Their brows furrowed, Stough Elementary School students on Tuesday hunched over tape measures and iPads as they mapped out obstacle-course routes for robots.
Each team of several students lined up a list of commands – “turn left,” “move forward” – and measured the distance from one colored circle to another on the floor.
Students used CodeSnaps, a new computer coding app from Cary software company SAS, to scan QR codes accompanying each command. They cheered when each team’s Sphero, a round robot, rolled from one circle to another before crossing the finish line.
SAS launched CodeSnaps on Tuesday at Stough Elementary, a Raleigh magnet school that served as a testing site for the app. It allows students to program robots using tangible paper-based blocks. Each block has an accompanying QR code, and together they create a series of coded commands for the robot to execute.
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“This app is a way to introduce students to coding and get them exposed,” said Scott McQuiggan, director of SAS Curriculum Pathways. “It’s helping them understand all the technology around them that’s available in our daily lives. ... Computing is an integral part of our society.”
Autumn Potts, a fifth-grader at Stough, said she enjoyed the lesson.
“You can overcome obstacles,” Potts said. “It’s kind of like life. You make mistakes, it’s fine, you just try again.”
“I think that it’s a great way to learn how to code and I think that it’s a great way to learn how to work together as a team,” said Annie Powell also a fifth-grader.
Alisa McCollum, a technology teacher at Stough, says the app helps her students visualize programming, coding and mathematics.
“It gives students more of a concrete feel and forces them to apply what they’ve learned,” McCollum said. “I’m so excited. It’s very intuitive. There’s no learning curve.”
CodeSnaps, available in the App Store, requires one iPad and one compatible robot, such as Sphero or SPRK. SAS has developed other educational apps, including those that assist with English, math, science and other disciplines.
Learning how to code at an early age may encourage students to pursue a career in computer science, McQuiggan said.
“The careers are lucrative,” he said.
Madison Iszler: 919-836-4952; @madisoniszler