District Spotlight: Creating Coders - Summer Camp Transforms Students into Programmers

Jul 31, 19

West Valley SD Students Coding

Alejandra Arroyo, center, 15, helps Sofia Rodriguez Chen, left, 12, and Rylee Hendricks, 13, program their robot to start and stop when it senses different colors at an Avid STEM Academy on Thursday at West Valley High School in Yakima.

Spotlight Image
Adolfo Novela Maciel held a dry erase pen below a sensor on a Lego robot he built last week, triggering the robot to speed forward after recognizing the green color of the cap Thursday. Seconds later, he swept a red marker cap below the same sensor, and the robot came to an immediate stop.

The 12-year-old had never done programming before last week. Neither had the majority of elementary and middle school students in the four-day STEM Academy camp being piloted in five districts in Washington this summer.

“Our real goal here is to grow these students from being consumers of technology into creators of technology,” said Randy Steele, a Senior STEM Adviser of the camp. “We want them as young as possible to start envisioning STEM and computer science as a part of their future. So we’re intentionally starting young with a very diverse group of students.”

Steele is an instructor with educational nonprofit Advancement Via Individual Determination, or AVID, which partnered with local tech education organization FIRST Washington to put on the pilot program.

The club uses EV3 Lego Mindstorm, a robot building and programming system in which students use pictures to code the robots, rather than text coding. They might drag a picture that indicates the power of the motor into the coding panel on their computer, for example, and then slide a bar up and down to increase or lower the robot’s pace once it’s disconnected.

“It’s a great way to introduce students to coding,” Steele said. “All the computational pieces (are) there, but if they forget a semicolon, their program doesn’t crash.”

In the West Valley School District last week, 37 elementary and middle school students, including Maciel, learned how to build and program robots to do everything from racing to coordinated line dancing. The camp took place at West Valley High School.

This week, Wapato School District will host another 23 students to do the same program. Across the two programs, 87 percent of students are on full ride scholarships to participate in the camp, something made available to anyone interested.

Bellevue, Puyallup and Kent are the other districts hosting the camp this year, with 206 enrolled in Washington this summer.

If the pilot is successful in getting kids excited about STEM work while preparing them for curriculum taught during the school year, AVID hopes to continue and expand the program in future years, said Thuan Nguyen, the organization’s COO.

One of the highlights of the program was offering paid mentorships to high school students who work with the younger students to help them build and code their robots, said Nguyen.

Originally posted on The Yakima Herald

WSIPC is so proud of the achievements of our Cooperative districts, teachers, and students! To learn how to become a part of the WSIPC Cooperative, visit our website or contact us at info@wsipc.org or 425.349.6600.

WSIPC was honored to support FIRST Washington as our charity partner at our WASWUG Spring 2019 conference, and we were all so impressed and inspired by the students who demonstrated their robots for us!

Our WASWUG Gives Back program has supported many great organizations as part of our WASWUG conferences. For our WASWUG Fall 2019 conference, we are honored to announce that our charity partner is Bite2Go.

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FIRST Washington’s mentor-based programs build STEM skills, inspire innovation, and foster well-rounded life skills including self-confidence, communication, and leadership. Participants are immersed in a fun, team-based learning environment created to encourage their interests, teach the benefits of collaboration, boost self-confidence, and illuminate the exciting world of STEM study and careers. 

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