Making the Grade: Gwinnett Tech, education company gets kids coding

This summer, the Alpharetta and Lawrenceville campuses of Gwinnett Technical College will be awash with youngsters who are trading traditional campfires and s’mores for computers and drones.

The college has partnered with Kids 4 Coding, a youth technology and design education company, to offer small-group sessions for kids ages 7 through 15 who want to learn not just about how to code, but how to put that knowledge into practical use. Among the topics to be explored are building and coding drones, designing games and creating websites, apps and 3D structures. The camps will also introduce kids to Raspberry Pi devices and Python, a relatively new programming language purported to be easier to learn than others.

“Everything these days is based around coding, so we have kids building robots, but then they program them to do different things,” explained AnneMarie Laramee, who launched Coding 4 Kids with her partner and educator Denise Detamore a few years ago. “It’s the same with the drone camp: They do a little bit of building, but mostly they learn to program them to fly and land, how to pick up a package and deliver it. It’s not just flying a drone in a park; it’s understanding how drones work in the real world, including how to replace parts if the drone crashes.”

Laramee and Detamore worked for more than a year to develop the program curriculum to move lessons from merely playing to practical application.

“That’s the big push right now: teaching coding to do things,” Laramee said. “Industry now has robots that are used from farming to medicine, but when today’s 10- or 11-year-olds go to college, some of those jobs won’t even exist. We want to teach them at a young age to realize they can work in this foreign language. The next generation must feel comfortable navigating new technology and understand tech concepts to solve problems and collaborate, no matter their field of study or career path.”

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Those skills can benefit both boys and girls, and help dispel the myth that only geeky guys code.

“This is their world now, and we’re seeing an interest in coding across the board,” Laramee said. “We have Girl Scouts, boys who are soccer players and everything in between. We’re trying to give kids skills for jobs of the 21st century.”

Karin Mimms’s daughter, Caroline Gryder, was in seventh grade last year when she spent time at the camp. The result, the Roswell mom says, was life-changing.

“She went to the 3D architectural class and that piqued her interest in the 3D computers we have at home,” Mimms said. “And it pushed her beyond her limits to learn more. From a young age, she was putting things together and creating contraptions, from ways to lie in her bed and turn off the lights to items that fed the dog. Now, because of what she learned, she’s done several configurations and layouts of a new museum we’re working on that are really good. For us, it’s a foreign language, but she now has the capabilities to use in real life.”

Kids 4 Coding summer camps at Gwinnett Tech begin on May 30 and run through July 28. All sessions are supervised by certified teachers and taught by experienced instructors. Half- and full-day sessions are available.

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