BCTC's Hour of Code Program a Hit with Students

On December 16, eight computer labs at the Bluegrass Community and Technical College (BCTC) Newtown Campus were filled with Fayette County high school students staring intently at their computer screens. Representing Bryan Stations Information Technology Academy and the Martin Luther King Jr. Academy for Excellence, these students weren't on social media or watching YouTube videos, but came to campus to learn about how to write computer code.

The students participated in an Hour of Code, a global initiative sponsored by CSEdWeek and code.org to teach students of all ages about programming in fun one-hour tutorials. Last year, 15 million students in over 180 countries learned an Hour of Code, and more girls tried computer science in the Hour of Code events last year than in the previous 70 years.

BCTC faculty members Cindy Tucker and Melanie Williamson, along with the support of more than 20 volunteers, reached out to educate more than 250 participants about coding over a three-day period. students in a computer lab

The Hour of Code outreach, aimed primarily at high school students, also included 45 fifth graders at Lansdowne Elementary on December 15, and hosted 72 upper elementary students from Providence Montessori School at BCTC's Newtown Campus on December 17.

We live in a highly digital world, said Cindy Tucker, associate professor in Computer and Information Technologies at BCTC. Over the next 10 years in the United States, there will be approximately 1.4 million jobs in computer science with only about 400,000 graduates qualified to fill them.

Of the graduates in computer science, approximately, 18% are women. To fill the demand for computer scientists, we need more students pursuing computer science and we especially need more women and minorities studying computer science, said Tucker.

Bluegrass Women in Technology, a new student group at BCTC, sponsored the Hour of Code events with the assistance of a small student seed grant from the National Center for Women in Technology in partnership with Symantec. "This was a huge assistance in bringing students to our campus to learn more about programming," said Tucker.

One of the games used to introduce students to coding is called Code Combat. Code Combat is an interactive game that requires students to write computer code to play and pass the levels. This game was chosen for the availability of male and female character choice, the multiple programming languages it supports (though Python was used for this event), and the fact that concepts were built upon as students move through levels.

For some students, it was their first experience with coding, while others had learned to code in a more traditional way, from textbooks or in online classes.

Drake Witt, a freshman in the Bryan Station IT Academy, taught himself to code last year via an online program but thinks the game shows people that coding isn't this mystical thing. Anyone can learn to do it.

"I didn't know what coding really was," said Zachary Ball, another freshman in the Bryan Station IT Academy. "If it's as fun as it seemed today, I'm going to look into it."

Rachel Johnson, a junior in the Bryan Station IT Academy, is interested in working with math and statistics, but finds value in knowing how coding works. It's good to know the mechanics," she said, and advises others to try coding at least once.

Nef Reyes, a senior in the Bryan Station IT Academy, has interests ranging from coding to filmmaking to web and graphic design. Reyes doesn't think he'll pursue a career in coding, but is leaning towards attending BCTC after graduating since the offerings at the Newtown Campus align with many of his interests and what is taught at the IT Academy.

To view photos from this event, visit our Flickr.