A grant from the Governor’s STEM Council is funding a coding club at Evans Middle School. The club started this spring and will be offered to students throughout the next school year at both Evans and Ottumwa High School.
On a recent Tuesday after school, a handful of students were working with Sphero robotic balls. Using an iPad tablet, the students used drag and drop coding programs to give the robot directions.
Willis Sutherland, an eighth grader, was a regular participant in the club. “I liked everything except the non-electronic opportunities,” he said.
His coding partner, Alex Renneberg, likes all coding. Renneberg does HTML at home. Currently, he is creating a website to showcase Sutherland’s writing efforts.
Sutherland’s sister, Nicole, is also in the club. In seventh grade, she brought a friend with her. “I’m going to beg my mom to start coming next fall,” said Rylin Wilson.
Nicole was also a regular club participant. “I am excited about this,” she said. “I love math and coding.” The club activities have improved her math skills. “I’ve learned more about angles,” she said, when programming the robot to go through a maze.
The students enjoyed using the round, tennis ball-sized robots. “I like messing with them,” said Nicole. “It’s like it’s alive.” She hopes to continue learning and plans to pursue a career in coding. “I love this type of thing.”
Club sponsor, Jana Hardie, is excited about the club opportunity. “I hope to get sixth, seventh and eighth grade students excited about technology and coding and understand how it works,” she said. “By playing with it, through trial and error, they are learning what programmers do.”