Code.org is tapping the power of the force to reach more young people, especially girls. Riding anticipation for next month’s opening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, students can take a one-hour tutorial from Princess Leia or Rey on how to build their own Star Wars games and program the droids R2-D2, C-3PO and BB-8. The tutorial, created in partnership with Disney and Lucasfilm, is called Star Wars: Building a Galaxy with Code. It teaches logic and problem solving through basic computerprogramming. Students can write code that helps Rey, the movie’s heroine, scavenge in a starship graveyard or guide BB-8 through a space mission. Or they can create a Pac-Man-like game in which C-3PO is chased by storm troopers, or a game of tag in which R2-D2 tries to catch mouse droids that keep multiplying. Short video lectures from a senior R&D engineer working on Star Wars: The Force Awakens and a senior creative producer at Walt Disney Imagineering guide students through the lessons. The games that students build can be played on smartphones and shared with friends and family. The Star Wars tutorial will be available starting November 16. The final version of the tutorial will be available on December 7 as Code.org kicks off the third annual Hour of Code campaign during Computer Science Education Week.
In smaller rural schools, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education can face troublesome barriers. In our K–12 district of 730 students, we have many of the common obstacles, including limited funds, no extra faculty, and an already overloaded class schedule. These three join arms to block us from using any of the really cool programs we’d like to. Other institutions sing praises of cutting-edge programs and share their successes. Meanwhile, rural schools are trying to figure out how to educate equally deserving kids in STEM.
Google’s Kick Start challenge offers coders around the world the chance to develop and hone their programing skills through online-hosted competition rounds. The three-hour rounds feature a variety of algorithmic challenges, all developed by Google engineers so that students get a sense of the technical skills needed for a career at Google.