The code for success

Family Coding Night showcases student STEM skills

T-R PHOTO BY ADAM SODDERS
The Miller Middle School gymnasium buzzed with students and parents enjoying Family Coding Night Wednesday, with several coding and robotics activities led by students. This is the second year of the event held as part of the national Computer Science Education Week.

T-R PHOTO BY ADAM SODDERS The Miller Middle School gymnasium buzzed with students and parents enjoying Family Coding Night Wednesday, with several coding and robotics activities led by students. This is the second year of the event held as part of the national Computer Science Education Week.

For the second year in a row, students and their families streamed into the Miller Middle School gym to enjoy activities in robotics, computer programming and more for Family Coding Night Wednesday.

“I think the biggest thing that we want the families to understand is what we are doing in our curriculum to help students gain skills in STEM and in coding,” said district Curriculum and Professional Development Leader Dee Burt, one of the event’s organizers. “There’s a bright future for these students.”

Small robotic vehicles buzzed on the gym floor while students gathered around tables to check out computer programs and other activities. Many of the displays were run by older students.

“We tried to get some more activities in here that were interactive and hands-on, in addition to the ones where kids are presenting information,” said district Director of Instruction Dr. Lisa Stevenson. “I think we did a good job of balancing that out.”

One young student, Fisher Elementary first-grader Analia Sánchez, enjoyed playing with a robotic vehicle that looked like a bee.

“I push the arrows to tell it where to go,” she said of the device as it moved along a grid laid out on the floor, adding she enjoys learning math at school.

Miller eighth-grader Andrew Kodis presented information on a computer program that had players punch in commands to the character.

“You learn coding, different languages,” he said of the program. “It’s like a game, you have to command [the character] what to do.”

Also in attendance Wednesday evening were two mascots popular with students: JiJi the Penguin from the ST Math program and Bobby the Bobcat.

Community businesses that contributed to bringing ST Math to the district, 17 in total, were recognized during the event as well.

“Honestly, we probably couldn’t have got ST Math off the ground without them,” said district Superintendent Dr. Theron Schutte of the program that cost a total of $240,000 and required a large community effort to bring to the district. “[ST Math] is something that we use regularly at school.”

Stevenson said soon every student in the district will have opportunities to learn about computer science.

“I’m really excited that we’re going to be getting computer science experiences in every child’s day,” she said. “Beginning second semester, we’ll start doing that via our teacher-librarians with elementary, and then we’ll be expanding to Miller and Lenihan (Intermediate School) through exploratories and other courses next school year, too.”

Stevenson added it was good to see the large number of students at the event.

“It’s encouraging, especially for a community like Marshalltown that has such a strong industrial presence,” she said. “The manufacturing and the businesses we have here need people with coding and computer science backgrounds and skills.”

Family Coding Night was held as part of the national Computer Science Education Week.

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Contact Adam Sodders at (641) 753-6611 or asodders@timesrepublican.com