Technovation: Coding for all

Michigan State University
March 1, 2024
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MSU's Technovation Coding Club, part of a 15-year computer science outreach initiative, engages 6-12th grade students locally and internationally, led by college mentors teaching Python and web-based programming through games and mini-projects, with around 70 youth participating in the latest session.

Coding for all is a goal of Spartan Engineers at Michigan State University.

For the past 15 years, MSU has hosted a computer science community outreach program, one of them is called the Technovation Coding Club. Technovation is a student-led effort that introduces 6-12th grade students to computer science using games, mini-projects, and team-building activities.

The Technovation Coding Club celebrated another semester of teaching Python to students locally and virtually.

“We had an excellent fall semester teaching the computer programming language Python to students. We taught virtually around Michigan and internationally, as well as in-person at Lansing’s Foster Community Center,” said Teresa VanderSloot, director of Broadening Participation K-12 in the MSU College of Engineering.

Around 70 youth participated in the most recent session, including 30 in-person and 40 virtual students. College student mentors have helped in the club’s outreach in Belize, Ghana, and Turkey as well.

“Over the years we’ve become much more robust,” VanderSloot said. “In 2018, we began working with Lansing’s Capitol District Library to reach out to underrepresented groups. We’ve had to learn to be a well-oiled machine because we have between 20 and 35 college students acting as mentors to youth at different skill levels. The mentors take their roles seriously and appreciate it is a part-time, paid job.”

VanderSloot said she enjoys watching the student mentors become teachers and leaders.

“The programming languages change throughout the year. The mentors teach Python in the fall, using turtle graphics, and then more web-based programs in the spring in partnership with Girls Who Code. We have used the library’s space downtown or at the Foster Community Center for nine Saturdays from around 10 a.m. to noon, with a debrief at 12:30 p.m. We have also held classes in the Engineering building.

VanderSloot said pre- and post- surveys as well as weekly “temperature checks” help to continually collect feedback from participants. The program benefits from the support of College of Engineering faculty members and teaching specialists, including Laura Dillon and Josh Nahum who serve as faculty advisers. Others include Ritam Ganguly, Emily Dolson and Panagiotis Traganitis along with graduate students Oyendrila Dube and Julia Zheng.

“My favorite part is seeing the Engineering students learn and grow from semester to semester,” she added. “They become more confident and become better teachers and communicators. They come out of their shell. I love to see them becoming leaders.”

Read the article in full here.

Michigan State University
Michigan State University

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