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Park Elementary kids go high-tech

After-school coding club popular

Third-, fourth- and fifth-graders at Park Elementary School this week are putting the finishing touches on projects that will showcase their ability to make computers respond to their instructions.

The handiwork will be on exhibit at the school from 5 to 7 p.m. April 9.

The students gained their mastery by learning coding through the after-school Park Tech Club, established in January by Scott Emrich, the campus technology teacher.

The basis for coding is binary math, the esoteric language characterized by combinations of 0 and 1 used by computer programmers.

The ability to code teaches students how computers works – basic knowledge akin to how understanding the workings of an internal combustion engine allows a mechanic to rebuild or modify a vehicle motor.

Club members, limited to third- through fifth-graders, learned how microprocessor work, how to program a computer and how to make movies and invent games using an iPad.

Jack Dominick, a fifth-grader, was using his newfound talent to craft a virtual tour of Europe on his iPad. Jack, the son of Joanna and Richard Dominick, visited Italy, France, England and Germany.

Response to the invitation to learn coding was overwhelming. Emrich expected maybe 25 takers at best, but 50 students enrolled. The club meets Tuesday through Friday, with each members attending two days.

Students work on iPads provided with funding from the Durango Education Foundation and the Park Elementary budget.

The DEF, through a $7,500 grant and $10,700 from its fundraising campaign last year, bought 26 laptops. The school itself spent $1,700 to buy four more iPads. The Park parent-teacher organization spent $1,900 for a laptop and a television screen for the teacher.

The Bill and Dianne Mensch Foundation has been supportive of the program. It has loaned David Cramer to the school to oversee the tech club.

What students learn as club members can serve creative endeavors through life, Cramer said. Simply punching a button on a computer isn’t creative, he said.

Bill Mensch is the founder of Arizona-based Western Design Center. He holds numerous patents and is the designer of microprocessors and supporting computer chips used by Apple, Nintendo, Atari and Rockwell, a space-industry company.

daler@durangoherald.com

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