Let’s face it, learning to code sounds pretty intimidating. What most people may not know is that computer programming is a way of thinking, much more so than the memorization of syntax. Thinking like a computer programmer is actually pretty innate in all of us and something that we already do in our daily lives. We create algorithms while getting ready to leave the house, we write programs when we use the microwave, we practice conditionals when we play a game of Simon Says. Those who have the opportunity to foster these instincts and expand on these basic concepts, as well as have a chance to learn how to translate them into computer programming, will have the door to their future propped wide open. If in 5 years the number of computing jobs will surpass programmers by ONE MILLION, why isn’t everyone lining up to learn this skill? The answer ranges from a lack of education to a lack of opportunity, often accompanied by a lack of confidence to get started.
When thinking about the future of the next generation, it seems that creating opportunities for kids to learn Computer Science is not only exciting, but it’s crucial. This skill is now being considered “literacy for the 21st century” and most jobs will be looking at whether or not the candidate can code. Aside from the dramatic increase in future job opportunities, there is also the rich benefit of learning problem solving and critical thinking skills at a young age.
So how do we introduce programming to kids? While some schools are starting to incorporate computer science into their curriculum, most still have not. With few other places for kids to get exposure to Computer Science programs, Cowerks has teamed up with Lakehouse Music Academy to launch Sprockets: a series of STEM programs based out of downtown Asbury Park. Cowerks is known in the community as a collaborative workspace for freelancers and programmers, which also offers classes and workshops to adults. It was only after conducting a few Hour of Code events for ages 4-14 that left the students, parents, mentors and organizers buzzing with excitement, that it became undeniable that there needed to be space there for kids too. Sprockets is thrilled to provide an environment to continue that momentum.
The debut series, Intro to Computer Science, gives kids ages 6-12 a chance to explore programming through a series of both computerized activities as well as “unplugged” lessons and demonstrations. The computerized activities teach programming using visual building block commands that allow students to play, experiment, and solve problems, while creating lines of code under the hood. From navigating mazes to creating art, students are trained to think like programmers, with a fun interface that feels more like playing a game than writing code. The unplugged activities will range from choreographing dance moves, to instructing teammates how to create art with a set of commands, and many other fun and interactive experiences to introduce key concepts.
“I see the Sprockets courses as an open door leading to a long road paved with opportunities. As a mother, computer programmer, and teacher, I’ve been able to observe the impact that learning Computer Science concepts has on kids. Critical thinking and problem solving are lifelong skills that become second nature when introduced at a young age. Gaining a solid foundation in computer science will be the launching platform for these students regardless of which field they pursue”, says Nina Saporta, who will be leading the first iteration of Intro to Computer Science.
The Intro to Computer Science series is split into 3 levels. Level I begins on May 4th and includes a 4 week session focusing on algorithms, programs, sequence and binary. Students can seamlessly move on to Level II for the month of June where they’ll expand their learning into loops and the crucial skill of debugging. The month of August will bring students up to Level III with the introduction of conditionals and events. This level will also give students a chance to put all of their skills together to create a final project which will be presented to family and fellow Sprocketeers at the end of the course. Classes in this series will be 2 hours long and take place on Sundays. The completion of each Level will reward students with a certification and a patch to go on their well-earned Sprockets hoodie.
For students who want a more condensed experience, Sprockets will also be offering two summer camp sessions. The camps will be held at the end of June and July and give students a 4 day intensive overview of Computer Science, with similar content and experiences as the long-form courses. There will also be periodic open house events throughout the summer to give students and parents insight into the programs.
Perhaps the most important takeaway for students participating in one of these programs will be the familiarity and confidence with Computer Science terms and concepts, as it is often the mystification of programming that intimidates and deters individuals from getting started. The students who experience the Sprockets program will be empowered to move forward with a combination of skills and confidence to serve them tremendously as their bright future unfolds.
Stay tuned as Sprockets begins announcing a wide range of upcoming STEM courses which may include: Intermediate Computer Science, Advanced Computer Science, Intro to Making with Littlebits, Intro to Electronics with Arduino, Intro to 3D Printing and Scanning, Computer Science for Middle School, Intro to Game making, Intermediate Game making and Advanced Game making.
Please visit LearnWithSprockets.com
for more information and registration. Early registration begins April 1st.