Youth Coding League resonates with young tech students

Saturday, December 8, 2018
Youth Coding League players assemble code on laptops Sept. 25.

More than 250 area middle-school students participate in the Youth Coding League, a weekly after-school program that introduces computer programming to students, and voting is live now to determine whose project stands out above the rest.

Stacy Dohogne Lane, community director for Codefi and the Marquette Tech District Foundation, said the students are in the postseason.

During the school year, students worked through Google's CS First curriculum, Lane said, which involved sprints and other exercises, but the Marquette Tech Institute added a twist: another level of competition on top of the regular curriculum.

Google's CS First includes themes on music, sound and game design, using the Scratch programming language, according to its website.

Students in the Youth Coding League received points in six stats, such as "experience" for objectives completed, or "awareness" for code documentation, Lane explained.

Youth Coding League players assemble code on laptops Sept. 25.

Coders are ranked individually and schools have team rankings.

"The scoring adds a gamified element to keep the kids engaged in learning to code," Lane said.

One team from each school earned a spot in the championships, and voting is open now to determine a winner among those projects, Lane said.

Voting is open at, and is open until Tuesday.

The program has fifth- and sixth-grade students from Cape Girardeau Central Middle School, the 32nd Judicial Circuit, Jackson Middle School, Sikeston's 5th and 6th Grade Center, Scott County Central, Scott County R-IV (Kelly) School, Eagle Ridge Christian School, Trinity Lutheran School, Prodigy Leadership Academy and St. Henry School.

Youth Coding League players assemble code on laptops Sept. 25.

More schools will join in the spring, Lane said -- at least five, and probably more.

The Youth Coding League is offered by the Marquette Tech District Foundation at no additional cost to middle schools, Lane said.

"It's been an amazing thing I've gotten to see take shape," Lane said. "The YCL has been the vision of Chris Carnell, one of Codefi's co-founders, and, honestly, it's been a privilege to have a hand in it. The kids are getting so much out of it."

Jennifer Miller, library media specialist at Jackson Middle School, said in a news release, "Our students are so excited about the Youth Coding League here at JMS. This is an amazing opportunity. Currently, they are learning to write the code for their own characters, add effects, and dialogue. I am so amazed at the creativity of their projects. Students are loving it! They are so focused each session!"

Cristy Crites, an art teacher and robotics club coach at Scott County Central School, said in the release, "Our students are really enjoying the club and are so excited to be coding. I have a few kids who have had behavioral issues and I placed them in the Youth Coding League as an incentive to improve on their behavior and it is working!"

Randall Rhodes, chief juvenile officer with the 32nd Circuit serving children in the foster care system, said in the release, "I watch the students roll in after their school day energized and ready to code. Our focus here are kids that might not otherwise have the opportunity to be included on after-school activities. The research shows that any and all programs and pro-social activities that can be provided to children in foster care normalizes their experiences and helps them to succeed later in life."

Awardees will be announced at the All-Star Party for Youth Coding Leaguers on Tuesday.

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About the writer
Marybeth Niederkorn
Community reporter, covering Business and Jackson
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