The University of Tulsa Tandy School of Computer Science is partnering with a new club in Tulsa that encourages elementary students to learn about computer coding. TU’s computer gaming and early education course was created in 2017 to support the development of Coding Club, an after school computer gaming program established in January 2016 for TPS students.
By the spring 2017 semester, approximately 100 students from six Tulsa Public Schools (Elliot, Emerson, Kendall-Whittier, Lanier, Lee and Mayo) participated in Coding Club. TU students joined the effort by visiting the schools once a week to help the elementary students design and build games that were featured at TU’s 2017 Heartland Gaming Expo in April on TU’s campus. Ninety-five TPS students attended the expo to demonstrate their games, play games by indie developers and meet gamers from other local organizations.
With the fall 2017 semester underway, Roger Mailler, associate professor of computer science and director of the TU Computer Simulation and Gaming program, said the gaming and early education course currently includes eight students who plan to assist Coding Club by visiting seven TPS schools during the next few months.
“This course is the embodiment of TU’s partnership with Coding Club,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to give back to the community and learn why it’s important to give as a professional once students have earned their degrees and become successful.”
Coding Club was created by Daniel Mooney, CEO and founder of the Tulsa-based semantic data company Moomat. Mooney previously served as lead rendering engineer for video game giant Electronic Arts before relocating to Tulsa. After discovering how the city’s Emerson Elementary hosted a weekly Bike Club, he had the idea to organize a similar group for students that incorporated science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) activities. Coding Club specializes in game design for students in grades second through fifth at Tulsa Title I schools. Audio, music, writing, storytelling, computer coding, design and teamwork skills are required in video game development.
Mooney said the decision to get involved results from the evolution of his career, beginning in the trenches as a programmer and growing to more managerial roles. He learned the importance of mentoring and coaching to help others realize their potential.
“I really enjoy working with people and helping others solve problems,” Mooney said. “With school budget problems, it’s time for the community to pick up the slack a little bit.”
The TU course is a reflection of Mooney’s outreach efforts as TU students learn how to transfer the knowledge they are learning to younger students. Whether the activity is biking, game design or ceramics, the engagement in any discipline makes a positive impact.
“These are kids I’m passionate about who I want to help,” said TU computer science and mathematics major Tali Harris. She is one of the eight students enrolled in the course for the fall semester. “If we catch them young, we can build that confidence. It’s one of the most important things, especially for girls.”
After launching with 20 students at Emerson Elementary its first year, Mooney said Coding Club looks to work with at least 135 students in nine TPS schools this fall.
To learn more about the TU computer gaming and early education course and Coding Club or support the partnership, please contact Professor Mailler.