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Rountree’s students code apps with West Madison class

Enrichment students at West Madison Elementary School collaborated on Android apps with Bob Jones High School computer science students. (CONTRIBUTED)
Enrichment students at West Madison Elementary School collaborated on Android apps with Bob Jones High School computer science students. (CONTRIBUTED)

MADISON – For Computer Science Education Week, Bob Jones High School students visited West Madison Elementary School to demonstrate “An Hour of Code.”

Founded in 2013, the Hour of Code nonprofit organization works to expand computer science by making it more available.

Jennifer Rountree’s computer science students and West Madison enrichment students, led by Wendy Tibbs, have collaborated for many years. West Madison students “are always enthusiastic and willing to explore new topics, ” Rountree said.

Bob Jones’ message was “Computer science is a valuable tool in any field. It’s about creative design of software applications,” Rountree said.

Furthermore, Rountree’s class wanted the West Madison students “to understand what computer science is NOT. It’s not limited to nerdy ‘Dilbert’ types and not about Microsoft Office,” Rountree said. “It can be fun.”

In Alabama, more than 4,000 computer science jobs are unfilled. “With over 400 high schools in our state, only 26 are teaching any computer science at all,” Rountree said.

“By 2020 nationwide, over 1 million computer science jobs will go unfilled. We need to take action as early as elementary school,” Rountree said.

Bob Jones students introduced MIT’s App Inventor, an easy tool for beginners available with Google accounts. Students created Android apps on their phones and other devices and then shared their code.

App Inventor uses understandable, visual blocks. “The code is hidden behind the blocks. Students learn overarching concepts, like conditional statements and loops,” Rountree said.

Due to limited time, they focused on fun apps and incorporating image and sound files. For the first app, students assigned a cat image; they clicked the image, and the cat purred.

Additionally, they learned about generating random numbers and using sensors. “The Magic 8-Ball app generated random responses for questions that the user input. You could either touch the screen or shake the phone or tablet to get a response,” Rountree said.

West Madison students were excited about their discoveries and asked Tibbs when their older role models from Bob Jones would return for another lesson.

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