MIND Research Institute (MIND) colleagues visited students at John Peterson Elementary in Huntington Beach, CA last week to join their Hour of Code event. As guest speakers, colleagues shared how they use coding in their jobs to help create the ST Math program that students at Peterson use. Students got to hear from local people about their jobs in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and see their passion and excitement for the work they do.
ST Math not only helps students learn math, but also helps them develop the math practice skills such as problem solving, abstract reasoning, attending to precision and making use of structure (skills that overlap a lot with coding). Math provides a great foundation for the other STEM subjects, but that doesn’t mean we can’t also introduce students to coding early in their studies.
The STEM Jobs Behind ST Math
One of the guest speakers from MIND, Javier Mendoza, is a software engineer. Javier described how he creates the puzzles in ST Math and is working on updating the games for the next school year.
Shwetha Patil, database developer, shared how she manages JiJi’s memory so JiJi remembers things like how many times students played last week, what level they are on and how many JiJi tries they have left.
Julia Van Santford, quality analyst, described how she tests ST Math and works with software engineers to find and fix bugs in the program. In order to have a quality software game, a tester needs to analyze it, find and report the bugs, and verify the fixes afterwards.
I hoped to share with students how testing is a very important phase of any programming project. I think the students were excited that testing in ST Math involves playing the games a lot.
- Julia Van Santford, MIND
Bryce Walters, software engineer, shared how he uses his skills to create the parts of the games where students can choose or enter in their solution to the puzzles.
Although all of these jobs fall under the STEM and coding category, they have different responsibilities and colleagues need to collaborate and communicate with each other to create a great program.
Coding In Collaboration
After the question and answer session, MIND colleagues joined the students as they worked on a lesson from code.org in pairs.
They helped students who were stuck by using facilitating questions such as “What did you expect to happen when you ran the code? What actually happened? What part was correct and which part isn’t right yet?” Facilitating questions like these help students persist in problem solving and develop grit as opposed to telling them the correct answer.
I came across a student whose code looked aligned but on execution it was not running as expected. So I asked him what part went wrong and he went through and examined each code snippet...he found the obstacle and got it working. I enjoyed helping this young coder and others develop problem solving and debugging skills.
- Shwetha Patil, MIND
Julie Gray organized the event at Peterson because she “really wanted the opportunity for the GATE students to come together and challenge themselves, as well as work in teams across grade level to learn from each other.” In addition to learning coding, we saw students developing skills in collaboration, communications, problem solving and other skills that are needed in the future workforce.
For this event, MIND colleagues were able to use their OpenMINDs hours, where 5% of their working hours can be used to volunteer for causes they support. Colleagues use their OpenMINDs hours (for a full time employee this works out to 1 work day a month) for volunteering at places such as community groups, local schools and libraries, animal shelters and more.
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About the Author
Calli Wright is the Education Engagement Manager at MIND Research Institute. She loves playing and designing board games, which she often talks about on twitter @CalliWrights.