Coding craze at Dartmouth Middle School

By Lauren Zaknoun | Dec 30, 2015
Photo by: Laura Gardner A party was held at Dartmouth Middle School for the top coders.

Today's youth are the most likely to be up-to-date with the latest technological and digital developments. Dartmouth Middle School’s librarian has taken it upon herself to make sure students are even further ahead of the curve with the Hour of Code.

Throughout mid-December, across three different tech lab classes, 450 students from grades 6, 7 and 8 participated in the event. Participants collectively created over 50,000 lines of coding.

The Hour of Code is a national event designed to get students more interested in computer science, said middle school librarian Laura Gardner. Since it was her first time overseeing the event, Gardner decided to turn it into a competition to further entice students.

"The students find it really fun," said Gardner.

Students used code.org, a free online resource which utilizes coding logic and drag and drop options so that students don't need to be proficient in coding to be able to participate. Code.org utilizes visuals to help students envision how coding works.

Blocks of coding could be placed within one another to create more complex codes. Commercialized themes such as Angry Birds, Disney's “Frozen,” Minecraft, and many others are used to help keep kids interested and on task.

Students were prompted to create as many lines of code as they possibly could. Two winners with the most lines coded and the most lines of advanced coding respectively would be awarded with an Ozobot mini robot. Ozobot robots expand  STEM and computer science learning through game-based activities and digital apps. There was also a luncheon for the top 20 coders.

"I took basic [coding] when I was in high school," said Gardner. "Even just having that little bit of logic was helpful but now, the possibilities of careers if you get in this at a young age are just incredible. We definitely want to expose our kids to this more."

Students were also treated to guest speaker, parent and real-life coder, Diane Medeiros, who spoke about her experiences in coding. For the past 10 years, Medeiros and her team have been working on engineering a boat for the Navy that operates entirely on coding systems. The boat was recently launched in Maine.

A graduate of UMass Dartmouth, Medeiros encouraged students towards computer sciences and assured them that they could pursue STEM careers without even leaving Dartmouth.

"[The library] is about helping kids find their passion," said Gardner. "This might be it for some kids."

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