On December 7, as part of Computer Science Education Week and the International Hour of Code, Lincoln Academy participated in the Hour of Code, both in math classrooms and during an afternoon Community Coding workshop held in the LA ATEC building. LA partnered with the Maine Math and Science Alliance and their STEM Guides Program to host the event, which included refreshments and door prizes as well as the opportunity to learn the basics of coding, coached by LA computer science students and members of the LA Innovation Technology (LAIT) team.
The Hour of Code is an initiative begun by the nonprofit Code.org, an organization with the mission to break down the mystery of computer coding for school children, college students, and adults around the world. In the 21st Century every industry, including retail, manufacturing, healthcare, and even agriculture, requires computer technology, and if students want to be prepared to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing workforce, they have a measurable advantage if they understand the basics of computer coding.
“Lincoln Academy has embraced the mission of the Hour of Code, because we want students to feel comfortable with not just using technology, but understanding the concepts behind it,” said Maya Crosby, LA’s Director of Innovation and Technology, who organized the Community Hour of Code event. “We have been participating as a school for three years, and students have clearly benefitted from the skills, even if the only thing they take away is that coding can be fun.”
This year tens of millions of students in more than 180 countries are participating in the Hour of Code. Celebrities including Jennifer Lopez, Ashton Kutcher, Mark Zuckerberg, and President Obama have been spotted coding and are actively promoting the program. Here in Lincoln County the AOS 93 schools as well as Lincoln Academy are participating during the school day, and Lincoln Academy hosted more than 50 community members at the Community Coding Event.
Lynne Farrin is the STEM Education Specialist with the Lincoln County STEM Guides Project, the co-sponsor of the event. STEM Guides provided snacks, door prizes, and publicity for the Community Hour of Code at LA. Farrin said, “I was so pleased with participation in the Community Hour of Code. I continue to be amazed at how readily youth catch on to coding concepts, picking up skills such as sequencing, conditional statements, and loops, in a short time frame. Learning to code helps grow skills far beyond computer science applications as it fosters troubleshooting, problem solving and persistence, which are all critical 21st century STEM skills.”
Noah Towle is a sophomore at Lincoln Academy who is enrolled in the school’s Exploring Computer Science class. He was one of more than a dozen high school students who helped out with the Hour of Code in classrooms and at the evening workshop. He thought the event went well, and was worthwhile. “I think it is a great experience to introduce kids to programing, so they can get interested in it,” said Towle. “Coding is not a thing you get to do everyday, and people don’t hear about it on their own, so it really helps to give them that experience, and show them a brief intro into the world of code and computer science.”
Gizmo Garden, a local organization that teaches robotics to local middle school-age students, actively promotes technology literacy, and their Coordinator “Gizmo Mike” Lee, helped out at the coding event. He commented, “the Hour of Code was a fantastic way for beginners to explore computer programming, which is an enabling skill that can be used for arts, science, and, of course, making your own computer games. The event at Lincoln Academy presented the community with a chance to immerse themselves in the digital world for an hour or two. I was happy to see that the atmosphere was welcoming to anyone who wanted to take part. The event went really well, and hopefully gave the participants a baseline from which to pursue coding should they wish.”
Jason Sewall is a local resident who knows the importance of learning computer skills. He graduated from Lincoln Academy in 2000, and went on to get a B.A. in Mathematics and B.S. in Computer Science at the University of Maine, and a M.S and a Ph.D in Computer Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After completing his training, Sewall returned home to midcoast Maine with his wife, Sarah Kennedy (also a 2000 graduate of Lincoln Academy) and their daughter. He has worked as a Research Engineer at Intel for over 6 years.
Sewall volunteered to speak to participants at the Hour of Code about the importance of learning the skills of coding. He believes passionately in the importance of computer literacy for today’s students. “The role of computers in our lives is tremendous and continues to grow, and yet the ability to create and program the numerous computational devices around us is still viewed as a specialization. To prepare our children for the constantly-evolving technology of the future, it is critical that we elevate these skills to the same level of importance that numeracy and literacy occupy now in our education system.”
“The event was a big success this year,” said Maya Crosby, after the last coders had completed their tasks. “Every year this event gets to be more important, and we are happy to be a part of a worldwide movement in computer literacy. I am glad we have the facility, the technology, and enough students with the skill set to make this event work at Lincoln Academy. We are already planning for next year!”