starting from the highest priority ones: stop when you have collected a number of activities whose duration is equal to the duration of the entire module.  If an activity seems too complicated to evaluate, try splitting it in simpler activities and giving them a duration value.  In Scrum the modules are called Sprint and mark the time of the project.

Now take the activities you collected into the Sprint, write them on post-it (one activity for each post-it) and stick the post-it notes on a board, a blackboard or a wall (the Scrum Board of Scrum) that you will have previously split into three columns: To do, Doing and Done.  At the beginning, the post-it will be placed in the first column.  Then, you will take charge of one activity at a time (the team members will take charge of each activity in parallel) and you will move the related post-it to Doing while you are doing the activity, and in Done when the activity is finished.  If you are in Team don't forget to write your name in the post-it: this is an important step, because it says "I take the responsibility to complete this task!".

Review and reflect

When you have finished the Sprint, stop for a moment and try to discuss constructively with the team, without offending or disrespecting anyone, what went well and what could be improved instead.

Next sprint

Now the Sprint is over, but the project probably isn't: there are still lots of activities to do in the Sprint Backlog.  The time has come to start the next Sprint.

From time to time, take a look at the activities you have left to do and see if you should accelerate the pace a little.

A tool for everyday life

Scrum was born in the field of software development, but can also be used in other areas: if you try to imagine, it can also be used in everyday life, to plan a day of study at home or to plan a party with your friends, in short, to keep many activities under control, activities that every day you have to accomplish alone or in a group.

So start the Sprint now and we can't wait to see your project!

* If you want to go more in depth with SCRUM click here.