Highland News Leader

Kids win Highland ‘Scratchathon’ by creating video game

The Junior Code Academy Scratchathon first place team, the Highland Handturkeys. Founder of the JCA Michael Pederson, presents Cole Basden, middle, and Gideon Gaslow with their championship prize, two $50 gift cards to Best Buy. The Scratchathon marked the last session of the summer camp for the JCA. It took place at the Louis Latzer Memorial Library in Highland on June 16. The Handturkeys took first place with a duo Highland themed website, game combination.
The Junior Code Academy Scratchathon first place team, the Highland Handturkeys. Founder of the JCA Michael Pederson, presents Cole Basden, middle, and Gideon Gaslow with their championship prize, two $50 gift cards to Best Buy. The Scratchathon marked the last session of the summer camp for the JCA. It took place at the Louis Latzer Memorial Library in Highland on June 16. The Handturkeys took first place with a duo Highland themed website, game combination. mbraa@bnd.com

Cole Basden, 12, and Gideon Galow, 10, better known as the “Highland Handturkeys,” claimed first place in the city of Highland’s first computer coding competition last week. The duo won the “Scratchathon” contest with a combination website/game that highlighted places and fun facts about Highland history.

The Scratchathon was used to showcase everything the kids learned during their Junior Code Academy summer camp. The contest took place June 16 at the Louis Latzer Memorial Public Library in Highland.

Gideon created a Highland-themed website, complete with up-beat music and facts about the city. As he scrolled down the site, he showed that special links in the text would take the viewer to different websites associated with Highland.

Clicking on the main logo at the top of the page would take their website-goers to Cole’s game, Highland Pro. The player got to choose their character to start the game, which is a historical character who lived in Highland.

“So it’s educational, informational and fun at the same time,” Cole said.

Using the character, a player travels through locked points shown on a map of Highland. The to unlock the points, special levels need to be completed. Each of the levels took place within the venue listed on the map.

For example, one of the levels took place at a hotel in Highland where Abraham Lincoln once stayed. As part of the game for the level, the player had to defend old Abe’s beard from bed bugs as he slept. If one bug made it to his beard, the player would lose.

The Highland Handturkeys were one of three teams that presented projects they developed in 15 hours to three judges.

The judges — the Assistant City Manager Lisa Peck, the Library Director Angela Kim, and Jim Border, a freelance mobile app developer — decided who claimed, first, second and third place, along with the respective Best Buy gift-cards for each place. The students were graded on their pitch, their idea and creativity, how well they developed the concept and the flow of their final product.

The projects had to harness what was learned during the class, their 17 weeks of the first Highland JCA Introduction to Coding class for fifth- and sixth-graders, while creating something that showed their admiration for Highland. There was no specific guidelines for the technology the children had to focus on, the main lesson was learning how to work as a team.

The class was two eight-week spring sessions and a week-long summer day camp, that just finished June 16. It focused on teaching the fundamentals of computer science, computer programming, Internet safety, web design and cyber entrepreneurship.

“We’ve seen a lot of development in all of our students,” said Junior Code Academy founder Michael Pederson, who introduced the winners of the Scratchathon to the Highland City Council on June 19. “I think a lot of them have learned that maybe this wasn’t what they have expected, but they have learned a lot from it as a result. I think many of them will be able to take these projects with them and continue on working with them and digging more and more to learn more about coding. I am excited about that. I am excited to see the growth in them. I am excited to see the personal development where they go from here.”

The judges found all of the projects to be outstanding, the Handturkey’s project went above and beyond their expectations and awarded them each with a $50 gift cards to Best Buy. But that was not the only takeaway the boys had from their JCA experience.

“It’s just really interesting. My favorite part was working together and trying to make a project,” Gideon said. “The reason I liked it was because you had help all the way. You can also just ask people what their thoughts were and what their ideas were and you can explain their ideas to other people too.”

Cole said that he enjoyed the many creative doors his new knowledge will open.

“You can make whatever you want,” Cole said. “You can see how all the commands work together to create a game, animation, anything, there are many possibilities.”

What is next for the JCA?

Pederson said that the Junior Code Academy will be passing the baton to Libby Sykes and Jessica Napier of the Metro East Coding, because the JCA will no longer be able to teach in Highland.

However, Sykes and Napier formed Metro East Coding based off of the JCA, so the classes that they teach will be very similar. Their teachers will teach their Introduction to Python Programming class this coming fall. The class will begin Aug 29. and will be each Tuesday until Dec. 12.

The class will focus on more advanced skills that build off of what the students learned during their first JCA class.

“It’s so exciting to give kids a skill they can use in the future,” Napier said.

Any parents interested in getting their kids involved with Metro East Coding can visit their website or contact Sykes and Napier at metroeastcoding@gmail.com.

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