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Coding class inspires dreams of video game design

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Bishop Cobbs
Joy Walczak/WGVU Photo
Bishop Cobbs

As a fifth grader, Bishop Cobbs has big dreams of being a professional athlete, but after a summer coding class, he’s adding video game designer to his ambitions

Host Nate Gimby speaks with Bishop Cobbs, fifth grader at Kraft Intermediate School, Caledonia and his Kent ISD Summer Brain Gain coding teacher Jackie Frens.

Nate Gimby: Welcome to the Your Dream is Our Dream Podcast where we celebrate student success one dream at a time. This program is made possible by Kent ISD in partnership with WGVU, I’m Nate Gimby and here today I have with me Bishop Cobbs, a 5th grader at Kraft Immediate School in Caledonia, and Jackie Frens who teaches at Ada Christian and also for Kent ISD Summer Brain Gain program. Thank you both so much for joining me in studio today.

Jackie Frens: Thank you so much for having us.

Bishop Cobbs: It's such an honor.

NG: Well, it is an honor to have you both in the studio for me as well. We're very excited to talk to you both about your experience with the Summer Brain Gain program. And Jackie, I want to start with you. Tell us a little bit about how the two of you met through this program and a little bit about the Summer Brain Gain program and the class that you taught.

JF: Thank you. I this is my third summer of teaching the Summer Brain Gain. And what I love the most about the Summer Brain Gain is that we can come up with a passion project that we want to share with students. And I love doing Scratch and coding with my students during the school year. But we oftentimes don't have enough time for the students to pursue like an idea that they have to completion because I see my students every week for about 45 minutes. So in the summer time with the Brain Gain, we can meet pretty much for two weeks and every single day, probably about an hour a day. And then the students can, after that, continue to work on a project that they dream up, which is so cool.

NG: So, you said Scratch and coding. Could only a bit more about what those what those words mean for those who may be unfamiliar.

JF: Yeah, sorry about that. Yes, Scratch is a program. It's an online program and also an app. But the one that we use was online program that was developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology for actually for their freshman students to use. But because it's so accessible and that it uses block coding to introduce coding, they basically gave it to schools to use, and anyone basically, who wants to learn how to code, and what I like the most about it is that you can start with no knowledge of coding as I actually did as well and then build up and imagine like stories or games or even just a simple presentation and then start putting it together with very basic knowledge of code. And then coding is the language that the computer uses to make multimedia, I guess, presentations stories, games, that kind of thing.

NG: Well, that sounds pretty complicated to me. And I think as a 5th grader, it would have been something I would have been kind of intimidated to do. So, Bishop, it sounds like you had a pretty neat opportunity here. Why did you want to take the Crack the Code course as that's what it was called for the Summer Brain Gain. Why did you want to take the Crack the Code course? And what was your favorite part about it?

BC: Well, I wanted to do this because I like helping people and I like giving to people. So I wanted to make games to help and give those who want and need. And I love games to its one of my is like my favorite thing.

NG: So you are kind of coming at this as a fan of games and also somebody wants to create games. What kind of a gaming experience would you like to be able to create with your coding skills?

BC: Well, I like Mine Craft, Destiny 2, Fortnite - games like that. So I was thinking maybe I could like combined some of those together. Make like a Mine Craft first person shooter game.

NF: OK, right on. Yeah. That sounds like a complicated project. So I suppose my question would be through this Crack the Code course, what kind of things did you learn that will help you get there?

BC: I mean, I started out with no knowledge of coding. So we learn how to do it in what it really means to code.

JF: I think what I was most impressed by with Bishop is that some of the other students who are in the course knew or had some experience with coding. And Bishop was thinking, you know what? Since I play games, I wonder if I can actually make a game and he put even more time into it because it was his first time being introduced to it. And I actually saw his passion almost be more expressed because of the fact that he was turning from someone who played games into someone who could possibly create games. So that was kind of cool to see him do that. And he was introduced to very basic coding things like events, which starts the code, right, Bishop? And loops, which would repeat, and like coding that you would have in your game. And then also like ‘if-then” statements, so we didn't really start with those, but Bishop had an idea. And if you remember what it was. He had an idea and then he explained it and then we tried to translate that into code. Do you remember what your idea was? What you wanted to do with your, was it a creeper that you created?

BC: Oh, yeah. So I wanted to make like a Mine Craft-ish game and like we would have like, you know, the zombies, creepers, and the skeletons and there would be Steve with like a dagger thing, and he would have to go through the levels. You know, skeleton would have ten hearts and every time you hit him with a sword, one of the things would go away, one of the numbers would, and when it hit zero, it would like flash red, like hold red and then disappear. and when you did that you have to get to like a black void piece basically, and they needed to run through that, and it would be like ten levels to beat.

NG: Wow, so it sounds like that would have been a lot of fun to bring to life through a process like coding where it is a lot of numbers and you're staring at a computer screen and then to see all that happened out of out of that process must have been pretty cool. And Jackie, that leads well into my next question. I think so. You mentioned that you work with students every day at Ada Christian in the classroom. You really did kind of go the extra mile for this summer course online. Can you tell us a little bit more about it and how it helps inspire dreams and students like Bishop?

