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Organizing a Coding Camp and Cyber Robotics Coding Competition to Promote STEM

Listen and learn

Listen and learn : Panel

Wednesday, June 26, 9:00–10:00 am
Location: 120BC

Todd Ensign   Nathaniel Greene   Ben Smith  
Challenged by budget and resources, school districts often struggle to set up opportunities for their students to learn robotics and coding. Learn how several states are collaborating with schools, universities, state DOEs, K-12 educators and nonprofits to organize all-inclusive virtual coding competitions.

Audience: Chief technology officers/superintendents/school board members, Curriculum/district specialists, Teachers
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices not needed
Focus: Digital age teaching & learning
Topic: Maker activities and programs
Grade level: 6-12
Subject area: STEM/STEAM, Computer science
ISTE Standards: For Administrators:
Digital Age Learning Culture
  • Promote and participate in local, national and global learning communities that stimulate innovation, creativity and digital age collaboration.
Disclosure: The submitter of this session has been supported by a company whose product is being included in the session

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

As technology continues to make its way into the workforce in all fields, being tech savvy, and able to understand code and robotics is becoming a “must have” for graduates.

Robotics is a pathway to industry – through robotics today’s students in middle and high school learn not only mechanics and programming, but also the math, science and engineering principles behind robots. Software programming is the fastest growing career field and giving students exposure to this opportunity at an early age is critical to opening the door for them to find a fruitful career in industry.

Knowing this, educators from classrooms to state-level departments of education to college campuses - should be talking to students about potential careers that involve STEM, creating project-based experiences for them, integrating robotics into their standards-based lessons, and fostering a love of STEM for both girls and boys.

But how can we get all students excited about coding and robotics? One word – Competition.

Let’s face it - a competition format has fueled major successes in education and businesses since before sliced bread. Fortune 500 companies like AT&T and American Express often sponsor online creativity contests to inspire innovation among their customers, while Kickstarter and other newly minted crowdfund platforms have ideas compete to win funding.

For adolescents and young adults, competition has proven itself again and again as a means of motivating students and educators to learn more and excel by presenting their skills at the local, regional and even national level. Moreover, competitions serve as platforms through which students can experience first-hand, the relevance of what they learn to 21st century jobs.

One of the challenges is that many competitions have proven to be accessible only to the fortunate that could raise funding for equipment, tools, travel, accommodation, etc. The other challenge for STEM and Robotics is the cost and commitment attracts only the students with tech backgrounds and interest, often leaving out the “non-techie” kids who are intimidated by the hands on environment.

How do you combat that? Two words – Virtual Competitions.

Join this valuable session with a panel of education experts including a middle school robotics teacher, a college professor, a non-profit executive, and a state department of education STEM director to:

• Get a first-hand account of the steps they’ve taken to plan, implement, and host statewide virtual coding competitions.
• Discover their secrets for success that has helped them introduce thousands of students to the fascinating world of robots by way of high-energy and decidedly competitive and fun competitions, and
• Learn how their collaboration has actively engaged boys and girls in grades 6-12 in learning and liking the new language for the 21st Century – coding.


Today, surrounded by technology, students have to adapt and learn STEM foundations to prepare them for just about any career in the 21st century.

With more K-12 schools rising up to meet the STEM challenge, it’s a great time for many educators to embrace a new approach - coding competitions, virtual robotics platforms, and other tools that are out there for the asking.

Attend this session where presenters will provide step-by-step directions on how to organize and host a virtual coding competition – at the class, building, district or statewide level. The panelists have all been part of competitions in 2017 and 2018 and will talk a lot about the success and reach of the program to a broader set of students.

After attending this session, participants will know how to:

• Find an internal champion to lead the cause and the school and district level
• Pick a platform that complements your school’s current resources (free or online)
• Get more than just science or math teachers involved by introducing easy to implement coding boot camps
• Grow the number of girls joining in the coding competitions, and
• Establish relationships and collaborate with university and non-profit organizations that can support, sponsor and host the ‘in-person, live’ final competitions

The session will include a 10-minute Q& A at the end.

Supporting research

More [+]


Todd Ensign, Fairmont State University
Nathaniel Greene, NH Department of Education
Ben Smith, Lincoln Intermediate Unit 12
ISTE Certified

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