Rock Hill middle school students teach others coding basics

rsouthmayd@heraldonline.comDecember 9, 2013 

Every day, students in Rock Hill schools carry the latest technology around in their hands in the form of an iPad – yet most students have little idea how exactly that device works.

On Monday, one group of Sullivan Middle School students was working to change that, teaching every student the basics of computer coding.

And they weren’t alone in their efforts. Across the country, millions of people participated in the “Hour of Code,” which was endorsed by the likes of President Barack Obama and Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerburg.

Leading the way at Sullivan were the students in Kenyetta Mitchell’s computer science academy class, who led each class in the school through one hour of coding basics on the website, where students used a pictorial version of the coding language JavaScript to navigate Angry Birds and zombies through virtual mazes.

“Coding is like telling you to spin around, then to move, then to sit down,” said seventh-grader Patrick Robinson as he described the process to a class of sixth-graders.

He also told them that in the year 2020, there will be 1.4 million jobs in computer coding, but only 400,000 people with the right skills to fill them.

Each grade at Sullivan took an hour Monday to work through the tutorial on on their iPads.

This kind of event wouldn’t have been possible without iRock, sixth-grade science teacher Katie Harrison said.

iRock is the Rock Hill school district’s digital initiative that put an iPad in the hands of thousands of students this year.

Coding is “awesome because it’s something that the kids need to learn,” Harrison said.

In another room, eighth-grader Blake Beck walked around, helping other students figure out the coding tutorial.

“It’s fun because we get to pass down how coding works,” he said of the “Hour of Code.” “I can make something appear on the screen that just wasn’t there before.”

In between coding hours, the computer science academy students sat down with a panel of computer scientists and engineers to and ask questions about their fields and careers.

One of the panelists was Winthrop University sophomore Noah Weber, who said he wished he had had a class like this when he was in middle school.

“I’m really surprised there’s so many kids that are interested in this,” he said.

Two Winthrop computer science professors, Marguerite Doman and Chlotia Garrison, encouraged the Sullivan students to take as many math and science classes as they could, in addition to the coding class.

“Learning coding is like learning math,” Doman said. “It’s hard to learn but easy to know.”

Richard Gregory, a senior engineering program manager with 3D Systems, was there to show another career in the world of computer science.

Students were full of questions for him about 3D printers. One student asked what could be made using coding, computer science and 3D printing.

Gregory’s response: “What can you imagine?”

Rachel Southmayd •  803-329-4072

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