Nearly 50 students participated in a Connecting with Code summer computing education experience from June 5 to June 10 at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Ind., as part of the national code.org program. This is the first year for the program.
Groups of elementary school and middle school students learned the basic concepts of computer coding and connecting with online programming resources that they can continue to use after this camp experience. Students worked in programming teams in campus computer laboratories, and had Rose-Hulman students as mentors to help make their first experience a positive start to programming.
The sessions were provided by Rose-Hulman computer science and software engineering professors David Fisher and David Mutchler, and the day camp experience was organized by Erik Liobis, assistant director of residence life.
The elementary school students used a block-based computer programming language, called Scratch, to make sharable online animations and program Lego robots. Meanwhile, middle school students used the Python programming language to create graphics and controlling Lego robots.
“Hopefully, we’re instilling a mindset within these students that computing and coding are fun and exciting, and they continue working in these areas well after completing this camp,” said Fisher.
Lost Creek Elementary student Keira Southard has experience with coding and participated in the camp. “It’s really fun. We’ve learned how to control robots and make them do exactly what you want,” Keira said. “Sometimes, it doesn’t do what you want, so we have to do more things to see if it works.”
A special emphasis is being made to get girls and other underrepresented minorities to start learning about code. According to Made with Code, 74 percent of girls express an interest in STEM in middle school, but by high school, only three-tenths of one percent of girls plan to major in computer science. Several girls participated in the Connecting With Code camp. Rose-Hulman also saw a record number of female freshman enrolled in the 2016-2017 school year.
“Computing is a necessary skill for everybody. Every part of our daily lives, in some way, is associated with computing and technology,” said Mutchler. “If these kids continue to expand in lessons learned here this week, they could have some valuable skills and contribute to some exciting times.”
Rose-Hulman officials are already examining the possibility of hosting another camp next summer.