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Game on! Raspberry Pi inspires high schoolers at M...

Game on! Raspberry Pi inspires high schoolers at MTSU coding camp

While other high school students lounged by the pool, soaked up some sun or rested for the upcoming school year, Kira Boles of Oakland High School in Murfreesboro learned how to make Raspberry Pi.

But it’s not the dessert people know and love.

In late June, Boles and other high schoolers used their skills in computer science and engineering to code video games in an MTSU computer classroom inside Kirksey Old Main.

Dr. Chrisila Pettey, right, chair of MTSU’s Department of Computer Science, observes the work of James Rich during the inaugural MTSU Coding Camp in a Kirksey Old Main computer lab. (MTSU photos by Jayla Jackson)

They were part of MTSU Coding Camp, a summer camp that involved game programming with Raspberry Pis, tiny and affordable high-performance computers that promote teaching of basic computer science in schools.

Coding Camp gives boys and girls who have an interest in computer science an opportunity to receive hands-on training from MTSU faculty and staff. Each attendee this summer learned how to assemble a Raspberry Pi, creating a microcomputer that operates all the functions of the gaming systems they were creating.

Boles has coded since 2014, thanks to her mom signing her up early for coding experiences. For as long as she can remember, the art of coding has stuck with her.

“I really enjoy it, so I continued to do it throughout the years. Now I’d like to do something with it in college,” the high school senior said, adding that engineering runs in her family. She sees herself going in a different direction, however.

“I want to do cybersecurity,” Boles explained. “I really want to protect people against cyberthreats and cyberattacks.”

Nearly 20 Rutherford County high school students attended MTSU Coding Camp.

Nearly 20 Rutherford County high school students attended the MTSU Coding Camp held in June inside Kirksey Old Main on campus.

Boles said that discovering and playing with the technology the program provides is nothing short of amazing.

“I love that we can make our own games. That’s my favorite thing,” she said. “I’ve been into making games, but I wasn’t completely sure if that’s what I wanted to do. Now it’s something I’d like to do on the side.”

MTSU has held coding camps for three years, offering students the opportunity of learning how to code on several different platforms, including HyperText Markup Language, or HTML, the standard language to create Web pages; Scratch, a free programming language and online community where participants can create their own interactive stories, games and animations; and now a gaming software that creates similar functions to the game Asteroids.

“I’ve always been interested in coding. I just didn’t know where to start,” said David Bystrom, a Blackman High School student.

First-time camp instructor Neal McClain, director of library technology in the James E. Walker Library, led the camp with help from Dr. Chrisila Pettey, chair of the Department of Computer Science.

“They get to keep their Raspberry Pi,” McClain said. “The idea is that they learn some basic programming skills and get some exposure to a field they may or may not find themselves interested in down the road. A lot of these high school students are interested in video games.”

Organizers of the camp, which is sponsored by the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce, are urging high school students with an interest in computer science to apply for next year’s camp.

For more information about the camp, contact Pettey at 615-898-2397 or Chrisila.Pettey@mtsu.edu.

— Jayla Jackson (news@mtsu.edu)

The Raspberry Pi microcomputer.

Camp instructor Neal McClain, director of library technology in the James E. Walker Library, shows the Raspberry Pi microcomputer MTSU Coding Camp students used to create games.


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