CENG 2020 First Graduating Class

May 7, 2020

For three years, the Computer Engineers of the Next Generation (CENG) has provided fun and engaging computer science lessons for all of our elementary-school students. We are proud to announce that for the first time, we have a graduating group of students who have completed our curriculum in totality, successfully learning about Scratch, JavaScript, App Inventor and Python.

Our high school volunteers teach students the basics of each of these coding languages, then allow students to learn more on their own by creating games and animations. To create a lighthearted, engaging learning environment where students won't get distracted, we also provide prizes, snacks, and breaks. We firmly believe that coding should be fun and inspiring, so we have instituted a no-homework policy for all of our classes.

Isabella Borkovic is helping Sophia Krikheli with her JavaScript coding project

"My favorite project happened when we were learning Scratch," Sophia said, a sixth-grader at Santa Rita Elementary School who is part of our Class of 2020. "We got to code a maze where a character has to move through it without touching any of the walls, with opponents chasing it through the maze."

Although her school provides weekly coding lessons, she says that she gets a lot more information from CENG because there's more support and hands-on instruction. "In CENG, all we have to do is raise our hands, and someone comes and helps. In the other class, it is harder because there is only one teacher and more students."

She says that her three years with us have helped her become more comfortable with coding, and the fact that we have a group of students who have completed three years with us is a huge milestone for both our organization and our graduating students. We have provided students leaving the program with a strong coding foundation and confidence, ready to continue their journey into middle school, high school, and perhaps even further in their lives. Whether that is middle school robotics classes or high school level Java classes, our curriculum has prepared them for the next step in their coding journeys.

Students like Sophia enjoy our program because we adopt a student-teaching-student format. For every class we offer, there are three or more high school teachers available to teach or help our students at any time, which allows questions to be answered quickly and efficiently. We want to focus on inspiring kids to be interested in computer science, even if they have no prior experience or knowledge of it.

Our mission to provide accessible computer science education to kids in our community, especially those underrepresented in STEM fields, has not changed since our start in 2016, but we have grown a lot since then. When we started our first Scratch coding class at Santa Rita, we had six high school students teaching a class of 20 elementary school students. Since then, our mission has remained constant, but our organization has changed dramatically. We now have 35 high school students running three concurrent classes from 4th to 6th grade in Scratch, JavaScript, App Inventor and Python.

However, what makes our program special isn't just our curriculum, teaching format, or the fun snacks and treats we provide; it is the bonds that students and teachers are able to create with each other that our student-teaching-student format allows for. Sixth-grader Maarten, another graduating student, said that he was able to form special bonds with his teachers, especially volunteer teacher Trevor Smith.

Trevor Smith and Maarten Bousse built special bonds through our coding classes.

"When I first met him, I didn't know him yet, but I quickly saw how similar we were. He is a nice kid that wants to learn, so I helped with that by making sure to find something that would interest him to draw him in, even if that thing was random," said Trevor when asked about his relationship with Maarten. "I would definitely say that we're friends, and I'm glad I got to know him."

We know that coding can be scary to learn at times, but we firmly believe that everyone can, and should, learn about computer science. We are proud of all of our CENG students for their dedication and hard work, and we hope that those graduating will continue to utilize their skills in computer science to learn and pursue future aspirations.

CENG is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to inspire underrepresented students to explore and develop an interest in Computer Science. For more information on our programs, please check out our website at cengclass.org.