TDT: Bonham students participate in first coding camp

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About 30 students at Bonham Middle School got a glimpse of computer programming Saturday via the school’s first Coding Camp.

“Our goal is to further interest and prepare students for the eighth-grade programming classes at Bonham, and for the coding and software classes in the technology strand at the Temple High School Career and Technical Education Center,” Matthew LeBlanc, TISD spokesman, said in an earlier statement.

Personnel from Temple Independent School District and the Belton office of CGI, a computer consulting company, guided the students through four stations, said Richard Johnson, technology teacher at Bonham. They used Raspberry Pi, an inexpensive computer system designed for education, he said.

“It is really a great way to learn computers, learn programming and interact with hardware,” he said.

Emilio Granado, a computer programming teacher at Temple High School, brought four THS students, Scott Holt, Jordan Fisher, Clayton Gowan and Andrew Posey, to help the middle schoolers.

“They’re already knowledgeable with a few different languages,” he said. “Some of my current students came out of Bonham. They have a good foundation of computers, specifically web languages.”

Robert Walter, CGI director of operations, said the camp exposes the students to the principles of software coding.

“This will give them a comfort level, knowing that they can actually write a software code in the future, and hopefully minimize the fear that they can’t do it, and that it’s too hard,” he said.

At the first station, he said, the students create a maze and navigate a cat through it. Second, they learn how to take pictures with the camera by using code. Third they learn how to write music using code. Finally, using a popular book series, they sort each character into one of four groups, using code.

All of the CGI people in the coding camp volunteered, he said. “I have a waiting list of members who want to participate.” His office held previous coding camps for middle schools at Belton and Holland, he said. The parent company runs coding camps throughout the country.

Principal Sandra Atmar said Bonham, with about 590 students, is the technology focused middle school of TISD. About 160 of its students are in the technology strand.

“All of the middle schools use technology in the classroom,” she said. “We try to focus on it here at Bonham. Our teachers use educational based software.”

“I think we’re doing a good job preparing them for the high school,” she said. “It’s also nice when the community helps to bridge the transition for students from academics to the real world.”

Teresa Do, 14, an eighth-grader at Bonham, said that so far in the coding camp she was learning how to take pictures and videos, apply effects and edit them.

“It’s a great opportunity to learn other coding languages,” she said.

She is considering a career in computer science or computer programming, she said, and thought the camp would be a great opportunity.

“I would like to thank CGI for coming into our school…to teach us some things we probably couldn’t learn by ourselves.”

There are a million jobs for programmers, Johnson said. “That’s why we want to help these kids be prepared for the future.”