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Students focus on tech for Computer Science Week

MADISON — For Computer Science Education Week on Dec. 5-9, elementary students in Madison City Schools received a fun but challenging task.

It was “time for creative minds to use their computer science talents,” Dr. Ed Nichols, MCS Superintendent, said.

Students were tasked with creating a video or animated code to explain what “#CSEverywhere” or “Computer Science Everywhere” means to them. Students vied for two VEX Robotics Kits as prizes.

By working with coding and other technical disciplines, students learned about critical thinking and computer skills.

“We had a very successful Computer Science Education Week,” Nichols said. “It was exciting to see students flexing their computational thinking skills and using technology in creative ways.”

Situated in class, the media center and common areas, students engaged with LEGO Wedo, Mars Rover challenges, Deck the Halls Breakout, various coding exercises, Google Earth Scavenger Hunts and other pursuits.

Winners in the districtwide tech challenge were Shemeaka King’s second-grade class at Mill Creek Elementary School. Fourth-grader Estaban Jerez in Joanne Hulvey’s class at Horizon Elementary School won among individual entries.

At Heritage Elementary School, the Mars Rover challenge was the culmination of the fourth-grade coding unit for teacher Amber Merrill’s gifted class. “Our students used the basic Sam Labs car kit or built their own design out of LEGOs to create their rover,” Merrill said.

“The programming challenge was for their rover to drive autonomously from point A to point B without running over a crater or getting stuck on ‘rocks,’” Merrill said. “They first learned how to make their rover drive straight, forwards and backwards, and how to make 90-degree turns.”

Merrill’s students had to apply that driving knowledge to reach precise distances and turn at various degrees. “There’s no one right way to solve the challenge. Students must use ingenuity, teamwork and communication, in addition to their knowledge of math and programming,” Merrill said.

At Midtown Elementary School, third-graders in Lauren Cecil’s class completed “Deck the Halls” virtual breakout rooms that tested students’ math, computational science, space awareness, writing and coding skills.

At Mill Creek Elementary School, library-media specialist Kris Gray led a Rudolph the Reindeer game for students to solve four challenges for combinations to multiple locks on a treasure chest with prizes.

“These incredible learning opportunities happened across the district, even down to the kindergarten and pre-kindergarten level,” MCS Public Relations Manager John Peck said. “Some activities involved visits by elementary students for assistance from science students at Bob Jones and James Clemens high schools. Great collaboration!”

MCS staff thanked VEX Robotics for donating robotic kits. Rachel Gibbs, who works as MCS Elementary Instructional Technology Specialist, coordinated the challenge contest.

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