An Hour of Code in Westchester: If this girl can learn computer programming, so can you.

Written by Emily Angell, Event Coordinator & Recording Studio Manager at the Digital Arts Experience, White Plains, NY.

I’ll be the first to admit that the term “coding” terrifies me, conjuring images of sitting in front of a computer for hours being forced to do math and look at numbers and logic statements, where inevitably I will fail at the most basic of tasks.

Fast forward to code.org‘s challenge for Computer Science Education week.  I began watching the creative and yes, somewhat inspiring videos all about learning to code, and how enjoyable it could be. And how beneficial! In addition to that, a couple of months ago we rolled out our first Game Programming with Java class at the DAE, where the kids literally build their own Rocket Launch game using Java (which can also be used in practical applications like coding elevator systems).  So I thought to myself, Okay Em, it’s time to get with the program.

Pun.

I began watching the first tutorial.  I learned single FORWARD and TURN commands that would help the angry bird get the pig.

Hour of Code

And poof! Just like that I’m gratified. My angry bird got his pig. Mission accomplished.  8 lines of code in and I was on a roll, thus feeling compelled to go on.

Hour of Code

Suddenly, Mark Zuckerberg appears onscreen to tell me about loops, or simply repeating a command.  The repeat command allows the user to specify the number of times a command should repeat.  In a sense it encapsulates any command or series of commands inside of it, saving hundreds or even millions of lines of code.

Hour of Code

Next, Chris Bosh appears in a video explaining the REPEAT UNTIL box.  Which specifies that any command or series of commands inside of it repeat until a designated event or command takes place.  In this case, the commands were to repeat until the zombie reached the sunflower.

Hour of Code

I must also mention the genius of this particular intro to coding… the zombie proclaimed “braaaaaains” every time he reached the sunflower and that was just flat out encouraging for me.  But you don’t have to take my word for it… (just visit code.org).

Hour of Code

Next I explored IF statements. Basically, I would specify that the zombie would move forward.  Then, I would include that it should move left IF there were an option to do so.  Bill Gates did a nice job of explaining it to me.

Hour of Code

Lastly, we came to IF ELSE commands. I specified that the zombie should move FORWARD in the maze.  IF the zombie could move LEFT, it should. ELSE the zombie should move RIGHT (if it was unable to  move FORWARD or LEFT).  These basic commands enabled me to navigate the zombie maze with a very simple set of commands.  The crazy thing is, that these coded commands can be applied to something as small as an angry birds game, or as big as a Mars ROVER expedition.  My mind is still unboggling itself.

Hour of Code

Victory!  The first hour of code under my belt!  What’s funny is that I’m intrigued by how creative I can get with coding… which was something I would have never thought of before this moment.

Moral of the story: step outside of your comfort zone.  Try something new. Parents: encourage your kids to try to it too.  Kids: DO try this at home!

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