Many students are struggling with the concept of parts and wholes and breaking down their experience into components. Instead of distinct components, they are giving me many specific instances of the same component, which ends up turning into a chart of listing the names of instances and coding those specific names in ASCII, which is not our intent.
For example, I had a student encode a trip to the airport. She chose to break down airport locations and her sub-components for her chart were: terminal, check-in, baggage, food service, etc. The encoding descriptions were simply the literal names of these sub-components encoded in ASCII, nothing more.
I think students are struggling with abstractions on many levels. It might be helpful to introduce just a bit of concreteness to this project to get students thinking in the right direction. Here's what I propose: Tweak the directions slightly to state that students are going to develop an online form which collects information from the user to help them encode their experience. This gets students thinking about these components as "containers" for storing specific instances of the component, rather than storing simply the name of the component itself. This is also a nice preview to chapter 2 of the unit where students start thinking about data collection and analysis.