Central York students share Hour of Code with community

Alyssa Pressler

Throughout the world this week, students have been celebrating Hour of Code by doing events in their schools.

Not every group  is opening their activities up to the community, though.

Central York High School's iTeam hosted an Hour of Code event open to the community Wednesday in celebration of the worldwide learning event. Hour of Code occurs each year during Computer Science Education Week in hopes of exposing more students to computer science.

Central York High School Senior Omkar Kane explains to 10-year-old Jack Ketterman how to move a small robot through a maze at the school's Hour of Code event on Dec. 7, 2016.

Central York's iTeam is a group of students  that provides technical support for their peers. iTeam works in the Maker Space, where students can create using a number of different science- and computer science-related tools and work on programming. This is the second year the team has held the Hour of Code workshop.

The event is designed to reach families, especially those with younger children, through a number of activities, said iTeam member and Central York senior Omkar Kane.

Kane programmed a station that allowed students to move a robot through a maze by putting different commands into a computer.

"You have to have a passion for (computer science), and that's why events like this are so important," Kane said. "It's fun and casual, and it gives (people) a chance to experience passion with coding."

Activities: There also was  a table set up for students to play "Minecraft," an online game that involves a lot of computer science; a station for advanced coders; small robots named Dash and Dot that are controlled through an app; and an unplugged station where students used pen and paper to get through a maze using only three types of movements, or commands: up, up and to the right and up and to the left.

Eight-year-old Erica Koerner works through a maze using coding commands at Central York High School's Hour of Code Event on Dec. 7, 2016.

Laurie Brady, a technology coach with Central York School District who helps teachers incorporate technology into their lessons, said the event had a larger turnout than expected. Sixty-eight families signed up to attend, which translated to more than 115 people.

For Brady, coding in the classroom is great, but exposing the community at large to computer science is important because so many other skills are necessary when working with code or programming. Language arts, math, problem solving and perseverance are all topics that coding touches on.

Brady said a lot of people find the idea of coding or programming daunting, inhibiting them from trying it at a later age.

"You don't need to know anything or be an expert to give it a try," Brady said.

Careers: According to Bryce Finch, iTeam president and an 11th-grade student at the high school, the technology field is one that needs a lot of talented people right now. Events such as this are an opportunity to encourage young kids to move toward that career path, he said.

"It amazes me, they'll be typing out a simple 'Hello, World' program and their eyes just light up," Finch said.

Jeff Ketterman, a Manchester Township resident and father of 10-year-old Jack Ketterman, stood by and watched his own son's eyes light up as he worked through Kane's maze with the robot. Ketterman said Jack and his other son love coding, so they begged to come to the event.

"I'm a teacher, so I'm excited they wanted to come to school and participate in this," he said.

Katie Koerner, another Manchester Township resident and mother of 8-year-old Erica Koerner, agreed with Ketterman as she watched her daughter work through the unplugged activity.

"I love the hands-on stuff, and it's kids showing other kids how to do it," Koerner said.

Erica loves playing with Dash and Dot, two robots that frequent her own classroom at Roundtown Elementary, and she enjoys seeing her commands  make them move.

"I like to go on the app and drive them around," she said as she concentrated on the maze. Erica went on to say she's going to work in computer science one day, just like Finch and other lovers of computer science are hoping.