Local middle- and high-school students have recently engaged in coding activities with the help of Copper Country Programmers (CCP).
The Michigan Tech CCP team is led by Associate Professor Charles Wallace, Lecturer Leo Ureel, and graduate student John Earnest in the computer science department. CCP is a weekly computer programming club for kids in grades 6-12 who live in the school districts surrounding Michigan Tech. The team meets every Saturday in the J. ROBERT VAN PELT AND JOHN AND RUANNE OPIE LIBRARY.
During December 8-14, 2014, CCP partnered with Houghton High School teacher Jen Rubin to teach programming to students for one hour every day for National Computer Science Education Week as part of a national effort called Hour of Code. The team worked with students to learn to program in the Processing language. Additionally, students had the opportunity to try some cutting edge technology, such as the Occulus Rift and the Myo. Wallace and Ureel were helped by undergraduate students Mitchel Davis, Nicole Yarroch, and Jennifer Hothouse
Breaking the code
Houghton HS students learn how to code
“It’s really exciting to see the things that they’re doing – they’re picking this up, our college students are showing them, and they’re just running with it, having a lot of fun,” Ureel said.
More recently, CCP hosted an event called “Game Jam” for thirteen students in grades 6 through 12, which ran from 10am-4pm on January 3, 2015. A game jam is an event where people get together to program games from scratch. It is not often one can keep a group of teens focused for six hours. Yet interest and enthusiasm remained high throughout the day. Each team produced a working game. Many of the students expressed an interest in fleshing-out and polishing their games at home. At the end of the day, everyone was tired, but very proud as they showed off their work and let others play. Graduate student John Earnest and undergraduate Nicole Yarroch helped facilitate the game jam.
Game Jam lets students code creatively
“Nowadays, programming environments are typically a lot more complicated … I came up with the idea that when we were initially teaching how to program, we don’t need to use something ‘real,’ and really complicated,” Earnest said. “We can teach a simple programming language first, that’s specifically intended for teaching these introductory concepts, and then we can build on that, we can move from a simple language to a more complicated language.”
In 2014 Ureel, Earnest, and Wallace published “Copper country programmers: a novel curriculum for beginning programmers in middle and high school” in SIGCSE ’14, Proceedings of the 45th ACM technical symposium on Computer science education, pages 722-723.
ISBN: 978-1-4503-2605-6 doi>10.1145/2538862.2544310
In May 2014, Charles Wallaced received a Faculty Distinguished Service Award. He was recognized for his involvement with two specific programs: Breaking Digital Barriers (BDB) and Copper Country Programmers. Both have connected Michigan Tech students with the local community.