Grant helps expand UNT code camp

Grant helps expand UNT code camp

February 12
17:22 2015

Jordan Ottaway / Staff Writer

This semester the University of North Texas Code Camp is expanding its team after receiving a $20,000 grant from Verizon Wireless.

Started in January 2014 by UNT’s Innovation Greenhouse, Code Camp aims to immerse elementary and middle school children in computer coding early in their education. Innovation Greenhouse director Nancy Hong said she wants to engage children in elementary school because by high school, kids already have a plan they want to follow.

With this grant, Code Camp will allow UNT College of Education students to come to the schools and help manage classrooms during the lessons. Students in UNT’s Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science program go to three elementary schools and one middle school in Denton ISD once a week to teach coding while playing Minecraft, a popular video game.

“We are putting our teachers out there early to get hands-on experience,” Hong said. “We don’t want them getting to graduation and realize teaching is not for them.”

Within a server donated by IBM, each student is given a certain amount of space to create whatever they want. The TAMS students teach coding strategies and kids can virtually ask questions while building throughout the week.

With the support of Denton ISD superintendent Dr. Jamie Wilson, Denton ISD technology specialists, councilman Kevin Roden and four principals, Code Camp is now working with Adkins, Rayzor and Borman Elementary Schools and Harpool Middle School.

“These students give our kids hope about attending college,” Adkins Elementary principal Emily McLarty said. “They look up to them and understand them because of their youth.”

Hong said if students enjoy coding in elementary school then the chance of them staying interested throughout middle school and high school is much higher. That would begin to help fill the 200,000 technology jobs that will go unfilled by 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

English junior Jennifer McCarty said once the kids saw she was not like the other adults and knew their game lingo, they answered her questions and listened to advice while staying excited.

“Everything I’ve given to them to do so far they’ve been really open to and [they] love to push the boundaries I give them,” McCarty said.

Code Camp has big goals for the future, and Hong said she wants to bring in technologists from well-known companies to teach more complex lessons since TAMS students only teach the basic skills. She said she wants to eventually expand the program to 22 elementary schools.

“Why not encourage [the kids] to go into a field that can help them make good money to support their family?” she said. “You can go out and work anywhere, so why not do what you love and get paid to do it?”

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