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Kid-driven computer science club

North Sanpete Middle School students are getting hands up in technology at an afterschool coding club (front, L-R): Ryder Draper, Joseph Holbrook, Chase McCormick, Landon Millsap, Ethan Freeman, (back) Tanner Kerksiek, Phaedra Lamb, Jordan Rainey, Michelle Lee and Jenna Hill.

Kid-driven computer science club

 

STEM class after school offers
middle school technology training

 

By Linda Petersen

Staff writer
Apr. 19, 2018

 

MORONI—Although not offered as part of the curriculum, North Sanpete Middle School students have the opportunity to learn computer skills through a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) coding club held after school every Wednesday.

The club, which is open to any student, is led by Carey Ivory, career technical education/business teacher.

The whole purpose of the club is to give kids an experience with software programming, Ivory said.

Ivory began the club almost five years ago, because, she said, “I felt like the kids needed this extra opportunity. There’s nothing here for them. We just don’t have time in our school day to offer any kind of computer science for kids.”

Ivory said the club is pretty much kid-driven since she only knows the basics of computer coding. After completing a series of levels, the club members take it from there. She simply turns her computer lab over for their use.

About 25 students are members of the club this year, and each week about 10 show up.

Each works alone on a project.

Five members of the club this year are girls, and Ivory said that is a higher number than normal.

“It may be a lack of interest, or maybe they don’t think they are capable,” Ivory said of the small number of girls who decide to participate. “I can tell you that when I have my students choose a career to research, most of them choose traditional-to-gender careers. I am not seeing a real interest for girls in the STEM field in my classes.”

While at the computer lab, club members have the opportunity to build robots or develop apps or programs.

The first option is always the most popular. Currently five kids are building robots. Often, students will come in on their own time or during flex time to work on their robots.

At the end of the year, club members have their robots compete against each other in Battle of the Bots in an “arena” where they have to perform a series of tasks.

“It’s a fun event the kids really look forward to,” Ivory said.

In the beginning, Ivory paid for the robot kits out of her own pocket and ran the club for free. These days, GEAR UP provides the kits and gives Ivory a small stipend.

Although she doesn’t have anyone working on apps or programs right now, when she does, Ivory uses a program called Xcode, which utilizes a Swift language.

Once each year, Ivory takes club members, along with Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) members and her business class, on a fieldtrip. On April 5, they visited Wavetronix, a Provo-based international company that develops high-definition radar systems used to monitor and manage traffic. During the fieldtrip, the kids got to see how the radar systems are made and found out about careers in software programming.

The club plans to sponsor a Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) coding class in the near future. (Previous dates had to be changed due to scheduling conflicts.)