More than 100 students participated in the Candy & Coding event Oct. 9 in the lobby of the WTLO building. The event, sponsored by the Information Technology department at TCC Northwest, is designed to expose students to coding who might not otherwise get that chance.
“For our students who are considering a major in Information Technology or just taking a class in Computer Science, this builds self-confidence and gives them a chance to try it before they buy it, so to speak,” said Joan Shriver, instructor of Information Technology. Shriver and June Relyea, Information Technology Learning Lab Manager, led the event planning. They take their inspiration from Ada Lovelace, a mathematician and one of the first computer programmers. Shriver and Relyea see the event as a way to encourage more women and minorities to participate in STEM.
“When I was in elementary school, I loved Math. I was good at it too, but I had a teacher who didn’t like me answering the questions and would put me in the corner,” Relyea said. She added that this experience led her to pursue other subjects and careers, despite her interest and talent in math. She continued, “We wanted to expose students to a topic area they might not have been introduced to before.”
Students who participate in Candy & Coding play a computer coding game called LightBot, where they try to guide a robot through a path of lit-up squares by using certain commands. The game has three levels of increasing complexity. As the player progresses through the game, they can use fewer and fewer commands, prompting them to think creatively and to build processes into what the robot will do.
“It takes logic and critical thinking,” Shriver said. “And with the visual piece of the squares in the puzzle, it’s asking the students to identify patterns.”
Students who complete all three levels are given a certificate and are entered into drawings to win Barnes & Noble gift cards as well as a computer built by the PC Hardware class taught by department chair Richard Sellers. The event is a team effort including all of the faculty in the Information Technology department as well as logistical help from Myrna Getz, administrative assistant for the department.
“It is important for our department to have events like this to show prospective students what is available in Information Technology as well as how Information Technology is not something people need fear,” Sellers said. “Some students my shy away from information technology thinking it is going to be too hard for them. The candy and coding event makes it pretty clear that programming and logic can be fun!”