Education Technology

How a math teacher started her school’s first coding club

Posted 04/09/2018 by Ellen Fishpaw (@ellenfishpaw)

When math teacher Jessica Kachur joined the faculty of Kenosha Unified School District’s Indian Trail High School, she embarked on a mission to start an after-school coding club. Her goal was to ensure that math students had an opportunity to get together and explore the important, life-long benefit of knowing how to program.

“I went to our activities person and said we want to start a coding club and I need money for equipment, so she gave us some ideas for fundraising,” said Kachur. “We ended up raising almost $1,000 in candy bar sales, so that we could get 5 TI-Innovator Hubs along with all of the accessories like breadboards, sensors and motors.”  

The club has taken off from there, raising additional money in the months since to buy 4 TI-Innovator-Rovers, TI’s new programmable robotic car. About 10 students, from freshmen to seniors, meet every Tuesday afternoon after-school in what is now the club’s second year. In meetings, students generally focus on using the TI-Nspire CX calculators that the school’s math department has to explore programming. 

“A typical meeting consists of all of us getting together and learning how to code on the calculators,” said club member, Mason St. Peter. Students write programs on their calculators, which connect to the TI-Innovator Hub, the “brain” that controls Rover’s movements. “Right now, we're programming Rovers to drive in various shapes, but soon we're going to start some mood ring activities,” said St. Peter. Students will make a colored LED change based on temperature of their hands, similar to the way a mood ring changes color.

The students in the club range in skill levels, from students who have never programmed before to advanced programmers. “One girl joined the club because her boyfriend was in it. Now she's probably one of our best because she concentrated on learning programming from the beginning and takes small steps to understand exactly what she is doing,” said Kachur. “Her first exposure to coding was on the TI-Nspire and she's really getting it. It’s just great to watch.”

Junior Jahnai Harley said, “I joined the Coding Club because I wanted to learn more about computer science and thought it'd be cool to learn things before I go to college – and it’s fun too. She is looking to pursue computer science in college and get a career in cyber security. 

Kachur said one of the goals of the club is to get kids to understand that computer science classes are cool. She wants them to see that coding is not just for the advanced computer programmers, but something all students should know and understand.

“Coding teaches problem-solving and perseverance. It gives students that opportunity to look at something a little more than just as right or wrong,” said Kachur. “There really is no wrong in programing; it's finding an error and fixing it. That is the lasting impact that I hope students take with them and apply to their entire life.”

By this time next year, Kachur hopes the club will be entirely student-managed and she can sit back and watch her students refine a skill that will serve them well in whatever career path they pursue.

Watch the Indian Trail TV feature on the coding club:

Watch Indian Trails TV reporter, Ryan Patton, report on the school’s new Coding Club