Like an Olympian crossing the finish line, Irving Elementary School fourth grader Mason Durbin raised his arms in the air after successfully guiding a Dash robot through a short skit about computer science in the construction industry.
The robot skit competition was one of many activities at Pueblo School District 60’s inaugural computer science convention, held at the East High School Media Center Thursday evening. The convention was open to 3rd- through 12th-grade students from throughout the district.
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“We are trying to generate excitement about coding, programming and computational thinking skills to inspire our students,” said Paula Herraez, 21st-century skills coach for Pueblo D60.
Stations set up in the media center gave students opportunities to explore drone technology, holograms, binary coding, software engineering, robotics and even a coding-focused digital dance party.
Representatives from Collins Aerospace, Colorado State University Pueblo, Google, MindSpark Learning, Quantum Research, Skill Struck and the U.S. Air Force Academy were present to offer their expertise.
“I love doing talks for students because it really shows them that one day, they could be in my shoes,” said Danielle Pinta, a Google for Education K-12 program manager. “I love showing all the fun parts of working at Google but also all the ways they can achieve this as their reality.”
‘If I can work for Google, anyone can work for Google’
Coming out of college, Pinta never expected to work for Google. She didn’t go to an Ivy League school, and her background is in hospitality and marketing, not software engineering.
As a K-12 Program Manager, she works with school districts to equip and support students with Google technology.
“It was something that was just so out of reach for me… Here I am today. I worked at a startup out of college and then I tried really hard and I interviewed for Google. If I can leave you with one thing, it’s that if I can work for Google, anyone can work for Google,” she told students during a presentation.
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A space-themed hologram station run by Sean Wybrant, a teacher at Palmer High School in Colorado Springs, was one of the most popular stations.
At the hologram station, students donned a virtual reality headset to view models of space shuttles, rovers and other space equipment.
“Helping kids understand the scale of things in space is really difficult,” Wybrant said. “When we talk about the space shuttle, if you haven’t actually seen the space shuttle, you don’t know how big it is… What we can do is turn on and off holograms from 3D models that NASA made.”
“We can make it where its actually at the right scale and you can walk around those life-sized holograms and kids can understand a little bit better, ‘What does that actually look like?’” he said.
Pueblo Chieftain reporter James Bartolo can be reached by email at JBartolo@gannett.com