Newark students and tech companies share an ‘Hour of Code’
Oct 27, 2014
NEWARK — The assignment appeared simple: Create part of the solar system by placing the Earth at the appropriate distance from the sun and establishing its orbit around it.
The students worked quietly at their keyboards, adding strings of unintelligible letters and symbols on a black background. When they clicked submit, the screen changed from type to an image of a sun and the Earth.
It seemed like magic, but it was code.
Thirteen students at Malcolm X Shabazz High School in Newark participated today in “The Hour of Code,” joining millions of Americans in a lesson about the language that makes computers work.
A national initiative launched by code.org, a nonprofit company devoted to increasing access to computer science education, “The Hour of Code” goal was to get 10 million students to spend one hour this week learning computer language.
Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg are on board, as are celebrities from Ashton Kutcher and Chris Bosh to Sen. Cory Booker. President Obama made a video encouraging kids to join. Apple stores are offering lessons, and across the country students from kindergarten to college are spending some class time on it.
In Newark, 30 volunteers from local businesses worked with students at 16 schools, from Malcolm X Shabazz and Science Park high schools to Ridge Street and McKinley elementary schools.
Ivy Hill Elementary School teachers Ivy Peeples and Rodney Avery used the same lesson plan, too, and they shot a video of the class.
Matt Martone, founder and CEO of ClixSocial, a tech company based in the city, led a solar lesson, created with a Code Academy lesson plan. He told students that mastering code will benefit them.
“It helped me get into college, get my first job, and helped me start my company in Newark,” he said. “It is the underpinning of the entire world. It should be a fundamental part of the curriculum.”
The students in Patrick Murray’s pre-calculus and AP Calculus classes caught on fast. Murray, a self-proclaimed computer geek, spent 30 years writing code for tech companies before becoming a teacher.
“It's become a mainstream skill,” Murray said. “When I was a kid, you were special if you did code, but now everyone needs to learn it or at least know what it is about.
“For every three kids who know code, there are five jobs,” he said. “The companies are competing for the workers.”
Kelechi Beasley, a senior, was working on the Earth’s rotation when the bell rang.
“I wanted to come because calculus is hard, and this seems fun,” he said about the event. When pressed, Beasley said the computer science lesson was interesting. “It’s a great opportunity,” he said. “Mr. Murray does it with other kids and they have fun.”
“I’m interested for career possibilities,” he said.
That’s music to Lyneir Richardson’s ears. Richardson is CEO of Brick City Development Corporation, Newark’s economic development arm. He helped match the city’s businesses with the public schools for the event, and he stopped by Shabazz to check it out.
“This is economic development done organically,” Richardson said. “We go out of the city to welcome people to start their businesses here, and we want to encourage Newark residents and students to explore the same job opportunities and careers.”
He paused, looked over the shoulder of 11th grader Nadira Wilkins and her glowing sun, and smiled.
“And it’s fun,” he said.