Ground Up is teaching middle-schoolers computer science, and it's working - Technical.ly Delaware

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Sep. 14, 2018 7:29 am

Ground Up is teaching middle-schoolers computer science, and it’s working

The camp, which is run by high-schoolers, just released a new impact report.
Students participate in the Ground Up pilot program at Newark Charter School.

Students participate in the Ground Up pilot program at Newark Charter School.

(Courtesy photo)

Last summer, Newark Charter School students Noah Rossi and Daniel Gott launched a pilot of a summer camp, Ground Up Computer Science. They started with 11 middle-school-aged campers and a one-week session.

Fast forward to the summer of 2018, and Ground Up’s numbers jumped to 43 campers over five weeks at three venues, including Newark Charter, Newark Parks & Rec (at the George Wilson Center) and tuition-free Tyler’s Camp, serving under-resourced kids in Wilmington.

This year, the camp utilized the game-based learning platform Kahoot! to gather data via quizzes before and after the sessions. The results showed an increase in confidence across the board.

“In Linux skills, students had an 85 percent increase,” said Rossi, a Dual School alum. “We also noticed that their confidence in Python increased by about 54 percent.”

Campers were initially asked their confidence level with the programming language Python, on a scale of 1 to 5. “When we started, we had had an equal amount of 1s and 3s, and a couple of 2s and a couple 4s,” Rossi said. “By the end, we had no 1s, and the most popular group by far was a 4 out of 5.”

The PDF of Ground Up’s complete impact report can be read here.

The raised confidence levels in the students has raised confidence in Rossi and Gott, too. They see Ground Up CS growing bigger by the year, with new project-based learning programs in the works for next summer.

“We’re planning some higher level courses for [returning campers], and we’re planning a web development camp that goes further in depth with backend, which really rounds out the understanding of how web servers work,” said Gott. “We’re also doing a follow-up to our Python games course where we’re going further in-depth.”

There are plans to move beyond programming and software, too.

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“Another one that we’re very excited about is a hardware camp where we’re giving the students a simple micro-controller with a few sensors, two motors and wheels,” said Gott. “They design their own sumo robot out of cardboard and then they get to program the robot and ‘fight’ them on a sumo table against the other robots. We can have a little competition at the end of the camp.”

Some middle-schoolers may not have to wait until next summer to participate in a Ground Up CS program — if Rossi and Gott succeed in working out a way to fit into a (yet unnamed) school’s existing after-school programming this fall.

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