A coding marathon

CodeDay event challenges students to create an app or game in 24 hours

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Eyes glued to the blue glow of a computer screen dart back and forth, studying the game that is being brought to life — a sight that will continue for 24-straight hours — signifies Cedar Rapids’ first CodeDay Iowa.

The marathon is one of five taking place across the country and reaches out to young students to challenge them to create an app or game in 24 hours. This is the second time the Seattle-originated CodeDay has been in Iowa after appearing in Des Moines last year.

CodeDay co-founder and tech evangelist at Student RND Adam Ryman helped develop the idea in 2011. Ryman said he believes it is beneficial for everyone to learn how to do computer coding and wanted to give the opportunity to young students.

“CodeDay is giving everyone the chance to do some coding, then the after result is them getting to show what they really can do,” Ryman said.

David Welch, organizer of CoderDojo, a non-profit organization that allows children to have a chance to code, said it is especially important to foster the interest of coding when students are young.

“It’s a great avenue for kids,” Welch said. “It not only gets them involved in math and science, but also is a great opportunity for jobs in the future.”

On Saturday, 50 students filled the Cedar Rapids Public Library Room eager to hone their skill.

“I thought it would be fun because I like to make computer games,” said 11-year-old Thalia Henrich as a smile spread across her face. “I’m a geek.”

While some students are interested in getting more involved with learning the basics behind technology, Saym Basheer, a software developer with the ACT national office, said some are pushing for coding opportunities to be offered in the classroom.

“The hope is that they’ll make it part of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) curriculum, that’s the new push right now,” Basheer said. “Eight to 14 (years old) is the best age to start for kids. It used to be you started learning at college, and now they recognize it’s too late to do that.”

Iowa City High freshman Joseph Stoltz said while there are no specific coding classes offered at City, some engineering classes use some of the same factors used in coding. He said he thinks more kids are becoming interested in computer programming because of the rise in video game popularity.

“I know a bunch of kids that are interested in video games,” Stoltz said. “Now they want to figure out how to make them.”

Sixth-grader Sophia Wagner-Hecht said, “Coding, it’s for everyone, it’s not just for smart computer people.”

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