Tech takeover at Family Coding Night

Woodbury Elementary preschool teacher Michele Irwin, left, works with student Esther Kurian on a coding activity with bee-shaped robots.

For the third year in a row, Marshalltown students and families flocked to the Miller Middle School gym to check out computer science and robotic showcases Wednesday.

Family Coding Night offers students a chance to show off what they learn during the school day in several STEM-related classes.

“The district has put a lot of emphasis in our curriculum with computer science, with Project Lead the Way, with different aspects of coding, starting at kindergarten,” said Sue Cahill, a district administrator. “This is an opportunity to show off some of the things that we are doing to show families, to let kids come and test and try, and have kids show off their work.”

The students who presented ranged from elementary school students to high schoolers. The gym was full of noise, from several small robots zipping across the floor to cries of delight from kids figuring out the many computer activities available for the event.

One activity made use of 3D modeling.

Children figure out a computer science activity at Family Coding Night Wednesday.

“We’re using iPads … they’re being paired with Merge Cubes, they have designs on them so you can do holographic images and games with them,” said MHS junior Keaten Collinson.

Those games included subjects like human anatomy and aquariums.

“You can get really creative with this, and you learn so much through the 3D technology and inspire others to create their own worlds,” said MHS senior Marina Rozalez of the Merge Cubes.

Seventh-grader Owen Stansberry was overseeing his own computer activity.

“You can make your own game, you can have avatars that you play as … and you have enemies that you try not to get hit by,” he said of the game set up on a small laptop at his booth. “The objective, I think, is more to just build a game and then play with it, it’s more like coding.”

Fisher Elementary fourth-grader Gavin Freiberg and his Elementary Extended Learning Program (XLP) classmates were working on robotics, one tool being a white Recon Rover.

“You just put in a certain step of code and it will run that code and it will ask you questions, like how many feet you want it to move forward or how many degrees you want it to turn,” he said.

Cahill said many of the activities showcase how much the students have learned as part of the district’s curriculum. She said the coding activities sometimes don’t involve computers and all focus on getting students to think in a sequential way.

“It’s amazing, all the different things that are out there,” she said.

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Contact Adam Sodders at

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