September 10, 2018 Professor partners with Hanford High School students to host programming workshop
By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities
RICHLAND, Wash. – Robert Lewis, a WSU Tri-Cities associate professor of computer science, in collaboration with the Hanford High School programming club, hosted a three-day STEM programming workshop at the Richland Public Library that aimed to inspire children to participate more in computer science by using something they were already interested in—games.
According to Lewis, the event aimed not only to provide K-12 students with exposure to a variety of science and engineering projects with potentially large impacts, but also so that more students could get exposure to hands-on opportunities in STEM fields so that they could witness the possibilities of those career paths.
The workshop, called “Code Your Own AI Fighter,” was built around using games to encourage programming. During the workshop, the participants, ranging in age from 8 to 41, learned the Python programming language and applied their knowledge to create an artificial intelligence (AI) program to control a fighting game character. They then had their AIs fight each other in a tournament, which allowed users to learn Python and algorithmic thinking while having fun plotting and executing their own self-made strategies
The Python-linked fighting game interface was created by Catherine Guevara, Ben Hansen, Michael Thompson, and Kevin Yang, a team of four students from the Hanford High School programming club, in their spare time during the summer using the Java programming language.
“Programming has become a critical skill for the younger generations to reach their full potential,” said Yang, the founder and leader of the programming club. “However, beginner programmers are short of systematic and fun learning opportunities.
Yang said many self-taught programmers like himself are quite isolated and have a hard time finding other local amateur programmers.
“That’s why I’ve organized programming clubs since middle school, providing an opportunity for hundreds of students and our community, as well as this event,” he said.
The workshop was a success, with more than 23 participants participating by the third and final day.
“I like this coding camp,” one participant said. “It’s fun and you actually need to use Python programming to do it.”
Johanna Talbott, a librarian in charge of STEM-related activities at the Richland Public Library, said their workshop was one of their most successful STEM-based workshops held over the summer. She said she would be happy to welcome the workshop again next summer.