Students develop games through coding camp

By Jeff Smith

Wyatt Fleming, incoming eighth-grader at Hill City Middle School, plays a game during the arcade at HCMS on June 23. The day was a time for everyone to play each other's games and creat some ideas of what to do for their next game.

Coding camp ended in a fun way with students being able to showcase their games or creations they learned over two weeks.

June 23 was the arcade day. Parents could come and see what their children had been working on and try to figure out how to play the games.

The teacher for the program, Annette Duffy, said watching parents play might be the best part of the camp.

A lot of the games were pretty original but some paid homage to other games like Flappy bird or Pac-man.

Students gave brisk demonstrations to people who came and played their games but they were also happy to share what all went in to making their game.

Owen Vaughn, Hill City seventh-grader, made  a quest-like game where a person needs to find an octopus. If the octopus is not found in time a person dies and goes back to the beginning.

“I like fantasy so this was the best game for me. We had three different options in a quest game. One is a guy, a girl, or a panda. I choose the panda because they’re awesome,” Vaughn said.

Vaughn customized his game by adding in trees, barrels and fences.

The octopus was created by Vaughn and he added green to it so it would blend in with the rocks.

He said there were eight projects the students did for the coding camp, and for the arcade showcase, the students could create a new game or go back and change an existing one.

“I made it a lot harder and there’s more detail with everything,” Vaughn said.

This was the third year for the coding camp. Around 15 students participated in it, but because it is not mandatory, students could have come and went. 

There were three types of levels at the camp: game design, CS sports and animation.

In a written statement, Duffy said the summer coding camp was developed as a great way to increase 21st century skills while having fun. Duffy is a language arts teacher at the school and has taught several computer classes in the past.

She said it was also great to watch how students will help one another figure out a problem that comes up.

The students created the games using Scratch, which is a free coding program developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They also used Google CS First which is targeted at the middle-school aged levels.

Students work on block-based coding which works like a puzzle piece and students click and drag to figure everything out.

“A lot of if-then statements which is what makes it really good for the students. If you do this then that happens — and a lot of math,” Duffy said.

Duffy first started working with coding by incorporating it into the school day with the hour of code.

“From there I could see where the kids really needed this,” Duffy said.

She also knows how much talk there is today about how almost every job in the future will require some type of coding.

“The ‘Hour of Code’ is a nationwide initiative by Computer Science Education Week and to introduce millions of students to one hour of computer science and computer programming.

Eighth-grader Mikennah Oleson did an animation video this year since it was her second year at the camp. The animation took her three complete days plus two extra hours. It is a video about a girl who surprises her friend for her birthday. Oleson learned how to do the animation through videos and then the program gave her two characters to use. She had to figure out how to add actions and send messages so it works synchronously.

Oleson wants to come back next year and do other animations. She is thinking about doing some animations about fashion, music or role playing.