Students teach coding to elected officials

Josh FloryFarragut, Our Town Kids

Students were the teachers during a technology event at Farragut High School earlier this month.

The PolitiCode program invited elected officials to a demonstration featuring students from seven schools within Knox County Schools.

Superintendent Bob Thomas, Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs and a host of elected officials learned about topics including Lego robotics, scratch coding and the use of software to make electronic music.

Students from Dogwood Elementary give a Lego Robotics demonstration to District 9 Board of Education member Kristi Kristy.

The event was sponsored by the Knoxville Technology Council, the Great Schools Partnership, the KCS Computer Science Department, Knox County and the city of Knoxville. Its goal was to raise awareness of technology instruction that is happening at schools, and to give elected officials insight into the career opportunities presented by technology.

Kyreac’ Smith, an eighth-grader at Vine Middle School, was part of a team from Vine that demonstrated a “watercolor bot” that painted pictures based on digital drawings submitted by users.

Several elected officials used the bot to create original paintings, and Smith said one lesson they learned was how to drag an image from one portion of the painting to another, in order to correct mistakes.

For his part, Smith said he enjoys both digital and traditional art, and anything involving computers. “There’s just something about this entire process that intrigues me.”

In another room, students from Northshore Elementary were using “ozobots” – tiny, silo-shaped robots – to knock down miniature bowling pins.

Technology teacher Annet Romer said students could use several different coding styles to control the robots, and the skills they’re learning can be found in settings ranging from an operating room to an Amazon shipping warehouse.

Romer said the ability to program a robot is “almost a necessity these days,” in the same way that the ability to use a computer became essential for nearly every job.

She added that her students love using the ozobots: “They love the fact that it’s creative, that they get to be in control, that they get to code and if it doesn’t work they persevere and they keep trying until they get it.”

Paxton Hosmer, a fifth-grader at Northshore, said that sometimes students get lucky and knock down all the pins on their first try, but he doesn’t get frustrated when it doesn’t work immediately.

“That’s part of the process.”

Josh Flory is a multi-media specialist with Knox County Schools and writes this blog, Hall Pass, for the KCS website.

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