Lily Bushong had to figure out how to make Angry Bird take two steps forward.

Sitting in front of her Chromebook at New Market Elementary School, Lily and her mother, Lori, clicked around on a computer coding program to control the popular video game character’s moved. Dragging blocks of code into a workspace, Lily clicked a button and watched as the bird trotted across the screen.

“We did it!” Lori said, giving her daughter a high-five.

Families had a hands-on introduction to the high-demand world of computer programming Wednesday during the school’s first Family Code Night. The event was part of the Computer Science for All initiative, which sponsors the “Hour of Code” in schools and libraries across the world.

Following a shortage of computer programmers, research now shows coding is one of the hottest career fields.

“What I’ve read recently is... that there are now quite a few coders but the goal now is to go the next step forward, which is problem-solving,” principal Dr. Chris Larson said.

Families were given a series of coding challenges to tackle, using  students’ school-issued Chromebooks or iPads. New Market technology assistant Brooke Harshbarger and parents Blake Zachary and Phil Buckler were on hand to help guide families through the program.

Mallory Kessler and her sons, third grader Clayton and kindergartener Carter, sat in the cafeteria with more than 35 other families working through the codes.

Kessler teaches computer science at Southmont High School.

“This is something I do at school every day and I thought it’d be cool for them to learn about,” Kessler said as she helped the boys. 

New Market students have already had a taste of coding in their classrooms. Lily’s sister, Jenna, learned the process through playing Angry Birds and Minecraft in fifth grade last year.

“It’s kind of like a game... it might take you a couple times to do it but once you get done you feel happy about it,” she said.

Eventually, students will use coding to create their own apps or programs.

The school paired the event with the fourth annual Invention Convention, which challenges students to create products to simplify daily activities.

Sixth grader Luke Hayes won the grand prize for a solar-powered phone charger, which he made by attaching a USB cord to a small, sun-powered outdoor lamp. The device was powerful enough to charge his laptop.

Fifth graders Krystle Sanabria and Evelyn Zachary created a way to make hand-washing less slippery. Their “Screwed Up Soap” comes in containers similar to deodorant sticks and is available in various scents.

“It won’t slip right out of your hands,” Krystle said.

As classmates took turns smelling the soaps, Evelyn pulled up a video on her iPad demonstrating the product. The girls took first place for their invention.

The use of mobile devices impressed Daryl Hutson, who along with Harshbarger and parent Jeff Korhorn judged this year’s entries.

“They’re getting to incorporate technology into their presentations,” he said. 

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