Planting a seed: Coding Academy students teach fifth graders basic coding skills


On Friday morning, the auditorium at Franklin Elementary School was filled with student chatter – and the buzz of robots that those students helped program.

Quinn Richardson, an eight-month-old student at Golden Triangle Coding Academy, stood at the head of a “maze” – laid out with duct tape on the auditorium floor – as a group of fifth-graders year unfolded beside him. Some of them had focused their attention on a remote control in Richardson’s hand. Others watched a small, round robot at the start of the maze.

The fifth graders had programmed the robot to move in a certain direction based on the key on the remote that Richardson pressed, with the ultimate goal being that the remote could steer the robot through the maze.

The ball rolled to the end of the first stretch of the maze, made a sharp left turn and then continued, still turning left or right just in time until it reached the end of the strip.

“That’s it, you all made it through the maze,” Richardson told the students, giving them all a double high-five. “You are all programmers. … It’s pretty cool, isn’t it?

It was the last day of “Coding Week”, during which Richardson and other Coding Academy students entered and left elementary schools in the Columbus Municipal School District, teaching fifth graders the basics. computer coding. CMSD organized a similar week for second graders in November.

The “language of the 21st century”

The Golden Triangle Coding Academy is an 11-month program that teaches coding and other tech skills to high school graduates. Academy Director Sarah Lee and instructor Angela Bluitt worked with CMSD Superintendent Cherie Labat to get these coding students to go to CMSD elementary schools to teach kids how to program robots – and hopefully, generate interest in computer coding and other STEM (science, technology, engineering, math), said Jessika Hayes, CMSD and STEM coding intern, who helped organize the coding weeks.

“(We teach students) how to write programs and give instructions to robots, why we have to give them instructions, what languages ​​they understand and how easy it is to program them,” said Hayes, who is also a student. at the Coding Academy.

Students use block coding – an already written coding language – to write directions for robots, programming them to move in different directions or to flash lights of different colors based on commands.

CMSD Superintendent Cherie Labat said the coding weeks, besides being a great partnership between the school district and Coding Academy, will encourage young children to consider whether they are interested in science and science. technological and in particular if they might be interested in coding. , which she called the “language of the 21st century”. The earlier they are introduced to STEM fields, the more likely they are to be confident that they can be successful in those fields, she said.

“It is important that they are exposed to STEM related fields from an early age,” she said. “… The early exposure will lead them to have a strong defense of their rights with regard to technology and science. “

The robots used during coding weeks were purchased with $ 4,000 in donations from Columbus Light and Water earlier this year, Labat previously told The Dispatch, and will help teachers implement coding programs in rooms. class.

“Space for another programmer”

Coding Academy student Hayes and Kevin Aiken said they got positive responses from most elementary school students.

“They are really excited,” Aiken said. “There are a lot of different angles from which we approach the issue. Some children are interested in mixing colors, others are interested in having it driven. “

And again, some fifth graders are interested in the code itself.

“Some of them get it really fast,” he said. “I’m surprised. I’m learning more about the program to show them some extra stuff.

He said it opens their eyes to a new area they haven’t been exposed to.

“In our introduction, we’re talking about apps and games and someone has to code or develop them,” Aiken said. “The kids asked us if we programmed Fortnite (a video game) or things like that. I’m like ‘No, but someone did.’ “

Hayes agreed.

“I just want to light that fire inside of them that makes them ask more questions, get involved and want to pursue this career,” she said. “Technology is one of the most lucrative fields and there is always room for another programmer.

“You just need to plant a seed, and as long as we have programs like this, we will water that seed,” she added.

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