Students are creating games with code, learning how to build robots, write computer programs, or just experiment with circuits.
The three middle schools in the Montclair NJ area offer coding and robotics either as an elective or extracurricular activity. The robotics club at Montclair High School competes in local and regional competitions.
Buzz Aldrin Middle School offers a class in creating games with code as an elective. My classes are full,” said Daniel Taylor, the STEM coordinator. “From my perspective, it’s very popular.”
The class lasts for a semester, and includes two projects. Students work with the Finch, a beginner’s programmable robot developed by Carnegie-Mellon, and Lego EV3 kits. The students built a series of cardboard “skate parks” and sent Olly mini robots through the courses. Students collaborate with each other, designing the appearance and function of the game. Marketing, writing clearly, and public speaking are all skills that are involved. The class is about more than problem solving with coding; it encompasses the entire process of developing a game and making it available.
According to Taylor, the opportunity to build things and be creative is the big draw, while some students come just for the coding. He expects that some kids will find that coding “isn’t just for geeky, corny people.” The class teaches block based coding, instead of typing lines from scratch.
Currently, New Jersey has three pending pieces of legislation requiring students to take a computer science class as a graduation requirement, mandating that schools offer computer science classes and certification for computer science teachers.