Not content to let Uncle Carl have all the fun, Bethel College adjunct professor of mathematics Chuck Friesen helped launch a new day camp on campus this summer offering local students the opportunity to learn coding.
Two weeklong sessions (for seventh-eighth grade and fifth-sixth grade students) were held to start the month of June, with participating campers learning to code through the use of Scratch — a free web-based programming language designed specifically for youths ages 8-16 by the MIT Media Lab.
Coding projects campers were able to work on using Scratch included video animations, games, stories and songs. One such project included an animation where students were tasked with navigating a cat down a hallway and up a flight of stairs by dragging and dropping the proper code prompts into place — something that illustrated the additional learning opportunities available through coding.
"One of the things that it does is it helps teach problem solving skills; it teaches sequencing, organizing thoughts and a lot of those kinds of things that apply to things other than computer programming as well," Friesen said.
"I like technology. I like to animate stuff and I thought this would be a good way for me to practice," said Remington Middle School student Sophia Entz. "I think it's going to help me focus more and learn how to read problems differently and easier."
Additionally, given enough time with the Scratch program students were able to experiment with their own projects — like Halstead Middle School student Caden Harman working out a home run animation or Goessel eighth grade student Riley Hartvickson dabbling in 3-D animation.
For Harman, the camp sounded like a cool opportunity, while Hartvickson has always had an interest in coding and relished the opportunity to pursue an outlet for that offered locally.
"I like being creative and making my own things. I just kind of took it to the next level. I can make so many things and be creative all I want with this," Hartvickson said.
"Kids are proud of the work they do and they're creative, too. We allow them some free time to explore, build and do what they want, modified from what we've done," Friesen said. "Our task in the coding camp is to give them the fundamental skills of the language and then just kind of open up the flood gates."
Hartvickson participated in the first week of camp and gained enough proficiency that he was able to assist the fifth/sixth grade participants this week — along with Bethel College student Henry Friesen Guhr and professor Lisa Scott.
Both groups of students were given the opportunity to show off the projects they had been working on to parents at an open house in the Will Academic Center computer lab at the conclusion of camp, which lead instructor Friesen noted generated a great deal of excitement.
Having also served as a teacher and technology director for 40 years in public schools in Lincoln, Neb., Friesen has a lot of experience with coding and knows how naturally inclined students are to gravitate towards anything having to do with technology.
While the camp served as an introduction to spark students' interest and curiosity in the realm of coding, Friesen knows that for those with a deeper passion it will benefit them not only in the near future but in the long run as well.
"There's so many more jobs available where if you have technology skills, it puts you a step ahead, even if it's not a pure technology job. There are more and more jobs where if you have the good technology skills it helps you be better at whatever position you have," Friesen said.
Parents and students wanting more information on Scratch can visit scratch.mit.edu.