Building VTS

The Official VTS Engineering Blog

Hour of Code

By Nate Linsky

Hour of Code

This last week our engineering team here at VTS volunteered for Hour of Code. If you’re not familiar with hour of code, it’s an international initiative to develop an interest in Computer Science in students of all ages.

Karl and Alex helping students at the Bronx International High School

It was really exciting to be a part of something like this. Each session lasted an hour, and had two parts to it - first, we gave a short presentation on what it’s actually like to be a software engineer. This was especially cool because while we take so much of that knowledge for granted, high school students really don’t know exactly what that means. We got to debunk some common misconceptions like that being a software engineer means you just sit alone all day on a computer by yourself, or that you literally sit there typing 0’s and 1’s. After a round of questions about our presentation, we showed the hour of code introduction video at hourofcode.com and then loaded up the actual exercises.

Dan in the Bronx International High Schools super cool computer lab

The tutorials at http://code.org/learn did a really great job of introducing the students to basic concepts and then slowly ramping up in complexity with each level. At first, it was easy to be skeptical about how much the visual exercises were really like coding - maybe just moving a character a few spots forward, or to the left following a desired path. This very quickly changed however with the introduction of loops, and then if statements. As the levels progressed, for example, things like loops moved from optional to mandatory. If something could be solved by doing some action 5 times, vs putting the action into a do-while loop only once, they would limit the amount of actions that you could drag to make sure that you were actually “optimizing” your code.

Perhaps the most exciting part of it all was watching the students’ level of engagement rise as the class went on. Some were a little hesistant at first, as they were required to do this for the class period. However, as they moved through a few levels, you could see a tangible difference in their excitement level. Before you knew it they were giving each other high-fives after completing levels and a few groaned out loud in disappointment when the class period ended. It was clear how much they were enjoying themselves and that there was a chance it may have made a real impact on them and their perception of Computer Science.

Andrew, Chris W, Ari of Microsoft, Paul and Chris K at Clara Barton High School

For any developers that didn’t participate this year, I would highly recommend giving it a shot next year. As software engineers we’re fortunate to have jobs that so many of us are so incredibly passionate about. Hour of Code is a terrific opportunity to get to spread some of that excitement with a group of young students and potentially help a few find their passion for software development as well.