Skip to Navigation Skip to Page Content

Upsilon Pi Epsilon hosts annual interactive coding experience

Middle school students sit at computers and work on coding projects under watchful eye of an instructor.

Upsilon Pi Epsilon’s interactive coding experience consisted of two days of coding lectures and hands-on program writing and debugging, with the help of around 20 members of UPE.

Members of University of Missouri’s Upsilon Pi Epsilon (UPE) chapter held an interactive coding experience for middle school students on the weekend of Oct. 24 -25.

A total of 100 people signed up for the event, which was held in Engineering Building West. The event consisted of two days of coding lectures and hands-on program writing and debugging, with the help of around 20 members of UPE.

Devin Petersohn, president of UPE, and Dale Musser, director of IT at Mizzou, led the event. Musser and a representative from Google began each day with a 30-minute presentation about current technologies, such as unmanned aerial vehicles, virtual reality, animations and augmented reality. Petersohn then took students to the lab where they spent the next several hours learning the basics of programming: what a variable is, how functions work and so on. After a brief lunch, students made their way back to the lab where they completed their own program — a JavaScript-implemented snake game — with help from members of UPE.

“I think they really liked the sense of accomplishment that comes with making something real and complex, something that they can play around with — colors, variables and so on,” said Petersohn.

The event was promoted through local middle schools’ PTA groups, with flyers about UPE and the interactive coding experience. Registration filled quickly, closing more than two weeks before the event.

Petersohn emphasized the importance of choosing middle school students as the audience.

“We wanted to focus on an audience that was young, but not too young, to learn the material,” he said. “Middle school students seemed like the perfect audience because giving them an introduction to the material would help them be more successful in high school or college. We also encouraged them to think about careers in technology, robotics, and engineering.”

Petershon said at that age, students have an incredible pliability for learning of this type. “The students had vastly different abilities with typing, mathematics and programming, so those with more experience got to play around a bit, and those with less experience got to have a complete, working program at the end, which I think was pretty cool for them.”

When asked about future plans for the event, Petersohn expressed great interest in hosting it more than once a semester. He also hinted at the possibility of hosting events for people of all ages, even something staged specifically for parents, where they could teach some basic coding as well as show parents educational resources to get their kids involved in and excited about programming.

The event was free for all who signed up, and lunch was provided to those who attended.