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Stetson takes Coding Workshop to Boys and Girls Club

Numbers are everywhere; computers are everywhere; and programming is essential from surfing the Internet to even saving someone’s life. In recent years, Computer Science has been slowly making its way into K-12 curriculum, teaching children as young as five the fundamentals of coding and in turn creating intrepid individuals who are prepared for a world in dire need for future programmers.

As part of the curriculum for his 300-level Advanced Digital Arts course, Nathan Wolek, Ph.D., associate professor of digital arts and music technology and chair of Stetson’s Department of Creative Arts, collaborated with the Boys and Girls Club of Volusia Flagler Counties (BGCVFC) to have Stetson students teach mostly middle school students at the BGCVFC facility the fundamentals of coding within a span of four days, from Mar. 21-24, during spring break for Volusia County public schools.

For three years, Wolek has coordinated this project with his students not only to give the younger children a chance to learn something completely new, but also to teach his digital arts students the sense of satisfaction that comes with completing a project with so many components.

Anna Chun shows the images she designed for the video games.

Anna Chun displays the images she designed for the video games.

“The idea this time was to go out there [to the Boys and Girls Club] with a group of students and teach them how to build a game that the Stetson students have designed,” said Wolek. “And through that process the middle-schoolers would learn a little bit about digital arts, about coding and about how to be creative with technology.”

Using a program called Processing—an open source programming language aimed toward teaching basic computer programming—each day consisted of a different series of subjects taught by Wolek while the digital arts students worked alongside the children, in topics ranging from variables, to true/false statements, to assigning key presses to implementing sound and graphics into their game.

Students were required to create the concept for a game that the children would then learn about how the software works during the workshop. The Stetson students organized lesson plans and documented every aspect of the process on a website that they designed with recorded footage that would later be compiled into a final class video.

“We get to teach the kids here at the Boys and Girls Club about programming, about actually making things with technology rather than just consuming the technology,” said Wolek. “And my students get a project where they can plug into and apply a lot of these skills that they’re learning in digital arts. Everything from web design, to video production, to audio production, to documenting the whole process.” Click here to see the newly completed Stetson Coding Workshop website, created and designed by the students in Wolek’s advanced digital arts course.

Every year the game is different, and this year the digital arts students designed a timed, two-player catching game where the player must catch a number of falling objects to gain points while avoiding hazards which would decrease their final score. In addition, the students have also created numerous visual and audio assets that the children were able to place into their games, thus making each student’s game unique and suited to their individual personal tastes.

For more information, contact Wolek at nwolek@stetson.edu. For more information about the national Boys and Girls Club, visit their website at www.bgca.org. Visit www.bgcvfc.org for more information about the local chapter.

by Anna Chun

Video by Stetson Broadcasting