Schools took part in a number of events designed to test out their coding skills. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

Prince Rupert students prove themselves up to code

The Sphero Olympics put local youngsters tech talents on display

Prince Rupert held its second annual Sphero Olympics on Tuesday, June 18, giving kids the opportunity to put their coding skills to work in a fun and competitive setting.

Six schools took part in the challenge. In addition to hosts Roosevelt Park Elementary, Conrad Elementary, Pineridge Elementary, Lax Kxeen, Prince Rupert Middle School and Port Edward Elementary all had students represented at the event.

Korri-Lynn Dejong Levee of Roosevelt Elementary School makes some adjustments to her team’s sphere in the dash challenge. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

The concept came to Prince Rupert last year after Andrew Samoil, the director of instruction for School District 52, and his colleagues saw the Sphero balls at a computing conference. They quickly got the idea to bring the spherical devices back to the city’s elementary schools.

“We thought, what if we made this a classroom set and challenged students to learn coding by applying it to a particular skill,” said Samoil. “The Sphero Olympics is a way to apply block coding to challenging events such as running a maze, or our super maze, which has intricate angles.”

READ MORE: Check out scenes from the inaugaural Sphero Olympics

Lax Kxeen’s Ava Boldinger and Parkside’s Kymberlee Taylor receive some final tips before sending their spheres on their way. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

There were five different challenge to participate in, made up of a pair of mazes to navigate, a chariot race, a dash race, and a drone room. Students would input coding directions into a tablet prior to sending the spheres on their way, and hope they had calculated the proper path or distance required to reach the finish line.

Like with professional coding, there was plenty of trial and error before most of the spheres hit their mark. But the students were determined to see their spheres to the finish line, and were ultimately able to do so.

Hailey Thompson and Blake Yaroshuk from Conrad Elementary School look for the right calculations to guide their sphere through the super maze challenge. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

Samoil added that coding is becoming more and more important in today’s job market, and these skills will prepare kids for almost any career they enter into.

READ MORE: RTI donates $138,500 for robotics in the school district

“Prior to the event we had the students together and showed them… opportunities in coding,” said Samoil. “Not strictly just being a computer coder, but also in all sorts of careers. You may be a plumber, and now with the new electrical circuits you might need to know how to combine the principles of coding and the logical sequences you will learn from coding.”

Andrew Samoil looks at the path Prince Rupert Middle School students Yaromyr Datsenko and Kat LeBlanc have charted in the chariot race. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

This year saw the addition of Grade 6’s to the Grade 4 and 5 students who had participated in the first year. Samoil says they are hoping to eventually include students up to Grade 9 in the Sphero Olympics.

Alex Kurial | Journalist
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