Get Schooled: YCSD Middle Schoolers Talk Tech at Codeathon 3.0 is your source for free news and information in Williamsburg, James City & York Counties.

Get Schooled IanComputers and robots will be the main attractions for 100 York County middle school students Saturday at Tabb High School.

The York County School Division is partnering with Discovery Education to stage its third annual Day of Discovery: Codeathon 3.0.

The technology-themed event will feature a variety of programming for both students and parents, including demonstrations of programming language and an expert panel.

YCSD Coordinator of Online Learning Reginald Fox said the event began three years ago as a way to boost student excitement for the school division’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics — commonly known as STEM fields — programs.

Fox said the school division offered computer science classes at the high school level more than 10 years ago, but they quickly grew outdated as technology advanced, limiting the popularity of the courses.

Since the Codeathon began in 2013, Fox said YCSD’s computer science classes had developed a higher profile, with four courses now offered at the middle and high school levels.

Increasing student engagement with computer science is important, Fox said, as education — and the larger world — become more technologically sophisticated.

“Coding is not just about gaming,” Fox said. “It takes place in all facets of our lives — look at shopping or banking.”

YCSD has held similar events in the past for middle and high school students, but Saturday’s Codeathon will be the third such event exclusively for middle school students.

The makeup of the event has changed since its first version. Fox said the initial Codeathon relied heavily on demonstrations of coding languages and more abstract coding concepts.

“We previously focused on coding languages,” Fox said. “We would show them a bit of Python or Scratch, or show them a Java compiler. … We’ve changed its focus.”

The third annual Codeathon will feature a variety of hands-on activities designed to increase student interest in computer science.

After the initial gathering, the 100 students in attendance will break out into four labs. Computer experts will present the labs with different problems and questions for the students to solve through collaboration and use of technology. The four labs will keep track of their progress, problem-solving process and solutions through a computer program that will be visible throughout the event.

Fox said another activity will focus on LEGO Mindstorms, small, programmable robots constructed out of LEGO parts. The robot responds to commands, Fox said, and students will learn how to program it to move and carry out basic tasks.

“This year, it’s changed in that we’re using LEGO as a foundation for talking about coding,” Fox said.

The Codeathon will also feature a panel for adults and parents of participating students, featuring technology experts from the area and Discovery Education.

Fox said interest in the third annual Codeathon was high, but space limitations forced YCSD to cap student participation at 100, and 200 for the adult panel.

“With all the emphasis on STEM nationally, we are trying to raise interest in that here as well,” Fox said. “It’s an important focus for our students, and we’re trying to do that in a fun and different way.”

Codeathon 3.0 runs from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. May 30 at Tabb High School. The parent session will be offered from 1:30-2:30 p.m. Student work will be exhibited from 2:30-3:30 p.m. and will be posted on Discovery Education’s website.

Tabb Middle School Students Honored in County Contest

Lauren Holbrook (left), Bryanna Thatcher, Celeste Boseman, Mia Deschenes and Erin Cox were honored for their work in the 2014-2015 York County Reflections Contest. (Courtesy York County School Division)
Lauren Holbrook (left), Bryanna Thatcher, Celeste Boseman, Mia
Deschenes and Erin Cox were honored for their work in the 2014-2015 York County Reflections Contest. (Courtesy York County School Division)

Five students at Tabb Middle School received prizes for their submissions to the York County PTA Reflections Contest.

Students from throughout York County submitted original work in literature, music, visual arts and photography.

Entries are judged on artistic merit, creativity, mastery of the medium and interpretation of the theme. This year’s theme was, “The world would be a better place if…”

Each category is broken down into four levels of competition: primary (Preschool – grade 2), intermediate (Grades 3-5), middle (Grades 6-8) and senior (grades 9-12).

The five Tabb students who received honors were Lauren Holbrook, Bryanna Thatcher, Celeste Boseman, Mia Deschenes and Erin Cox.

Student entries that placed first at the school level then moved onto the county level. First-place winners at the county level advance to the district level for a chance to move onto the state and then national levels.