Codefest Jr. brought enthusiastic crowds to the Children’s Department at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Main on April 9. From 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM, children and their caregivers engaged in a variety of coding-related stations throughout the space. Staff and volunteers helped children and adults explore the activities at the stations, and guided the public to their coding destinations.
“Where are the robots?” and “What apps do you have?” were among the many questions asked by the public as they entered the department. Many others hurried directly to storytime, coding, or the maker-space. Children were focused on their coding mission of building a Cubelet robot or directing a Finch through a maze. Adults were engaging staff about specific coding apps and how they could continue this learning process at home.
Codefest Jr. encouraged children and their adults to explore, learn about, and experience coding in a relaxed and fun environment filled with age-appropriate hands-on activities and demonstrations. It was the K-12 component of Steel City Codefest, a week-long software app development competition in Pittsburgh. The goal was to promote digital literacy, STEM competencies, problem solving, and critical thinking.
A Robot Storytime in the picture book area featured a light-up display panel with characters and props from Kite Day by Will Hillenbrand. Tweens from CLP’s Homeschool Explorations collaborated with a Teen Labs mentor to design and construct this unique enhancement to this year’s One Book, Every Young Child selection that raises awareness of the importance of early childhood literacy.
The Coding Station featured iPad with coding apps including Daisy the Dinosaur, Scratch Jr., and Robot Lab. Laptops were available with coding activities on Code.org, a nonprofit organization that promotes the importance of computer science in education and the involvement of women and underrepresented students of color. One of the laptops was connected to a projector to share the coding activities as well as to create a focal point for the coding station.
The Building Station provided a creative space to make fantastic structures from Legos. Cubelets were very popular with children and adults. These robot blocks attach and transform into a wide variety of robots that enhance and build STEM skills.
The Maker Station had a multitude of repurposed materials and art supplies to help kids imagine and create robots. By the end of Codefest there was a community of colorful and eccentric robots leaving with their children.
The Robot Station took over the entire nonfiction room with two Finch Robots, several BeeBots and a ProBot. Finch is a small versatile robot that gives students an interactive and hands-on introduction to programming. Staff assisted children as they guided the Finch robot through a floor maze. BeeBots gave younger children the opportunity to give the small yellow and black bug robots simple commands using the directional buttons. The Probot provided a slightly more challenging interaction than the BeeBots with more programming options.
Codefest Jr. was a creative and unique opportunity for children and adults to learn about and do coding in a library environment. It highlighted a representative sample of STEM programming for children that is happening at all Carnegie Library locations throughout the year.
-by Debbie P., CLP – Main