JF: Yeah, especially meeting students who are who are being introduced to code for the first time. I think there's two sides of it. One is being able to see like you could see that Bishop was super inspired by games he has played and thinking, oh, can I be on the creative side and then seeing that - that's what it is. That's something that inspired you to do it. But then when you go behind the scenes like getting a backstage pass to actually writing it, you realize I can do it, but it is hard. Wouldn’t you say, Bishop? Like every little thing that you he described, like, even changing the color of the heart's takes time. Like the designer has to take the time to do it. But once we break down each part of what he was imagining in his mind, then he could start thinking about, Oh, now I can do this. That would mean changing the costume, right? Do you remember that? You and then you know, if I want him to move and we started talking about like the X and y axes and how you know how the numbers would with tell of the zombie or creeper where to move on the, I guess you would call it the stage. So I think that what I like the most is making things that sound really complicated, putting it in a language that makes sense. And in this case with Bishop, it would be like taking it game that he really likes and going, oh, maybe I can make that happen. But at the same time using that to say, I can do hard things because once you realize, oh, I can do it, you realize all it's actually kind of hard. But then the fact that you are seeing something that you imagine come to life, I think, you have to tell me Bishop, kind of helps you through some of the really hard parts of it.

Would you say that?

BC: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. If you can imagine a perfect picture of it, it's it becomes much more easy.

NG: Yeah, easier to bring that picture to life. Well, it sounds like there's a few different interests. You know, Bishop, you're kind of bringing to the table with your exploration of coding, which is super cool. I've also been informed, according to my notes, that you want to be a professional athlete. Tell us about, you know, both those dreams, how you want to learn more about coding. But also, you know, what is what's your sport? What do you see yourself going with that?

NG: I mean, I like I said earlier, I like giving to people and I kind of want to be a football player because like it gives entertainment, it sounds fun. It would be a good job to have even though my mom thinks it's a little bit too rough.

NG: It is a little rough, yeah, but it is very cool have multiple interests. I think it was Terry Crews who, he is an actor, but also he was a football player and an artist. Having all of those interests kind of come together really can make people experience their dreams in a big way. So that's very cool. And then tell me, you know, where do you see yourself with coding in the future? What's your next step I suppose?

BC: Well, it's probably like learning like more about it. I know a little bit. I know the basics, but if I get to like the full potential of it, I could create much more games and better code it.

NG: You know this Crack the Code course was, of course, over the summer. How is what you're learning at school every day during the year, helping you reach those dreams and those goals?

BC: Well, learning teamwork helps because creating the bigger games like Fortnite and Mine Craft, you need like 100 or so people to do the entire thing, each running their own little station. And I think school helps teach you teamwork and to accept other people's ideas.

NG: Incredibly important skills. Absolutely. And what about your teachers? How do they inspire you to reach your dreams?

BC: Well, like my teacher, Mister Slot. He says if you have a dream, live up to it. So he's encouraging. I find that helpful.

NG: Well, and it's funny you are wearing for our audio listeners out there an arcade shirt, so, Mister Slot, arcade, like, coin slot - that connects up, doesn't it? Well, Jackie, tell me a little bit about how teaching is influenced the dreams that you have for yourself and for your students.

JF: I think that teaching is one of the professions that you get to be both the teacher and the learner every single day, which is kind of amazing when you think about it. You know, I know it's cliche to say, but I definitely learn a lot of my students because the questions that they ask and the things that interest them like for and for instance, I know that Bishop was inspired by Mine Craft, Fortnite, that kind of thing. But I know probably in the future he’ll come up with ideas on his own inspired by these. And it's just exciting to see a young people on the verge of realizing that dreams that they never knew were even possible could actually become a reality, but also knowing that it can become a reality in a different way than they even imagine. So I think for me is that as an educator, I just feel like every day - I actually worked in the corporate world as well, and, you know, that's a great place for many people. But for me, I think one of the things that I love about being a teacher is every single day is very different than what you might even expect. Because anything is possible when you talk to students and then really pursue interests and questions that they have.

NG: Absolutely. And with what can educators like you learn when you ask students about their dreams was asking important?

JF: I think what is important about that is that there are certain dreams that seem very common to a lot of people like you might ask about, you know, firefighting or, you know, astronaut or being a surgeon, dreams a lot of people have. But also, I think even just the day-to-day realizing that students have dreams about, you know, like what Bishop was saying, making the world a better place and making a difference in people's lives. And I think that that is something that we can all be inspired by and just realizing that you can have future dreams. But a lot of times that the dreams that you have just an everyday life hopes to achieve as bigger dreams if that makes sense. Yeah.

NG: So Bishop, tell me, how will you know when you have made your dreams come true?

BC: I’ll know when I made my dreams come true when people are happy with what I've made.

NG: Excellent. Well, that leaves it open, doesn't it? Because you can make people happy and so many ways and it sounds like you have many interests that you can kind of pursue in in that regard. So well. Thank you both for being here and talking with me today and most of all for the day.

JF: Thank you so much for having us. This was - I was so excited to hear that we could be on this podcast.

BC: Yeah, it’s unexpected, but I loved it. It’s so much fun.

NG: And thanks to everybody for listening. Know a student who dreams big? We'd love to share their story. Submit your idea and hear more Your Dream stories at kentisd.org/Your Dream. The Your Dream is Our Dream Podcast is presented by Kent ISD in partnership with WGVU.

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