Before the winter break, 30 middle school students and their supervisors joined the Stony Brook Women in Computer Science (WICS) club online for an introduction to coding.
For the third year in a row, WICS hosted an Hour of Coding event for local schools. In the past, they’ve hosted in-person visits to campus, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, the group pivoted to online instruction.
“WICS didn’t want to take away an opportunity for students to learn about computer science and develop new skills that will help them in the future,” said Regina Wong, WICS treasurer. They reached out to the Stony Brook University Community Relations office, which connected them with two local schools from underserved communities – the Milton L. Olive Middle School in Wyandanch and the J. Taylor Finley Middle School in Huntington.
Each student was able to follow along on their own computer as their WICS host, Regina Wong, led them in a step-by-step activity through the Zoom platform. Wong was joined by fellow club members Anna Zhang, WICS secretary, and Katheryn Martinez Hernandez, WICS public relations officer, to help out with any questions or problems that students might encounter. “I like to volunteer for Hour of Code,” said Hernandez, “because I like to show our young generation how cool computer science can be, especially for girls. But in the end, their enthusiasm and curiosity reminded me of that instead.”
The students were taught about a Python module, Turtle, which they utilized to create various graphics by controlling a digital “turtle.” Python Turtle is a popular tool for introducing young students to coding because it allows them to see what happens on the screen as they experiment with their code when running the program.
The club leaders patiently helped each individual student be successful with their project. “It always amazes me to see these students going beyond expectations and taking what they learned to the next level,” said Zhang. In the end, students were creating beautiful and intricate designs with the tools they had learned. They were shown how to save their codes as well so that they could continue practicing with them at home.
This virtual lab experience was coordinated through the Community Relations office and the Long Island Latinos Teachers Association (LILTA) as a part of an outreach program to encourage and inspire grade school students.
— Tamara Gregorian, Community Relations
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