WKU students teach coding to children

Emma Austin

Computer science and technology are an important part of our daily lives. We use computers for entertainment, education, science, business, and communication; they surround us.

Since computers are so prominent in most Americans’ lives, it’s inexplicable that so few people are educated in computer science. According to Code.org, a nonprofit dedicated to expanding access to computer science, the majority of schools don’t teach computer science.

According to Code.org, 71 percent of all new jobs in science, technology, engineering and math are in computing. However, only eight percent of STEM graduates are in computer science.

“Any science job you get out of college has computer science involved,” Chase Spraggins, freshman from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, said, “but that’s not necessarily taught nowadays.”

Although understanding computers is an essential skill, Spraggins said, most students aren’t learning it.

Spraggins decided to take part in the nationwide push to teach kids how to code by taking a leadership role in the Ambassadors of Code, an interest group of WKU’s Association of Computing Machinery.

Spraggins responded to his desire to expand computer education by coming up with the idea to teach a coding class at the Boys and Girls Club of Bowling Green, an after-school program for children ages 6 to 18.

WKU’s Ambassadors of Code took this opportunity to give kids an introduction to computer coding by teaching them Scratch, an interactive online learning environment created by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“[Scratch] gives them click and drag options to give the basics of coding without requiring exactly correct syntax,” Spraggins said.

Spraggins said coding can often be frustrating when the program requires exact syntax, which can be difficult to figure out.

Spraggins said Scratch was designed to help kids get more involved with coding by giving them an introduction to it before they begin working with harder languages, such as Python.

Murf Adams, the education and outreach director of Bowling Green’s Boys and Girls Club, said club members have the opportunity to take part in different club activities every Friday. They have clubs for gardening, sports, arts and crafts, guitar playing and now computer programming, which is led by the Ambassadors of Code.

“I think some of the kids don’t know what to expect [from the coding class],” Adams said, “but the ones that do have an idea were really excited about it.”

Adams said an important part of the Boys and Girls Club is how it teaches its members to value education. The programming club is one of several opportunities for the kids to find new interests that could be useful later in life.

Adams said the club is always accepting volunteers, most of whom are WKU students like the Ambassadors of Code who want to be more involved in the off-campus community. By integrating into an after-school program, the Ambassadors of Code hope to promote an interest in computer science education within Bowling Green.

Spraggins said they plan to teach the kids to program a version of the popular game Snake, and hopefully the activity will spark an interest in club members to continue pursuing computer science education.

Since this type of education isn’t as available as it could be, Spraggins said, the Ambassadors of Code are building a curriculum for high schools. Through this curriculum, students will learn how to use Python programming and will get a head start in computer science.