Five Link scholars received laptops at the culmination of Coding Camp this summer. The camp, led by Ben Campbell and Fritz Huggins, and held at the school, was a five-week program designed to teach students the basics of coding, specifically Python. Students mastered coding language and syntax, and put their new knowledge to work building calculators, sentence statements, number strings, and text animation. And they had fun along the way!
Weeks one and two of camp consisted of building knowledge of the fundamentals of programming. With a firm grasp on basic coding language, week three moved on to applying those fundamentals. Using a game framework that the instructor coded, students began solving several problems. The game involved a wombat on a 16X12 grid that can walk, turn, pick up, and place leaves. With each new challenge, Ben emphasized the importance of breaking down problems into small steps. As the week progressed, the students became more comfortable with each idea and how to apply their foundational knowledge to each challenge.
As Ben explained, “For example, I coded the wombat’s ability to turn left, but I tasked them with coding the wombat to turn right. Through some thinking and debating, we eventually came to the conclusion that we could make the wombat turn right by making 3 left turns. After that, I introduced them to separating code using functions. It is a good programming practice to separate the code into steps in functions. The first function we wrote was to make the wombat walk “x” number of times. I gave them the ability to make the wombat walk but they would need to write that code 10 times if they wanted it to walk 10 squares. Using this function, we could have it walk 10 times by just specifying the number of times we wanted it to walk in 1 line.”
The excitement and confidence in the classroom were palpable as students focused on problems without ‘giving up’ in minutes and at times, students worked through their breaks on problems. Students have talked about learning how to “build on challenges” and feeling more confident as the problems increased in difficulty. Amber, a rising 7th grader, said she is having “a lot of fun,” and that “when I don’t understand I know I’ll get it if I keep trying because I have faith.”
The students were excited and grateful to receive their own Macbooks at the end of the program. All stated they would continue to explore the what they could do with the coding learned in camp. Christa, a rising 8th grade scholar, stated that she would like to continue to learn more about coding because she said, “This could be so important to my future job and career.”
Thanks to Ben and Fritz for sharing their knowledge and time with our scholars, Newark Kids Code for introducing the young men to Link, and to Electronic Access Foundation for the donation of the laptops for the students to continue exploring computer programming and to use during their educational journey.