Hour of Code excites students about writing computer code

Published: Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013 6:56 a.m. CDT
(Sandy Bressner – sbressner@shawmedia.com)
St. Peter School seventh-graders (left to right) Emma Kosla, Anna Crowell and Emma Spitzig are tutored in how to write computer code at the Geneva School. The Hour of Code is an international effort during Computer Science Education Week.

GENEVA – Brady Wanshek listened to instructions on headphones and began to write lines of computer code.

If you didn’t know better, you’d think the 11-year-old sixth-grader from Elburn was playing a computer game where a red Angry Bird turns an unhappy pig to dust.

But Brady was learning how to write computer code in a program developed by MIT to teach even young children a computer programming language, said Marcia Feltes, computer teacher and technology coordinator at St. Peter Catholic School in Geneva.

“The goal is to get the Angry Bird to move through the maze so that he gets to the pig,” Feltes said.

The computer code tells the Angry Bird to move forward, turn left or right and move forward again to get to the pig.

In all, Brady wrote nine lines of code. He said the exercise had opened up a whole new world for him, and he was going to go home and write some more code.

“I actually really like writing code, and I learned that not many schools get to do that,” Brady said.

St. Peter students from fourth to eighth grade all participated in the Hour of Code program, promoted during Computer Science Education Week, Feltes said.

The Hour of Code is hosted by the nonprofit Code.org, dedicated to promoting computer-science education by making it more available in schools and to younger students.

In addition to St. Peter, other local schools participating were St. Charles East and North high schools and the Fox Valley Career Center.

The website reported more than 9 million students all over the world had written nearly 300 million lines of code.

Feltes said nearly 170 countries and more than 33,000 classrooms were participating.

“There’s not enough programmers to fill the need,” Feltes said. “It’s up to the schools to get the kids interested. If we don’t introduce it to them as young children – like they want to be a doctor or a lawyer or a fireman. If they don’t want to be a computer programmer, we’re not going to have any.”

Isabelle Koester, 11, of Geneva, also worked on getting the red Angry Bird to chase the green pig on the maze. And like Brady, she wrote the code to make the bird move.

“It’s kind of interesting because you get to program computers,” Isabelle said.

Tim Hoying of Geneva, a 13-year-old eighth-grader at St. Peter, skipped the first and most basic code-writing instructions, he said, because he already knew how.

Tim ran an after school computer club for fourth- and fifth-graders for six weeks.

“I taught them real basic programming,” Tim said. “I hope to do another one with older kids after break.”

Tim said he comes by his affinity naturally, as his father has a master’s degree in computer science and said he might also consider it as a career.

“It would be really cool to program robots,” Tim said.

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