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Northwest Missouri State University


News Release

Northwest faculty member Dr. Scott Bell and student Jesse Alford assist Horace Mann students during Tuesday's Hour of Code, a global initiative to help children gain an understanding of computer programming. (Photos by Todd Weddle/Northwest Missouri State University)

Northwest faculty member Dr. Scott Bell and student Jesse Alford assist Horace Mann students during Tuesday's Hour of Code, a global initiative to help children gain an understanding of computer programming. (Photos by Todd Weddle/Northwest Missouri State University)

Dec. 7, 2016

Computer science students, faculty help Horace Mann children solve programming problems during ‘Hour of Code’

Northwest computer science students volunteered to guide Horace Mann children through a series of programming problems during the Hour of Code.
Northwest computer science students volunteered to guide Horace Mann children through a series of programming problems during the Hour of Code.

Northwest computer science students volunteered to guide Horace Mann children through a series of programming problems during the Hour of Code.

Students at Northwest Missouri State University’s Horace Mann Laboratory School on Tuesday afternoon joined tens of millions of children throughout the world in learning about computer programing and the basics of coding.

Launched in 2013, the “Hour of Code” initiative is celebrated annually during Computer Science Education Week with the goal of helping students see computer science as a fun and creative field that is accessible to all ages.

At Horace Mann, faculty and students representing Northwest’s School of Computer Science and Information Systems facilitated the hour for the children in grades kindergarten through sixth grade. Children in kindergarten and first grade worked as a group using iPads, while the older children worked individually through more advanced scenarios on laptops.

“This is an opportunity for students who aren’t necessarily exposed to computer programing to get the opportunity to explore and play with the ideas of computer programming in a pretty easy-to use environment,” Dr. Scott Bell, assistant professor of computer science and information systems, said. “They can actually grasp it and solve problems with computers, not just use them for games and toys all the time.”

By logging on to https://hourofcode.com, the children could try a variety of programs and settings – from helping Disney’s Moana navigate a fishing boat to creating a Star Wars game. By moving building blocks with code into a “workspace,” they could manipulate characters to perform specific actions.

Hour of Code also helps develop problem solving and critical thinking skills while the children are tasked with progressively more complex problems.

“I’m amazed at how fast they pick it up and how quickly they’re getting it,” said Jesse Alford, a junior computer science major from Huntsville, Missouri, who volunteered to help with the Hour of Code at Horace Mann. “I think it’s really nice to see how people are evolving and how they’re adapting to technology. I know when I was this young I wouldn’t have been able to do this.”

According to Code.org’s 2015 annual report, 90 percent of parents want their child’s school to teach computer science. The report also found 75 percent of Americans believe computer science is cool in a way it wasn’t 10 years ago, and 67 percent of parents and 56 percent of teachers believe students should be required to learn computer science.

Bell began teaching computer programming to Horace Mann students in 2007 and resumed last year when he returned to Northwest after completing his doctorate degree.

“It’s something that a lot of people aren’t exposed to in their K-12 education, and so it’s hard for them to decide if they want to be computer scientists,” Bell said. “We want to try to get more people exposed to that idea earlier so they can make more informed decisions later in life about their careers and what they want to do in their jobs.”

In a world surrounded by technology, Horace Mann Principal Sandy Seipel agrees the children will benefit when they become adults and build careers that require an understanding of technology.

“It’s a great opportunity to interact with technology, to really explore coding and programming, and it gets them to realize that it’s not that hard,” Seipel said. “It’s fun. It’s interactive, and it really sparks their interest and their really able to explore new avenues.”


For more information, please contact:

Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
mhorn@nwmissouri.edu | 660.562.1704 | Fax: 660.562.1900

Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468