TechForward Brings Coding To Junior High

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Fourteen Hillsboro Junior High School students stayed after school on Wednesday, March 13, to take advantage of an introduction to computer coding seminar, hosted by TechForward.

The seminar is the second in as many months hosted in Hillsboro by TechForward, a foundation newly launched by the Illinois Technology Association based in Chicago.  Hillsboro High School graduate Trisha Degg works for the Illinois Technology Association and her efforts brought the TechForward initiative to support STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education to Hillsboro. The pilot program is 100 percent funded by TechForward and the Illinois Tech Association.

Degg noted that at a fundraiser on Feb. 21, the TechForward foundation raised $42,000 to support programs such as the one in Hillsboro.

For the coding session on Wednesday, TechForward flew in Erik Sundberg, a senior software engineer, from Learning.com in Portland, OR.

Sundberg described "Code Monkey" and "Codester" as "gamified" Learning.com programs that help students take their first steps into coding. Students started on levels one through five in Code Monkey, an on-line program that required them to use code commands to direct a monkey to finding on-screen bananas.

"It goes up to about 200 levels," Sundberg said.  "It gets pretty challenging, actually."

Students who had already taken Hillsboro Junior High School computer teacher Kelli White's classes quickly advanced to Codester, an intermediate level program that required more code language.

Junior high principal Don VanGiesen and counselor Jen Anderson also attended the class, as well as teacher Zach Wygal who helped make the necessary connections for Degg at the junior high, and Imagine Hillsboro tech committee member Barb Mulch.

Pizza and snacks before the session were also provided by TechForward.

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