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The coding kids of Castle Pines

Sphero is a robotic toy whose path and color can be altered by kids using the accompanying app, block-based drag and drop, or programming and writing their own code.


Article and photos by Liz Rector

Coding was once reserved for the technological elite. In the past, becoming successful at coding required extensive studying at higher learning institutions, endless hours of practice, and an understanding of complex hardware and software. However, with the advent of new and sophisticated technology, coding has become far more accessible, allowing for the coders of tomorrow to begin coding today.

If you venture into Douglas County Libraries – Castle Pines, you may stumble upon a group of intrepid students sharpening their coding skills. Led by librarians Shannon Basher and Jen Yadav, the club is focused on providing kids with the safe space and the tools needed to learn and excel at coding.

So what is coding? Coding is “the foundational language and the building blocks to make games, websites, and apps,” said Basher. “It’s like learning another language that emphasizes logic and sequencing.”

The club, which began in January, helps students learn a variety of programming software including Java Script, HTML and Python. Armed with laptops, iPads and gadgets, students arrive, grab a snack and get to work. Many of the programs the kids use are self-guided, so they can easily pick up where they left off last time.

“I think it’s really fun. I learned more about Java and how everything works together,” said 11-year-old Sedalia Elementary student Andrew Hathaway. “I learned HTML with color coding and I love coding with the Sphero!” The “Sphero,” Hathaway referred to is a spherical robot that can be programmed to roll in different directions and change colors.

Douglas County Libraries – Castle Pines offers a variety of educational resources, including Sphero and Coding Jam, pictured above.

Sphero isn’t the only cool toy the library has to offer. Ozobot is a similar miniature programmable toy robot that uses coding to make it perform functions. Since the majority of kids enjoy the hands-on experience, Bitsbox is yet another intuitive tool for programming that kids can arrange in a chain-like fashion, causing events to occur on their iPad. Like the Sphero and Ozobot, Bitsbox uses an app to function, with kids copying code into a text editor that runs the app. But toys aren’t the only options available. The library has a vast collection of programming resources, including access to sites and programs like Lynda.com, Scratch, Osmo, Codecademy and more.

If you have kids at home ages 10 through 15 who are tech savvy or who are looking to become tech savvy, Douglas County Libraries – Castle Pines is home to this unique coding club that meets on the fourth Monday of every month from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

“I think it’s a really good opportunity to learn new things,” said Rock Canyon 10th-grader, Emily Im. “It is great to learn programming because it is a good skill to have. Fundamentally, it’s easy, but it gets harder; it’s like math, a chain of progressing logical sequences. It can’t hurt to broaden your skills by learning programming, and who knows, maybe in your job someday it could come in handy or get you a raise.”

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