HAZARD— A future career in computer science may not be out of reach for 25 high school and middle school students who attended a week long coding camp brought to them by RuralUP! Coding Academy. The event was co-sponsored by Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program (EKCEP), Inc., Challenger Learning Center of Kentucky, and Kentucky River Area Development District, which allowed the students to attend the camp free of charge.
The week-long camp, which was first of its kind, started on July 13, provided the students with the opportunity to learn several different types of coding languages that ranged from simple Java script manipulation, to a more hands on programming of microprocessors. At the end of the week, the students had the chance to demonstrate what they learned and the projects they worked on.
Will Roach, one of two instructors of the RuralUP! camp, said that by the end of the second day, students had already made websites. These websites could interact with people, students could display information on their websites and even set up people with user-names and passwords.
“We let them do whatever they want, the whole point is to give them the basic information and let them take off with it, and we stand back and give them assistance based off what questions they have,” Will responded after he was asked how the instructors taught the course.
Students were also offered several free tools, primarily a website dedicated to coding called Codingacademy.com, that they could use during their free time, Roach said.
“Some kids like working on that. We let them work on those tutorials with us supervising them. As long as they are picking up the language, the method that they do it isn’t really important. The whole point is that they are learning a coding language,” he said.
Other projects the students worked on, included lighting up an LED board using a micro controller processor called Arduino. Roach said that students had an instant sense of gratification because the students could see their creation in the physical world, and not always on a computer screen. Another project the students focused on was recreating a popular PC game called Minecraft through a game engine called Unity developed by Unity Technologies.
Chris Dixon, a high school senior from Perry Central, said he was thrilled to be learning how to duplicate Minecraft through coding. Though he is an avid video game player, he had little to no experience in coding before he came to the camp, and learned of the RuralUP! Coding Academy camp by visiting their website. Dixon felt that this was a starting path for him to become enrolled in a college dedicated to computer science. After attending the camp and learning how to code, he now wants to major in computer science and hopes he could have a future career of making video games for a living.
“Coding academy is amazing,” Jody Caudill, another attendee of the camp, said after he was asked what he thought of the camp.
Caudill, an incoming freshman at Perry Central, had little experience in coding before the camp. He joined the camp because he loved computers and enjoyed playing on them. His favorite class at the camp was web development and he said he hopes to one day become a technical engineer.
After the camp ends, the students have a monthly subscription to a website called Treehouse, and it allows them to continue their coding experience, Roach said. The subscription is free and lets students learn other subjects, not just only coding, as well.
The grade range between the students was 8th graders to high school seniors, Roach said.
“We see a majority of 8th and 9th graders. It is a great age range. The problem with juniors and seniors is that most of them have already figured out their career path, they have decided where they want to go college, find (sic) scholarships,” he added, explaining that younger students are more easily inspired by the possibility of working with coding later in life.
Roach said he tries to push students toward career paths in coding for a number of reasons.
“I was trying to tell the kids, if you like where you are living and wanted to stay here, that’s fantastic, because this job means that you could stay with your family and enjoy the area that you are living in and still get a great well paying job,” he said, adding that a person who knows how to code JAVA Script alone makes an average of $80,000 to $100,000 a year and could work from home in this area.
Other jobs that include computer scientists are cybersecurity, which companies need so that hackers could not hack a company’s site and steal personal information, and engineer companies hire employees who have experience in assembly coding who could program robots to improve work flow, Roach said.
“Any place that you could integrate electronics, you need computer scientists to program them,” he said.
RuralUP! is instructing another camp that began on the July 20-24 and will be held in the Grayson area.
TJ Caudill can be reached at 606-436-5771, or on Twitter @HazardHerald.