Today, in order to kick off Computer Science Education Week, we volunteered with TechPoint Foundation for Youth in their partnership with IPS Harshman Magnet Middle School. The goal was to engage all 500+ of their students in one day!
RocketBuild decided to have everyone in our company participate at the same time. We took over 4 classrooms and worked with each room’s teacher to facilitate the hour of code. First the classes watched a video explaining why coding is a skill worth learning (you can watch it here for yourself), then we introduced ourselves and got down to business.
Of course there were the first groans and grumbles “why are we doing this”, “I hate coding, it’s too hard”. But then they started working and an amazing thing happened. They started to open up. They changed their tune pretty quickly from not being interested to seeing how many levels their classmates had beaten, and then working to catch up. They were figuring out the logic, working through the various problems they were coming up against, and creating solutions. There was even some group problem solving, “Oh yea I just beat that one, you have to hit that guy twice because he comes back…did you have your colon in the wrong place…what happens if you turn left twice?”
At its root, being a good developer is the ability to find ways to solve problems.
Perhaps we didn’t encourage every kid in the room to become a developer, and there are probably still some who didn’t find it interesting. But they all tried it and were all able to solve at least one of the problems. At its root, being a good developer is the ability to find ways to solve problems, and the strength to not give up when your code starts throwing bugs. But those skills aren’t just useful as a developer, they’re great life skills no matter what you decide to do.
Someone on our team said as we were leaving, “This is a cool program, I feel like they should be teaching coding classes as part of the normal curriculum, these kids could really get a lot out of it.” We all agreed. Learning computer science isn’t just something for people who want to get into development, it’s a great way to help students engage in active problem solving and give them a chance to see the results in real time.
We love the hour of code program, not just for what we’re able to share with the students, but for the things they teach us in return. Now we know which mobile games are “so old” and which book series we need to start reading. We also know that kids these days often get a bad rap, but by and large they’re really kind and eager to learn.
Quick shout out to the other local companies joining us to help reach this goal.
For fun: The classes were working on the Code Combat Academy bit.ly/HOCCodeCombat. Feel free to try it out for yourself, or if you know some kids who are interested, let them have a go and celebrate Computer Science Education Week.