CADDY workshops help CSE, LPS students teach and learn computing

Apr 01, 2017      By Victoria Grdina

Mentor Mickey Tran helps a student with her coding project during the first CADDY workshop.
Mentor Mickey Tran helps a student with her coding project during the first CADDY workshop.

A newly formed mentoring group is inviting Lincoln Public Schools students to participate in a series of workshops that will help them learn to code and build their own apps.

CADDY, Creative App Development and Design for Youth, is a bimonthly course for elementary and middle school students designed to help them explore application development with guidance from more experienced mentors. A small group of third, fourth and fifth graders visited the Department of Computer Science and Engineering this month for the first two workshops.

“It was so fun to see their ideas and see them try to implement them. They really took the little bits that we gave them and made something that was their own,” said Gretchen Larsen, CADDY mentor and community computer science entrepreneur. “We wanted them to make an app and feel like ‘I built an app and this is not something I can’t do. I can make an app that works on a phone and keep getting better at that.’”

The 4-hour workshops cost $50 per student and are offered in sessions divided by age group throughout the spring. During the first workshop, students engaged in a CS unplugged activity and practiced coding in apps like Blockly, Scratch, Hour of Code and AppInventor. The workshop activities are structured to help the students expand and practice the skills they’ve learned in school and at home, but also serve a dual purpose as a training mechanism for mentors.

During the summer, the university hosts a 3-day coding camp for Girl Scouts organized by department chair Matthew Dwyer and professor Leen-Kiat Soh. They suggested that Larsen and fellow mentor Mickey Tran prepare take on larger roles as camp leaders by offering a few workshops to other young students.

“In teaching it really helps to learn it more,” Larsen said. “And parents all want that, so it seems so natural that university students can be making money while doing teaching activities with kids in the community.”

The CADDY workshops have certainly helped mentors sharpen both their coding and teaching skills. They’ve been an especially ideal opportunity for Tran, who hopes to teach professionally someday.

“I really want to go industry in the beginning, but I plan on teaching computer science,” Tran said. “That’s how I got into computer science. I never knew anything about the field until my high school teacher explained it to me and got me to understand how much I like it. I want to help kids do that.”

Larsen and Tran said many of the students were somewhat familiar with a few of the apps used in the workshop, and mastered some aspects of them quickly. They plan to challenge them more in the next session by letting them build their own games. They also hope the classes can expand in the future to give students of all ages more chances to learn.

“I think it’s super fun for these kids. They’re learning this new tool and they get to make something that they feel proud of,” Larsen said. “It seems like all humans and adults could use more opportunities to play with technology and feel empowered and energized by it.” 

CADDY Gretchen Larsen assists a student with her coding project during the first CADDY workshop.
Mentor Gretchen Larsen works with a student during the first CADDY workshop.