Forsyth County Public Library hosts a great way to get started with coding

Catey Iacono, a student enrolled in the 8-week basic Scratch workshop hosted by the Forsyth County Public Library is shown editing her Dodging the Shark game she had for homework.  The fish has to dodge the shark to get over to the sea anemone.
Catey Iacono, a student enrolled in the 8-week basic Scratch workshop hosted by the Forsyth County Public Library is shown editing her Dodging the Shark game she had for homework. The fish has to dodge the shark to get over to the sea anemone.

Credit: contributed

Credit: contributed

Q: My grandson is taking an online computer class called Scratch offered through the Forsyth County Public Library and taught by Robotics for All. Would you tell me what Scratch is about and about the company that is teaching this?

A: Your grandson participated in the 8-week workshop on a coding program called Scratch with other classmates where they were introduced to the basics of the visual block-based programming language.

Developed by MIT, Scratch helps young people learn to think creatively, reason systematically and work collaboratively — essential skills for life in the 21st century, according to their website.

A ninth-grader at the time, Maximilian Goetz read to students in underserved communities. He saw the impact of teaching reading and recognized the lack of educational opportunities offered. A fan of helping others and his background in robotics led him to pitch an idea to the school’s principal.

The in-person robotics class became the stepping stone to providing a gateway of instruction to his peers that morphed into creating Robotics for All, now offered virtually due to the pandemic, according to Goetz founder and CEO.

Engineering classmates and part of the same after-school robotics team, Goetz and Garrett Tieng saw the capacity that teaching robotics had beyond science combining STEM subjects together.

“We realized that the education in robotics in itself is an important way to combine STEM subjects together, and it was a piece that was missing in a lot of schools due to funding,” said Vice President Garrett Tieng.

RFA starts the students in Scratch with basic move functions and moves up to advanced programming concepts such as variables, according to their site.

The classes are designed in such a way that is engaging and fun, hoping the students realize the potential it has, Tieng noted.

Sanjay Ravigopal, 17, began looking for opportunities to do STEM online and found RFA. The high schooler started as a volunteer helping with the logistics of the organization and now teaches Scratch.

“The first thing you do is you make your character move on the screen,” he said. “So I think students really love it because right off the bat they can see how coding is used to make a game because that is the first concept they learn. They also see how they are able to abstractly think when they play a game and logic their way into how certain games work.”

Robotics for All runs on two models: one is through schools and the other is open to anyone. Fee waivers are available if needed.

“We believe in providing everyone with equal access to programs like what we offer, and if we put a price tag on it, it defeats the purpose of our mission. Other organizations may offer similar services, but they all cost money, which prevents underserved families and those from socio-economically disadvantaged families to be able to attend. Our goal is to reverse that,” said the CEO.

Robotics for All is volunteered based and offers classes for free if needed.

“We’ve been very pleased and impressed with the classes offered by Robotics for All. The instructors are incredibly knowledgeable and patient, and the Robotics for All administrators have been wonderful to work with,” said programming manager Tracy Walker for FCPL in an email. “We’re grateful we can offer these important classes to our patrons.”

Enrollment for spring courses direct through their (RFA) website is open until March 5. Their next session starts on March 15.

For more information, volunteer opportunities or to enroll, visit www.roboticsforall.net

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