Coding Competition Sparks Interest In Arizona Teens

Published: Tuesday, November 29, 2016 - 5:00am
Updated: Tuesday, November 29, 2016 - 10:13am
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(Photo by Mariana Dale - KJZZ)

Students from around the state are flexing their fingers and brushing up on their coding languages for a two-day hackathon in Gilbert.

This is the fourth year the Spark App League has put on the competition, and about 250 students participate each year.  It’s a collaboration between the town of Gilbert, ASU and sponsored by Google.

Robert Brandl teaches at Desert Ridge High School and his students took the grand prize last year. In less than two days, they built a video game where “Bobby Gilbert” battled his way through a town of zombies.

“It’s really their chance to like have to think quick on their feet and have to think about what we’ve learned and recall and apply it,” Brandl said.

His students use languages such as CSS, HTML5 and Javascript to make graphics provided by the competition come alive.

“I like it because it’s kind of a big puzzle because you can do so many things in so many different ways,” said Elizabeth Dieringer, one of Brandl’s students. “I like the logic of it.”

Dieringer is a high-school junior, and said she’s one of only two girls in her Programming 2 class at Desert Ridge. One of the places she meets other girls who code?

Competitions like this one.

Organizers also hope the event connects students like Dieringer to ideas of what they might do after high school.

“Oftentimes when you ask a student what is an engineer? They say somebody who programs or somebody who drives a train,” said  Hope Parker, the associate director for K-12 engineering and education outreach at ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

The Spark App League invites professionals from Google and other programmers to present to students at the competition.

This year’s Spark App League advanced competition is Dec. 5 and 6. Registration is full, but middle- and high-school students interested in coding can register for the next competition April 12 and 13.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article has been modified to reflect Gilbert's status as a town.

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